Friday, January 22, 2016

Unconventional Interview & Book Giveaway

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

I thought we'd do something a little different today. My kids are both burgeoning young writers--like so many of you!--though we've yet to cross that fancy teenage threshold and that's just fine by me.

Justus is 11 and Jazlyn is 7 and they both have oodles of questions about writing. Today, I've given them permission to ask away and I thought you all might want to listen in as I answer. If you make it to the end, you'll find a fun little giveaway the munchkins are hosting.

You're up, Jaz! Give us that first question!


Jazlyn (crawls into my lap and lets me play with her hair): I want to know about writing, like how do you know where the keys are without looking?

Me (confused): What keys?

Jazlyn: The keys on the computer.

Me (does not laugh out loud): Well! It takes a lot of practice, but when I was in junior high, I took a typing class and that helped a lot.

Justus (This kid's all business.): About how long did the process of editing Angel Eyes take you?

Me: A million years, I think. No. Not really. Angel Eyes was the first book I'd ever written. I didn't have anyone waiting on me, no deadlines to hit. So I fiddled with the story for a couple years--editing it over and over--before I ever had an agent interested, much less a publisher. When I did sign a contract, I did two pretty hefty edits with my publisher and a round of copy edits to polish it up before it became a real live book.

Jazlyn: How do you come up with all your characters?

Me: I usually start with just one. My main character. Once I've written from her point of view for a while and once I have a pretty good idea about her day-to-day life, the other characters in the story just crop up. At some point during the drafting process, I flesh them out. But their presence in the story is always dictated by the needs and story arc of my hero or heroine.

Justus: How can a writer have so much expertise as to tying something from the beginning of the book to the end of the book?

(To the Go Teen Writer crowd: Justus is asking this question because he was enamored by a well-executed bit of foreshadowing in Shannon Messenger's Keeper of the Lost Cities series.) 

Me: I like how you used the word expertise when you asked the question, Bubba! Foreshadowing doesn't happen by accident. Sometimes an author is brilliant enough to include such amazingness in the first draft, but often foreshadowing is added during the editing process. By that time, the author has a pretty good idea about the direction of the story. When they go back to edit, they often add in hints of what's to come. Foreshadowing can be used to prepare the reader for the things that lie ahead, but it can also be used to mislead the reader, sending his or her thoughts in a different direction entirely and allowing the author to retain the element of surprise. Whatever its purpose in a story, it does take a certain level of expertise to pull of a good bit of foreshadowing.

Jazlyn: How long does it take you to write a book?

Me: My answers are going to be all over the place here. I wrote the first draft of Angel Eyes in four months and then edited for a couple years. Broken Wings and Dark Halo were both written on contract and I had only six months for each. The book I wrote after that took me thirteen months. In a lot of ways, I'm still a very new writer and my process is still evolving. I'd love to write and fully edit one book a year. That's the kind of writer I'd like to be.

Justus: When did your ideas for Angel Eyes first spring up?

Me: When you were sleeping! Jazlyn, however, was wide awake. She was a very fussy sleeper and I had my oh-my-gosh-I-can-be-a-writer moment while walking the house one night trying to get her to sleep. The story is a long and involved one and you can read more about it here, but the short version is that I was in a place where I desperately needed a creative outlet and Angel Eyes gave me one.

Jazlyn: How hard do you have to think to get the ages of your characters?

Me: Very, very hard! Deciding on the age of my characters at the outset isn't terribly difficult, but the minute I have to reference how old they were when such-and-such a historical event occurred or this one flashback took place, I'm lost. Character age math is my nemesis. 

Justus: How many full notebooks of plotting and brainstorming do you have?

Me: Probably none! I'm horrible at finishing one notebook before starting another. I TRY to keep one notebook for each story, but I fail miserably most of the time. I have scraps of ideas written here, there and everywhere. It's not uncommon to flip open one of my notebooks to find plot ideas on one page and the week's grocery list on the next.

