Interview with Shannon Dittemore and Angel Eyes Giveaway

How did your debut novel Angel Eyes come about?

There are so many things I could mention here, situations that led me to the moment I plopped my bum in the chair and started writing: my youth group kids obsessed with paranormal fiction, my own desire to tell a story, my hatred of math and the poorly suited bookkeeping job I was doing. But, the long and short of it is that one night I had an epiphany: if I want writing to be my job, then I have to write. So, I spent the night walking around the house, fussy baby in arms, thinking and praying and thinking some more. And then I sat down to write.

At what point did you find an agent?

Because I’m so awful at math, I reserve the right to change this answer should someone smarter and with a better memory have more accurate information, but I think it was nearly two years after I started drafting Angel Eyes. I had my first draft completed in a handful of months, but it took me another year and some fabulous feedback to really get it to a state that made an agent jump at it.

 

Tell us how you found your agent.

Ah! My Twitter success story.

I had been querying primarily Christian agencies, but it was weird. I’d hit ‘send’ and then receive nothing in return. No acceptance. No rejection. No feedback. It was like my query disappeared into the e-verse. And then I noticed that a lot of the main stream agents would update their Twitter followers with their slush pile progress and that was super appealing to me. I happened to catch a tweet announcing that the Waxman Agency had hired a new agent, Jason Pinter, and so I read up. He wasn’t scheduled to start until the following Monday, but I thought he was a good fit, so I queried him. He requested my ms on Monday and by Wednesday I’d signed the contract.

As a follow-up to that, Jason ended up leaving Waxman while Angel Eyes was out on submission, but I’m ever grateful that he pulled me from the slush pile and had the foresight to submit to Thomas Nelson. After he left Waxman, I was paired with the amazing Holly Root. She got the deal finalized and I couldn’t be happier with my representation.

 

Describe the process of going from a newly-agented writer to a contracted author.

It’s funny because to the author involved it feels like it takes forever. You think every email, every phone call, every knock at the door is the contact—that one contact—that will make your dreams come true. That said, the learning curve is huge. I went from piddling in my manuscript for two years to having six months to finish the sequel. It’s daunting and I don’t know that you can ever be truly prepared for that.

 

What has surprised you most about this process?

It’s such a “hurry up and wait” industry. I have to hurry, my agent has to hurry, my editors have to hurry and then we all wait. And we wait. And then we’re hurrying again. It’s a bizarre thing.

 

How are you involved in the marketing of Angel Eyes?

Mostly through online stuff. I have two blog tours back to back, so I’m putting together content and answering interview questions.

 

What has been the most difficult part of your journey to publication so far?

A couple months ago I would have said juggling my responsibilities, but I think the hardest part has actually been managing my own emotions. There is so much feedback out there nowadays and because I’m working on the next book in the series, I really don’t have the time or the energy to dissect any of it. It can be overwhelming at times, but I’m learning to give that stuff to God. All I can do is write. The rest is out of my hands.

 

Any tips you’d like to pass on to our readers?

There’s a time and a place for thinking, for chewing on your story and mulling things over, but most of the time, all the answers you need are on the page. You may not have put them there yet, but you’ll never find them if your behind isn’t in the chair.

 

What is next for you?

Book three! I’m finishing up edits on Broken Wings, the follow-up to Angel Eyes, and I have a fast approaching deadline for the still untitled third book in the trilogy.

 

Who is your target audience for Angel Eyes? What do you hope they will gain by reading your book?

Older young adults certainly. Brielle’s journey takes her through some rough territory so if younger teens are interested, I’d recommend parents read along. I also think those that will enjoy it most will have a Christian background. My worldview is woven into the story and it would be impossible not to see it.

I’d love for readers to come away from Angel Eyes wondering about the unseen. To have a sense that they’re not alone even when they most feel it. If I’ve accomplished that, I’m a happy camper.

 

What would you say God’s role has been so far in your writing journey?

He’s all over it, really. From the night I wandered the house praying and thinking, to the hours I sit perched in my office chair fumbling for inspiration, He’s sustained me. He’s my everything and my writing is a testament to that.

