Shelley Gray

Shelley writes Amish romances for Harper Collins’ inspirational line, Avon Inspire as Shelley Shepard Gray, writes historical romances for Abingdon Press as Shelley Gray, and has also written for Harlequin American Romance as Shelley Galloway. Since 2001, she’s published almost 40 titles. Along the way, her books have been Holt Medallion winners, Reviewers Choice Winners, and been highlighted in Time Magazine, the Philadelphia Enquirer, and USA Today. She’s been interviewed on NPR as well as multiple regional and national radio stations. Shelley’s books have also hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Before writing romances, Shelley lived in Texas and Colorado, where she taught school and earned both her bachelor’s degree in English literature and elementary education and later obtained her master’s degree in educational administration. She now lives in southern Ohio and writes full time. Shelley is married, the mother of two college students, and is an active member of her church. Shelley is active on Facebook and also has a website,

For Writers Only

Good Old Number 35

This past year, I had the chance to work with some authors on a continuity series for Harlequin. The editors gave us information about all of our characters and plots. It was our job as authors to put together the hundreds of details that make the series unique and completely real feeling.

I soon realized that I was out of my league.

I am a pretty good plotter and don’t mind writing synopses, but I’m not very detail oriented, especially for the first draft. I write fast, and I write almost every day, but I also give myself plenty of leeway to let the characters grow and change. For me, this is the fun part of writing, the part that allows me to spend four, five, or six hours at a time in my office. I still find making stuff up very enjoyable.

I’m afraid I frustrated my fellow Harlequin authors! I constantly received questions about eye color or the car my hero was driving or strange quirks of my heroine. Um . . . I didn’t know yet. But they needed the information for their books, so I had to make some quick decisions. Some I was so glad about―my heroine’s love for Snickers Bars meant I got to eat them, too!

I finished my book of the series, and I have to say I became a better writer because of it. A little bit of peer pressure certainly kept me working hard! However, I have to admit that I’m very thankful that every book I write isn’t under those parameters.

Now, writing A Texan’s Honor for Abingdon Press was the complete opposite experience. I began the book based on just one scene in my head: my heroine, Jamie, being held at gunpoint on a very cold train. From that point on, any and all of the details, craft studies, and character questionnaires flew out the window.

You see, all I wanted to do was to be on that train, too.

I stopped caring about how many pages I had written a day. I just wrote all of the time―on the weekends and in the evenings. I didn’t care if my book was a little too violent or if the characters were a little too bad. I just knew that I loved the book. Along the way, I took a journey with a group of interesting characters who kept me on my toes: Jamie, Will, Kent, and Russell; Scout, a sweet girl named Kitty, and a Texas Rangers widower named Sam. And then, just as I was settling into post−Civil War Kansas, the book was over.

I was exhausted and sad and more than a little pleased. A Texan’s Honor came from my heart.

That’s not to say there wasn’t anything wrong with it! There was plenty. I had messed up the timeline. And I had some train research issues. And, well, everyone’s eye colors changed. Multiple times.

But overall the book had been in charge. I had merely been along for the ride, and I was pleased with the result.

I’m not sure what these two writing experiences mean. A Texan’s Honor was the thirty-fifth book I’ve written. The Harlequin? Number 39. Daybreak, the novel I recently started for Avon Inspire, will be my fortieth book.

Each writing experience has been different. I’ve learned to be flexible and open to learning from other authors, to take criticism from editors and my critique partners, and to remember that the actual time spent writing is a gift. It’s such a blessing.

And at the end, it doesn’t matter how a book gets done . . . as long as it does, and that it’s the best I can make it be.

That’s all any of us can hope for, really.


A Texan’s Honor