Wednesday, September 28, 2016

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ali Cross author of middle reader books

Tell me a about yourself. What got you started in writing?

On a sunny afternoon in October, 2002, my hubby and I were driving into the mountains with our sons for a weekend getaway. The drive was long, and the conversation had stalled. Out of the blue, I said, “Ya know, I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

Thing is, I don’t exactly recall wanting to write a book. I’d never even written a short story—or any stories! I’d written lots of poetry, but that’s it. I did meet Anne McCaffrey when I was about eleven, and I told HER I wanted to write books, but that was the only time prior to 2002 that I remember thinking about it.

So my husband and I spent the rest of the drive brainstorming a story for me—and one for him. We stopped at a convenience on our way and picked up pens and notebooks and spent our weekend outlining our novels. We finished them on New Year’s Eve, 2003!

Hubby stopped writing for a while, but I’d caught the bug and wrote my first middle grade novel (Jump Boys: SOS) and then my first young adult novel (Become.)

Jump Boys: SOS by [Banks, Alex, Cross, Ali]
Get the Book at Amazon

How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?

I’m lucky in that I work from home, formatting books for a small publisher, so I can make my own schedule. I typically spend from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. working on my own career—which is a mix of writing and business. I like to write at least an hour a day, but I’m not particular about when in that six-hour span of time I get it done.

How and where do you write? Do you prefer a lap top or some other method of getting your words down?

I really enjoy working at my desk in my office, the sunlight streaming in through my window. I share my office with my teenage boys, so it might get dicey (and a little stinky) when they get home from school, but I like to write with headphones on so I can still get lost in my own world.

What's your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?

Probably like a lot of writers, my favorite part is drafting. I love the thrill of discovery, of getting to know my characters and having them live in my head. I don’t mind editing and revision, but my least favorite is probably that moment when you either send your book to agents or self-publish it. Because maybe I should have held onto it just a little longer, worked on it just a little bit more.

How did you come up with your book idea? How long did it take you to write your book?

Book ideas are usually “manufactured” by me through brainstorming and asking lots of “what if” questions. I’ve never written a book that came to me in a dream. J I draft quickly, usually writing a 70,000 book in a couple months. Editing and revision can take longer though, depending on how well I knew the story and characters before I started writing.

What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?

I use social media—everything from YouTube to Pinterest. I love Wattpad as a means to sell books. I don’t have a regular, consistent marketing routine, though, which I really need. You up for some mentoring, Kathy?

I sure am! Mentoring is one of my favorite things to do. And I actually like marketing. You've seen my marketing book haven't you?  

What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?

I just released a picture book! The Lullaby Ladybug—it even has an original lullaby in it! Not exactly the kind of story my fans were hoping from me, but it was something of a bucket list thing to get that book done. Otherwise, I’ve got a couple projects in the works including the first in a new Desolation series, and the first in a totally new and different romance series. I like them all, but haven’t really caught the bug on any of them. Until that happens I’ll keep working on all of them.

Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.

Yes. L I wrote this book, Land Magic, a couple years ago. I thought it was the best book I’d ever written. Betas loved it. I submitted it to a mid-sized publisher whose work I love and they loved it too—it went all the way to committee but was passed over in favor of another book by one of their regular authors. All that sounds great and like I should just resubmit it somewhere else, right?

The Swift by [Banks, Alex, Cross, Ali]

Get the Book at Amazon

Well, I thought I’d take another pass at it before submitting it to other agents, and when I did, I thought it was awful!

Now I’ve tried revising it a couple times and every time I feel further and further away from the story and the writing. People ask me about it all the time, even the agent and editor at the other publisher have followed up with me asking where it is and I … I just don’t know.

So I need to get really clear in my head and take a look at it again. This time free of emotional baggage and “shoulds” and “should nots.” Just me and the story. I need to believe in it again.

What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn't believe he/she has enough talent?

Oh gosh! I’d tell them that no matter how many books you’ve published, every writer has a point in their process where they think their book is the worst book ever. Every. Single. One. It’s part of being an artist. We are sensitive and emotional beings and it’s perfectly normal for us to doubt ourselves. The trick is to keep on writing even if you think the work is terrible. You don’t risk much, and you have everything to gain.

Okay, Kathy. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and it’s actually been giving me fits. As I said, I have two projects I like in the works, but I don’t do my best work while divided. I really want to pick one story and just go with it. Dedicate myself to it until it’s completed—at least drafted.

How do you decide between one story and another, and once decided, how do you stay committed without being tempted away by the other project—particularly when things get tough with the story you chose to work on?

Great question, Ali, but you may not like my answer. I do my best work divided. That is, I usually have more than one book going at a time, though I try to make the projects different enough so as not to cause problems with placing the wrong character in the wrong book!

For example, I may work on a mystery and a Christian fiction novel at the same time - they are different enough; though my best tip would be to work on a piece of fiction and a non-fiction book at the same time. I do this every year when my marketing book comes out in January. I usually also have a mystery or Christian fiction book that comes out around the same time. In 2017, I will have my fourth mystery out just after the new marketing book is released.

I find that working on two projects at once actually gets the juices flowing. When I get stuck on one, I can go over to the other and work on it for awhile. When the wall goes up, I switch books. 

You may want to switch between your novel and doing some writing exercises. When you get stuck, point to a random word in a book and begin writing, beginning with that word, or choose a picture from a magazine and write what you see. I have many writing prompts ready when I'm stuck.

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