Come Meet Aspiring Author Sarah Allan

NUT AND BOLTS:

Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?  This is your chance to tell us about the person behind the writing.  What do you do when you’re not writing?  Where are you from?  Think of this as your bio.

Hi, Liz! Thanks for having me.  Hmm, a little about me?  I’m in my late twenties, and a proud military wife.  My husband and I are actually high school sweethearts, both grew up in Connecticut but have lived in a few different states, and we have two cute-but-evil cats.  When I’m not writing, I love to cook, spend time with friends and family, and see movies and shop.  I try to have a pretty regular work-out schedule, but I can’t say that I enjoy doing it – I guess I enjoy the feeling I get from having worked out.  I’ve also heard that I’m funny, but that could be hearsay. 

Where you born writing or was there an “ah ha” moment when you knew that writing is what you were meant to do?

I think I was always meant to write, even when I didn’t know it.  I’m an only child, and I always liked making up stories and characters to keep me company.  I remember writing – not just assignments and stuff, but serious writing – even when I was back in elementary school.  Reading, too.  I never even minded essays in high school, and in college, I often edited friend’s papers for them.  I was a Psychology major when I attended UConn and have a Bachelors in it, and I think I use that more in writing to understand my characters than I ever did in anything else I’ve worked in since graduation.  It wasn’t until a few years ago when my husband was deployed for the first time that I was really bitten by the writing bug.  And by bitten, I mean like huge-vampire-bite-bitten.  There was only so much time I could spend eating, sleeping, working, and hanging out with friends, so I started writing little short stories for myself.  And about a year ago was when I discovered that being a writer was what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I’m lucky to have a husband who fully supports that.  He’s a keeper.

Where are you at in your process?  Is this your first novel or the fourth?  Are you three chapters in or did you just finish putting “the end” on it?

Let’s see.  I’m about halfway through my first piece that I’m writing with a goal to publish it.  It’s a novella – I’m up to about 12,000 words and I estimate it will be between 20k and 30k when it’s finished.  I have a few novel-length pieces that are kicking around in my brain, but I have one that I have full family trees and everything drawn out.  I just don’t have an outline yet.

Who do you like to read?  Favorite books and authors.

I’ll try to read just about anything once!  It doesn’t mean I’ll like it, but I will try it.  Some favorites of mine have to be the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, the Harry Potter series, and I recently read The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. 

RAVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO:

Tell us about your current projects.  What are they about?  Think of this as a mini synopsis.

I’ll talk a little about my novella, because that’s what I’m closest to finishing and querying.  The working title is The Curse.  From what I can tell, it would be categorized as a GLBT fantasy romance.  It’s a fun, sexy story that’s a twist on Greek and Roman mythology  and the idea that gods and goddesses messed with the lives of mortals.  My main character, Jack, has had casual relationships – if you even want to call them that – for years, until one night in early December when he’s visited by someone sent by the Fates to give him a little wake-up call.  This messenger is a demigoddess who tells Jack that he has to find his soul mate by the end of the year, which is a little less than a month away, or he’ll be alone for the rest of his sorry life.  The demigoddess also gives Jack a little, uh, incentive to find the one meant for him, but I don’t want to give away too much. 

Why do you write your specific genre?  Have you ever thought about dabbling in others?

I honestly didn’t set out to write a GLBT story, but when the characters took over, I had very little choice in the matter.  They were very persuasive, so I just ran with it, and I’m having a great time.  But I write erotica and contemporary romance because they’re fun and my writing “voice” seems to suit the genres.  I would definitely love to try my hand at writing horror or paranormal with some romance mixed in, though. 

THE ART OF WRITING:

Are you a pantser (fly by the seat of your pants) or planner?

I try to take each piece as it comes, which is kind of odd for me, because I’m such a planner about everything else.  With The Curse, for example, I had very clear ideas of what was going to happen in the beginning and end of the story, and I just had to brainstorm a bit about the middle.  I didn’t, and still haven’t, written an outline for that one.  I can already say that things will be different for my novel-length contemporary.  I have family trees drawn out, sibling descriptions, and all sorts of other random things already worked out for the story, and I know that I will end up doing a full outline.  That, for me, would be a paragraph or two for each chapter, but it will be fluid and flexible.  Sometimes the characters kind of take over and hijack your story, and you have to be prepared to roll with that.

How do you write?  Do you listen to music?  Sit on the couch?  What works best for you?

I need quiet to write.  No interruptions.  I even insisted that my husband buy headphones for when he plays his Xbox because I couldn’t tune out the games, and closing my office door didn’t help at all.  Only rarely will I listen to music, and if I do, it’s probably classical, something akin to white noise to drown other things out.  I love to sit at a desk to write, feet propped up on a foot rest or the subwoofer from my speaker set.  I have a laptop that I’ve docked, and I use a separate keyboard with a slight curve to it and a mouse.   

