Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a writer, reader, and jack-of-all-trades boundary-pusher who lives in central Minnesota. Stories are my heartbeat, while helping others to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ is my passion. As a result, I love stretching both faith and the imagination through my writing, whether with fiction like Beast or the discernment curriculum and nonfiction resources I publish. When I’m not working on my writing or burying my nose in a book, I enjoy studying the biblical languages, practicing piano, and working with fiber.
You can find out more about me through my website (www.chawnaschroeder.com) or blog (www.chawnaschroeder.blogspot.com), or you can connect with me on Facebook @ ChawnaSchroederAuthor.
What prompted you to start writing? Are you one of those authors who knew you were meant to write since childhood, or did it come as a discovery later in life?
Story has always been an intricate part of my DNA. Bedtime stories would make me hyper rather putting me to sleep. I was reading books myself before the age of five. And I have many childhood memories of my dad making up a story with objects & characters we kids would ask for. Indeed, at the age of six, one of my grand ambitions was to someday write down the stories my dad told, so I suppose that you might say I planned to write since childhood.
Despite this, I put away writing stories through most of middle school and high school. I loved the creative writing assignments but never wrote anything beyond that. As graduation approached, though, I felt lost. Nothing I considered pursuing seemed right. Finally, my parents, who had tired of my bemoaning this, sat me down and asked, “If you didn’t have to worry about money or education but could do anything you want, what would it be?”
My immediate one-word answer probably surprised me more than them: “Write.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Which authors have had the most significant impact on your writing?
Oh, tough question! There have been so many I’ve read who have touched me, both as a person and as a writer.
Since I need to narrow it down, I think the three authors (outside of God as the author of the Bible) who have impacted me the most are Frances Hodgson Burnett, C.S. Lewis, and Kathy Tyers.
Frances Hodgson Burnett tickled my imagination with her rags-to-riches stories (an influence you can easily see in Beast), and even to this day I re-read A Little Princess nearly every year.
From C.S. Lewis I received The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. My Sunday school teacher read that novel to my first-grade class, which introduced me to Christian fantasy.
And last, but hardly the least, I’m deeply indebted to Kathy Tyers and her Firebird Trilogy. Those three novels opened to me the world of contemporary Christian science fiction and fantasy. Her stories allowed me to see the genre beyond the stereotypical, hard-core allegory I had read up to that point. Without that trilogy, I probably wouldn’t be writing in this genre.
What advice would you share with an aspiring author?
Daily remember that writing is a privilege.
For when we create a story, we start with a blank page and an idea, and from this “nothingness” we create a miniature world. So by engaging in this form of creation, we imitate the God in whose image we are made. After all, the main thing we know about God in Genesis 1, in whose image we are made, is that He is a creator. Therefore, the very act of writing stories, no matter what happens to them, gives us insights to the character of God that many other people fail to understand.
I learned this during a particularly rough time about a year before I was finally contracted. Writing had become an arduous act of obedience. But when I remembered the privilege of writing, my joy was restored. Just the simple act of writing became significant and full of purpose. It no longer mattered if the writing was imperfect or if the story would be published or if it ever impacted another person or even if it changed me. That then freed me from perfectionism and the need to see results. I finally saw that writing itself was worthwhile activity, for it was an act of worship of the Creator, which of course is what I was ultimately created for.
I admit, this is still hard to remember sometimes. But when I take the time to remember, more joy than labor fills my writing time.
Do you have any go-to foods or beverages while writing?
I drink a lot of water while writing because it keeps me hydrated, which improves my focus and gives me a reason to get up and move around at regular intervals. I generally avoid food, but if I have to have a snack, I generally grab a handful of salted or raw almonds.
Since we're all about exploring new worlds here at Lands Uncharted, if you could choose one place to visit, real or fictional, where would you go?
That’s a tough one; there’s so many places I would love to go, both real and fictitious! Carlsbad Caverns, Canadian Rockies, Glacier National Park, Europe, New Zealand, Israel, Narnia, Hobbiton, Perelandria, Braide Wood (Sword of Lyric Series), Hesed House (Firebird), Er’Rets (Blood of Kings) . . . The list could go on and on. But if I had to pick one place today, outside of heaven, I would probably pick Beast’s Castle (from Disney’s Beauty & the Beast) with that fabulous library. Of course, that would require a very long visit fully explore!
Your debut novel, Beast, released last fall. Congratulations! What inspired you to write Sarah's story?
The inspiration for Beast sprang out of an emotionally down time, when I was feeling especially unlovable. I knew God loved me and loved me unconditionally, but I couldn’t understand why or how He could.
So God gave me the image of Him standing with His arm outstretched, ready to catch me. But for Him to catch me, I had to let go. I had to let go of my need to understand or explain. I had to let go of my view of myself to see me as He did. I had to accept His love simply was.
Then as I mulled further the difference between how I saw myself versus how God saw me I developed the first line and the last lines of the story. And from those things Beast grew.
Please share a favorite line or passage from Beast with us.
Hmm … Well, one of my favorite descriptions occurs with a minor secondary character fairly early in the book: A couple of sharp knocks brings a man as old as the trees to the door. He tilts to one side, as if some of his roots have come loose from the ground, but the ragged ridges on his face tell of the many battles he has survived.
As for dialogue, I love one line that occurs nears the end of the book: “Princess, pardon me for saying so, but you are nothing but trouble… And none of us would want it any other way.”
Can you give us any insights into your current work-in-progress?
I’m currently working on an adult fantasy set in a world mirroring the WWII time period. It’s about a young girl who gets herself intentionally arrested in order to escape from a prison camp reputed as inescapable.
And finally, no visit to Lands Uncharted is complete without Top 3s! Give us a top 3 list in the category of your choice.
Since Beast is a fairy tale, it seems only right to pay tribute to the genre that inspired me. Three of my favorite classic fairy tales are:
1) Beauty and the Beast as retold by Disney
2) Ten Wild Swans by Hans Christian Anderson
3) Photogen & Nycteris by George MacDonald
Thank you so much for joining us today, Chawna! I read Beast over the holidays and was completely captivated by Chawna's evocative writing style and Sarah's beautiful, action-packed journey of healing and transformation. Find out more about Beast, including purchase links, here.