Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An interview with Shannon Dittemore, author of ANGEL EYES

Today we are so pleased to speak with Shannon Dittemore, author of the fabulous new book Angel Eyes, the first book in the Angel Eyes trilogy, which hits the shelves TODAY! Congratulations, Shannon!

A bit about the book, from Goodreads:

"Brielle’s a ballerina who went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She’s come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt . . . and the incredible, numbing cold she can’t seem to shake.

Jake’s the new guy at school—the boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption.

Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what’s going to happen. And a beauty brighter than Jake or Brielle has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices start.

A realm that only angels and demons—and Brielle—can perceive."

Hi, Shannon! Thanks so much for talking with us! At the beginning of your book, we learn that Brielle has suffered a devastating loss for which she blames herself. However, we don't find out exactly what happened until quite a bit later in the book. Did you always know what Brielle's traumatic experience was? Or did she reveal it to you slowly as you wrote?

I knew from the beginning what Brielle was dealing with, but her own guilt and the relationship she had to the incident developed later. It was a risk starting her story with a tragedy, but I thought it was important to her journey. 

Aside from the epilogue, Angel Eyes shifts perspective between three characters, but Brielle is the only one whose sections are written in the first person. Why did you choose not to write from Damien's or Canaan's point of view?

I did, originally. In early drafts I got a little POV crazy and had first person perspectives written from nearly everyone who takes the stage. I was learning. I'm still learning to craft stories and to tell them in a way that isn't jarring for the reader. The decision to move Canaan and Damien's chapters to third person came out of a desire to keep the reader in Brielle's head as much as possible. My preference is always first person, but it was a sacrifice I made for the flow of the story. 

You attended Portland Bible College and help run a youth ministry, so you must be intimately familiar with Christian texts. How much of your descriptions of angels and demons—their appearance, their hierarchy, their backstory—comes directly from Christian tradition, and how much is your own invention?

Much of it is my own invention, but I will say that the Bible certainly informed my imagination. The Bible talks of angels with multiple sets of wings, it talks of swords and spiritual warfare. I let my imagination chew on those things and then I ran with it. I like asking the "what if" questions and when it comes to the appearance of angels and demons, their hierarchy, and their larger role in the universe, there's a lot we don't know. But the Bible does provide clues and that mystery is fun to explore. The one thing I did try to avoid was running into my theology. As a student of the Bible, it's hard for me to turn off the things I've learned and the things taught in scripture. With Angel Eyes, I tried not to blatantly contradict biblical teaching. 

Brielle struggles with questions of faith throughout the book. As a youth minister, you must encounter lots of young people struggling with similar questions. Did their experiences inform how you crafted Brielle? Are any of their stories woven into yours?

Absolutely. I'm certain some of my students will see themselves in Brielle and in the characters that surround her. But, Brielle isn't based on any one person. Nor is Jake or Marco or Kaylee for that matter. But, death and fear were subjects that were very real to the group of students I was working with while drafting Angel Eyes. I had students who lost family members and dealt with life-altering diseases. I remember watching as fear became a strange new companion to them. I wanted then what I want now: for kids to stand up to fear. With Brielle, I got to imagine what that might look like. 

One of my favorite things about your book was your terrifying imagery regarding fear, which you describe as a sticky, black, tar-like substance that literally paralyzes people (but which we mortals cannot see.) What inspired that image for you?

A lot of it came from watching others, from watching just how paralyzed fear made them. But, most of it came from knowing what fear did to me. I dealt with a debilitating kind of fear for a season and it was awful. I had no trouble imagining what that might look like to the angelic. 

Brielle's passions are ballet and photography, both of which you write about in great detail. Are (or were) you a dancer or a photographer yourself?

I dabbled in photography back in high school, but I've never been a ballerina. I chose it as one of Brielle's passions because of the fragility and strength these dancers seem to marry so effortlessly. And because of the sparkly tutus, of course, but that's something different altogether.

Did you always intend for Angel Eyes to have sequels, or was this first book originally a stand-alone?

When I first sat down to write, I just wanted to tell a story and I didn't know how many books that would take. But as I wrote, I fell in love with the characters and it wasn't long before I envisioned Brielle's journey as a series. That happened long before I ever went out on submission. 

We at the Lucky13s are curious about other writers' superstitions and lucky charms. What are yours?

 Oh goodness! I'm gonna have to cheat on this one because I don't actually have any superstitions or lucky charms. But, the thing that keeps me writing (and often keeps me FROM writing) is my kids. My seven year old son is fascinated with books and storytelling and is still nursing a bruised ego because I won't let him read Angel Eyes. And my three year old daughter can put all the love in the world into a single nose kiss. Whenever I'm suck or frustrated or my characters throw a tantrum and refuse to talk to me, I seek out one of my kids and feel like the luckiest person on the planet.

Thanks, Shannon! Congratulations on your release!

Shannon Dittemore 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 focus on youth and young adult ministry. The daughter of one preacher and the wife of another, she spends her days imagining things unseen and chasing her two children around their home in Northern California. Angel Eyes is her first novel.

You can purchase your copy of Angel Eyes at your favorite local indie bookstore or online at IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

This interview was conducted by Lucky13s member Alison Cherry as part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Apocalypsies—YA, MG, and children's book authors debuting in 2012.


  1. Hey Lucky 13s! THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME and for featuring Angel Eyes. Means the world!!!!

  2. I am so looking forward to reading your book, Shannon. Best of luck with it! :)