Author Interview: Shannon Dittemore

Pen Friends ~ I’m super excited to have YA Author Shannon Dittemore on the blog today talking about her upcoming book, WINTER, WHITE, AND WICKED, which is just my kind of book and fell in love with the moment I saw the cover and read the blurb. See below!

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SP: Hi Shannon! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey? 

Thank you so much for having me! I’m excited. SO! My journey. I think probably the best place to start is this: I’m not a debut author. A lot of folks out there are thinking that WINTER, WHITE AND WICKED will be my first published book, but that’s not true at all. 

My first book came out in 2012 with Thomas Nelson fiction. By the time August of 2013 came around, I had three books on the shelf, ANGEL EYES, BROKEN WINGS, and DARK HALO. As a writer, I’ve grown a ton since these were published, but I love these stories and I’m so glad they’re a part of who I am.

I started writing my first novel as a young mom. My son was four and my daughter was three months old and I missed being creative. I had a background in theatre and I really wanted to go back, but I found myself unwilling to give up my nights and weekends. I didn’t want to be away from my little family, so in a moment of frustration I found myself telling God, “I just wish I could tell stories from home!” 

And then it dawned on me that I could.

Writing wasn’t new to me. I’d always fiddled with it, but as a mom I think I’d picked up a valuable trait that made sitting in a chair and writing an entire book possible. Patience. I was learning to be patient with myself and the process, and while waiting isn’t my favorite, the ability to do so has come in handy. 

winterSP: WINTER, WHITE & WICKED will come out with Amulet Books in October 2020. 

Here is a blurb: 

Mad Max: Fury Road meets Frozen in this striking YA fantasy

Twice-orphaned Sylvi has chipped out a niche for  herself on Layce, an island cursed by eternal winter. Alone in her  truck, she takes comfort in two things: the solitude of the roads and the favor of Winter, an icy spirit who has protected her since she  was a child. Sylvi likes the road, where no one asks her who her parents were or what she thinks of the rebels in the north.

But when her best friend, Lenore, runs off with the rebels, Sylvi must make a haul too late in the season for a smuggler she wouldn’t normally work with, the infamous Mars Dresden.

Alongside his team—Hyla, a giant warrior woman,  and Kyn, a boy with skin like stone—Sylvi will do whatever it takes to save her friend. But when the time comes,  she’ll have to choose: safety, anonymity, and the favor of Winter—or the future of the island that she calls home.

SP: How long did it take you to write WINTER and how did this story come about?

While my Angel Eyes trilogy was hitting shelves, my publisher was going through a huge change. Thomas Nelson was acquired by Harper Collins right before my second book came out, and when it came time for me to pitch my next projects, it was clear they were going in a different direction.

Over the next couple years, I wrote two more books. One which didn’t sell, and then in 2015, on the way home from a family trip to Disneyland, I stumbled onto the idea that would become WINTER, WHITE AND WICKED. The book took me two years to write, a year out on submission, and in November of 2018, Amulet Books made an offer. By the time WINTER hits shelves it will have taken five years from idea to publication.

SP: Are there any characters in WINTER that surprised you along the way? What was your favorite part about writing this book? 

Oh yes! All of the characters surprised me in one way or another. Along the way, I deleted characters, changed the sex of characters, killed off characters, and saved a few I thought I might have to sacrifice. There was surprise in all of that.

I think the most compelling thing for me as the author, and maybe the thing that kept me going when the writing got hard, was how the relationship between Sylvi and Winter developed and evolved. I had to let my expectations go, and allow it to develop as the crew traveled down the road. The ups and downs had to be organic and fed by every obstacle encountered on the journey. I hope the end result is as exhilarating for readers as it has been for me. 

SP: I LOVE how your Editor said she’d searched the whole pile looking for a book like yours…What a feeling! How has your experience been this time around working alongside new editors and a new publishing house?

It’s a great feeling! And then it isn’t, right? Because the idea that editors are searching for a particular thing can be challenging for an author trying to write the stories she loves. More than anything the knowledge was helpful. It helped when things got hard and I started to question myself.

And then you find another publishing house that falls in love with your writing, and you realize that every journey has its ups and downs, and change can truly be for the better.

My editor at Amulet is absolutely perfect for this project. She’s so clever and excited about this book. And after the spiral of doubt I went through to get here, I feel like it was providence, you know? God knew what I needed on this journey. And Emily was definitely one of the more important puzzle pieces.

SP: Querying & Agents–What was your journey like before you signed with your agent?

Oh man! It really has been a while. I’ve been with my agent, Holly Root, since 2011. And, actually, she was my second agent. I first signed with a colleague of hers in 2010 and he didn’t last long. He left the agency right as we were receiving interest on ANGEL EYES, so I was passed off to Holly and she saw the deal through to completion. 

ANGEL EYES was the first novel I’d ever completed, and I know now how rare it is to have my first book published. I felt like everything took so long in those early years, but it didn’t. Not in retrospect. 

I think what I’ve taken away from those early query efforts, is that you have to be specific and targeted in your querying. You’re trying to get an agent to bite, not ensure they know every bit of your life story. You’re selling a book, not your journey. And if you can master that, you have a better shot at success from the trenches than most. 

SP: What part of the writing process do you most enjoy? The first draft? The development in revision? The final touches?

Putting those final touches on is always satisfying, but if I had to choose between drafting and revising, I’d revise for sure. Getting the words on the page is the hardest part, because I know myself too well. I know I have to write the wrong thing occasionally in order to write the best thing, and I despise the wasting of time. So it’s an internal battle. 

There’s a reason authors are always telling young writers “give yourself permission to write badly.” We give that advice because we need it as well. Once you’ve figured out how to finish and polish a book, it can be hard to go back to the lump of raw ideas where stories start. 

SP: Lastly, how are you feeling with publishing/your book/etc during this whole crazy Covid19 season?  

You’ll probably have to ask me that in a few months. My book is set to hit shelves on October 13, 2020. At this point, that hasn’t changed, but so many authors are shifting around right now, and releases are getting bumped from one season to the next. Once the dust settles, I’m sure I’ll have an opinion.

I will say this, sales matter. Authors earn future contracts not just on ideas, but on the sales of previously published books. So, I’m trying hard not to focus on how this pandemic could impact my opportunities to have future books on the shelf. I have zero control over that, and there are so many who are truly in need right now. I’d rather the focus be on them.

And I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done. Trust my career to God’s hands, continue to grow in my craft, and write the stories that matter to me.

Now, to lighten things up! 

SP: Is Shannon a…

Plotter/pantster? 

Both! In my heart I’m a pantser, but again, I hate wasting time so I’ve learned to plot a bit. 

Last book you read? Ann Cleeves BLUE LIGHTNING. She writes mysteries and this series is set on the Shetland Islands. I found the TV series first and that led me to the books and I’m obsessed. 

Current dream vacation spot? 

Maui. Always Maui.

Something always in your fridge? 

Sriracha (or as we kids call it: Rooster Sauce)

Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? OR? 

Marine Biologist! I actually had that down as a dream job when I was younger. That and astronaut. But the math, you know? So much math.

Any recent fictional crushes? 

I recently read WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT by Isabel Ibanez and I loved it. LOVED IT.

Favorite childhood book? 

All the Nancy Drew books! 

SP: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Shannon! We are eagerly anticipating your book!

Preorder on Amazon here or add on Goodreads here.

Connect with Shannon on Instagram here.

Nova, signing off!

Interested in an interview? Contact Nova at thespinningpen@gmail.com 
Connect with Nova on Instagram, Twitter, or her website.

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