Overflow: A Prayer of Rejuvenation

 

“I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” Isaiah 41:18, NIV

 

Thank You, Lord, for pouring Your Spirit into us.

 

When our writing feels barren, help us focus on your faithfulness which flourishes during seasons of hardship.

 

When circumstances have us feeling stuck in a dry valley, revitalize our souls with the cool currents of Your Truth.

 

When our words trickle instead of gush, refresh us with Your overflowing love and sprays of creativity.

 

Invigorate us with an insatiable desire to worship You.

 

Saturate our hearts with Your promises as we embrace our moments of stillness with courage.

 

Help us drink deeply from the well of Your grace, Abba.

 

Let Your mercy overflow into our praise and through every word we write.

 

In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, NIV)

How has God refreshed you after a dry season in your writing ministry?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Xochi (pronounced so-she) Dixon is an author, speaker, and Bible teacher who loves Jesus and digging into God’s Word. She lives in Fairfield, CA with her hubby, Alan, their teenage son, Xavier, and their doggy-daughter, Jazzy. She enjoys amusement parks, baseball games and reading. Currently working toward a BA in Christian Ministry through Regent University, Xochi serves within the Youth Ministry at First Baptist Church of Vacaville. She writes Teen Fiction, Non-Fiction for women and teens, poetry and devotions.

Inspire Member Spotlight: Jennifer Sienes

How long have you been a member of Inspire Christian Writers?

I’ve been a member for two years.

What prompted you to join Inspire?

I met author Joanne Kraft at Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2009—we were housed in the same cabin. The following year, we connected at the conference again and I met Beth Thompson, Chris Pedersen and several other members. I realized how much I could learn from these amazing writers and decided to join. Although it requires a little bit of a commute for me to attend, it’s well worth it.

 

When did you first know you were a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was twelve. I loved reading and the idea of creating my own stories fascinated me. I took several creative writing classes in college, and then life got in the way. I married and raised my two kids, and went back to school to earn my teaching degree because that’s what paid. The dream of writing was put on a shelf. Then my daughter was in a near-fatal car accident requiring me to be home with her for over six months. With all the free time I suddenly had, I started writing again. The dream wouldn’t die.

 

Describe your writing career high point and low point.

I feel that I’m still relatively new to the career of writing, even though I’ve been at it for almost five years. It’s such a process. This year at Mount Hermon’s conference was probably the highlight of my writing career. An editor made it very clear that he loves my writing and believes in my work. I don’t know where that will lead, but it’s pretty exciting.

The low point was last summer when a well-respected agent, after asking for my entire manuscript, eviscerated my book via email. I was in Vancouver on vacation when I received it. For about three hours, I thought I’d never write again. Then I pulled out my notes and got back to work. The ferry to Victoria Island is a great place to start.

 

Which of your stories is closest to your heart?

The story closest to my heart is the one I’m completing now. Absolution was inspired by my brother’s suicide three years ago. I’d been working on another book when I attended his service in Colorado. The church was packed with his friends. Michael was a very strong Christian and that made his suicide all the more confusing for me. Several years ago he brought me to Christ. While watching the montage of pictures playing on the big screen, I clearly heard God say, “This is your story.”

 

Describe receiving your first book contract.

I haven’t been blessed with this event to date, but I’m hopeful.

 

What project of yours is gathering dust?

I don’t have projects set aside that need to be revisited. I have books, poorly written, that have become dust collectors and rightly so.

 

What’s next for you?

I have two book ideas I’m working on right now. I haven’t decided which will take precedence, but I’m excited about both. They can either be used as series novels with Absolution or stand-alone novels. One of them is themed around traumatic brain injury, a subject with which I’m well-acquainted. My daughter suffers from it, which is why I was off of work for six months after her car accident.

 

What does it mean to you to be a writer?

To me, being a writer is to see the world in story. When I’m driving down the freeway and spot another commuter, I wonder what his or her life is like. What trials and victories have they faced? What made them who they are today? Part of this may be that my degree is in psychology, part of it the need to be connected to others. But everyone has a story worth telling.

