Writer Spotlight - Jackie Shannon Hollis

Before I introduce today’s Writer Spotlight I want to share some news!!!! Some great news!!!! Some fantastic news!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lisa Dunick who I spotlighted a few weeks ago (here) has found her agent match, Nathaniel Jacks of InkWell Management!!!! CONGRATS, Lisa, (throws confetti). Lisa’s manuscript, A SWEET UNREST, will soon be making the publisher rounds, I’ll keep you posted. STAY TUNED for another interview with Lisa about how she prepared for THE phone calls and how she ultimately decided on (yes, she had more than one agent offer) Nathaniel Jacks. Congrats again, Lisa!!

If you'd like to step into the spotlight for an interview go here, like NOW, and then email me.

Okay, so catch your breath because Jackie Shannon Hollis is stepping into the Writer Spotlight today.

Hi Jackie, welcome!! 

Here’s what her webpage says about her:

Jackie was born in Condon, Oregon, a small farming town on the east side of the state. She grew up on the ranch her great-grandfather homesteaded, surrounded by wheat fields, four siblings, horses, cows, pigs, sheep, dogs, plenty of cats, various fowl, and even a fawn for a short while. For a few summers, she earned college money, running an alfalfa swather and driving wheat and potato trucks. She now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Bill, a firefighter and counselor, and their cat Fred, in what one friend calls the Tree House, for all the cedars that grow out back.

Yes, another writer in the spotlight from Oregon. Apparently they grow writers there along with wheat and alfalfa.

Today Jackie will be sharing her novel, AT THE WHEAT LINE. It’s an adult book, with an eighteen-year-old protagonist that will surely have crossover appeal. Below we talk about her decision to go adult vs YA.

On to the interview.

What manuscript would you like to tell us about today?

AT THE WHEAT LINE, complete at 97,500 words, is targeted at the literary fiction market with crossover appeal to the young adult market.

Can you give us a three to four sentence pitch?

AT THE WHEAT LINE, set during the harvest of 1976 in the high desert country of Oregon, is the story of eighteen-year-old Carly Lang confronting the grief, shame, regret, and hidden truths of her mothers’ death six months earlier. 

With her dad’s silence about the head-on accident that killed her mom and another woman in Springs, and the people in town whispering about the shameful circumstances, Carly hasn’t been able to talk to anyone about what happened the day her mom died or about how much she misses her. She’s held out harvest, and driving truck with Joe Johns’ crew, as the day to get to, the day life will begin to return to normal so she can get back to her plans for heading off to college in the fall. But when she’s late for her first day of work and has two near accidents, it becomes clear that normal is long gone. Carly has become a reckless girl. It’s not just her; the whole crew is out of whack. Clark Harson, her last year boyfriend, is mooning all over the tall-drink-of-water Anna Mears, whose boobs got what her brains didn’t. Carly’s best friend, Joanie Bridger, flirts with Little Joe Johns and increasingly ignores Carly. Joe Johns, the crew boss, is meaner than ever and most of that mean is directed at his son, Little Joe.  The whole crew is scared of what he might do. Things get worse when Carly discovers her dad out on a date with her favorite teacher and begins to wonder how long that’s been going on. But there’s someone new on the crew, Mac. He’s from the city and completely different from anyone Carly has ever met. He tells her his secrets and she wants to tell him hers. Mix all those kids running all those big machines with the heat and dust of harvest, and just about anything can happen.  And, in the way of small towns, it takes a new tragedy for people to begin to move on from the old one.

I bet anything and everything does happen in this small town of yours. Sounds AWESOME!!!

The main character in your ms, AT THE WHEAT LINE, is eighteen. What makes this an adult vs. a young-adult story? Was this a decision you struggled with and if so, what made you decide on adult?  

I’ve struggled with this quite a lot. I’m marketing it as a crossover. It’s close-in first person from a young woman’s perspective at a time where she is trying to figure out where she fits in the world. These things appeal to the YA audience. But the thing that slants it more to the adult market is that, though it is a story told from Carly’s point of view, it has a broader perspective about a community, about a crew of kids, about a family. It is not just Carly’s story, but the stories she witnesses. There is more attention to place and landscape, and language that is slightly more complex than in a lot of YA. Think “Peace Like a River” vs. “Thirteen Reasons Why.” Both of these are books I liked a lot, but there is a difference and I’d say the narration and place of AT THE WHEAT LINE are like more along the lines of “Peace Like a River,” which is targeted to the adult market. One additional thought is that Carly’s age, heading off to college, is pushing the upper limits of YA and the actual length of the manuscript is a little longer than most YA. All that said, I think AT THE WHEAT LINE will appeal to the young adult market.

I agree. There is definitely a wide appeal there. Good luck.

Would you care to share the opening line or paragraph (up to 250 words)?

