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Adam Interviews...Shannon Symonds!

Hey you!

Long time, no see!

It's been a busy time here.

We live in a lovely part of Southern Colorado - okay, well, the surrounding area is a bit dry and desert-like, but the town we're in is green. We're high enough up so it doesn't get stupidly hot, but far enough south so the snow that falls tends to melt away quickly. There's only one problem: earthquakes. Yeah, it's a thing, and we had a 4.3 in March in a string of 11 in three weeks!

So we started looking to move, put the house on the market, all that jazz.

Well, we finally got an offer a few weeks back, and WOW, what was this guy thinking? He asked to do a HOUSE SWAP for a place in (redacted), Maine. Fine, we love Maine too. But this town is a dying mill town, and the house? It's a squat brick quad-plex right on Rt 2 (a MAJOR road). Uh. no.

As a result, we've been moving rooms around and planning on settling back in here for the long haul and just coping with the quakes. Between moving rooms and NaNoWriMo? Yeah, busy!

But we have a Monday Interview for you today, and she just released her latest book on the 16th!

Shannon Symonds writes in an old house by the sea. She loves laughter, a good mystery, walking the beach, deep sea fishing, and bonfires.

In 2023, she was nominated for the LDS PMA Praiseworthy Award. In 2021, she was awarded the Author Ready Author to Watch Award for her “By the Sea” Cozy Mystery YA series. In addition, her debut novel was a Whitney Award Nominee. Her books have been sold at Costco. They continue to be available at Deseret Book, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Shannon has worked for over 20 years as an advocate serving survivors of abuse alongside law enforcement, as a home visitor supporting new mothers, and on other causes that she is ridiculously passionate about. Shannon has been a hybrid author since 2014. She authored 263 articles for Deseret Digital Media under her name and with her daughter, blogs for Hilary Weeks’ Billion Clicks project, the Operation Underground Railroad’s volunteer newsletter between 2017 and 2020 and published her first book with Cedar Fort in 2017. Shannon received the Oregon Trial Lawyers Public Justice Award 2002 for the Tiffany Alvera Case that changed housing for victims nationally, and the 2002 Star Advocate Commendation from the Oregon Department of Justice. In 2020, Shannon was the Operation Underground Railroad Volunteer of the Year for the Authors for Freedom Event and her work organizing two 5k Runs to “Break the Chain.”

Follow me on Bookbub:

Reboots – a great idea or a lack of creativity?

If you’re talking about a party reboot, I am stone cold sober for life.

If you’re talking about it in terms of billionaire romance novels or Jane Austen rebooted, it can be either a great idea or lack creativity.

If you’re a great writer, you can use any outline to make something creative and authentically your own. For example, the 2022 rebooted version of “Persuasion” based on Jane Austen’s book by the same name is one of my favorite movies. Okay, I have a very long list of favorite movies, but Persuasion is my recent favorite.

Using the same trope or reusing a plot multiple times isn’t my favorite read. I have a mystery writer’s brain. One of my friends has mastered the art of using tropes and making them fresh and wonderful. There is a ton of creativity in her books. The trope is just the framework waiting for authors to use them to create something personal and unique.

Having said all that, I love sappy Hallmark movies. I am single. My adult daughter was concerned about how I would find someone new. I told her, “I’ve been tutored by Hallmark. I will probably only have to spill my coffee on a handsome stranger. One good meet cute and my future will include a happy ending.

A book that pleasantly surprised you?

The Harry Potter series. I am a fan! I bought the first book for my youngest daughter to encourage her to read a chapter book. I previewed it to see if it was safe–in one night. It’s something my daughters and I shared. Our local bookstore, Beach Books, would hold midnight launch parties for each volume of the series. We would walk along the beach on the Prom, a sidewalk, to the center of our small town and get our book. Our time with Harry Potter is still one of our favorite memories.

Coffee, tea, or cacao?

Cacao! Crio Bru Cacao. I am a cacao snob. Crio Bru, call me to be your brand ambassador. My daughter turned me on to the rich taste and slow burn caffeine. In the winter months, it is part of my writing ritual. Currently, I have Pumpkin Spice and Highland Grog Cacao in my cupboard. They are perfect with Chobani plant based vanilla creamer.

A beach walk in winter requires a cacao hand warmer.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was about 9 and my grandfather died and we had a family party where we couldn’t talk about him, I wrote a poem and read it to the group. Writing the poem felt like nothing I had done before. I continued to write. My grandmother and great aunts were all teachers. I would send themes to them, and they would reply with honest criticism. I still loved it. I was never a great sleeper. I spent long nights in bed making up a story and then night after night letting it unfold. Fast forward to a pivotal point in my life. I was leaving my dream job. I supported survivors of domestic abuse as an advocate, working with law enforcement during their attacks and later offering support groups for healing and empowerment.

As I left my job as an advocate, I literally prayed about how I could keep contributing to a cause I was passionate about. The answer came, write a book. I immediately called my sister, told her my experience, and that I couldn’t write a book, because of confidentiality. She said, write fiction, but tell a story that will share the message you want to get across, and so I did. She was with me every step of the way.

Cedar Fort published my debut novel in 2017. I received my first proof the day before she slipped away. I loved sharing it with her. She was a true cheerleader.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

2020 was my favorite schedule. I wrote 4 books in 4 months and still had time for family, exercise, and serving all the pregnant moms in our family.

Currently, I still have a day job. I am one “dream come true” away from writing full time.