 

Was there a book that changed your life?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read it my sophomore year of high school and it cemented the drive to write. Scout’s voice in the story is so lyrical and clear I felt I was living the story with her. I wanted to do that for others—to bring a story to life in such a way that the reader lives it with me.

Describe your writing environment. Or better yet, include a photo.

My office is a dream. My husband and I live in a very small (and I’m not kidding) log cabin in the middle of 20 acres in the Sierra foothills. We have an additional two-story building placed behind the house. My office is the top story.

The view outside is the wilderness around us. Inside, I’ve painted the high ceilings and sloped walls my favorite colors–think Southwestern. My favorite pictures and books surround me and my mood shifts the moment I enter. It’s the perfect environment for me to be creative. I told my husband that if it had a kitchen, he’d never see me.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

If writing is truly a calling, you should never give up. It’s those who persevere through it all who succeed.

To connect with Jennifer, visit her website or friend her on Facebook.

Plan to Attend the 2012 Write to Inspire Confernce

Inspire Christian Writers proudly announce the

2012 Write to Inspire Conference

with agent Chip MacGregor and author Susy Flory

Friday, July 20, 6-10pm and

Saturday, July 21, 9am-5:30pm

At First Baptist Church 8939 East Stockton Blvd, Elk Grove, CA

About Chip:

Chip MacGregor to Speak at 2012 Write to Inspire ConferenceChip MacGregor has a comprehensive knowledge of the industry—from book development to writing, acquisition to production, marketing to sales. He has secured more than 1,000 book deals for authors with all of the major publishers in both ABA and CBA.

As an editor, he discovered Phillip Gulley, worked with bestselling authors such as Kay Arthur and Neil Anderson, and helped craft books for some of the best names in publishing, including CBA luminaries Chuck Swindoll, Bruce Wilkinson, and David Jeremiah. Chip has written more than two-dozen titles, including two books that hit #1 on the bestseller lists in their category. He has also been the collaborative writer on books with people such as Howard Hendricks, Joe Stowell, Andre Kole, and Bruce Waltke. During his tenure as a publisher at Time Warner, he helped the company grow into one of the world’s biggest providers of religious books to the general market, acquiring some of the best known Christian fiction and nonfiction authors on the planet: Greg Laurie, Robin Jones Gunn, Sigmund Brouwer, Tim Clinton . . . the list goes on and on.

This longtime agent has represented Brennan Manning, Michelle McKinney Hammond, Jill and Stuart Briscoe, Alistair McGrath, Neta Jackson, Donna Partow, the MOPS organization, and Hearts at Home while working at another agency. His work with Lisa Beamer and Ken Abraham led to Let’s Roll hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, eventually becoming the bestselling nonfiction book that year.

Chip’s greatest desire is to help authors create great books that make a difference in the world.

About Susy:

Susy Flory is a New York Times best-selling author who grew up on the back of a Susy Flory to Speak at 2012 Write to Inspire Conferencequarter horse in Northern California. She took degrees from UCLA in English and psychology, and has a background in journalism, education, and communications.

She first started writing at the Newhall Signal with the legendary Scotty Newhall, an ex-editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and a one-legged cigar-smoking curmudgeon who ruled the newsroom from behind a dented metal desk where he pounded out stories on an Underwood Typewriter. She taught high school English and journalism, then quit in 2004 to write full time for publications such as Focus on the Family, Guideposts Books, In Touch, Praise & Coffee, Today’s Christian, and Today’s Christian Woman.

Susy is the author or co-author of four books, including So Long Status Quo: What I Learned From the Women Who Changed the World, as well as the much-anticipated 2011 memoir she co-wrote with blind 9-11 survivor Michael Hingson, called Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero.

Susy is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and a CLASS certified speaker. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children.

Inspire Member Spotlight: Susan Basham

How long have you been a member of Inspire Christian Writers?

I officially joined in August 2011.

What prompted you to join Inspire?

