Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog. (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.) I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, Alyssa Cooper, had some very captivating responses which I’m sure will enchant you, as well. After you read her interview, please be sure to hop on over to her blog and follow her for a regular dose of her charm and wit. And now, I turn the microphone over to Alyssa…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
Hey everyone! My name is Alyssa Cooper. I’m a little strange, and little antisocial, and completely obsessed with books.
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
3. How many books have you written?
Currently, I have two novels, a poetry collection, a short story collection, and four short stories available as stand alone books. I’ve also begun work on volume one of what will be my very first series.
4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
The Motel Room: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JHV0U9E
Whispering Peak: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K1H1M36
5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why? If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?
My first three books and two of my short stories were traditionally published, spread across three different publishers (literary, genre, and poetry). I was ecstatic with my first book deal, but the novelty faded quickly, and I was left extremely disappointed with the advertising, sales, and level of control I had over my work.
My most recent book, Whispers, and two accompanying short stories, The Motel Room and Whispering Peak, have been self-published. It was a scary decision at first, but it’s worked out brilliantly, and I couldn’t be more happy with the direction my career has taken since.
6. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I’ve been telling stories since before I can remember, and I’ve been writing them down ever since I could hold a pen. The day I realised that someone would pay me to keep doing it, I decided I’d never be happy as anything but an author.
7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
I wrote even when I was convinced that no one would ever read it. I have stories waiting inside; I always have, and if I tried to keep them all inside, there’s a good chance my head would explode.
8. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
It’s always been so hard for me to choose a favourite author; my answer seems to change every time I’m asked. The work of Chuck Palahniuk and Jeffrey Eugenides have always resonated with me, and I still reread the entire Harry Potter series every few years. Currently, I’m working my way through a Song of Ice and Fire, and loving every second of it.
9. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
I think my preferred reading method depends on where I am. If I’m reading in transit, I prefer small paperbacks, or something like my iPod. If I’m curled up on the couch relaxing, there’s nothing better than cracking open a huge hard cover. When I’m tired and lazy, I love reading on my laptop. It’s a warm, self-supporting book that doesn’t slide around on my lap and requires little to no movement for every page turn.
10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
For me at least, those details are always determined by the story I want to tell. I’ve tried them all (including second person and future tense, experiments that I learned from, but that I probably won’t repeat), and can’t say that I’ve found a ‘favourite.’
11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
I’m always reading in the sense that I always have a book or two on the go, but I don’t always read every day. In a perfect world I’ll able to, or at least in a world where I have to start taking the bus to work again, but for now, real life seems to eat up far too much of my spare time.
12. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
That’s far too hard a question! My years vary wildly – most of the time, I’m reading one or two books a month. If it’s a good month, I can usually get through one or two a week instead. If I’m really busy with work or my own projects, I might take two or three months to sip through a single novel, where as if I’m on vacation, I can get through the entire Harry Potter series in a just over 11 days.
My reading habits vary wildly.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
My current work in progress is the first novel of a series that I’m tentatively calling “The Witches of Armour Hill.”
14. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
The Witches of Armour Hill is paranormal/speculative fiction series. My early readers and I have been referring to it as “the witchiness” – is witchiness a subgenre?
I like to think it’s the details that are going to make this story different. I’m certainly not redefining a genre; witches are a favourite topic, especially witch covens. The difference lies in the way the story is told. These witches don’t have their own world, not even a hidden one. Instead, they exist in the same world we do, struggling to keep their traditions alive while dealing with all the same hardships that we experience every day.
This isn’t just a story about magic – it’s a story about life, death, and the power of family; about how our history influences what we become.
15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
This series is based on a local legend in Peterborough Ontario, from 1840. The story goes that a young woman named Marion was charged with witchcraft, and burned at the stake at the top of Armour Hill. I carry the tale on to modern day, exploring the descendants of Marion’s coven in modern day Peterborough.
16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
It’s a young adult title, moving into new adult by the end of the series, as my characters age from their early to late teens. I hate categorizing books by gender – the majority of the main characters are female, but I don’t see any reason the story wouldn’t appeal to boys too.
17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
I don’t want to give too much away too soon, but suffice to say that it’s the story of a girl named Margaret May Reis. After being raised by her grandparents, Maggie is sent to live with her cousins in Peterborough, the city where she was born. Within weeks of being there, she finds stray cat named Elowen, who seems to appear out of nowhere, and a strange girl named Rhosyn, who promises that her life will never be the same. Maggie begins to discover that her mother, the woman she never knew, had secrets. She may not have been a regular woman at all.
