Back in October 2011, I interviewed author Alicia Wright for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the one hundred and sixty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today's is with children’s fantasy author and illustrator Alicia L Wright. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Alicia. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Alicia: I'm sure that everyone says this, but I always wanted to be a writer ever since I was child.
Morgen: Not everyone, but a surprising number. Well, it surprises me anyway… I’m a latecomer.
Alicia: I've always loved stories and I've always written them. I started writing seriously in 2003. I started sending work off to agents in 2005, but it wasn't until I sent my 2007 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel to Tannbourne Ltd in 2010 that I had any success. Other than my book, I'm working part-time and studying games design from home.
Morgen: Oh great! NaNoWriMo. This’ll be my fourth time (in a row). It’s fun. Hard work, but fun. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Alicia: I usually write children's fantasy. Eggs, Butter, Sugar and Disaster is actually aimed at an older audience than my other books have been. I don't think I'll be writing any other kind of book any time soon. I adore fantasy books. I don't think I'd do very well writing in the 'real' world!
Morgen: I’m the opposite. I don’t read fantasy or children’s books (my dog is my child and he’ll have anything read to him!) so I write everything else but, but then there wouldn’t be so many lovely books if we all wrote the same thing. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Alicia: Eggs, Butter, Sugar and Disaster will be my first book. I can't wait to see it on the shelves. It's a lifelong dream for me. It still doesn't feel real just yet, actually!
Morgen: And it may not for a while. I’ve had some interviewees say that. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Alicia: I'm trying to do as much marketing as possible, although what I can do myself is a little limited. What I have done is start a DeviantArt account for my book and other personal art. If anyone would like to take a look my page it can be found here: http://puddingvalkyrie.deviantart.com.
Morgen: Yes please do, the Nummy Gyuudon intrigues me (both wonderful names by the way). Do you write under a pseudonym for your books? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Alicia: Yes. I'm not sure if it has an effect on my profile or not, but there are a few reasons I wanted a pen name. One of them is that I just don't like my real name very much! ...no-one tell my parents!
Morgen: I won’t because I don’t like mine either (Morgen is a pseudonym too, named after my two dogs – Bailey’s the one that appears on my podcast). Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Alicia: No, I don't have an agent. It would have been nice to have an agent, but at the same time, because I'm working with a small publisher I have a lot more personal contact and that's better for me as a new author, I think.
Morgen: I think so too and my emails with Tannbourne show they’re very supportive of their authors. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Alicia: My book is going to be available as an e-book, but I don't have any. Yet. I think they're a brilliant idea. Especially if you have a lot of books you want to read but not so much space!
Morgen: Absolutely. There’s a lot of talk on the internet forums about the ‘death’ of paperbacks but for me they live in harmony. Pbooks look lovely dotted (more than a Dalmatian!) around the house but if I travel (rarely) then the eReader comes with me… a win, win. :)
Alicia: And my friends overseas had been asking after an e-book version, so that they don't have to pay international shipping, so there's that, too!
Morgen: There is. Mine will be eBook only (hopefully in the next few days :)) and whilst I’ll be missing out on the ‘shelf’ experience (but never say never) it’s such a great opportunity to get my work out there. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Alicia: Well, actually... that's a bit of a long story. My first offer of a contract was from a not-so-reputable company. When I was first offered I was over the moon, but looking it up and then having to turn them down was crushing. So I was happy but very cautious when I was offered my first real contract, by Tannbourne. I was in Iceland volunteering at the time and one of my fellow volunteers had to ask me what was the matter as I clamped my hands over my mouth in shock and happiness! I mentioned this above, but it still feels like I'm in a dream and it's not real!
Morgen: Ah…. maybe seeing the eBook too will help. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Alicia: Oh yes. Several. I'm not sure that I really 'dealt' with them at all; I expected rejection from the beginning, so I just moved on to the next agent or publisher on my list.
Morgen: Good plan. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Alicia: I'm working on a book aimed at slightly younger readers, about an exchange program with mermaids. It's based partly on my experiences abroad as an exchange student and volunteer.
Morgen: Oh sweet… mermaids have always been popular and I’d say they’re ideal children’s fantasy material. A question some authors dread, where do you get your inspiration from?