It was the admirable Beth Thompson. Our children attend the same school, and we have known each other for four years. The timing wasn’t right for me to commit to writing until now, although I knew I would return to it.

My two older kids are now away at college. It’s me, my husband, our twelve year old daughter, three dogs and a guinea pig, who might make the Guinness for the longest living gp.

It’s still a bit crazy, but our house has always been the “gathering place”, so it seems quiet without a posse of teenage boys hanging out begging me to make chocolate chip cookies and smoothies. I miss them—but the quiet is nice!

When did you first know you were a writer?

My third grade teacher read three-quarters of a story and asked that we construct an ending. I was in my element, because as an only child it was often just me and my imagination. And since I could draw, I created my own little illustrated version and won.  Good times.

Describe your writing career high point and low point.

The most recent high point occurred at Mt. Hermon this year when Karen Ball, one of the top agents in the country with The Steve Laube Agency, read my manuscript and said “Baby, you can write!” I’m considering having that etched on a plaque for my office—maybe imprinted on a tote bag or mug. I mentioned a t-shirt line, but my family tells me that’s going too far.

Growing up, I lived for the Book Mobile to come to my little town in Ohio. That lumbering bus with the wheezy air cooler still conjures up the best memories for me. Metal drop-down stairs, old book smell. If I missed it, I would sulk for a week. I still have “Missed the Book Mobile Again” days, and they are low points.

Which of your stories is closest to your heart?

My current WIP novel, Collide. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, and my characters lead me. I’m attached to them and actually look forward to days in the writing chair.

Describe receiving your first book contract.

I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens. But church bells may peal.

What project of yours is gathering dust?

Articles, articles. I love reading about and researching medicine, and many article ideas have begun around medical topics. My husband says I’m the only person he knows who asked for a subscription to The New England Journal of Medicine because I actually wanted to read it. So of course I had to give one of my characters in Collide a disease.

What’s next for you?

I have a sequel in mind for Collide …and many other book ideas.

What does it mean to you to be a writer?

It’s my calling and I’ve always known that. The weight of our words have the power to make or break everything, everyone in our lives. We must be responsible with the gift we’ve been given. My tag line is “writing life-changing stories for women.” I hope to weave truths into my writing that bring faith and hope to readers.

Was there a book that changed your life?

Every book I read teaches me, changes me in some way. But I am a selective reader.

Describe your writing environment.

I have an office in our home upstairs. My husband bought some special items for me: a gorgeous floral arrangement, cool chair, a big monitor. I love it!

What is the best writing advice you ever received?

Join a critique group. Entertain original thoughts. Pay attention to intuition.

Remain teachable. Pray.

Connect with Susan on her website or Facebook page.

Inspire Member Spotlight: Jeanette Hanscome

How long have you been a member of Inspire Christian Writers?

I just joined Inspire in March.

 

What prompted you to join Inspire?

I kept hearing about Inspire through friends—Marci Seither, Xochi Dixon, Beth Thompson—and they seemed to have a wonderful camaraderie. I liked what I heard about the focus on prayer, critiquing, and encouraging our fellow writers, whether they were published or not. I love the support that Inspire offers.

 

When did you first know you were a writer?

In fifth grade a friend lent me a copy of Anne Frank and I got completely obsessed. Even hiding from the Nazis seemed exciting. (I was pretty weird back then.) It triggered a sudden desire to record my thoughts and be immortalized in a book.

Several years later, I was struggling to pass an oceanography class and got a chance to write an underwater fantasy as extra credit. I wrote a really cheesy story about a girl who lived on an island and found a magic necklace that allowed her to swim under the sea with the dolphins. My teacher gave me the maximum amount of extra credit and said my story would make a wonderful children’s book. That’s when I discovered that I actually had the ability to write and really wanted to pursue it.

 

Describe your writing career high point and low point.

I think the high point was when I got a chance to write for Focus on the Family’s Brio Girls Series, and then one of their Brio devotionals. It was like things were finally falling into place and my hard work had paid off.