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
18. How often do you write?
Unless I’m sick, in a state, or extremely busy (i.e. exam week back when I was a student) I write every day. Even if it’s just a single scene, or conversation, or a bit of plotting.
19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
This varies wildly. Anywhere from <50 to over 10, 000
20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
I always complete the first round of editing on my own, but after that, it goes to someone else. Fresh eyes ALWAYS catch things that I’ve missed, no matter how convinced I am that my manuscript is perfect.
21. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
My writing process is fairly typical. An idea is born, and for a week or two I write only mini-scenes and conversations, to get a feel for my characters. Once I know them a little better, I jot down a quick timeline of events – no details. Mine are usually less than a page long. From there, I start at the beginning, and I do my best to work chronologically. I’m not a slave to it, though. If a perfectly formed scene comes into my mind, even if I’m six chapters away from the point it happens, I’ll write it down and put it aside for later.
I don’t go back and do any editing until the first draft is finished. I used to, but when I realised how many scenes I spent hours editing ended up getting cut from the final version, I stopped. Once the first draft is finished, I go back through, do my first round of edits and rewrites, and then the second (or third, depending on how bad the first was) draft gets sent off to my early reading group, for their edits and opinions. The last step is passing off the draft approved by my reading group to an editor.
22. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
I’ve never felt like there was a single voice sending down my ideas. They all come from somewhere, I’m sure, but I don’t think I’ll ever know where. I’m inspired by my day to day life, by everything that I see, but especially by the things I don’t see that I wish were there.
23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
This also varies wildly. Salvation only took me a few months, whereas Benjamin took over a year. I’ve been writing my current WIP about three months now, and I’d say I’m about halfway through (though I expect the second half to go far faster than the first did).
24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
I certainly set deadlines for myself, regarding certain scenes or chapters, but I don’t give myself a specific word count. I definitely need something in place to keep me accountable (my early readers are great at that, since they only get a chapter or two at a time, and are always asking for more) but nothing so strict as that.
25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
Baby names books and latin. I spend far too much of my time on the first names, middle names, and last names of every supporting character I create.
26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
When I try to make all my notes and do all my research beforehand, I go WAY overboard. I prefer to just start writing, do my research only when its necessary, and jot my plot notes down as I go.
27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
A pen and paper. They can get me moving faster than anything else. It doesn’t even have to be proper paper; I’ve been known to write entire chapters on piles of napkins, the backs of receipts, or even my most recent take-out bag.
28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
I’m most inspired during the day, from around 10am until sunset. Unfortunately, this is also when I work my day job, so I’ve gotten pretty adept at writing in the evening these days.
29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
Right now, it seems to be the other way around. I work full time as a graphic designer, I’m helping my partner get ready to start school in September, and looking for a new house in a new city; my real life has been so busy that it’s often my writing that falls by the wayside.
I’m hoping this all changes when I move in September; I can’t WAIT to neglect my real life for my writing life.
30. What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
I’m not sure if it counts as a quirk or a psychosis, but when I have to write hard scenes for my characters, I react as if they’re real people. I get genuinely upset. Sometimes after a particularly hard writing session (usually the death of a character) I just have to curl up on the couch with some ice cream and think about what I’ve done.
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
My favourite is my current work in progress, the Witches of Armour Hill. I’ve never been more excited for a release than I am for this one, and it’s not even scheduled yet!
32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
There’s a tiny piece of me in all my characters… but I don’t think I’d want to be any of them.
33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
Although I’d love to play this game with The Witches of Armour Hill, I guess I’ll stick with the novel people have actually had a chance to read; Salvation.
Maya: Tanya Dziahileva – she’s actually a model, not an actress, but with those big blue eyes, pale complexion, and just other-wordly essence in general, she’s ALWAYS been my vision for Maya.
Alec: Dylan O’Brien is a new name in movies, but when I saw the Internship, he convinced me instantly that he could be my new Alec.
Marek: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – This is where I always come up against a wall; no one is Marek, that’s why Marek is so… Marek. But, since his dark performance in “Mama,” Nikolaj has me convinced I’ve finally found my Marek.
Gabrielle: Gina Torres – I don’t even have to explain this one; she’s an incredible actress with just the right attitude for Gabrielle.
34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?
There have certainly been some strange ones; my search history could probably have me detained for at least 48 hours (for observation, you understand). I once spent an entire night taking virtual tours of US body farms though, and that may take the cake.
35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?
Benjamin was one of my most research-heavy novels, and it was some of the hardest research I’ve ever done. I know more than I ever wanted to know about lung cancer, brain cancer, metastasis, and chemotherapy, and I hope it’s all information I never have to process in the real world.
Thank you, Alyssa, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.