(Justus has a zillion questions, so I tell him he can ask one more!)  

Justus: Does Jake ever get his orange tutu?

(Note: I realize this is an Angel Eyes spoiler, but it's such a small one and I'm so honored that my kid has finished a book I wrote, so I'll allow it this ONE TIME.)

Me: You, dear child, will have to read Broken Wings to find out. But I promise you this: Jake has not forgotten about the tutu he was promised. Quite the contrary.

To all of you in the Go Teen Writers crowd, thank you so much for reading (and maybe laughing!) with us. For being such good sports, Jazlyn and Justus have helped me put together a prize pack to give away. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter and come next Friday, I'll select one random winner.

He or she will receive:
(1) copy of any book in my Angel Eyes trilogy, winner's choice
(1) copy of Justus's favorite book, Keeper of the Lost Cities, by Shannon Messenger
(1) copy of Jazlyn's favorite book, The BFG, by Roald Dahl (which you really should read before the movie hits theaters)

Remember, leaving a question or comment (for either the kids or myself) will get you an extra Rafflecopter entry, so give us your best shot.

70 comments:

  1. So fun! :) It takes me about four months to write a book and several months, depending on what shape the first draft is in, to edit. And I, too, have book notes scattered hither and thither! I've actually been thinking that I should probably collect them into one location. Thanks for the interview!

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    1. One location! That's a very good idea, Linea. I have stacks.

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  2. This is one of my favorite author interviews I've read. :) Your kids are awesome.
    Two questions for the munchkins: First question, what's it like having an author as a mom? Second question, if you ask your mom for an impromptu bedtime story, does she say yes (and if she says yes, does she do a good job)?
    (The latter question is because the girl I used to babysit would frequently ask me to make up a bedtime story for her, since she knew I was a writer, and while I think I did a halfway decent job, I know they were sometimes long and rambling and not always very coherent. Making up stuff on the fly is hard!)

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    1. The kids read your question on the way to school and are very excited to get home and answer them this afternoon. <3

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    2. Justus: Well. I can ask questions about writing whenever I want and I get behind the scenes info on her next books. Sometimes my mom tells a bedtime story.

      Jazlyn: It's fun having a mom as an author and I also wish I was an author like my mom too. She says yes when I ask her to tell her a bedtime story and she does a very good job. ;)

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  3. Aw, how cute!! I love how interested they are in what you do. :)

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    1. Me too! They're very supportive of all my writing stuff.

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  4. Fun interview. :)

    I have one question for Mrs. Dittemore. Are you more of a panster or a plotter, and has that changed any from book to book?

    And I have one question for the kids: What do you want to be when you grow up?

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    1. Thank you for the questions! I'll have the kids stop by after school to answer.

      As for me, I think I'd qualify more as a pantser--it's so much harder for me to write if I know exactly what's going to happen. That said, I have evolved a bit. I definitely have plot points lingering out there like landmarks and I aim for them as I write. They keep me going and give me something to aim for, but I'm at my best when I'm writing to find out what happens.

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    2. Justus: Lots of things! Mainly, a football player, a baker, or a teacher.

      Jazlyn: I want to be a baker, an actor, and a princess and an author too.

      **** FYI, I am not a fabulous chef. In fact, I hope my kids grow up to feed me because I do not love the kitchen.

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    3. Neat! I'd love to be all those things too. Well, maybe not a football player...I'd get creamed. :/

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  5. Aww! I loved this interview! It was a lot of fun to read. :)

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  6. For any of you: If you could have written one book already published, what book would you have wanted to write? (i.e. I would have loved to be the one to come up with the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer because I think the concept is cool and unique.)

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    1. Oooo! Great question. The kids read this q on the way to school and they were tossing out ideas as they left the car. I'll let them answer when they get home.

