(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the entry details, as well as the 50+ different prizes, and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)
The award-winning Ali Cross writes YA and middle grade fiction and is best known for her YA paranormal Desolation series. On top of that, she’s one of the “Indelibles”–a group of indie authors who write middle grade and young adult fiction–not to mention a member of the new LDSIndieAuthors group (to which I also belong). I think you’ll notice her independent streak pretty quickly in my interview. :D
Me: Okay, a Royal Canadian Mountie I can understand, even a pilot, but you wanted to be Prime Minister of Canada? Seriously? What would be the first law you’d try to pass as PM?
Ali: You’re assuming I remember anything past last week. Sometimes I feel like I lived my life as different people and their memories are not always my own. Like a dream you only vaguely remember when you wake up but when you try to tell someone about it, you realize you don’t remember anything at all.
I do remember that I was very passionate about Native Canadian rights and probably would have wanted to work on improving their lives and their assimilation into Canadian society and workplaces.
(Good answer! Have you done beauty pageants or something?)
Me: Tell me about the family you grew up in and how it encouraged (or discouraged) your creative tendencies.
Ali: I was definitely an “accident” baby, so I was eight, ten, twelve and fifteen years younger than my siblings. My parents divorced when I was four, putting my sister (eight years older) in charge of me. I remember her better than I remember my mom.
There was a lot of ugliness in my childhood. Sexual abuse from both inside and outside the home, violence, poverty.
To escape my world, I read a lot of books (Anne McCaffrey and Lloyd Alexander come to mind) and wrote dark, angsty poetry.
Writing was always just a means of coping for me, never an ambition.
My siblings mostly thought I was a dreamer (which I was) and wouldn’t amount to much (I wanted to prove them wrong), but they’ve all been very supportive of my now that we’re all grown up.
Me: So what is with the whole Ninja stuff?
Ali: I have had a thing for the martial arts for as long as I can remember. I’ve watched every martial arts film I could get my hands on (and there are a lot!). For the longest time I wanted to grow up to be just like Cynthia Rothrock (except, maybe a better actress).
(Okay, this is new territory for me so I had to look her up. She’s an American martial artist and actress, specializing in martial arts films. Here’s what she looks like. Can’t you just see Ali doing this pose?)
But martial arts are hard and it was always too easy to quit. So I always did before I achieved much of anything.
Fast forward to my life as a mom and I find myself married to a guy who loves the martial arts as much as I do. We enrolled our boys in karate as soon as they were old enough, and we also joined.
However, I have Fibromyalgia (Me: Ouch! I know what that is.) and I soon discovered that my body couldn’t handle the sport. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to earn my black belt, but I was just in too much constant pain.
One night I cried to my husband about how sad I was to have let myself down on the karate thing. I wanted to be a black belt more than anything. *Darn my body!!!* But my husband loves me and is kind and pretty darn brilliant. He talked me through what it meant to me to be a black belt (to be committed, dedicated, to be exceptional at something, to do something hard, to prove to myself that I can be amazing at something).
And then he said, “Sunny (that’s what he calls me), you already are a black belt.”
To which I replied, “Wha???” (I’m a brilliant orator when I want to be.)
Then he talked me through all the things in my life where I have achieved “Black Belt Excellence”–and at the top, was my blogging and writing life.
Simultaneously, I’d been searching for my own “brand,” a way to stand out amongst the sea of blogs, and so . . . the dojo and my ninja alter ego were born!
(What an inspired husband!)
Me: Did singing opera have an impact on your fiction in any way?
Ali: Absolutely, 100%! I tend to write my stories very much like operas–a lot of drama, angst, and tragedy.
Opera taught me how to work hard at one thing for a very long time–for instance, I would work on 3 to 6 pieces of music a year. That’s hundreds of hours of practice on just a handful of arias. Long after I thought I had the music “perfect” we were still working on it. That kind of dedication to detail and perfection has taught me how to be persistent and dedicated in my writing.
