Saturday, August 24, 2013

Today we meet Shannon McNear, author of the debut novella, “Defending Truth” in A Pioneer Christmas Collection. For more information about Shannon, visit her website at You can also find her monthly on the Colonial Quills website  and weekly at The Borrowed Book.

      1. Shannon, 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.

A Pioneer Christmas Collection Giveaway!
Comment below to enter. Every day that you leave a comment is a new entry. At the end of our 12 Days of Christmas Promotion, two winners will be chosen at random. First prize is a $50 gift certificate from The second prize (but best in my opinion) is an autographed copy of A Pioneer Christmas Collection signed by all 9 Authors!  
Each day you have a new opportunity to enter! You may comment all you like, but only one entry per day will be counted.


sm said...

I would really like to win this book. I would make a terrible pioneer because I don't like camping! sharon, CA wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

gail borden said...

very interesting comment about the righteous patriot and heathen British not being true!

Marcia Gruver said...

I don't like camping either, Sharon! Unless it's in a great big motor home, complete with a fully stocked kitchen and hot water for showers. :) Best of luck in the drawing.

Marcia Gruver said...

It is an interesting observation, Gail. Maybe I can get Shannon to explain. I'd love to know what she means. Congrats on another entry in the contest. Good luck!

Shannon McNear said...

Sharon, I've heard a lot of people say that! :-) And I suspect I'd like camping a whole lot less than I did as a kid ... it's the mom who gets the unenviable task of planning and packing.

Gail, it struck me when I first delved into serious research of the era just how simplistic and sanitized a view of history I was given during my school years--and in turn, what I was expected to present my kids, as Christian homeschoolers. As if all the Founding Fathers were born-again believers, and the British and Tories were the only ones committing atrocities. In reality, both sides had their share of profane and godless men (to borrow period terminology), and sometimes otherwise good men did awful things. Furthermore, many loyalists followed the Crown for reasons of Christian conscience, and a lot of men switched sides depending upon what they felt would better protect themselves or their families. It was a very complex time--not unlike today. :-)

Does that clarify things for you? :-)

Amy C said...

I would love to have this book. I love all things pioneer. Not sure I could live pioneer but I love to read about it. :)
campbellamyd at gmail dot com

carolyn y. said...

I can hardly wait to buy this book. I love every thing Marcia Gruver has written. Come on Sept. 1 !!

Noela Nancarrow said...

Love reading these interviews! Thanks Marcia & Shannon. I'd be a dawdler and dreamer too Shannon, making life way tougher for us all! ;) I loved learning about this part of the Revolutionary War, because I'd never heard of a Tory before. Like I said somewhere else, I really think I know more about America's history than Australia's - after reading so many fascinating Historical's!

Marcia Gruver said...

Carolyn, that's so sweet of you to say! Thanks so much for coming by to post a comment on my blog. Check back every day. Each day's comment is another entry to the contest. Good luck!

Marcia Gruver said...

Shannon, thanks so much for clearing that up. I was curious, too. Who knows what we'll uncover when we set out to research a book.

Marcia Gruver said...

I'm not a pioneer either, Amy C. I love to return to those days, but only in my imagination! Good luck on the drawing.

Marcia Gruver said...

Hi, Miss Noela (the star of my book)! Thanks so much for stopping by to comment. Here's hoping you continue your education in American history for years to come! :)

gail borden said...

Yes, Shannon, it sounds a lot like the way things are today. It is hard to know what to trust as truth, except God's Word:)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this interesting question and answer time. I know some facts that have actually happened in my time that they are deleting or changing facts with our kids now, and changing in their textbooks. If kids aren't taught by their parents, some will never know the real America. I love the story lines in each story of this book and anxious to read it. Thanks for a chance to win it. MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

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