Our third installment of the Emerald Musings Author Interview Blitz series is a great one. We’re interviewing a great up and coming author, Alyson Madden-Brooker– who has had her stories featured on our very own Writer’s Thread Showcase. Please enjoy!!
Question # 1: Let’s start with a fun question– Why do you write?
I’ll start with something comparative as I’ve just taken my dogs out for an evening walk. Dogs have to go out and, put frankly, pee on things. It’s in their nature and, in a similar way, writers have a nature too. Now before anybody gets carried away and has all sorts of strange ideas about me on my evening walks … I am not talking about marking any territory here. No, I think writers have to write. It is an imperative, a necessity of life.
The truth is that I’ve always had something of an ‘overactive imagination’. Sometimes weird ideas just come to me and with these I can visualise scenes and play with them in my head. They can make me feel all sorts of emotions and that, in turn, makes me want to record them. I always try to write something as I imagined, something which invokes the same feelings. Succeeding in this gives me a wonderful sense of achievement. It is truly worth all the hard work. And yes, I can still cry when I read my own stories.
And finally … my very soul would wither if I didn’t do something truly creative in my life.
Question # 2: What is one “piece of writing advice” that you wish you’d never taken?
When I was younger I was advised to concentrate on a proper career and not waste time on things like that. Be a writer after you get married was the other thing someone said. The result was that I fell into a career which I still do to this day (though the day job is not a bad living so not complaining about that). For a long time though I never did anything with those thousands and thousands of ideas that flitted through my head. Here’s where I turn your question around and tell you the advice I should have had from somewhere and should have followed: If you think you are a writer then write. Don’t put it off for decades. You either will be or you won’t.
Question # 3: How would you explain your creative process to a five-year-old?
One day, Alyson the writer has a great idea for part of a story. She thinks about this little story and she plays little games with imaginary friends she calls ‘characters’. All these games happen in her magic brain as if she is watching a great film on a big screen. Later, she writes down all the things she has seen and all the things she has heard her characters say to each other. Sometimes she makes them fight. And sometimes they kiss! While she’s writing it all down she imagines, even more, things. This all makes Alyson feel really happy.
But then the next day she asks herself about what happened before that little bit of the story she wrote. Why was the bad man so mean? Why was the hero so scared? What happens afterward? So then Alyson just has to find out. And you know, she finds out things in exactly the same way you do, by asking clever questions. She has to go and talk to each of the imaginary friends inside her head and listen to them talking to each other. Sometimes the people in her head say things like “it is that way because I say so,” and you know when grown-ups say that they are always hiding something, aren’t they? Other times they say “it’s very late and you need to go to bed” but Alyson is a writer so she never listens to those sorts of silly answers. She keeps asking her questions even when she’s lying in bed.
When she has lots of answers she writes up that part of the story and that makes Alyson feel very happy again. But the next day she suddenly realises that now she doesn’t know all sorts of other things about the new bit she’s written. So she goes and asks lots more questions and sees lots more things happening inside her head. And she keeps doing all that until she has a beginning, middle and end to her story.
Question # 4: How do you know when something in your manuscript should be edited, removed, or left just as it is?
I am never completely happy and keep tinkering with bits and pieces until my inner manager shouts at me for not delivering on schedule (some arbitrary line in the sand after which I start getting more and more frustrated). Still, I do get a bit of a ‘feeling’ when something is going in the right direction. When I’m ‘in the zone’ I might manage to write a whole chapter which later needs (in my opinion!) very little editing. Even so, I never get everything exactly right first time – my biggest weakness is continuity. Plot mistakes; oh yes! I even forget and accidently change the names of some of my characters!
It’s true that I have removed whole chapters and even sub-plots from a longer story. Of course, that hurts; saying bye-bye to the hard graft and investment of thousands and thousands of words is never easy. Like all things in life you have to count to 10 – absolutely never write anything and publish it without letting the dust settle a little on your keyboard. I’m sure it’s not just me – all authors are self-indulgent and often locked in a room writing in isolation. I often find that my ‘brave’ writing of yesterday is simply over the ‘over the top’ when I read it again and think about it. The other reason I’ve removed chapters is because I’ve ‘paused’ a particular plot theme. In which case the writing isn’t necessarily wasted – it’s coming back in a future work.
Question # 5: And finally– What do you plan to write tomorrow?
I will be continuing with The Last Titan (Book 4 of the Forgotten Wings series). I am past the 51,000-word mark in my draft and just want to keep going. If I actually write down the current chapter scenario here it would sound insane so I’ll just claim ‘spoiler alert’ privileges and say nothing as there are lots of crazy plot lines going on. My aim is for the book to be published on Amazon Kindle later this year.
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