How many backups do you have?  Have you ever lost any of your words or stories?

I have an external hard drive that continuously backs things up for me.  I occasionally put my work on a thumb drive or email it to myself, and I’ve been very fortunate not to have lost anything.  Yet.  I say yet, because it will probably happen, and I will have an epic tantrum that will rival a nuclear meltdown.  I apologize in advance to anyone who will witness my shame.

Do you write in tiny stretches throughout your day or do you set aside blocks of time?

It depends.  Sometimes I get on a roll and can write for hours, and sometimes it comes in little snippets.  I go with whatever suits my writing mood for that day because, hey, getting some writing done in any way possible is a good thing! 

THE JOYS OF RAISING A CHARACTER

How do your characters come to life?

My characters are very real to me, and I get two versions of them.  One version knows everything that will happen to them during the story.  This one sits on my shoulder or desk and talks to me about what’s happening.  If they don’t want to talk to me, then I get writer’s block.  The other version I get is the one that everyone will see, and that’s the character the first version and I discuss.  It’s very strange, even to me, but it feels comfortable.  I have to be able to get in the character’s head, or else it doesn’t come out right.

Do you characters like to listen to you, their creator, do they like to pull all the strings and write you into corners?

My characters, at least with my novella so far, definitely have minds of their own.  I had terrible writer’s block for over a month because Jack didn’t want any of the women I created as a heroine for the story.  None of them.  It didn’t matter who it was, he didn’t want any part of it; he hated them all.  So I shelved the story for a bit until Jack started talking to me again.  This was the version of Jack who sits on my shoulder, by the way, and he told me that he didn’t want anyone I’d created for him because he had someone specific in mind, and it was a character I’d originally made as someone in the background.  I had to reconsider the whole story, and when I reworked it to what the characters wanted, I was much happier with it. 

BELIEVE ME IT’S REAL EVEN IF IT IS FICTION

World building is an art form, even if you book isn’t science fiction or paranormal.  How do you make your world believable?

Research.  You have to know your characters and where they are, what they do, things like that.  The Curse takes place in the Boston area, and though I’ve been there a handful of times, I had to do some research.  Where would a young professional live?  Where would they go to have fun?  How would they get around and how long would it take to get from point A to B?  Things like that.  It makes the world believable to the reader, and that’s always a good thing.

LET’S TALK FAVORITES (we promise not to tell)

Do you have a favorite line that you have written?  (Give us a little insight as to why that line was important)

*laughs* Yes! I have a few favorites, actually, and I love to write down lines that occur to me but it’s not time to use them yet.  I have a notebook that I use for this, because I hate forgetting them. 

One of my favorite lines in The Curse is when Jack is thinking about a good way to pick up a girl at a bar, and how a guy needs to get on the good side of her friends so they’ll let the girl leave with him.  He’s kind of a manwhore so he has this down to a science, and he, like most of my characters, has a very active internal monologue.  I often write in first person, but I don’t head hop.  The lines are kind of unfinished, but you get the idea.  

“A group of protective chicks in mini-skirts and stilettos was worse than a herd of water buffalo defending their young from a lion pride.  That comparison left me with the disturbing mental image of water buffalo in skimpy club wear and Jimmy Choos.”

The imagery here makes me snort, but I probably should learn not to laugh at my own material. 

Just for fun, what is your favorite color, food, or animal?

Blue.

I love most food as long as it 1) doesn’t have eyes to watch me eat it (e.g. a whole lobster), 2) isn’t sushi, 3) doesn’t have shrimp in it, and 4) doesn’t look like a giant booger (e.g. oysters, mussels, etc).

Cat.

INSPIRATION:

Where do you get your ideas?

I’ve definitely had inspiring dreams before, woken up and had to scribble something down before I’d forget it.  Other times, I’ll hear stories from other people and think that what they’re telling me could make a good scene at some point.  Occasionally they’re my experiences as told by my characters; not with The Curse, though.  I love to let my mind wander and see what it comes up with, and a lot of the time ideas come from out of the blue. 

What keeps you going?

The idea that I’m doing this for myself, but I have the potential to make people happy.  I want to get published and write for me, though I do love making people smile with my work. 

Who do you go to for support when you’re feeling miserable about your book (come on we all have this moment)?

I actually chat a lot with my critique partner, Shelley.  She’s an amazing woman, and a great listener when I need to wail about something.  My husband is also very supportive of me and what I do. 

EDITING:

Do you love it or hate it?

