About the Author
Shannon Symonds worked for 15 years as an Advocate. Shannon lives in a small seaside town where she works, writes, runs and paints. She believes the word can be changed one heart at a time and then even small acts can make a difference.
1. When did you first start writing Safe House compared to when it was published?
Great question! I have always written and wanted to write a book.
I changed jobs in about 2011 and wasn’t going to be doing advocacy with victims for a few years. That is when I felt I had the time to write. I wanted to write a fiction which could also contribute to increasing awareness for survivors of abuse. At the time, I was super busy writing articles for Deseret Digital media and Hilary Weeks blog, “Billion Clicks.” Somewhere in 2012 I started the book and wrote a draft within about 3 months.
I didn’t send it to anyone. Even though my other articles were doing well, I was afraid to fail. Then a relative (I have hundreds!) who was in high school had an experience with a boyfriend that was emotionally abusive. I was trying to explain abuse to her mother, who had called me for advice. I offered her my draft of the book. It had an impact on her decisions which confirmed my belief that stories can be powerful, educate, motivate, and be well written.
I sent it in to a publisher and it came back with a lovely note. I decided to rewrite the entire book. I did a second draft working in the evenings by a fire during a stormy winter. My cousin Kristi and sister Stacy read my 2nd draft. Stacy began to push me to send it in. One more rewrite and I let fear of failure win.
My sister Stacy became very ill. No one really knew what was wrong. She continued to encourage me. Finally, one winter evening, I knew I had to submit it. I sent it to Cedar Fort electronically and let Stacy know. In the submission, they ask if you are submitting to someone else. I said I wouldn’t until I heard from them. And so the waiting began.
9 months later, I got an email from Cedar Fort. The night before the editor had picked it up for the first time and couldn’t put it down. She wanted to publish it. Within a few months, I had a contract. It was about 6 more months before it was published.
By this time, we knew Stacy had pancreatic cancer. We thought she only had a few months, but she was a fierce fighter and stayed with our family until she had the PDF copy of the book and could read my dedication to her.
Stacy passed away less than a week before I held a copy of the book in my hand in June of 2017. The book that wouldn’t have been without her faith in it and me.
I developed a new personal motto, “I am grateful for another day to fail beautifully.” Stacy would have given anything for more years with her family. I am blessed with time and will never again waste a moment being afraid. Forward! And if I fail it will be because I tried.
2. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Safe House is my first full-length novel. I am OLD! However, I feel young. I am in my 50s and still run every day. I eat right, kayak, hike, play with kids, work full time, volunteer, and write.
I read encyclopedias in kindergarten. I began writing and reading stories, poems, and even apology letters to my family from about age 5. At age 12, in church, I wrote, “Publish a book,” on my list of goals. I guess I am a late bloomer.
3. What suggestions would you give a potential author to help them become a better writer?
Be wiser than I was. Never let fear hold you back. I know fear and faith cannot exist in the same place. Have faith and risk. I love getting feedback from readers. I even love to learn from criticism. If writing is your passion, go for it!
4. How frequently do you hear from your reader fans? Have you had any fun, weird, or unusual reader fan experiences via email, social media, or at a book signing?
I hear from someone almost daily. I really like chatting with fans often on social media and at book signings. I read every single review and comment. I care about people in my job as an advocate and I care about the people who take the time to read my novel or other articles. The feedback is seriously helpful.
I’ve had delightful experiences talking to people at book signings. I meet tremendous people. I always leave conversations at book signings wishing I had more time to visit with people. At almost every signing I meet people I know I will never forget and end up in really meaningful conversations. I really believe God has a plan for all of us. Many times I have driven away knowing no matter how far I traveled to a book signing it was worth it for that one person.
As far as weird experiences, I decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad after hearing Tim Ballard speak at Time Out for Women. I was given the opportunity to write for their volunteer newsletter as a result of the book. In a weird coincidence and fun conversation, I learned their social media coordinator who contacted me had actually been to my tiny Seaside town and was friends with a friend of mine. Sometimes our giant world feels like a small crazy quilt of great experiences that make me smile. You decide - coincidence or all part of the plan?
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