So from rich and colorful characters to dedication to the details, opera has impacted my fiction writing on every possible level.
Me: What color is your hair really?
Ali: LOL! Um, that would be brown.
I’m sad that I had to go back to boring brown when my husband lost his job last April. Not to say that brown is bad, but for me, my hair has come to represent a standard or something. A statement about how I feel about myself and what I hope for myself.
On Monday I’m getting my brown roots touched up, but I’m having her add back in a streak of red–maybe that’ll be enough to help me feel like I’m really me while not breaking the bank. :D (She wanted a smiley face there, but that was the best I could do.)
By the way, I changed my name, too. So between my name and my hair, I’ve created myself just as surely as I’ve created any of my characters.
Me: Please describe your writing process from the germ of an idea to the finished product.
Ali: Whoa! You’re not asking for much here, are ya? My heart does this little skip thing and my palms get damp just thinking about answering this! What if I get it wrong? What if I don’t sound intelligent? Because my writing process is kind of visceral and not terribly well thought out. But . . . I’ll give it a go.
Usually I come up with an idea–just a thought or a one-liner. Like, BECOME, was literally, “What if the devil’s daughter wanted to be good?” Then my husband and I will play the What If game . . . until I have a story fleshed out.
I’ll usually write a one- to three-page synopsis based on what we “discovered.”
Usually, I’ll just dive in and start drafting until I get to about fifty pages–then I stop and “beat it out” á la “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder.
I’ll keep drafting, without stopping to edit or correct, until the book is done. Usually, I can accomplish all of this in four to six weeks.
From there, I begin the revision process–first I start with a basic read through, taking notes as I go with questions I need answered, spots where I need to fill in more, etcetera.
I’ll make those changes, then read through again, this time usually for voice. Do I stay consistent throughout? Can I choose better words? Build better sentences?
Then I’ll do a read-through for setting. I tend to be more emotional in my writing, without paying much attention to the outside details–so I need a revision pass just for that.
Then it’s off to beta readers, back for another revision, then off to my editor!
(Sounds very well thought out to me!)
Me: Where do you see the future of publishing going and how does indie publishing fit in?
Ali: Wow, that’s a good question. This will be the first time I’ve actually said what I think in a public forum–I tend to keep my opinions pretty much to myself.
I think we can all agree that publishing is changing. I think indie publishing will continue to grow and will gain more respect as more excellent and well-prepared authors publish that way. I think more authors will be “dually published”–straddling both the traditional and the independent.
I would like to see a publishing world where independent authors are as well respected as the traditionally published, and are judged on the merit of their books alone–not how they came to be.
Me: I love writing spaces and can only imagine that yours must be wild. What’s the wildest thing about yours and is it closer to heaven, earth, or hell? (Oh, and I’d love a picture to share with my readers.)
Ali: My writing space is not wild at all, LOL! I think the only thing that sets me apart from a lot of writers is that I prefer to write during the daytime, and love to see the sun shine in through my window!
And my space is definitely closer to Heaven. :D
(She’s right. It is. And look how organized she is. Boy, was I wrong!)
Me: Finally, what is the most ninja thing your cat ever did? (I’d love a picture of the cat, too.)
Ali: Oh my poor cat. She’s a lot like me. You can tell she wants to be an amazing, awesome ninja cat, but the truth is that she’s a big ol’ fraidy-cat!
The most ninja thing she does is move at the speed of a bullet so it’s impossible to catch her in the act of either ninja-awesomeness or fraidy-cat glory. So, sadly, no pics of her and her mad cat skills.
(Aw, well. I can’t have everything.)
Still, I’d be amazed if you didn’t learn something new about Ali in this interview. In fact, I can tell I’m going to have to interview her again some time because this lady is fascinating! Don’t forget to check out her website and blog for more information.
She’s offering a few copies of both BECOME and DESOLATE as prizes in my contest, so comment here and earn another entry.