“I drove through Springs with my hands at ten and two, leaned forward in my seat like that would get me there faster. My back was sweat-damp from the heating up morning and from the hurry. I slowed down at the top of Main. The crew bus was already gone from the cook shack. The clock on the dash read quarter to seven. I was forty-five minutes late. Forty-five minutes. The rest of the crew would’ve been on time, got their bellies full of Sally Johns’ breakfast and their ears full of Joe Johns’ start-of-harvest lecture about going slow and being safe, but not too slow and not wasting time and not being a stupid bonehead or a lazy panty-waist. I knew that lecture. I knew all Joe’s rules. Through all five weeks of last harvest, I never broke any of them.”

Hmm, I bet she will be breaking some rules soon, yes? : )

What is your least and most favorite word? Use each in a sentence, writing in the voice of one of your characters from any of your manuscripts.

Okay the most and least favorite words are in caps. You can guess which is which.

Little Joe tipped his head and blinked at David. A big old grin stretched out across his face. “Duh, turkey lips. Of course I’d say YES if she wanted to show me her BEAVER.”

LOL, too funny. YES I do think I can guess.

What else are you working on while you wait?

I’m working on a memoir. I’m about 30 pages in, but I have it all outlined. I’ll give you the (current) several sentence pitch. Subject to change of course as the project moves along.

Jackie Shannon was a girl who really wanted attention. But she was raised to be nice and quiet and proper. Growing up, it seemed like all the other kids in her family got attention when they were in an accident or some other equally dramatic event. When she was a college student Jackie was raped by a stranger. Something huge had happened to her, something she desperately wanted to talk about. But rape wasn’t a proper thing to speak of.

In THE STRENGTH of SCARS (working title), the story of the rape and the story of Jackie’s family unfold in parallel tracks. Raised on a ranch in Eastern Oregon, a descendent of settlers, Jackie followed what she had learned from her parents and the small community--to stand up and carry on in the face of a crisis, to not let it stop her. And that’s exactly what she did after the rape, holding tightly to the idea that she would not be a victim. But, over the years, the strong parts that helped her do this began to weaken and she had to face the many ways she had been changed by that event.

Twenty years later, she revisits the past through interviews with the police detectives, correspondence with the rapist, and conversations with her family.

And I want to say, this is not all a dark and dreary story, there is a lot of humor as well.

Sounds like the book format will be fresh and interesting with the interviews. And phew, glad to hear there is some humor in there : )

What book have you read in the past six months that’s inspired you and why?

“All the Living” by CE Morgan. This is the simplest story, told with the most knock-you-down-beautiful language. The sentences made me stop and read them over and over because of the beauty of the language and their ability to make me feel the small moments so deeply. I feel both deep reverence and deep envy of CE Morgan. Read this book!

“Wire to Wire” by Scott Sparling. I know Scott. I met him while he was working on this (his first) novel. It’s a complex story with many characters and points of view. It’s wild and dangerous. It’s a GREAT story. It’s so fun to have a friend get publication and especially when that publication gets strong reviews.

“Let’s Take the Long Way Home” by Gail Caldwell. It’s a memoir about friendship and grief. She tells this story simply and with deep love. I love a well-written memoir.

They all sound great!! Thanks.

Any random fun-facts you’d like to share about yourself?

When I was six, I really wanted to be a horse. So I traded names with our horse, Chester, figuring that would do the trick. I believe it did. For awhile.

Aw, how cute. THAT right there is why I love to write for children. Adults can't do fun stuff like that.

Thank you so much Jackie for the interview. Jackie's other fiction and essays have appeared literary journals, such as: The Sun, The Rambler, Rosebud, South Dakota Review, Inkwell, Flashquake, High Desert Journal, and Oregon Literary Review. Learn more about Jackie and her work here.


  1. Great interview, Paula and Jackie! I'm lucky to be in a writing group with Jackie. I adore AT THE WHEAT LINE and totally agree about its crossover power. It's an amazingly compelling novel.

  2. Great Interview! Good luck on the querying Jackie :O)

  3. Wonderful interview. At the Wheat Line sounds great.

    (Congrats, too, to Lisa Dunick!)

  4. Wow, Jackie, your book sounds awesome! So many tangled threads - there's sure to be some explosions in this one! And I love this line "her boobs got what her brain didn't" - funny! I'll look forward to reading AT THE WHEAT LINE.

    Thanks for another awesome interview Paula - and fantastic news for Lisa!! Congrats to her!!

  5. That's so awesome about Lisa. Thanks for sharing it.

    Great interview. It must have been hard deciding which market to focus on. Good luck with AT THE WHEAT LINE. It sounds great.

  6. Wow, great writing. Thanks, Jackie, for sharing your perspective on adult vs YA...I've been struggling with that issur for a while with my ms.


I heart comments.