Please help me welcoming award-winning, multi-published author and teacher, Shannon Donnelly. Shannon is both fabulous writer and wonderful teacher. After having taken an online class from her I was thrilled to met her last summer for an in person class. (applause)
Ella: Shannon, thanks so much for being here today. Tell us a bit about yourself and what made you decide to start writing?
Shannon: I’m not one of those folks who grew up wanting to be a writer. I’ve been a horse trainer, a clerk in a mail room, and a dozen other things, and I kind of fell into writing. I come from a reading family, so stories have always been there (there’s Irish in the background and we love our stories). Since I’d starved at a number of professions—except for Web work…that paid well—I thought why not try my hand at writing. A decade later I finally figured out enough to sell a book.
Ella: What drew you to Regencies?
Shannon: It probably started with a friend complaining with me over the lack of good Regency romances. We wrote one together…wrote a couple of things, actually. But we went our own ways on the writing. I wrote a lot of things—YA Horror, short stories, westerns, mysteries. Didn’t have much success with any of them so I looked at my bookshelves and saw that I had more Regencies than anything. So I went back to that. I love the era—I’m an Anglophile (my grandmother’s from Sheffield, Yorkshire), and I’d already done a ton of research just for the pleasure of reading about the era, so the research is never a hardship. And I’ve done well with my Regency romances—I can’t complain about that.
Ella: I’ve taken a couple of your classes and they were wonderful. Can you tell us about some of the Christmas customs of the Regency period?
Shannon: Thank you—I love teaching and I’ve made so many mistakes that I figure I might as well help some folks avoid the pitfalls. As to customs, the Regency is great in that it’s a step into the modern era—we recognize so much. But it’s also a time when we still have the old ways—carriages and swords and the romance of candlelight (which can actually be pretty dim unless you’re rich enough to afford lots of them). Christmas is a time when we think of traditions—we go back to our family customs, and to the old ways. There’s a comfort in that continuity—and there’s a deep, deep need for reassurance, I think, at the dark time of year. So we light the Yule log and put up the green holly in hopes of coaxing back the green spring, and we put up mistletoe—but we don’t really think about how these traditions have ancient roots.
When I wrote Under the Kissing Bough, a Regency romance set at Christmas, it was more than fun to look up the old ways—customs that still have modern echoes, like the mistletoe. But I was able to bring in older customs, such as keeping a berry from the mistletoe (for as long as you have the berry, you can have someone’s kisses). And games—that was a tradition in my family. Games and songs, and those are very old English Christmas customs. We all need a bit of fun in the winter months.
The thing with the English Regency, however, is that it’s a time of great change. You have new German customs starting to come into fashion (such as a Christmas tree), but you also have very local customs that are specific to an area. And every family has their own quirks and traditions—or you hope they will in your stories.
Eleanor Glover never thought to marry. But when wickedly handsome Geoffrey Westerley, Lord Staines, agrees to an arranged marriage with her, she knows her duty. Geoffrey makes it plain that he wants nothing more than a sensible wife—and a Christmas Eve wedding to please his dying father. With a dearth of suitors, and her family’s expectations weighing heavy, Eleanor agrees to the match, with one condition—a condition she cannot name or write upon her blank card. Despite Geoffrey’s generous promise to give her anything her heart desires she cannot believe he will ever offer the only thing she truly wants for a Christmas gift…his love.
As an earl’s son, Geoffrey Westerley knows his duty—and since he cannot have the woman he loved and drove away, he will have the bride his father intends. Geoffrey knows his passionate nature scared away one lady, and he is determined to treat his shy intended with respect and restraint. But when he finds Eleanor beneath a kissing bough, tradition demands that he pluck a mistletoe berry and kiss her. He never anticipated his bride’s warm response, and as the wedding draws near he begins to see there is more to his bride than a quiet exterior. There may be enough to her, in fact, to heal a wounded heart—and a passion deep enough to match his own.
Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the “Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer” contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA’s Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.”
Her latest Regency Historical Romance, Paths of Desire, can be found as an ebook along with her other Regency romances, now available from Cool Gus Publishing. She has had novellas published in several anthologies, has had young adult horror stories published, and is the author of several computer games.
Shannon is a regular speaker at writing conferences, and will be speaking at the 2012 RWA National conference in Anaheim. She gives online workshops and is the author of Story Telling; Story Showing, an ebook that compliments her popular online class Show and Tell: An Interactive Workshop.
She lives in New Mexico with two horses, two donkeys, two dogs, and the one love of her life. Shannon can be found online at sd-writer.com, facebook.com/sdwriter, and twitter/sdwriter.