Alicia: EVERYWHERE. It's that simple!
Morgen: It is… and pretty much what every other interviewee has said. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Alicia: I'm pretty useless at planning actually. I just sit down and write. But it's not like I don't have any idea of where I'm going. I usually have a far off point that I'm heading towards and some smaller points that reveal themselves to me as I write.
Morgen: They do, so not useless at all, providing the ideas do come of course. Some people plan like mad then it all falls to pieces when handed over to the characters. You can probably tell I’m not a planner either (my 117K NaNo 2009 was an idea I had October 31st!). Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Alicia: My characters just seem to come to me as they are. I don't really have a method at all. They just turn up in my head and go 'name me!'. I do have trouble naming them sometimes. A lot of the characters in the book I'm currently writing are named after my former classmates and volunteers, but usually I just make them up.
Morgen: Nice characters then hopefully. :) Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Alicia: I don't. So I suppose my editor is my first reader from now on!
Morgen: Not a bad decision, the editor (hello Ellen!) is the expert after all. :) How much research do you have to do for your writing? Have you ever received feedback from your readers?
Alicia: A lot of my characters come from various mythologies and folklore, so I read that sort of thing a lot. I also try to read up on anything that might come up – for example, for current book, I looked up every kind of mermaid I could find and I also started looking at sea creatures.
Morgen: Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Alicia: I much prefer a computer. I can edit as I go along and add or move bits easily. I find that I get slowed down an awful lot if I'm forced to use paper.
Morgen: Me too. A few interviewees use the computer because their handwriting is awful. Mine isn’t but it’s very slow by comparison. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Alicia: Oh yes. I have about nine or so unfinished books on my computer. Some won't get finished because I have another story that's similar that I like better, some won't get finished because there are stories out there already that are too similar and finally some of them are just plain not good enough.
Morgen: If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Alicia: That my stories don't do what I tell them to!
Morgen: I love that! And only a writer or writing professional, I think anyway, would understand that.
Alicia: For example, I had a request from my editor to have my main character, Seralina, make a pudding. She's the Goddess of Puddings now, after all.
Morgen: Of course. :)
Alicia: What she was supposed to do in the scene was make a pudding and fail hilariously. What actually happened was she got lost in the pantry, had a conversation on the nature of religion, got rescued and made a perfectly acceptable pudding. But I think that's what's so great about it! Even as the writer, I don't know what's going to happen!
Morgen: That’s got to be my favourite aspect. A blank page never scares me. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Alicia: DON'T GIVE UP. Sure it's hard to get published, sure there's a point in your book where you think 'this is awful, no-one will want to read this!' but you mustn't give up. Keep writing and keep sending your work to agents and so on.
Morgen: Doing these interviews has made me realise how many people there are all striving for the same thing but equally all having passion and as long as you have that. And I like the succinct advice on Tannbourne's 'Advice for Authors' page. :) What do you like to read, Alicia?
Alicia: My favourite author by a million miles is Sir Terry Pratchett, but I'm sure everyone knows how amazing his work is already.
Morgen: And a few have said so here. :) What do you do when you’re not writing?
Alicia: I love watching cartoons and I love to draw. I also like learning languages – I have a degree and a level 2 proficiency certificate in Japanese! I really want to save up to go and study abroad again, but it's going to have to wait a while! I also love computer games. RPGs are my favourite.
Morgen: You said earlier that you're studying games design, maybe you could write for them too. :) Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Alicia: In the digital age as we are, I think that things are both easier and harder for writers at the same time. Many writers are self-publishing via Amazon and Lulu, so it's really easy to get your work out there. But at the same time, that creates a lot of competition.
Morgen: It does… but as you say we just have to keep going. Is there a question you’d like to ask me? :)
Alicia: Sure. "Would you like to buy my book?"
Morgen: <laughs> I would if I had children (I love the title, by the way) but I only have a dog and unfortunately he’d only really be interested if it squeaked. Ooh, that could be your next book. :) Thank you Alicia.
Alicia L. Wright is a farmer's daughter who went to university. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Eggs, Butter, Sugar and Disaster is her first novel, to be published on the 22nd October 2011. She lives in a little village you've never heard of in North West England, works part time and is studying games design from home.
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