Shawn Smucker has written an amazing young adult fantasy book. It’s like a collision of Madeleine L’Engle and Niel Gaiman. I got the joy of reading this book when Shawn self-published it a few years ago. Now, it has been picked up by Revell publishing and is being re-released on September 5, 2017. It is a fantastic story, one that I can’t wait to read to my kids.
Today, Shawn graciously chatted with me about his book (available now for pre-order).
Shawn Smucker is a co-writer, ghostwriter, and author living in Lancaster, PA, with his wife and six children. The Day the Angels Fell is his first novel.
You say your book asks the question, “What if death was a gift?” Where did that question come from in your life?
I was co-writing a book with a gentleman in Istanbul, Turkey, when this question really hit me right in the face. He was dying of cancer, Stage Four, and it had spread to his colon, his liver. He was in bad shape and in the last months of his life. I would spend a few hours interviewing him, then go back and lock myself in my room and work on his story (the book had a very short turnaround time). Those hours with him and then alone in my room put me face to face with my own mortality, and I really started wrestling with death and what it meant to me.
Did your handful of kids (what is it 5 now?) have a roll in crafting the story?
Yes, they did. We had four children at the time (we have six kids now), and when I got back from Istanbul, I had this overwhelming urge to write a book for them. This is something I had been wanting to do for a very long time, and it became irresistible after that trip. So, we sat around the table one night and I asked them what they thought should be in the story, who the characters would be, what the problem would be. They had a lot of influence in the early bones of The Day the Angels Fell. What I didn’t realize at the time, or even through the first draft, was that the book would become my way of working out this new wrestling I was doing with my own mortality.
Now you’ve been writing professionally for a number of years. Had you done much fiction prior to The Day the Angels Fell?
No, I really hadn’t written much fiction. I started out keeping a daily journal, writing at least one page a day, then started co-writing books in 2008, and added a blog in 2010. But 99% of what I had written before The Day the Angels Fell was nonfiction.
Do you think fiction was better than nonfiction to wrestle with the question of death?
For me, it was. And the thing is, I didn’t set out to write a book that would help me wrestle with the concept of death. I really didn’t. It wasn’t until after I wrote it that I looked at it and said, “Well, look at that. I just wrote a book where the main character is struggling with the idea of death the same way I have been.” I don’t think I could have gone as deep as I did into my own pain and uncertainty by exploring this particular concept with nonfiction. I needed the story to disguise what was happening. By the time I realized it, it was too late. I was in too deep. I was face to face with my fear of death, but I had also already worked through it by writing the story. It was an amazing process.
Last question: What are your hopes and dreams for this book?
When I first self-published this book three years ago, before a publisher picked it up, a friend of mine who’s son was in counseling told me that his son had a conversation with his counselor about death. The concept of death being in some cases a good thing, certainly not something to fear, came up, and the boy’s eyes lit up and he told the counselor, “It’s like in The Day the Angels Fell! Death is a gift!” Then, a few weeks ago, someone who read an ARC of the book told me they loved it and were going to give it to a friend who had recently lost someone. These conversations center around my greatest hopes and dreams for the book, that it will help us to see and approach death in a new way.
The Day the Angels Fell releases September 5, 2017, and is available for pre-order wherever books are sold.