Tag Archives: revision

An Interview with Shannon A. Thompson

15 Aug
Shannon A. Thompson's novel Minutes Before Sunset was a Goodreads Book of the Month for July. You can read the first chapter here.

Shannon A. Thompson’s novel Minutes Before Sunset was a Goodreads Book of the Month for July. You can read the first chapter here.

Shannon A. Thompson is a 21-year-old with two novels under her belt. Her first, a YA sci-fi thriller November Snow, was published when she was 16. Her latest work, the YA paranormal novel Minutes Before Sunset, was voted a Goodreads Book of the Month for July. Currently, she is finishing her senior year at the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in English (with a creative writing focus).

In this interview, Thompson discusses the idea of prophecy, what it takes for a college student to publish a book, and her strategy for using social media as a promotional tool.

(To read the first chapter of Minutes Before Sunset and an exercise based on how she sets the rules of the novel’s world, click here.)

Michael Noll

You very deliberately set up the rules of the novel’s world in the first chapter: The town is in denial of very plain truths, and yet the narrator would like to join the townspeople’s simple lives–but something prevents him. How did you approach this chapter? Did you set out to establish the mentality of the town and the main character, or did you write the novel and work those things into the first chapter through revision?

Shannon A. Thompson

The first chapter is actually one of the parts that remained remarkably the same during the editing process. I purposely set up the rules so quickly, because they end up being very different from what they seem. As many readers have found out, the “prophecy” idea is not a preordained fate but rather a twisted illusion of choice, identity, and questionable fate. Because of this ultimate change, the beginning was initially set up. In regards to the protagonist, Eric, he is probably more rigid in the ultimate version–a little harsher on the world than he originally was–but I enjoyed it, because his changing from the beginning to the end meant more with his extremities being stretched even further.

Michael Noll

We also learn the basic mechanics of the world’s supernatural elements: the characters can appear and vanish and move quickly across distances. Young members of this community are given guards, either to protect them or protect the world from them (it’s not yet clear in the first chapter). These are crucial details for readers to understand, and it’s important to establish them early, but it’s also important not to stop the story in order to explain these things. You avoid this problem by working the details into the narrative. How did you balance the need to get the story moving with the need to show the reader what the characters can do (which is likely a big part of the book’s appeal)?

Shannon A. Thompson

I balanced them more in the editing process than in the originally writing process. This happened because I had a better understanding after I’d spent so much time with the world and the characters living within it. A good example of this is reflecting on the word count: the first version was 136,000 words, but the published version is less than 80,000 words. This is important, because I was still discovering some of those rules while I wrote the first version. In the editing process, I was able to incorporate those elements sooner.

Michael Noll

Many high school and college students dream of being writers, but you’ve actually published two novels. How were you able to make the jump ambition to actually completing and publishing your work? How do you make time among all the things that typically distract young writers: social life, social media, school, family?

Shannon A. Thompson

Shannon Thompson's novel "Minutes Before Sunset" was a Goodreads Book of the Month in July.

Shannon Thompson’s novel Minutes Before Sunset

Honestly, I believe anyone can make the jump, as you put it, but it requires a lot of sacrifice. I don’t go out on the weekends or watch a lot of T.V. I write–but I also love writing, so this is a beautiful opportunity for me. In terms of making the decision to do this, I’d have to talk about my past. I started writing, because my mother was a writer, and she encouraged me to in order to cope with nightmares and night terrors. She suddenly died when I was 11, and I faced mortality at a young age. I realized that I had to spend my life chasing my dream, so I began immediately, and I had my first novel published in three years. November Snow is dedicated to her, but Minutes Before Sunset is dedicated to my late roommate, Kristine Andersen, who died in October of last year and our other roommate, Megan Paustian. In a way you could say that my passion pushes me forward, but deaths in my life have caused the first shove that turned into the momentum that began it all. However, if I had to give advice, I’d share my mantra: write with passion; succeed with self-discipline.

Michael Noll

I teach at a university, and I often hear faculty lamenting and/or praising our students’ use of social media. The lamenters believe that students are wasting their lives on tiny screens. The praisers believe that students may one day translate their online connections into beneficial ends. I’m curious about your use of social media. It seems like you’ve been successful in creating an online presence for yourself not just as a person but as a writer. Your blog has more than 8000 followers, and Minutes Before Sunset was a Goodreads Book of the Month in July. What’s your social media strategy?

Shannon A. Thompson

I like to believe my social media strategy is simple: be available and help others. My website provides a lot of writing, editing, and publishing tips, because I want to help other writers, but I also want to help other artists in general. My ultimate dream isn’t to be a famous author. My dream is to be able to open an affordable art school that connects students with innovative artists within their media. I believe I have connected with so many others over the Internet, because I try to help them, and I’m always reminding people they can email me at any time if they have any questions about the industry.

August 2013

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Michael Noll is the editor of Read to Write.

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