By DENISE FLEISCHER
reprinted from the Journal & Topics Newspapers
When Shannyn Schroeder isn’t busy teaching grammar to licensed practical nurses at Wheeling North Shore College of Health Care, she writes romance novels about realistic relationships. It’s something she’s wanted to do since taking creative writing and English courses in high school and at Rosary College.
Years before Schroeder began writing her first romance series, she taught at Arts of Living, an alternative high school for pregnant and parenting teens. After moving to Des Plaines 20 years ago, Schroeder taught advanced reading/language arts at Thomas Middle School in Arlington Heights. She challenged bright students, which she says was her favorite job.
She then worked at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Mundelein, E Learn Daily, and Best Brains after-school tutoring company.
Because family comes first, she set aside her writing ambitions to care for her three children: Ean, Sydney and Emma.
“When I was at home with the little ones I started reading novels again, but I’d never read romance. I went into Costco and found one book that was cheap, a two for one, so I got it,” said Schroeder. “It was a Nora Roberts novel. I got home and devoured the book. Later on, I went to Borders thinking that Roberts probably had a few more books available. She actually has shelves of them. I bought several and began to realize I liked suspense.”
Afterward, Schroeder began reading Tammy Hogue, Julie James’ FBI series, Kate Meader’s contemporary romance and Alyssa Cole’s “Reluctant Royals” series. She realized that romance wasn’t how she imagined it. She read one novel after the other.
She said a comment from her husband motivated her to write romance novels.
“That summer I began writing in longhand when the kids were doing their Taekwondo,” she said. “Then at night when they were asleep, I was typing it on the computer.”
Schroeder said that first manuscript “will never see the light of day” because she had not yet found her voice.
“I joined Chicago North Romance Writers of America. It’s a critique chapter, so during every meeting someone reads what they’re working on. You listen and then offer your feedback,” she said. “That’s when you realize everyone has to go through this process. They get published and have it hard, too.”
Soon she realized that her voice was contemporary romance. When she read Jennifer Crusie, she knew that was what she wanted to write.
Her third manuscript was the first to be published. That led to her O’Leary series. It begins with bartender Ryan O’Leary gladly assisting Quinn Adams with her list of challenges. The book was published by Kensington in 2013. From there, each sibling gets their own book.
In “More Than This,” Schroeder knew Ryan came from a big Irish family living on the northwest side of Chicago who owns a bar. She began thinking about Ryan’s siblings. They appeared to be very distinct people. One brother literally walked through the door after being gone for three years. From that moment, she knew his story.
Books one and two were nearly done by the time she had her book deal with Kensington. Book two features one of Ryan’s best friends who grew up with the O’Learys. The others are about his siblings. There are six books in the series.
Schroeder said being published “happened really quickly.”
“I had that book done by the beginning of 2010. I remember pitching it at Spring Fling. That was the year contemporary romance was down and no one wanted it,” she said. “A year later, though, Kindle exploded and you had Bella Andre self-publishing.”
Schroeder signed with her agent in October 2011 and by January of 2012 had a two-book offer from Kensington as they were about to launch their e-book line.
After the two books about the O’Learys, she confirmed with her editor that she was interested in writing the rest of the series. It was a two-book contact at a time when all submissions and communication were done through email.
By the time she received her last contact and hit the sixth book, her editor asked her what she was thinking about doing next. She met with him in person at a Romantic Times Magazine event in New Orleans.
“In my fourth book in this first series, the heroine is a reporter who has always been in love with her brother’s best friend who lived down the street. The second series — ‘For Your Love’ — continues with the O’Malley family. I have four books in this series,” said Schroeder.
Then came her three-book contemporary romance, “The Dating Challenge,” published by independent publisher Entangled. The first book is entitled “One Night with a Millionaire.” The protagonist is a single mom with three kids who happens to meet a millionaire at a fundraising gala for the local hospital. It’s about him wanting more in life and she feeling they have two different lives.
Schroeder has the other two books in the series done, but titles are pending and she doesn’t have release dates yet. When she started this series, she knew the premise is about a group of friends who met in a divorce support group.
“I had the first three chapters done and my agent approached Entangled and said, ‘Do you think this will be good for you?’ So, it’s a planned five-book series,” she said. “They offered me a contract for the first three books. All are done and in the pipeline with them.”
Schroeder is now “working on something new that doesn’t belong to anybody yet.”
Her two self-published books were standalones — “Between Love and Loyalty” and a romantic comedy entitled “Meeting his Match.”
“The premise of the second book is that he is a professional matchmaker and she’s a YouTube pick-up artist and they are pitted against each other in a reality TV show,” she said. “The contestants have vastly different approaches.”
Schroeder said she can comfortably write three books a year, which is not the norm. She also wrote new adult novellas entitled “The Hot & Nerdy” series that focus on college seniors that aren’t quite out in the grown-up world. The six-book series was published Sept. 24, 2014 through Oct. 27, 2015.
Asked if she thought she’d become a romance writer, Schroeder said, “Oh, heck no. I’ve always loved to write. When I was in high school and college, I took all creative writing classes. I wrote poetry mostly, though. I never thought I was good at writing dialogue, and I was an English major so I never read romance until I was an adult.”
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