The Self-Publishing Insider

Self-published author Shawn LaTorre

Author Spotlight: Shawn LaTorre

Shawn LaTorre is a retired educator living in Austin, Texas. Her work was primarily with students struggling to learn English as a second language and English-speaking students in gifted and talented programs. As a child, Shawn and her large family spent time in the fields with migrant workers from Texas and Arizona, picking blueberries and strawberries for fifty cents a bucket. Her heart belongs to Texas now, where her family and friends have settled. Shawn loves seeking backstories and historical information on people and places, which is what led to her first novel.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Footfalls to the Alamo, a historical fiction novel, is the culmination of years of research. Exploring what exactly the Alamo in San Antonio was all about, I almost shelved this project until a friend told me about Publish Pros. I am so happy to have published a quality book with support from their editors, creative designers, and technology experts! It’s very important to find publishing support that fits an author’s vision for how the process will work. This company was exactly what I was hoping for!

How did you know you wanted to be an author?

Wanting to tell the story of a certain woman who is less-often cited, but who played an important part in Alamo history is what got me thinking about writing my own book. Story Circle Network provided support through a wonderful circle of writers who I still consult with and email weekly.

What inspired you to write your book?

Accompanying a group of eighth grade students on an all-day field trip that included a water park, a museum and the Alamo got me started. I had no idea what the Alamo was all about, and I got a strange feeling walking around there. I was a first-year bilingual teacher brought in from another state to work with migrant students. When I saw the Alamo, I was even more curious as to why we would bring all these students to this crumbling limestone building.

Once I began to do my research, I was amazed at the history of that place! I felt terribly guilty for not learning more about it before the trip, so my act of contrition, I guess you could say, ended up being the publication of Footfalls to the Alamo, written with the blessing of the great-granddaughter of the main character.

What is your writing process?

For this first book, I had 5 x 7 notecards taped all around my writing room with dates on them. Below each card, I taped pieces of paper with events and people associated with that date. The people and events I found in my research became part of the timeline. I couldn’t include everyone, nor every battle, but this information became a lifeline in sharing the story I wanted to write. I read other historical fiction books, such as Love is a Wild Assault by Elithe H. Kirkland, who wrote for J. Frank Dobie back in the forties. A Line Between Us and A Ballad of Love and Glory by Reyna Grande are also favorites of mine and uncover stories many people are unaware of.

On a daily basis, I journal on whatever topic strikes me.  I also read every chance I get so as to become more skilled in story structure. To write the book, I set aside two-hour blocks when I would close the doors to my writing space to be alone and think about how to structure the next scene or chapter.

What do you do to get over writer’s block?

I go outside and hike. I leave what I’ve written for some length of time, sometimes weeks. Usually when I go back to writing, I’m excited to read what I had put down earlier. Writer’s block can last a short while for me or a long while. Sometimes I know what I want to put down in writing but can’t because of all the other things blocking my concentration. Until I clear those things, I can’t seem to carry on.

If you could share one piece of advice with new authors, what would it be?

I’m a book reviewer and a former language arts teacher, so this advice may not be what writers want to hear. But I would say, before you show your work to the public, get a good editor or proofreader, unless you are skilled enough to do it yourself. Every book will end up with one or two errors, but I’ve been asked to review books containing rampant errors, and it’s a serious demerit in my opinion. Don’t rush your work, and when you think it’s ready, for heaven’s sake, have it cleaned up!

What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I am working on an anthology of poetry related to people who were in and around the Alamo back in the early 1800s. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about certain individuals, then writing what they might say about their lives. It will be a nice blend of education and creativity, just like Footfalls.

I was delighted to hear one of my short stories, “I Know What You Did!” appears in Story Circle’s Quarterly Journal for Spring 2024.

Where can fans find more information about you?

My author site is shawnlatorre.com. It includes information about me, as well as additional information related to topics in my book. I can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.