Our author Q&A for April is with up and coming author, Alison Aldridge. I first came across Alison on Instagram and instantly knew we would get along. She is one of the kindest and caring people you would ever hope to meet, and she really does have a heart of gold.
We have since met up for a tour of the Ingram Spark factory in Milton Keynes, with other members of World Indie Warriors, and have become great supporters of each others work. In fact, I read an early copy of Ocean Heart, which will be Alison’s first published full length novel, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t wait for it to come out so I can read it again, and see just how far it has come.
Ally was born in London but grew up in Suffolk which is where most of her YA Fantasy novels are based. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart, and together they are raising two cats, their son and daughter.
When Ally is not writing (or at her day job), she loves spending time with her family at the local beach, in the forest or watching way too much Netflix.
Ally loves a cup of tea and has been known to order one on a night out.
Getting to Know You
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I’ve been inspired by authors like yourself who have shown me it is possible. Being part of World Indie Warriors has taught me so much and I’ve connected with service providers I’ll need through recommendations. It’s still scary but I’m no longer alone.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I work at a local college as an NVQ Assessor, which takes up half my week. The rest of the time I’m busy making memories with my kids. Aria is an ambitious 1-year-old and Noah is an energetic 6-year-old. Keeping up with them is exhausting. I’m also guilty of watching way too much Netflix. And, sometimes, I even have time for my hubby.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love coming up with story ideas. I wish I had more time to write them all. I often write a brief outline. I used to jump story to story, but now I’m more disciplined. I usually have my main project and a side project I dip into.
I love solving plot problems. When I have that “ah ha” moment, it gives me great satisfaction.
The Writing Process
What is your writing process?
I’m a goal setter. I plan my annual goals, then break them down into manageable chunks. I then check in several times during the year to make sure I’m making progress. Sometimes I need to adjust goals where my needs have changed.
I’m lucky if I get an hour or two in the evenings to work on my projects, so I need to be very disciplined. I focus on one specific outcome at a time. Currently, my focus is editing Ocean Heart using feedback from my Developmental Editor.
I use a note app and Google Docs on my mobile, so I can write on the go or with the kids. I enjoy using notebooks to plot/plan, but when I get down to writing and editing I prefer to be on the PC or Laptop.
How do you get inspired to write?
I think there is inspiration everywhere, all around us, all the time. I even get inspired by my own dreams, so sleep is inspirational too.
I enjoy building boards on Pintrest and Unsplash to develop ideas further. I enjoy bouncing ideas with my husband. He has a brilliant imagination but struggles to get it down on paper.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
Changing your mindset is key. I used to refer to myself as an “aspiring writer” but I wasn’t because I was writing. If you want to write just do it. Be a “writer”.
Don’t close doors before you’ve opened them. For a long time, I thought the only way to publish was with an agent. But, it’s not true. If you really want to publish, explore every opportunity. Be brave and put yourself out there, whether its pitching on Twitter, entering a contest or learning how to publish yourself.
My last nugget is to find fellow writers. We all have good and bad days, and these are the people who get it. They will motivate you, problem solve, share ideas and their experiences. Being part of a supportive community of writers really boosts growth and progress.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This is the hardest question to answer but I narrowed it down to five:
Rachel Vincent’s contemporary fantasy shifter series. I loved the world building and politics that made this secret society believable in the real world. I also enjoyed the romance and sexual tension between her and the enforcers.
A recent favourite was The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst. It had a strong female character and I loved the different spirits and world she created. I liked the different roles assigned for having powers and the consequences of their choice. There’s more in this series, so I’m hoping to read them too one day.
An old favourite is Poison Study by Maria.V.Snyder. In this series magic is outlawed. The MC is on death row. She gets the opportunity to train as the poison study (to taste food to check for poison) instead of certain death. It is a dangerous job but she takes the role. I daren’t say more but I really enjoyed the magic system in this world. I also enjoyed the spin off Glass series.
Night Flame by Catherine Hart, is a historical romance. Sarah has been plagued by steamy dreams with a stranger. Night Hawk is a Native American. When he sees her, he is compelled to kidnap her and make her his bride, and renames her Flame. The two struggle with language and customs but eventually fall in love.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a dystopian tale of religion being used to repress Americans, especially women. It’s scary because the story shows us this could happen and how controlling fear can be.