Each day, I wake up at 5am, like it or not. Weekdays, I spend time studying and feeding my spirit. I like going to the gym before or after work. I spend my weekdays as a Family Support Specialist working with mothers and infants. Monday or Tuesday evening is dedicated to our cozy mystery newsletter community. I try to create enough fun giveaways and social media videos for the next week. All the other evenings of the week, I walk or exercise, play with my grandkids, eat, and then write.

When I write, I lose track of time. It isn’t uncommon for me to start writing at 6pm and check the time and find it is 11pm and hours have passed! I usually get at least 20 hours of writing done each week, including 3 hours of marketing. Like most people, I wander on and off social media during the day. Instagram is just plain fun. I love hearing from readers who are commenting on my TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook posts.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

You will find me asking Siri to make a note or typing in notes on my cell phone as I walk or sit on the beach. Some of my best ideas were created during a walk or run. I wear headphones so people think I am on the phone while I dictate notes.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I spent 15 of my professional years working alongside law enforcement as a part of our counties Domestic Sexual Assault Response Team. I was a certified advocate, so I can never share a true story. I would lose my standing as an advocate. But I can use my general experience. Each crime is usually a common crime that has happened many times. I don’t use real details; I make my murders much more fun than true crime or real life.

When I need an expert opinion, I call my kids. The great thing about being a part of a massive family, mother of six kids, and lucky enough to have great friends is having a list of on-call experts.

● 2 veterans, one disabled

● 2 have served and still serve in multiple law enforcement capacities.

● A detective and major crimes unit member

● 2 certified death investigators

● 1 talented nurse and 1 medic

● Volunteer manager of almost 1500 volunteers in a bishop’s storehouse

● 1 dog groomer and 2 pet experts

● 1 Ship’s Captain licensed to pilot large vessels, including research vessels for NOAA.

● 1 fluent in German, a cousin fluent in many languages

The list goes on and on.

Like most people, I google often. Once I have a basic plot, I talk to my kids, friends, and the experts to get their input. Then, as I write, I reach back out when I have questions. One of my books has a ship at sea making a distress call. My son walked me through what the call for help would sound like and why.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When am I not writing? Seriously, I love serving in our church as a compassionate leader organizing care for those in need. I also love walking, and when healthy, running the beach. Anytime with family and friends on the beach or by a bonfire gives me joy. We all like walking along the ocean to the local gelato shop. I love anything that includes water like going crabbing at the marine, deep sea fishing, and taking my kayaks to the lake. I love baking desserts.

Because I love a clean house, I wash dishes, laundry, and all the things’ homeowners do.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Where the Red Fern Grows. Why on earth do they make a book about dying dogs mandatory reading in schools across the country?

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Me. My favorite color is invisible. I decided this year, after talking to Richard Paul Evans during the writer’s retreat, that I would step forward, be seen, and use my gift to bless others. No one is more critical of me than me.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?


My biggest problem with my debut novel is that I was writing about a topic the world wasn’t and still may not be ready to discuss: domestic violence. My publisher changed its name to Safe House. 3 months later, a prolific bestselling author, who is now a friend, published her book, named Safe House. The plots are surprisingly similar.

I thought I was being original, authentic, and giving people a peek into the world I saw as an advocate. Turns out, I wasn’t original at all.

I followed Safe House with a book about what sex traffickers do to recruit people in my small town. A major scene in the book takes place in a fishing boat offshore. Three months later, my new friend published her book on a similar plot. Her book is about sex trafficking and ends on a ship at sea.

So! I must not be as original as I think.

I really care about what readers think and love it when they share their experiences with me. Every author wants to sell millions of books and receive thousands of good reviews. I try to write books that will inspire readers, change them, and remain with them long after they finish the novel.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Richard Paul Evans started a group called Author Ready during covid. He educates us and we work together to turn out great books. He also holds annual retreats. I attended one and can tell you it changed the way I write. He was a friend of my sister's before she passed away. She was on the board of his charitable organization, The Christmas Box Houses. When his email announcing Author Ready hit my inbox, I joined, no questions asked. My sister always wanted to get us in the same room so I could learn from him. In my opinion, she did, as an Angel who watches over us.

Deb Goodman, a romcom and romance author, and our little critique group have become lifetime and priceless friends.

I recently met Catherine Coles and Anne Sutton online. I call them friends. Catherine is inspiring. I love all their books and who they are when they are home.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Get over yourself and get writing! Come what may and love it.

What do you have coming next?

I am launching the first book in my new series!

About the book:

Booked for Murder: Book 1 in the Balefire Bay Cozy Mystery Series

Ivy Kelly is on the run and searching for refuge in the small town of Balefire Bay on the Oregon Coasts. But when she arrives, she finds more than just a safe haven. Someone has died and one of her new friends could be the killer. The people hunting her want to make sure she disappears permanently.

Ivy isn’t on the run long before she meets Aggie, a knitter, book club member, true crime sleuth, and part owner of Balefire Bay’s Book and Tea Shop. Aggie introduces Ivy to the possibility of a new life that includes a dream job working in a library that looks like a mashup of Downton Abbey and Hogwarts and is owned by her favorite reclusive author. With a new life comes a new mystery, as Ivy finds herself enmeshed in a murder that the town is determined to keep a secret.

Is Ivy Kelly’s new employer a possible love interest or a stone-cold killer? When her past collides with her present, Ivy must risk everything to uncover the secrets of Balefire Bay. Join Ivy on this thrilling journey and find out who she really is and why she is hiding.

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