      As for me, I think I would enjoy being the author of Harry Potter. Not for the money or anything, but for the whole movement that followed her words. Communities of writing and reading just popped into existence and classes were created in schools and, for crying out loud, there are quidditch teams out there in the real, non-flying world. All because she sat down and penned a story. It's a very graphic illustration of the power inherent in the imagination.

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    2. Justus: The Warriors series by Erin Hunter or Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

      Jazlyn: Star Wars Rebels or Brave Little Quack

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  7. THE BFG IS GOING TO BE A MOVIE???? I'm so excited! That was one of my favorite childhood books too! McKenna "discovered" Charlie and The Chocolate Factory two weeks ago and has read it approximately 12 times since then. I can't get her to venture out into other Roald Dahl brilliance quite yet.

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    1. Yes! A movie! Here's a link to the trailer: https://www.facebook.com/thebfgmovie/videos/334719670031624/?fref=nf

      Jazlyn's read the BFG twice. Once with me and once on her own. She adores it.

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  8. Your kids are so cute! And that's so awesome how they are interested in writing too! I have a question for the kids. What is their favorite genre/type of story to write about?

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    1. They can't wait to get home from school to answer all the questions!

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    2. Justus: Mystery mixed with fantasy

      Jazlyn: Fairy tales

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  9. That was so fun! I love it when kids get excited about reading and writing--it makes me feel like I wasn't such a weirdo when I was that age. :)
    I normally collect all my little notes on scrap paper and then flush them out more in a notebook. That means I go through a lot of notebooks fast, and I'll have about three million random ideas in each. There's no organization whatsoever, but it works for me.

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    1. I'm always trying to be more organized than I was with the last book, but I never quite arrive. The lack of control though is sometimes a blessing because writing is a very messy thing. Sometimes being too organized stifles me. It's a weird balancing act and I often tumble off the wire!

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  10. Loved this interview! Your kids are so fun :). (and for the record, I love Jazlyn's name)
    Here's my question for you, Mrs. Dittemore: how do you choose the names for the characters in your stories?
    And then for the kids: what is your favorite movie (even though that has nothing to do with this interview :D)?

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    1. I love Jazlyn's name too!

      The kids will answer your fabulous questions when they get home from school, but for me, I usually choose names based on how they sound. When I see a character in my head, there is often a name associated with him or her and if it sounds right, I go with it--at least initially. Sometimes I scroll through name books but having too many options can stifle me. It's more a gut thing for me.

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    2. Justus: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

      Jazlyn: Lots. Like, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Snow White, Peter Pan, Little Mermaid, Mickey Mouse

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  12. I love this interview! my question is, when you wrote the first book in the angel eyes trilogy, did you know it would become a series or have any idea how the series would work out, or did you write the book then go from there?

    ~K.A.C.

    P.S. Tell Justus and Jazlyn that they have fantastic taste in books. I love Ronald Dahl and am trying to get my hands on the third book of The Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

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    1. Thanks so much! I didn't know for sure Angel Eyes would be published at all, but I did hope it would be a series.

      Justus wants you to know he just finished the third book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series and he loved it!

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  13. I love the contrast of the two personalities in this interview... So cute!

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  14. Ahaha!!! Such an adorable post. :)

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  15. These are awesome questions. ^-^

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  16. That is so adorable! I have a question for you; How do you juggle your time? Are you a full-time writer, and if not, how do you manage your time?

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    1. I'm a full time mom, really. As far as occupations go, writing is my vocation right now, so yes, in a way. But it's tricky with kids. These days, I write mostly when they're at school. It's much, much easier than when they were little and home all day long.

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  17. I like the style of interview, It was seriously good!

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  18. I don't actually have anything to say, I'm just commenting to submit.(Though I really enjoyed reading the interview)

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  19. This was such a cool interview! :D And I have the same process for coming up with characters: I start with the main (or mains), and then the others just kind of stroll (or sprint or crash) into the MC's life as needed. :)

    Thanks for the giveaway!


