The Dames are pleased to welcome YA author Shannon A. Thompson to our blog today. Hi, Shannon! What is your VERB (this is a big poster at a local mall)? If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and your behavior or attitude, what would it be?
I used to think my ultimate dream was to be a published writer until I actually became published. Then, I realized there was an even greater emotion – the happiness I feel when a reader expresses that I inspire them to follow their own dreams. I want to continue helping others achieve their dreams while I follow my own.
My ultimate goal – no matter how extreme it might seem – is to open an affordable art school. It might not be accredited, but I want it to be a place where artists can come together and meet accomplished artists in their field in order to network and grow into their art without needing thousands of dollars to do so.
Wonderful answer, Shannon, and I wish you luck in reaching your goal. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
My late mother is my biggest influence because she is my inspiration, and her inspiration is immortal. She taught me to read and write, using the art of storytelling as a coping mechanism for my night terrors and nightmares. When she died, I decided I wanted to spend my life pursuing what I love, and I haven’t stopped since. Ten years later, her photo is still on my desk, and her memory encourages me with every word I write.
What a lovely tribute to your late mother. I’m sure you miss her with every beat of your heart. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
My next novel releases March 22, 2014. Seconds Before Sunrise is book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy, and the trilogy centers on a dark vs. light theme, which I explain below. It is a young-adult, paranormal romance, and it is told from two perspectives – one girl and one boy – because I wanted to give the guy a voice in young-adult romance genre instead of him simply being a mystery. The first installment, Minutes Before Sunset, was awarded Goodreads Book of the Month in July of 2013 for General Fiction. I am really excited to see where the trilogy takes readers as it continues into 2014!
Sounds intriguing and more than that, it sounds like a book I’d like to read. Congratulations on the Goodreads award! What are major themes or motifs in your work? Do your readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?
I have different themes in all of my works, but I’m going to focus on my latest piece, which is The Timely Death Trilogy. The major motifs, themes, and symbols revolve around dark vs. light – except the dark is good and the light is evil – and fate vs. choice. Identity is also a pressing issue because every character has two identities and each side of them is different.
Readers surprise me the most when they pick out their favorite quotes. I’ve never been able to guess which combination of words would stick out the most, and it’s always a delightful gift when a reader lets me know what their favorite moment, character, or quote was.
Not only intriguing but original, too. Where do you get your ideas?
As a child I suffered from extreme night terrors and nightmares. I often did not understand the difference between my dreams and reality, and for a child, this was very frightening. It was my mother who taught me how to turn my confusion into stories, and I continue to do so. Most of my novels are based off of my dreams, especially the trilogy, and I actually shared the dreams that inspired the trilogy on my website here: http://shannonathompson.com/2013/11/15/my-dream-goodreads-extras/ It began with a boy visiting me in my sleep.
Okay, your trilogy just moved to the top of my TBR list and I’m also going to check out your website more thoroughly. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
My characters are ultimately in charge. I look at my story’s outline like a road trip plan: I know where I start, I have an idea where I am ending, and I hope to visit a few places in-between. But I’m not always the one driving that vehicle. My characters often take over, so I can nap, and they make the biggest decisions about where we end up. I lose myself in those moments; they are my favorite.
Those are my favorite moments as a writer, too. What is a typical writing day like for you?
Every day is different for me, but it usually involves a lot of coffee and a loyal desk lamp. I have a very bizarre writing style. I write all of my dialogue first (like a screenplay) and then I later add in all of the other details. Then, I go back and add more before editing. This causes a lot of versions as well as binders full of papers, pictures, and notes. I actually wrote a little (humorous) piece about my average day as a writer on my website. Feel free to check it out: http://shannonathompson.com/2013/12/27/my-average-d/
I’ll be sure to take a look. Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?
Many teachers influenced me, and I was both encouraged and discouraged. The first teacher to truly take a moment to guide my passion was Mrs. Metcalf in elementary school. She would take my stories home, even though it wasn’t homework, and return with advice the next day. Her kindness has always stayed with me, and I found her kindness in many other teachers as well. I strive to be that kindness for someone.
Every writer needs a teacher like Mrs. Metcalf. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
I think electronic publishing has opened many doors for emerging writers, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for both writers and readers to explore the publishing world outside of the monopolized market. That being said, I still struggle to read on an e-reader. I prefer hardbacks.
I used to be that way, too, but as the years pass, I’m growing to love my ereader almost as much as I once loved my treasured hardbacks. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I honestly don’t classify myself with any specific genre. So far I have had young-adult fiction published of which included science-fiction, paranormal romance, and fantasy, but I also have poetry published, and I was invited to read more poems at a museum. Beyond that, my short story, Sean’s Bullet, is military-fiction, and I have even more genres – specifically nonfiction – that I hope to publish in the future. I believe in adventuring outside the constraints, and learning to love a variety of genres allows me to explore places in my mind that I would’ve never imagined before.
Yes, I agree. I’ve never cared much for that old advice to authors, “write what you know.” I prefer writing what I want to know. It’s so much more interesting. Are there any books on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?
Like I said before, I truly believe in exploring in genres outside of your comfort zone. In college I made sure to study two different kinds of writing that were not fiction, and I fell in love with poetry – something I could have never guessed – and it taught me more than how to read and understand it. I also studied screenwriting that helped refine my focus on dialogue and simple movements.
Oh, I remember falling for poetry in college; Dickinson, cummings, Emerson, Gibran. The list goes on and on. Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?
I believe that writer’s block happens when a writer is forcing something unnatural. For instance, a writer might want a scene to happen how they planned it, but the character sits down, crosses their arms, and refuses to say or do certain things. I think writer’s block can be cured by many things, but it can help if the writer keeps an open mind, listens to the story’s directions, and/or takes a short break (emphasis on the short. Too many people treat a break like the beginning to quit.) Writer’s block is nothing to be feared. It can actually be a good sign that your story is becoming so believable that you must now let it take over the reins.
“Too many people treat a break like the beginning to quit.” I love that and yes, I’ve been guilty of that too many times to count. Thank so much for joining us today, Shannon. Readers, to find out more about Shannon and her work or to purchase your own copy of her books visit the following links:
Website: http://shannonathompson.com – I share writing, editing, and publishing tips as well as my own experiences as I move forward as an author.
Amazon purchase link of Minutes Before Sunset: (book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy)
$3.89 for Kindle, $12.79 for paperback.
Goodreads link for Seconds Before Sunrise: (book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy)