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!
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.