Saturday, August 24, 2013

Day 7: Meet Shannon McNear, author of Defending Truth

Today's author, Shannon McNear, offers a glimpse into her debut novella Defending Truth, a story set during the American Revolution. It is the tale of a surprising romance between a fugitive Tory militiaman, and a young patriot woman in charge of her siblings while her father fights during the Revolutionary War. Since my (Anna's) current work-in-progress is set during this same time period, I loved seeing how Shannon handled the historical components of her story!)
       1. What made you write about your period in time?

I’ve been researching on the Revolutionary War era off and on for about seven years now. The time’s political and cultural currents are fascinating to me, and it’s a natural setting for the emotional conflict inherent in good romance.
2.     How is Christmas celebrated in your family and what effect did it have on your writing this story?

 We try to go as non-commercial as possible, with a pretty even balance between spiritual focus, family time, and gift giving. We have our traditions, but they aren’t terribly elaborate. I used that as a starting point, of course, but I’d learned that Christmas celebrations tended to be more austere in certain regions for this time period. Just as our family is rather matter of fact about what we do, I could imagine that other families would be, as well.

 3.     What research did you do to authenticate Christmas celebrations in your story?

 Lots of digging around online, with as many primary sources from the time period as I could find. I belong to an online community comprised mostly of 18th century researchers, reenactors, and living history experts, and they helped me tremendously!

4.     When you dreamed up your story idea, what came first, the time period, the story, the location?

The time period, because I’d been researching it already. Then the story (there’s much about the loyalist plight that grabs my imagination), and the location soon followed.

5.     What was the "germ" of your story idea and how did you flesh it out?

A few years back, a couple of other writers suggested I change the premise of a full-length novel I wrote, set in the same time period, from its focus on British/loyalist characters to a romance between a patriot girl and a loyalist boy, or vice versa. I didn’t follow through on that suggestion, but tucked it into the back of my mind, and it sprang to life for this story. :-) It’s a great concept: huge conflict, huge stakes. I also wanted to incorporate a battle I was already familiar with, and explore all the seeming contradictions in the behavior of the participants as they related to politics, since a study of real-life accounts doesn’t really support the whole “righteous patriot and heathen British” stereotype.

 6.     Would you like to have been there?

 Um, no. It was a harsh, terrifying time. It’s much romanticized now, or softened by political correctness—for instance, the issue of the conflict between Native Americans and European settlers—but the reality was that these people were all just struggling to live their lives, and the politics were as upsetting and confusing as today.

 7.     What aspects of your characters are reflected in yours?

 I can relate to Truth’s difficulty in accepting help, her struggle with pride. I also relate to Micah’s sense of unworthiness.

 8.     Have you been to the locations in which your story is set?

 Not the exact location, but I’ve visited east Tennessee several times, including a cavern that provided just a wee bit of inspiration for Micah’s hiding place.

 9.     What surprised you the most about your story?

 How much the characters came to life for me. How much fun it was writing a novella, when I’ve always favored longer stories. How difficult it could be to track down one single research factoid, like whether settlers of the time cultivated apples, so I knew whether Truth could offer one to Micah.

 10.  Would you have made a good pioneer?

 I like to think I would, but I rather doubt it. Although I always enjoyed camping and exploring when I was growing up, I’m very much a pampered modern. I’d probably have always been in trouble for dawdling and dreaming, when there was work to be done.

11.  Were any of your ancestors pioneers? If so, where and when?

I’m still in the process of tracking that down, but I’m sure they were. One branch of the family were Mennonites from West Prussia, who fled to Ukraine in the early 1800’s, stayed there for about 60 years, then came to Kansas in the 1870’s. My roots are also anchored firmly through Virginia, North and upstate South Carolina and Tennessee, and then into Texas and Oklahoma. I wish I knew some of those stories!

 12.  What spiritual themes did you deliberately incorporate into your story? Which ones did you discover later?

 The main themes of forgiveness and grace were deliberate, of course. Others popped up—the real nature of courage, humility, and hospitality. If I wanted to dig really deep, I’d say the ethics of war and self-defense, and by extension, defense of family.

       You can find Shannon at: (Shannon is currently running a giveaway too--so mosey on over and check it out!) 

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  1. I really enjoy the pioneer time period and love the idea of traveling across the country, so I'd like to think I'd be a great pioneer. However, I would not like the heat, the clothing, and the work would probably kill me. I should probably just stick to reading about pioneers!

    1. I think it's definitely more appealing in theory than practice! Just the thought of never having A/C ... yeah, as I said, pampered moderns. :-)

      There's so much value in studying the past, though, to make us realize how much we really do have, and to help us face our future with a little more strength than before.

    2. Ha! Yes, the theory of pioneering is always better than the practice of it!

  2. Thanks so much, Anna! :-) You and our other co-authors have been an amazing blessing through this whole thing.

    1. It has been such a fabulous and valuable experience and am so delighted to be traveling this journey with you, Shannon! Thanks!


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