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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  20. Awww! That was such a cute interview! They sound like my siblings who love writing too!

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  21. Oh my word, your kids are adorable! And I couldn't get over how serious Justus was about it! I have a feeling that this kid is going to make a great writer someday, like his mommy. :) I have a question for your kids. Do both of you want to become writers when you grow up? Or do you want to write and have another job at the same time?

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    1. Justus: Writing could be a fallback in case football doesn't work out. ;)

      Jazlyn: I want to have another job and write at the same time.

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  22. Oh my word, your kids are adorable! And I couldn't get over how serious Justus was about it! I have a feeling that this kid is going to make a great writer someday, like his mommy. :) I have a question for your kids. Do both of you want to become writers when you grow up? Or do you want to write and have another job at the same time?

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  23. Ooh, nice giveaway. And your kids are adorable. ;)

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  24. What gave you the idea for Angel Eyes? I love the series! Also... are you working on a new book? ;)

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    1. That's such a great question and I could not possibly do it justice here. I did, however, do a blog post on this very topic a while back. Here's the link: http://shannondittemore.com/why-angels-why-demons/

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    2. And yes! I'm always working on something. Sometimes many things. I currently have a book out on submission and I'm working on a totally unrelated fantasy. Fingers crossed, yes?

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  25. Your kids ask great questions!
    Question for you: How do you know you've hit a really incredible, blow-you-away idea?
    Question for the Justus and Jazlyn: Your mom said at the beginning of the post that you're both writers as well. That's awesome! What are your favorite things to write about?

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    1. Justus: Mystery and fantasy. I also like to do spin-offs in the Warriors universe. Go cats!

      Jazlyn: What I like to write about is stuff based on other movies and books and also I like to write my own fairy tales.

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    2. This is an incredibly hard question to answer. I don't think you ever REALLY know until you get feedback from outside readers. That said, there is ALWAYS a time--hopefully early on--in the drafting process where I sell out to a story. A moment where I realize this is an idea I must see through to the end and it deserves my full attention. If I don't reach that place within the first 50 pages, the book will get set aside. I may come back to it later, but the odds of me committing are slim.

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  26. Your kids are so cute!

    I think the fact that you center your characters around the heroine or hero is very neat. I've never really consciously thought about that, but I realize on reflection that's pretty much what I've been doing as well, except that in my story the heroine's three companies are also central figures.

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    1. It's a great way to keep the story about the protagonist.

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  27. I enjoyed your interview with your kids! So inventive. Not long ago I went camping with my son's Boy Scout troop. Our campfire activity was to collaborate on an impromptu story. We went around from person to person adding a sentence or two to the story. It was so much fun and my son kept saying, "I would read this. I would read this!" I wonder, have you ever considered bouncing off ideas with your kids? They seem to be the type that would enjoy it and would be especially helpful if you found yourself with writer's block.

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    1. Oh yes! Both kids helped me brainstorm my newest work in progress on our way home from Disneyland. Also, when Justus was little, he and I scribbled down a few stories about a couple of frogs named Jimminy and Hoppity.

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  28. Your kids are very creative. They actually asked some of the questions that I had. Thanks for this awesome post!

    Ah, the brilliance of children.

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  29. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
    And for the kids, what do they want to be when they grow up?

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    1. Justus: Football player

      Jazlyn: Baker, actor, princess, and an author like my mom

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    2. I've just always written. You know? I did have a very shiny moment when I realized I really did want to pursue writing as a vocation. That story is here: http://shannondittemore.com/my-journey-thus-far/

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  30. I really like the idea of a kid interview! Kids ask such innocent and brilliant questions!

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  31. Angel eyes sounds interesting. I was inspired to read it after that last question. Spoilers aren't all bad.

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  32. What is your favorite genre of book, Justus or Jazlyn? Fantasy? Sci-fi? Contemporary?

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