 I actually kind of like editing!  Sometimes when I don’t have the motivation to write any new material, I’ll go over what I’ve written so far and try to perfect that, and I’m very productive when I do.  As far as taking criticism, I can always be better about that, but as long as it’s worded nicely and genuinely helpful, I’m happy to listen to what anyone has to say. 

How many drafts do you go through before you feel like it is done?

It can vary.  I’ll write one, edit it, sit on it, edit it some more, send it to Shelley, she’ll kick it back, I’ll edit it again, send it to her again, and then if there’s nothing else, I’m happy with it.  Sometimes it’s more involved than that, and sometimes it’s not that much.

Do others help you?

Yes, my lovely critique partner, Shelley.  She’s a life saver. 

What is the hardest part about editing?

Probably getting your work back from someone and they haven’t understood what you were going for in a scene.  It’s tough because we, as the masters of our little story universes, know everything there is to know about it, and some part of us expects everyone else to automatically know everything we know, or at least to understand it.  Obviously this doesn’t happen, so it can be interesting.

MORE ABOUT YOU:

What is it like to know that a draft is finally done?

I’m sure I’ll feel relieved, but I don’t know if a draft is ever “done.”  I’m very critical of my own work, and I know that, even when I have a finished copy of whatever it is either in my hand or on my Kindle, I’ll be thinking, “Man, I should have rephrased that!” or “I should have done this differently!” along with the positive things shooting through my head. 

Talk about some of the emotions you have gone through.

I’ve definitely experienced frustration, but there’s a huge sense of satisfaction when you get something right.  There was this comparison that I was trying to make, and I was having the worst time coming up with something to use that wouldn’t date the story or be clichéd.  But finally it hit me, and I typed up the scene with what I wanted, and I felt this rush of relief. 

How many times have you wanted to chuck your computer at the next person who asks how it is going?

I’m fairly sure that I can’t accurately answer this question on the grounds that I can’t count that high.  Though I am happy and flattered when people show interest in what I do.  It means that they care, even if they’re just being polite.

Do you tend to laugh and cry when your characters do?

I feel what my characters do and can identify with them, but most of the time, no, I don’t.  That said, I have trouble writing a sad scene when I’m in a good mood, and vice versa. 

How do you deal with writers block?

I wait for the characters to talk to me if I’m working on some new material and get stuck.  I also try to work on something completely different for a bit, or brainstorm.  Sometimes I’ll ask around to get more opinions on something in the story, and that often helps.  Going back and editing my work can be effective, too. 

Do you ever surprise yourself when you write?

Constantly. *grins*  I wish I could tell you how, though, but it happens randomly. 

What have you learned about yourself through your writing?

I’ve learned that I can do something that I was afraid to do.  I’ve learned that there will be people who support me, just as there will be naysayers. 

Is writing a novel easier or more difficult than you thought?

Hmm.  It’s about what I thought it would be.  Some parts are easier, but others are harder.  I’m interested in getting to the query/synopsis stage, because I’ve heard horror stories.  I hope this goes easier for me than I think it will. 

What strengths do you have that make you the next great author?

If nothing else, I’m persistent and a perfectionist.  I think those two things make for a good writing product.  I want to put out the best piece possible, and I will find someone who believes in it to publish it.

What weaknesses do have that make you human?  (Yes, we all know that we know you are superman, but no one would appreciate him if kryptonite wouldn’t bring him down to size)

I think the perfectionist thing is definitely a negative, too.  I also tend to overthink things waaaay too much, and I can get bogged down in things that don’t really matter. 

What is one piece of advice that you have received that you thought was good?

No lie…the best thing I’ve heard is to get your ass in the chair and write.  Oh!  Also, you can fix crappy writing.  You can’t fix a blank page. 

What advice do you have for others that are considering joining you on this rocky path?

 I say go for it!  There are tons of supportive people out there, so give it your best shot.  Everyone has a story to tell, whether they’re the ones telling it or telling it to someone else. 

Where do you see yourself in one year?

In one year, I see myself having sold The Curse, and either editing, querying, or working on selling my novel. 

How about 5?

I see myself as being multi-published in five years.  Likely sooner. 

NETWORKING:

Tell us where and how we find you.  Twitter, face book, blogs, websites, etc.

Oh my goodness!  I feel like I’m everywhere nowadays.  Let’s see…

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sarahallanauthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/Sarah_Allan

Website: http://www.sarahallan.com/

Blog: http://sarahallanauthor.blogspot.com/

 

BOOKS OR SITES THAT YOU HAVE FOUND HELPFUL:

Weirdly enough, I’ve found Google to be very helpful.  I’ve used it to find publishers, writing terms I didn’t understand, for research for my work, and for tons of other stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

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