It is with great pleasure we welcome, Shannon Dittemore to Lytherus this week! Shannon took the time to chat with us about her life as a writer and many of the different themes and ideas in her books.
Welcome, Shannon! Since you’re new to our site, can you tell us a bit about how the writing process works for you? Do you sit down and just write, or do you plot and outline first? Did you have a plan for entire trilogy when you wrote Angel Eyes or did it grow from there? What inspires the stories for you?
Angel Eyes was the first novel I ever completed. From a young age, I’d scribbled down stories and ideas and such, but it wasn’t until after my second child was born that I really considered writing as a career. My daughter was two months old and a horrible sleeper and after a long night walking with her, I had decided that a change was in order. I was creatively frustrated. Having once pursued acting, I really wanted to be stretching my imagination, performing, telling stories, but I didn’t know how to do that with a young family. And then it hit me, I could tell stories from home. The invisible world was a very logical choice for me.
And yes, that next morning I just sat down and started writing. I’m a half pantser, half plotter. I usually have an idea of where I’m going, so I sit and write. When I get stuck, I take time to plot and then I write a bit more. With this trilogy, I did not have all three books planned out when I started, but the magic of writing is that you often leave yourself hints as to what should happen next and problems your characters simply must solve.
Oh, thank you! I certainly tried. I lived in the Northwest for a few years and so much came from piecing memories together. My husband is really responsible for the creation of Stratus. While I spent a handful of years living in the Portland area, Matt is from the Northwest. He was born in Bend, spent his early years in Moses Lake and eventually moved to the Portland/Vancouver area. That’s where we met. While we were dating, we took several road trips to Central Oregon to visit his family and friends. Stratus is really a conglomeration of images and impressions I had while doing that. During those years, I spent some time in Forest Grove while performing Our Town with the local theatre company there. The main strip in that small town definitely played a part in the construction of the Main Street I’ve concocted in Stratus. But, no, there is no one location. No Forks!
I was intrigued by the importance of dance at the beginning of your trilogy, but by the end it evolved from a means of expression to an actual weapon. What made you choose dance?
I wanted Brielle to be both fragile and strong and I see that in a ballerina’s frame. I have such respect for the amount of dedication and practice these artists put into their craft and I also think it’s important to acknowledge that the talents and gifts we have were given to us for a reason.
Spinning off of that, many fantasy series have an iconic moment when the hero picks up “The Weapon” for the first time. Yet instead of a sword of bow, you arm your characters with healing and with dance…I’m curious if that was a deliberate reaction against the tradition physical weapons or if that’s just how the story went?
That’s just how the story went, I think. It made sense to me. In dealing with an invisible world and invisible enemies, it seemed logical to have weapons that are, at the very least, unexpected. And, in Brielle’s case, surprising even to her.
Angels and demons have strong cultural stereotypes. Where did you get the ideas for the very unique twists you give the wings and halos?
My screwed up imagination! Regarding the halo, I’ve always liked stories that feature objects graced with some kind of power. The One Ring, Harry Potter’s wand, the Cosmic Cube. They present all sorts of opportunities to show off what our characters are made of and what they’ll do when exposed to something beyond human explanation. And the wings, well, angels are sometimes spoken of as having more than one set of wings and that has always enamored me. Why? I don’t have a single pair, why do they get two or three sets? I wanted to play with it. Give the wings more than one purpose.
I’m a complete Star Wars nut, and I found the fact that you chose fear as the dominate negative emotion interesting. Many writers chose anger, yet, like Yoda, you suggest that fear is the root the rest spring from, and it was very powerful that most of your characters’ wrong choices came out of desperation rather than pride or anger. Is this something your plot and characters called for or was it always meant to be a part of the larger story?
I LOVE that I get to share a sentence with Yoda! I think he’s right! I think so much of what we do is done out of fear. Fear of what will be, fear of what won’t be. And in the spirit of transparency, fear is something I’ve dealt with in a very real way. I know how powerful a force it can be and while I don’t think I intentionally wrote about my own experiences, I see them reflected in the challenges and choices Brielle is confronted with.
Jake and Brielle’s relationship is a huge part of the story and their love for each other occasionally leads to bad choices. Despite that, their interactions are startling mature, and you don’t allow either character to give up their individuality. Was it difficult to write a romance that bound the characters so closely together but still kept one or both of them from losing their identity?
What a fabulous question! I don’t know that it was a conscious decision. I think the hardest years in my life were those following high school and before I got married. Those five years were full of so much stuff. College and work and relationships and I think in all of it, those I looked up to most, the people I tried to emulate were the ones who were successful in this very tricky balancing act: being crazy in love and still being true to the person they were created to be. I think this has been modeled well for me. In my parents and even in my own marriage. My husband is my biggest fan and I’m his. When you have that, it’s easy to envision it for your characters.
Since Dark Halo concludes the Angel Eyes trilogy, is it too soon to ask what’s next for you as a writer?
I’m working on several different things right now. Trying my hand at various genres. I do have one story I’m committed to finishing. It involves a shamed academic, a mystical staircase, and a girl determined to unravel a family secret that could change what we all believe about the past, the present, and the future. Was that a cryptic enough description for you?