Okay, so I’m really excited about today’s guest interview! I adore Alex Brown‘s writing. She shares snippets on her blog, and it’s all so wonderfully creative and exciting. I mean, just go check out her completed MS, Astral, which she’s pitching as a YA sci-fi that’s part Fringe and part The Minority Report (how awesome is that?!) and which won a SCBWI award. And while you’re there, check out her other exciting projects too! Plus, she’s currently working on a YA horror. Hooray for YA horror! 😉
Alex’s enthusiasm is infectious, and I’m so glad she graced us with an interview today. Read on!
1. Describe yourself in four words.
Rather clumsy, hopefully hilarious.
2. How did your writing adventure begin? (When did you know you wanted to be a writer?)
I think I made the commitment to be a writer last summer? Yeah, last summer. I’d just finished writing my first book, and my friends didn’t think it was terrible, so that was encouraging (and a big PHEW moment for me!). So then I wrote book #2 and won an SCBWI award for it and…there are still no words to express how shocked and excited I was when that happened! I’m incredibly lucky to be able to have that award associated with my name so early into my writing journey!
Uhh, but back to the first book that I usually don’t talk about. I started writing it my junior year of college because I was a Resident Advisor and sometimes we’d be on-call and couldn’t leave the building, so writing said book was a nice way to make sure I wasn’t bored! It took me a good two years to finish because I was doing the college thing and wasn’t super focused on finishing it.
Going back even farther than that, though, I’d always dabbled in writing. In high school I tried to write plays because plays are dialogue and I like dialogue so DUH that makes sense. And then I realized I wasn’t Samuel Beckett, and my playwright dreams got put on hold so I could write short stories. And from these short stories, the idea that I could try for a book was born!
3. What stage of your noveling adventure are you at right now?
Right now I’m in the query trenches (YAY!). I’m also hard at work on my next book, which I love more than I should. 😛
4. What book or writer has inspired you?
Ohhhhh, this is difficult! Growing up, I devoured every Agatha Christie book I could get my hands on, so I’d definitely have to go with the Queen of Crime! All of her mysteries are so well plotted, and if I can write a book half as good as she can, I’ll feel super accomplished!
J.K. Rowling, because, you know…she wrote that one book series that may or may not have defined my life.
I also feel like I should mention the “Magic Treehouse” series because I was all about those books as a kid. I learned so much random history through those books, it was awesome!
Erm, that was more than one answer. We can just count that all as one, yeah?
5. What are you working on right now?
So my current WiP is called ANONYMOUS and I love it so, so, so much! It’s going to be a YA Horror that’s set in/around Colonial Williamsburg! There are lots of ghosts (supposedly) in that area, and I’ve loved figuring out what local legends I can put in my story!
Once I’m done drafting it I can totally talk about it some more — but for now it’s just this fun (and hopefully creepy) story where not everyone’s gonna make it out alive!
6. What inspired you to write this book?
I started a different draft of this book during NaNo last year because I knew I wanted to write a ghost story, but I got about 60K in and realized that it wasn’t working for a few reasons. So I took a few months off of that story and changed the concept ever so slightly to get it to work, and I’m super happy I did that!
So I guess trying to make this story as good as it can be is something that inspires me? That sounds kind of pretentious haha umm, so the five Virginia ghost books I’ve gotten have also inspired me! Oh, and horror movies — but the thinking kind, not the gory kind. This is also my quick plug to go see “The Conjuring,” because it was a fabulous scary movie and is most definitely on my inspiration list!
7. What’s a quick, three-song playlist for your book?
“Bones” by MS MR — I originally heard this song on the Game of Thrones Season 3 trailer and immediately bought the whole EP. “Bones,” is just fantastically eerie and beautiful, and it fits with my MS so well. I don’t know if it’s ‘cause I associate it so heavily with Game of Thrones now, but it also just gives off this HELL YEAH vibe, which fits my MC’s attitude quite well, because she’s very goal-oriented and ready to solve the mystery that’s consumed her life for the past year.