This past year has been a low point in my career. A lot of difficult life situations have sucked away my time, energy, and creativity. I had to set some projects aside to focus on writing that would bring in income. I’ll confess that it has been frustrating and discouraging, but I think God is starting to pull me out and show me that He has something new ahead.

 

Tell us about your most memorable interview.

Recently I had an opportunity to interview a couple from church who experienced an unbelievable medical crisis (the husband was in a horrific motorcycle accident that should have killed him—in fact, he was pronounced dead three times before reaching the hospital) that turned into a series of miracles. I had followed their crisis with the rest of our church family when it happened; I knew them and had heard their testimony, but something about sitting down with them and hearing even more made me aware of God’s hand in their lives.

I saw their love for each other and for God in a much deeper way. Even if we never finish the book, I will treasure my time getting to know them.

 

Which of your stories is closest to your heart?

Actually, it’s the novel I’m working on now. It has taken a long time for me to gain the courage to tackle it but I finally did after the Mount Hermon Conference. The novel is about a girl growing up with Achromatopsia (the same rare eye disease that I was born with, which causes low visual acuity, total colorblindness, and extreme light sensitivity) in San Francisco around the time of the 1906 earthquake. I alternate between her point-of-view and her normally-sighted sister.

I have always wondered what it might have been like for me to grow up during a different time period. Researching topics like eugenics and how the blind and visually impaired were perceived in the past offers constant reminders of God’s grace, just in allowing me to be born in the late 20th century.

 

How did you react when you received your first acceptance or publication?

The first story that I submitted to a magazine was accepted. I’m certain that was God’s way of saying, “See, you can do this.” The small check I received might as well have been a million dollars.

“Jay, you’re going to be famous!” My sister Kristy said.

“No,” I told her, secretly feeling a tiny bit famous already.

I felt like I was finally on my way to achieving a dream.

 

Describe receiving your first book contract.

My first book contract was a work-for-hire opportunity. I had “auditioned” to join the writing team for the Brio Girls and accepted that they must have chosen someone else when, out of the blue, Lissa Halls Johnson called and asked if I would like to write for the series.

“Yes,” I said without hesitation.

The first draft was due in four months but I didn’t care. I was writing a book!

 

What project of yours is gathering dust?

A few years ago, I wrote a proposal and several sample chapters for a devotional for women struggling with depression. I would really like to tackle this project someday. While I wait, God continues to reveal new areas of healing and how this might bring hope to others.

 

What’s next for you?

I’m not exactly sure. I have been praying for direction. At Mount Hermon, I sensed God prompting me to start writing more honestly about some struggles that He has freed me from, lies that almost ruined me, and even what He has taught me through growing up with limited sight. I’m still figuring out what to do with the ideas that are coming to me, but I am also getting excited.

 

What does it mean to you to be a writer?

For me, it means allowing my experiences, both good and painful, to count for something. When God teaches me something, I immediately want to share it, and writing allows me to do that.

I feel like I found my voice through writing. Before I wanted to be a writer, I dreamed of being an actress. Looking back, I know I felt drawn to acting because it allowed me to hide behind a script or a character. Writing helped me find the freedom to be myself and the courage to let people see what is really going on inside my mind and heart.

 

Was there a book that changed your life?

One of my favorite books of all time is Hinds Feet on High Places. I immediately identified with Much Afraid, because I lived that way for so long. Seeing her journey to surrendering to the Father, and her transformation into becoming Grace and Glory gave me hope that God might do the same thing in me.

 

Describe your writing environment.

Technically, I have an office, but it has never been completely mine. When God surprised us with Nathan ten years ago, my office doubled as a nursery for almost a year. After that, it was half office, half playroom. Now it is a catch-all for things that I don’t know what to do with.

It’s cluttered and full of random stuff, but it has become my spot. The book border that I hung when we first moved into this house reminds me.

 

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

Be authentic. I spent a lot of time trying to write like other people, or what I thought would sell. Then God helped me see that readers and editors appreciate my writing most when I loosen up and write like myself. So I’m trying to do that more and more.

To connect with Jeanette, visit her website or friend her on Facebook.