Monday, March 26, 2012

Debut Author Shawntelle Madison Adds to Writers’ Toolboxes

I’m pleased to introduce our next Conference Spotlight, Author Shawntelle Madison. She is a self-described web developer who loves to weave words as much as code. When she's not working in her mad scientist lab on her next tool for writers, she loves to write books for adults and teens. She's the author of COVETED, a forthcoming urban fantasy/paranormal romance series from Ballantine Books featuring a New Jersey werewolf with hilarious hoarding tendencies. Her second book KEPT will be released in the fall/winter of 2012.

During the “Write Time! Write Place! Write Now!” Conference, Shawntelle will present a breakout session called, “Crafting a Synopsis from the Ground Up.” She will deconstruct and examine the components of a synopsis one-by-one, to help attendees create a coherent and selling synopsis for their manuscripts.

Sarah: Hi Shawntelle, thank you for being our spotlight speaker this week on the MWG Conference Notes blog. Having already heard you speak during the St. Louis Writers’ Guild social media presentation this past summer, I know attendees are going to learn loads of valuable info during your breakout session on synopsis writing.

Shawntelle: Thanks for having me!

Sarah: To get us started, as a St. Louisian with a former day job as a web developer, please tell us how you got into writing? The two seem vastly different, but you seem to have successfully melded the two. Especially, judging by your nifty writing tools on your site.

Shawntelle: Like it’s so often heard, I’ve been writing since I was a teen. I actually still have a notebook with one of my handwritten stories. It’s ghastly and will never see the light of day! In late 2008, I met my crit partner, Sarah Bromley, and through fate, she was jumping back on the saddle as well. Since that point, I’ve been learning the craft and writing new stories. It’s been a hard journey—finding an agent, not selling my first book, etc. Having young children has made it hard as well, but I believe if you’re hungry to finish that book and get it out there, you should give it your all and complete it to the best of your abilities.

Sarah: Thanks for sharing your story, Shawntelle. It’s always encouraging to hear about success stories from local writers. Can you tell us more about your writing tools? How did you come up with the ideas for them?

Shawntelle: They came out of necessity. After reading Debra Dixon’s Goal Motivation Conflict book I needed something to help me create charts. That’s how the GMC Wizard was born. All writers who submit to agents or editors need to write a synopsis. I wanted a tool to make the process more intuitive—something that would hold my hand and help guide me to put the pieces together. The book royalty calculator was just a fun tool to help authors see what it really takes to pay back that advance. And finally, the book store ISBN generator was something I needed as a web designer. I generate links all the time for clients. Why not make an interface that could be useful for everyone?

Sarah: The synopsis tool was especially helpful to me. I’d recommend everyone check that and the GMC wizard, here. Next, it looks like these tools have helped you build your writer platform. Yes, I said it! The dreaded “P” word. How helpful has your platform been for you? With your first novel forthcoming, as you reflect over everything that has happened, is there anything re: your platform that you would do different?

Shawntelle: To be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing. More than a handful of people have told me how useful the tools have been in helping them do their work. (I even had someone sell off the synopsis they wrote using the synopsis wizard.) So if my writer tools are part of who I am in terms of being a writer, then I’ll take it!

Sarah: One thing that impresses me about your platform is you don’t just post on your blog, but you have two other group blogs (here and here) to which you regularly contribute. If someone was interested in getting involved with group blogging, what do you recommend they do?

Shawntelle: I recommend that they network, network, and network. Writing is solitary activity. It’s too easy to hide in the writer cave and not interact with other writers. You can’t join a group blog if the members don’t know you exist. Talk to people during conferences. Interact with other authors on Facebook or Twitter. If you fit into what a group is looking for, they may seek you out.

Sarah: In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve already asked St. Louis Author Susan McBride this next question. But since you’re also based here in St. Louis, I’d like to hear your thoughts as well. Here it goes. What are the challenges of being a Midwest author and working with a publishing industry mostly located in New York? Are there advantages?

Shawntelle: I’d say it doesn’t matter anymore where you live in terms of publishing. With the internet, you could live on a desert island and still write and submit to NY publishers. I will admit though, it is nice being in Central Standard Timezone (CST). I’m not too late (EST) and I’m not too early (PST).

Sarah: Your debut novel, COVETED, an urban fantasy/paranormal romance, will hit bookstores shortly after the MWG conference on April 24. I read the first two chapters and immediately fell in love with your main character, Natalya Stravinsky. She is an obsessive compulsive werewolf who collects Christmas ornaments. I really felt like you had so much fun writing her. How did you come up with such a crazy idea for a character?

Shawntelle: Thanks, Sarah! Natalya’s character was “born” after I read an article in a physician magazine. The front page article was about obsessive compulsive disorders. After reading about the symptoms and treatment plans outlined in it, an idea sprouted. What would happen if I had a character who was a werewolf with OCD? The conflict and secondary characters came after that.

Sarah: What has surprised or challenged you the most about being a debut author? How did you deal with that situation?

Shawntelle: Uncertainty for me is the most challenging aspect of being a debut. I may have an educated guess on how things will go in terms of my launch, but anything could happen. And since I’m new at this, I can’t anticipate the possible roadblocks that might come my way. I deal with the situation by distracting myself. It’s quite easy to do with a family and freelance work.

Sarah: Last but not least. Your breakout session, scheduled for 10 a.m. on April 21, tackles the synopsis, which for me is one of the most brutal parts of being a writer. I’m sure others agree. Writing hundreds of pages of coherent story? No problem. Sum all that up in a couple pages? Terrifying! How will your breakout, “Crafting a Synopsis from the Ground Up?” benefit attendees?

Shawntelle: I’m hoping attendees will leave feeling more confident about writing a synopsis. By breaking down everything piece by piece, like I do in the synopsis wizard, it’s a lot easier to take a full manuscript and convert into a synopsis. Instead of focusing on the whole book (which is quite intimidating), you just think about the individual elements and then bring them together into a cohesive unit. The method still applies when you go from a 5-7 page synopsis down to 2-3 pages. Elements like the opening statements and the conclusion will still be there. It’s plot points and their level of detail that will be affected by the number of pages. Bonus question: Even though your release date is April 24, will you be able to bring advance copies of COVETED to sell at the conference’s book fair? If no, will you be bringing any other goodies?

Shawntelle: Yes, I will have early copies available. I’ll have Coveted swag as well to giveaway.

Sarah: Shawntelle, thank you so much for telling us a little bit about yourself, your book COVETED and what attendees can expect from your breakout session.

 In addition, Shawntelle has generously donated an advanced copy of COVETED for us to give away. To win, just comment below and tell us what you think. In addition, sharing this interview via Twitter, blog posts and Facebook will earn you extra chances to win! Even if you don’t win this time, Shawntelle said will have early copies of COVETED available and other fabulous COVETED swag to give away during the conference.

To learn more about Shawntelle, visit her web site at

The Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference is less than a month away and regular registration prices end April 8. In addition, the deadline to receive hotel reservation discounts ends March 29. Register for the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference right now!


  1. Great interview and hope to be in Shawntelle's workshop on writing a synopsis because I definitely need help in that area. Thank you!

  2. A werewolf with OCD who collects Christmas ornaments? Now that is a fun and unique character spin! I'd love to read about Natalya. I'll also be looking forward to hearing Shawntelle speak.

  3. Great interview, ladies. I so wish I could be at the conference to hear Shawntelle's presentation. I bet it will be fantastic.
    Donna v.

  4. Sounds like a great breakout session! I look forward to attending.

  5. Terry Cobb you won Shawntelle's book, Coveted. Email me at