Q&A: Donna Stanley
A "guardian angel" is something that people pray for other people - people in danger or near death - to have. Olivia Stanton sure didn't think that she'd ever meet one and, when she suddenly does, he is definitely not what she expected...
WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WRITING NEW WINGS?
I was primarily seeking to create an alternative for those craving supernatural/paranormal fiction for those who were tiring of vampires, fallen angels, werewolves, ghosts, the occult, and zombies. My daughter and I are great fans of this genre, as are many, as we see in the widespread supernatural content throughout mainstream media.
Furthermore, people love the topic of angels and anything supernatural. Every human being longs for explanations for the unexplainable. And almost everyone has a story about something supernatural/unexplainable they’ve experienced sometime in their life. So I wanted to connect with the reader on that level, as well as give them some solid facts about the celestial realm many have little knowledge of.
I feel that the holy (non-fallen!) angels deserve a voice. Hollywood, in my opinion, hasn’t done them justice. New Wings gives us a glimpse into their realm revealing their purpose, their attributes, their history, and their personality. And what better supernatural ‘super heroes’ could I write about?
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH STORY TO WRITE?
Well, this is my first full-length novel. But, in general, since I was 13 years old, I’ve been writing in this genre. I have an overblown imagination, so writing has always been an outlet for that. This story came to me while falling asleep in the third Twilight movie amidst a throng of teenaged girls. I’d been observing the “Twi-Mom” phenomenon, as well, and realized this genre needed to be redeemed and used to teach positive life lessons while still appealing to the large female audience of all ages who love the elements contained in modern day, YA supernatural fiction.
I don’t know where I got the idea, but I thought, “Why can’t angels come to high school instead of vampires?” Thus, the brotherly guardian angel character of Mike emerged. It has threads of romance throughout, and plenty of angst to satisfy the teenagers, but enough depth to appeal to all ages. And although there is no Olivia/Mike romance, those who enjoy the chemistry of these two characters will find the ending most satisfying.
I wanted to keep it gritty and super-engaging. It had to be a ‘page-turner/can’t-put-it-down’ storyline, driving the reader to burn the midnight oil. (It didn’t hurt that I have the shortest attention span in the world, so I assumed my readers did too!)
To my delight, I’ve also discovered an unexpected large audience of male readers because of the suspense/thriller way in which the plot unfolds.
So far, almost everyone says they gobble up my book up in two days or less!
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE EXAMPLES FROM THE STORY WHERE YOU DREW ELEMENTS FROM REAL LIFE?
I had written about five chapters and decided to show them to a twenty-five-year-old girl (my target audience) one evening. She hadn’t gotten past the first two pages and she began to weep quietly, then whimpered, “This just happened to me two weeks ago.” After picking my jaw off the ground, and my goosebumps subsided, I began to ask her what she meant. Lindy explained that she’d just seen her guardian angel. His name was Gideon, and she had seen him fighting for her life (in the spiritual realm). This came exactly two weeks after she’d asked God to show her if she had a guardian angel. The rest of the story came easy, because I felt as if I was writing her memoir in fiction form. I could not help but insert stories I’d gathered over the years from many others who “see” this way, weaving them into the plot of New Wings.
Because the lead character happens to have the same name as my daughter, many ask if it’s about her, which, to a limited extent, is true. There are glimpses of her, but also of myself, and my friend, Lindy. As authors, our characters tend to be a blend of numerous people we’ve known personally. A few characters appear in my story as themselves, of course, with their permission.
Writing the character of Mike was the most daunting task of all. If not for my friend’s input, I would have felt that any attempt would be embarrassingly inadequate. I wanted to stay biblically correct from all we could garner from scripture and church history, and hundreds of personal angelic accounts. But I also wanted to dispel incorrect attitudes and ideas about celestial beings.
Numerous places in the story actually exist, most being located where I grew up in Maryland horse country near the Chesapeake Bay area.
WHICH CHARACTER IN NEW WINGS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST?
I LOVE this question! We story tellers experience crazy occurrences when the characters starts ‘writing themselves.’ This is not always the case, but when it happens, it’s magical! It’s as if they are staring over your shoulder and interjecting things like, “No, I’d never do that!” or “I would say this.”
You would expect me to say Olivia, the main character, most surprised me, right? After all, doesn’t the heroine always experience some type of transformation in a well-told story?
To the contrary, the surprise character had a supporting role, and stole the show many times. Her name is Eden, Olivia’s best friend. (Supporting roles do this in movies too!) She’s a pastor’s daughter whose life was anything but charmed, yet makes the most amazing discoveries, experiences the most heart-wrenching moments, and has the most amazing transformations. The touching love story between her and Ty Hudson enchants every reader. I still cry when I read her scenes. It’s as if she was this unexpected visitor that came and made her home in my story. She’ll definitely appear in any sequel!
WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
I’m working on a sequel to New Wings (New Wings Book II), as well as a prequel to New Wings that delves into the history of the Nephilim (half angel/half human) who are Mike’s arch nemesis’ in this story.
The Nephilim were the offspring of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" according to Genesis 6:4; and giants who inhabited Canaan according to Numbers 13:33. I find the idea of these ‘half bloods’ fascinating! Imagine being one of these beings in ancient history, not of your own choice, internally battling pure evil and pure goodness within. Just as the fallen angels have no redemption, I doubt that these creatures felt they did either. The Bible and church history are silent as to their fate. But many theologians assert that the disembodied Nephilim spirits are the most deadly of all, believing the scriptures distinctly separate fallen angels into two categories: demons and devils; one, perhaps, being these disembodied Nephilim spirits.
The Book of Enoch, Book of Jubilees, and Watcher (angel), included in the Catholic Bible, completely tell their story.
New Wings Book II—sorry, no spoilers here! All I can say is the stakes are ratcheted up 100%!