She's a former engineer, a mom and one-half of a two-author couple
Once upon a time, a little girl named Shannon K. Lundy aspired to be a daddy when she grew up.
As a child, Shannon adored her father, who worked as an engineer all day while her mother attended college.
“I just thought he was the neatest person ever. I think it’s because he wasn’t around as much as Mom,” Shannon, 37, says. “I just thought how cool it would be to be able to go out and do a job. I thought to do that you had to be a daddy.”
At some point in her adolescence, she realized the anatomical improbability of becoming a daddy, but Shannon clung to her love of engineering. With posters of a geosynchronous orbit and stars and galaxies filling her walls, the self-proclaimed geek enjoyed star gazing with her father.
The little girl met her prince charming, Jim Butcher, in seventh grade. They began dating as juniors at Truman High School. Shannon married at 18, gave birth to her only child at 19 and earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering at the University of Oklahoma, never once changing her major. Shannon got the job she had always wanted, and she, Jim and their son, James, lived happily ever after.
But that is hardly the end of this fairy tale.
Shannon worked in tech support for an Internet service provider and supported a family while Jim pursued a science fiction and paranormal novel writing career. Little did she know that one day, she would leave behind her once-dream, make a complete 180-degree turn and set out as a romance novelist.
‘It’s not just about the story’: An engineer reads romance and falls in love with the genre
Shannon picked up her first romance novel in 1998 – the Kansas City-based and New York Times bestseller Julie Garwood’s “Gentle Warrior.” Shannon’s mother had read and adored the genre.
“She was one of those book-a-day-type people,” Shannon says. “I always scoffed at them. I couldn’t imagine that they had a cool story like all the science fiction and fantasy stuff that I read.”
One book later, and Shannon was left thinking, “Oh, this is so cool.”
“It’s not just about the story; it’s also about the people,” she says of her realization. “That was very appealing to me.”
As Shannon immersed herself in the genre in the late 1990s, Jim’s career as a writer took off. The young family moved from Oklahoma – where Shannon and Jim had attended college and had started their lives – to Pennsylvania, so Jim could be closer to New York City for his career. Jim would often pound his head against a wall, trying to work through a scene or character.
“I was just a reader. I was one of those people that could pick up about anything and enjoy it. I wasn’t picky,” Shannon says. “I’d read it, and it would seem fine to me. There’d be words and everything; what did I know?”
Slowly, over the years, Jim taught Shannon different writing crafts and techniques. He became a New York Times best-selling author who is most known for his series “The Dresden Files” and “Codex Alera.”
Following the success of Jim’s career, Shannon made her own career move that she’d been planning for some time – she had quit her job as an engineer in 2003. The family had mo ved back to Independence so they could be closer to their family. Six months later, Shannon started her own writing process, using the tips and knowledge that Jim had taught her.
Shannon wrote her first novel in 13 days in 2003. She started 36 books and finished eight of them before her first book, “No Regrets,” was published in February 2007. It was her ninth book and the first in a military heroes’ romance trilogy.
“Obsessive is how she was,” Jim says of Shannon’s early writing days. “She’s one of those folks who’s always trying out new, creative things and going berserk over them for a while. Writing was kind of the same thing.”
‘I felt the need to buy myself a gun just to be safe’: Scary events hit a little too close to home
Shannon’s latest novel, “Love You to Death,” is due in stores this month. During the 30 days that she wrote the book, Shannon researched and immersed herself in the story’s antagonist, Gary Maitland, a man who has secretly lived for years as a serial killer, dismembering women’s bodies and sewing them to create “the perfect woman.” After writing a military heroes’ trilogy, Shannon wrote the story at the encouragement of her editor.
She consulted Robert Schneider, a friend who formerly worked in the prison system, in her research. While developing Gary’s character, Shannon told Schneider that his character “is completely crazy.” Schneider dismissed Shannon’s analysis, saying that Gary “just likes doing these things.”
“And that was the turning point for me when I realize that this guy’s not doing it because there’s something in him that’s broken; he’s just doing it because it gets him off,” Shannon says. “I think that was the part that changed it for me and made it from more of a surface-level kind of thing to this real, creepy, scary kind of thing.”
As Shannon writes about the protagonist characters and their challenges, “it’s the worst week of their lives,” she says, especially in “Love You to Death” where two people investigating a missing woman fall in love with each other.
“That is always a difficult balance, to try and put in an exciting action story that’s very realistic and believable and has its own beginning, a middle and an end,” she says. “And while you’re having car chases, gun fights, fist fights, killers, poisonings and all these things going on, you have two people that fall in love with each other. That’s tough, but I think that’s part of what appeals to me about the genre of either suspense or the paranormal.”
Sometimes, the creepy elements of fiction cross over into reality. Since Jim’s and Shannon’s writing has brought them fame, they were forced to get a private telephone number because of odd phone calls. The family also resides on a 12-acre unlisted property in Independence, but prior to that location, fans showed up unexpectedly, asking for autographs.
“It’s not OK. That is inappropriate for people to show up uninvited,” Shannon says. “It was harmless, but I felt the need to buy myself a gun just to be safe.”
With the paranormal themes in both authors’ books, many people are drawn to the genre who believe that witches, wizards and magic actually exist – and they often make claims that the Butchers’ books have defamed them.
“There’s some freaky people out there, so to protect ourselves and our family, we keep private,” Shannon says.
“Though, if you’re going to be famous, an author is the most private way to be famous,” Jim chimes in. “I’ve been recognized outside the bookstore exactly twice as me.”
‘It’s all been uphill’: The scientist-turned-writer considers her job now No. 1
Despite a childhood dream in which she earned a college degree, Shannon says she hasn’t missed engineering, especially the corporate atmosphere and politics involved. She had no intentions of starting a professional writing career when she quit, but the second venture has filled a void, she says.
“I missed it before I started writing because I got bored. The first six weeks after I quit work it was just like, so awesome – no alarm, no schedule, no meetings, no nothing,” Shannon says. “After that, I started missing the purpose because being the mom for one kid who has been trained his entire life to be independent and not need me because I wasn’t there ... There was no challenge in that. I needed more.”
Jim says Shannon places “an inhuman amount of effort” into her work and the creations that surround her, whether it’s writing a novel or creating glass jewelry, Shannon’s latest obsession.
“During the day, unless she’s doing something that’s to fix a problem or running an errand, her entire focus on life is building and creating things,” Jim says. “She likes making beauty.”
Their careers have flourished, allowing Shannon and Jim to financially relocate anywhere they would have wanted, but they chose to remain in Independence because their family and roots remain here. Plus, they wanted their son, 17-year-old high-school senior James, to attend their alma mater: Truman High School.
“And, there’s seasons here. We like that,” Shannon says, with Jim adding that Oklahoma – in his opinion – only has two seasons: green and brown.
What had once never crossed Shannon’s mind is now reality – and she’s surprised herself along the way, she says. Today, she can’t think of a more desirable career than hers as a novelist, calling it “the coolest job in the world.”
“It’s all been uphill – every time I make a decision to do something different, it gets more fun,” Shannon says. “I’m pleased. Hard work is happy.
“You’ve got to take time for yourself. You’ve got to decide what’s important. The things that aren’t important you let go, and the things that are important you make time for.”
A husband, a son and a thriving career – sounds like the princess found it all.The end.