Shannon Grogan writes YA fiction and lives with her family in Washington State.
Shannon Grogan is the author of the gripping thriller FROM WHERE I WATCH YOU, published by Soho Teen.
She is a kindergarten teacher, and also an illustrator, and she holds degrees in Early Childhood/Elementary Education, and Illustration. She lives in a tiny logging town in Western Washington State with her Canadian husband, children and Chihuahua.
When and how did you start writing?
I’ve been writing and drawing since I was a kid. In college I wrote short stories in creative writing classes and knew I’d write novels someday, maybe when I was older, with lots of life experiences to write about. But once I finished reading the last Harry Potter book I decided I couldn’t wait, and I started writing an MG that turned into a YA because I wanted my characters kissing.
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
Maurice Sendak and Tomie dePaola were my heroes because of their illustrations. For words I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, and Nancy Drew. I had every Nancy Drew book and I snuck-read The Hardy Boys even though I was told by the librarian that they were for boys. But nothing influenced me more than Judy Blume. I read everything Judy wrote and then I read it again, and I probably read Deenie three times, and I checked the library one hundred times a week to see if they had a copy of Forever. It was always checked out.
As a teen I read a lot of Harlequin romances, but my heroes were VC Andrews, Danielle Steele, and Stephen King.
Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?
My first full novel--a YA paranormal romance (an angel story)--took over a year to write. The key moments were: writing the first page, then the first chapter, then thirty pages! At thirty pages I felt like a real writer because I’d never written anything that long on the computer! Getting past page fifty was huge, and then finally, finishing.
Was it hard to get an agent? Can you talk us through the process?
Yes, it was hard to get an agent. With my first book (angel story) I sent over 110 queries over a year and a half. I had less then 5 requests out of 110 queries! It was crushing. Sarah was one of those 110 rejections. She was very kind about it though. The only thing that kept me sane through the hell of querying was to keep writing. So if you are querying, keep writing! I kept writing.
Our local SCBWI was bringing top notch editors and agents to the annual conference and I was lucky enough to get my top pick for a MS consultation--Sarah! I worked HARD HARD HARD on my first 5 pages for the meeting with her because I wanted to have the best possible feedback.
That was my favorite SCBWI conference ever. Sarah nominated me for a Most Promising WIP mention and asked me to query her when I was done! And nearly two years later, I was ready to query! I spent 6 months writing and revising my query letter because I was hoping to not repeat the 110 rejection thing.
On my fourth day of querying, I started getting full requests. 8 of the total 13 queries I sent were full requests! And by the next week, I had four offers of representation. It was amazing. And of course I picked Sarah.
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
I have a day job as a teacher, but I get home an hour before my kids so I make the most of that one quiet hour where it’s just me and the dog. When my kids have ballet and baseball I write at the library or Starbucks. I can get in a few hours per week this way. But I write mostly at night.
I love watching scary movies for inspiration, but mostly I read, and ‘talk’ to my online writer pals.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
Write, every week
Read in the genre you write.
Buy books. I love the library, but writers should also buy a few books a year. Karma?
Query wisely! Take time with your query letter. Have it critiqued. Research agents and follow their submission guidelines. I botched this with an agent I queried and they were kind enough to email me back and say ‘hey, you forgot…’ This agent ended up offering!
Support! Join SCBWI. Have critique partners. It helps when you’re ready to give up to have folks around who get it, who know what it means to get a partial, and why you check your inbox 500 times a day, or how it feels when you haven’t touched your story for months and then have an epiphany!
5. Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you've developed as an author?
1. Reading-- craft books, blogs, and books in the genre you write. Nothing has taught me more about writing than the books I’ve read. Why do I love it so much I read it four times?
Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? Which fictional character do you wish you'd invented?
JK Rowling, Tomie dePaola, Maurice Sendak, Judy Blume, Stephen King, Charlaine Harris, Thomas Harris, Michael Crichton, Peter Benchley, Maggie Stiefvater, Jennifer Donnelly, Sarah Dessen, and Patricia Cornwell. All of these folks have contributed in some way to me as a writer and I would feed them well because I love their books--fantasy, magic, funny, coming of age, twisted, psychotic, dark, disgusting, scary, disturbing, creepy, romantic, and people on the menu.
As for the fictional character I wished I’d invented? That is hard. For kid-lit it’s a tie between Strega Nona and Harry Potter. For adult fiction there is a three-way tie between Jack Torrance from The Shining, Hannibal Lecter, and JAWS (the shark). Yes JAWS was a book first, an excellent, disgusting, scary, and thrilling book.