Some lyrics I love: Dig up her bones, but leave the soul alone. Lost in the cages of self-made pages, life slips away and the ghosts come to play. These are hard times, these are hard times for dreamers.
“Not Alone,” by Sara Bareilles. So, Sara is my favorite musician and I adore everything she does. When I got to this song on one of her albums, it just kind of stuck with me. It’s…I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s kind of upbeat and jazzy, but if you listen to the lyrics, it’s kind of the complete opposite. And, come on, a song about not feeling like you’re completely alone? That you might be surrounded by monsters lurking in darkness? So perfect for a ghost story!
Some lyrics I love: There is something in the shadows, it’s just a silhouette. Something sinister and strange that I haven’t seen yet. I don’t want to be alone, sky don’t let the sun go. I’m not ready for the darkness, swear upon a heartless soul.
You don’t have to fight the bad guys, throwing punches out into the black. If you have to tell me lies, I don’t care, just give me some good back.
“Falling,” by the Civil Wars. This is a slow, really sad-creepy kind of song. It’s kind of about the end of a relationship, which…doesn’t have too much to do with the plot of my book. BUT there’s this sense of absolute helplessness and not knowing who you are anymore, which very much goes along with what some of my characters deal with — especially when they learn how real ghosts can be!
Some lyrics I love: Have you seen me sleepwalking? ‘Cause I’ve been holding your hand. Haven’t you noticed me drifting? Oh, let me tell you I am. Tell me it’s nothing. Try to convince me that I’m not drowning. Oh, let me tell you I am.
8. Are you a Plotter or Pantser? (Do you plot out every detail before you start or do you fly by the seat of your pants?)
I think I’m a hybrid of the two, though I tend to err more on the side of being a pantser. I have “loose” outlines for the books I write, but I usually tend to veer away from whatever I thought I wanted to happen. Sometimes the veering isn’t super drastic, but then other times, based on feedback from my CPs, the veering might happen just to mess with them.
Like, I had one CP say she absolutely LOVED a character at the beginning of the book and then, because I’m the best CP ever, said character became a lot less likable as the book went on. I didn’t just do it to troll her, though. That character’s arc makes a lot more sense and that character’s decisions just fall in line with who they were meant to be! Had I stuck to my original outline and happy ending, I would’ve lost who that character was, so I’m glad I got that comment — even if my CP later regretted telling me she liked said character, haha. 🙂
But yeah, if I had to firmly pick a side I would totally be a pantser. Without a doubt.
9. What’s your favorite part of writing?
Ohhhhh that’s a tough one! I think just figuring out what makes my characters unique, and then forcing them to interact with each other. I absolutely love writing dialogue, because I think that’s where one can get a very good feel for a character, and I especially love writing dialogue when characters interact with varying degrees of success. Some of my best dialogue moments have been struggle bus conversations where a set of characters just don’t understand each other at all and totally miss what the other is trying to say.
I’m also going to cheat and say that if someone tells me they laughed at something I wrote, my day is pretty much made. Samesies for if I creeped them out or made them all angsty. 🙂
Oh, and when people say they love a character I created! That’s seriously one of the best feelings ever.
I’m just gonna count all of that as one. 😛
10. What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to fellow adventurers?
Write the book YOU want to write. And remember that it’s YOUR book. Publishing is glorious because it’s subjective, but sometimes it’s super confusing because it’s subjective. You’re going to get a lot of crits on your book, and it’s up to you to sort through which ones will work for your book and make it stronger, and which ones won’t. Be open to criticism, too. It’s the only way you can grow and learn.
And no matter how tough things get, you’ve written a book. Do you know how many people can say that? NEVER forget how awesome it is to be able to say that you’ve written a book.
That was seriously more than one piece of advice. Apparently I’m not good at math…