Shannon McKenna

I started writing my first romance novel in secret. I was working a temp job in Manhattan at the time, supporting my music habit (details on that secret double life here) and even if there was nothing for me to do, I still had to look busy. But I hated wasting time, and I needed to round out my singing career. Most artists choose a practical Plan B to back up their improbable Plan A. Not me. "Long Shot" is my middle name.

So I set up a Document 2 with a fierce looking spreadsheet on it. If the boss du jour walked by, I switched screens. When the coast was clear, I went back to my story. One stern fact I learned from that experience is that you need more than just stolen crumbs of time and attention to make the magic happen. I also learned that every little crumb helps. Life is full of these little contradictions.

It wasn't until I moved to southern Italy (details of that long shot here) that I was really able throw my weight behind the writing. There I was, not a word of Italian, no job, no clue, just long, quiet days alone with nothing to do and no excuses. I finally slogged my way to the end of the short category romance that I’d been dinking around with for years. Kensington accepted it, bless them, and I had my start. I wrote four more category romances for that line before I got the chance for a place in an anthology of erotic novellas for the new Brava imprint. Then came my first single title novel, Behind Closed Doors—and my writing career took off.

Years have gone by, and I still can't think of anything I'd rather do. I never knew it would be so hard... the silence, the blank screen, no one to blame. But it's worth it. I can do this work I love only because of all of you wonderful readers. So thank you.

Want more? Read an interview with Germany's Love Letter magazine »

 

My Former Life

After graduating from Yale University, as an English major, of course, I temped at random corporate offices for years in NYC support my music habit. I sang with several different ensembles that performed medieval and renaissance music, I was the voice of a fabulous Celtic fusion band, I sang church gigs, weddings, funerals, cabaret, country/blues, Christmas carols in shopping malls dressed in a cheesy Dickensian outfit, I was even a strolling madrigal singer at the Renaissance Faire in one of those cleavage-enhancing lace-up bodice thingies. Anything to make the rent. Then came Italy…a grand adventure if there ever was one. Writing’s great, but oh, how I miss the singing. In my perfect world, I would have both. If you’re curious, here’s a cut of me singing with the southern Italian medieval ensemble Calixtinus, some years ago.

 

A Romantic Aside

A brief word about the Renaissance Faire. I never did a goofier, more ridiculous or worse-paying gig, but the place was a hotbed of summer romance. Men in tights, left and right. And I've always loved historical romance.

Then one day, I saw a group of Italian musicians stroll by. They were all handsome, as Italians tend to be, but the lute player’s legs in tights surpassed all others. His long, tanned fingers twinkled deftly over the lute strings. He didn't speak a word of English, but he had a gorgeous smile, and I followed him around shamelessly, dreaming up lame excuses to talk to him. Insofar as I could, with no common language.

Shannon and NicolaAt the cast campfire, he and his Italian buddies would whip up pasta on two tiny camp stoves for more than fifty people with such audacious grace and flair. Mmmm, nothing sexier than a man who can cook. After we devoured his bounty off paper plates, he played Bach on a classical guitar, naked to the waist in the firelight, green eyes flashing. Hold me back. (No one did.)

The ultimate whirlwind summer romance ensued. After he went back to Italy, I resigned myself to a bittersweet memory of what might have been, but damn, I couldn't stop thinking about him. A year later, I quit my job, broke my lease, put all my stuff in a friend's basement, bought a ticket to Italy, and went to find him. Yes, it was nuts…but passion makes you reckless. I must have read too many romance novels during my impressionable youth. Dangerous, heady stuff, romances.

Improbable though it seems, it worked out fine in the end . . . and when it comes to love, Nicola will always be my inspiration.