Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?
Shannon: The inspiration came from two separate instances: a vacation to Koreshan State Park in Estero, Florida, which is the site of an abandoned Utopian community (read: cult), and a very vivid dream about a boy and a girl who embrace and speak for the first time—just before she is whisked away to marry someone else. I’ve always been fascinated by the subject of cults and the blind obedience that people have for these types of leaders, as well as the strength it must take to break free. And I wanted to find out more about these characters I’d dreamt up, and explore the idea of what, if anything, would push someone raised in this kind of environment to break the rules.
What character do you most relate to and why?
I want to say Aaron, because he’s the realist in the bunch. But I’m going to go with Miriam, because like me, she’s intensely curious, to the point where it gets her into trouble. She also struggles with knowing when to speak up and when to keep quiet, which is something I still haven’t mastered. Being an introvert does not always keep me from opening my own mouth wide enough to stick my foot in now and again.
Why do you feel young adult books are so popular and have such a voice right now?
I think young adult books appeal to such a wide audience—teens, certainly, but also adults who still vividly remember that time in life when they were trying to figure out who they really are. I also think that the best young adult novels are willing to take risks, in terms of subject matter as well as style. Teens themselves are risk-takers, so it makes sense that the literature written for them would reflect that nature.
What’s next for you in the book world?
I’m currently working on another contemporary YA about a sixteen-year-old girl whose small-town life is thrown into turmoil when her star athlete boyfriend turns eighteen and their relationship becomes a source of controversy, gossip, and scandal. I’m very excited about it!
Who is your favorite writer right now?
I’m a big fan of authors who take those risks and push boundaries; who make us see the world in a different way. It’s impossible to name just one! A few of my favorites are Angie Thomas, Joy McCullough, Mindy McGinnis, Ruta Sepetys, Laurie Halse Anderson, Nova Ren Suma, and Kathleen Glasgow.
Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.
The Virtue of Sin takes place in a modern-day cult, one where women’s voices are suppressed and their Prophet’s word is sacred. When something goes wrong at their Marriage Ceremony, sixteen-year-olds Miriam and Caleb must decide what they really believe in, how they really feel about each other, and how much they are willing to sacrifice. Their story is told in alternating viewpoints, and readers can expect an exploration of faith, friendship, and first love, along with a healthy dose of female empowerment.