I know this makes six but, as of last night, Sorceress of Truth by you, J.D. Groom. This is the Contemporary Fantasy I’ve been waiting for (and now need more). I love the romance and the gentle world building and magic. It was just the right amount of everything. Look out for my review, coming soon.
How do you discover the books you read?
Quite often it is through recommendations. Someone posts a pic on social media and if it sounds good I add it to my ‘to buy’ list. My sister recommended The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood, and I was gripped.
I’ve bought books at book festivals. I usually attend YALC and Felixstowe Book Festival. My plans are on hold at the moment (Covid-19) but I’m thinking about attending online festivals instead.
I also connect with authors via social media and learn about their books whilst supporting their journey. Reading these feels personal. I feel invested after witnessing the book come together over time.
Amazon and Good Reads recommend books based on my reading history. I’m also on Net Galley and received ARC’s (Advanced Reader Copies). For kids books I use Toppsta.
What books are on your reading list this year?
This list grows faster than I can read. It’s way too long, but here are the ones near the top of the pile (not in order) because I have them ready and waiting!
The Sentinels (series) by Cassidy Reyne
Number Eight Crispy Chickeny by Sara Neofield
Sea Witch (series) by Sarah Henning
King’s Cage & War Storm by Victoria Aveyard
The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble
Traitor of the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
A Court of Thorns and Roses (series) by Sarah J Maas
Mirror Souls by Julia Scott
Forgotten Scars by Natalie Reddy
Join or Die by J. Adrian Ruth
Storm of Ash by Michelle Kenny
Shadow City by Anna Mockiat
The Eyes of Darkness by Dean Koontz
This list doesn’t include children’s books, which I use my kids as an excuse to buy. I love picture books and the humour of early readers and first chapter books.
There are tons more I want to buy… OMG, just thinking about it causes me anxiety.
One kiss is all it took to wake Mariah’s weather manipulation powers.
Mariah is crushing on her best friend, rivalling with the swim team star and her guardian, Gwyn, is meddling in her life using magic. Mariah is about to awaken her dormant powers. With no idea she is a mermaid, she risks losing control and could even kill!
When your deadly powers are connected to your emotions, it gives a new meaning to “It’s complicated.”
What inspired you to write Ocean Heart?
My current project has been inspired by my personal experiences; my hometown, an image, other stories, and music.
I married my best friend, but getting together wasn’t easy. The complications of a best friend romance is one of the challenges my MC faces.
I was very inspired by Rachel Vincent’s werecat series. I loved how she integrated fantasy into real life. I wanted to do something similar, but in the UK, with teens and create my own secret world.
Ellie Goulding’s song, Starry Eyed, was playing on the radio and it inspired my main character, Mariah; A teen, first love and a no control over her lightening powers.
I’m a huge fan of The Little Mermaid. As a child, I got teased for my red hair. Luckily, my best friend Jo loved my hair. We were about age 7 when we went to the cinema for my birthday to watch the movie and she said, “Ariel is beautiful, like you”. Those words meant so much to me and comforted me when others were mean. I think a lot of teens experience changes that cause them to question where they belong. I wanted Mariah to be a misfit that learns to accept her uniqueness. It made sense for her to be a mermaid with red hair.
Early in the process I found an image online that inspired a scene in my book. It was a pair of tangled legs underwater. The girl is wearing a red silk dress and the boy is wearing denim jeans. When I saw the image, it inspired a key scene in the novel.
Is there going to be a follow up to Ocean Heart?
Yes. The next book is Sky Heart and follows Kiely.
Kiely is the nemesis in book 1, but I always believe there are two sides to every story. Kiely is rebuilding herself after hitting rock bottom.
I’ve almost finished the first draft. I know what must happen but I struggle with endings. As Ocean Heart is my primary project, Sky Heart is on hold. Hopefully when I get back to Sky Heart, I’ll get those last chapters finished.
My plan is for the series to follow different shifter/spiriter types. There will be an optimum order but can be read as a stand-alone. There may be spin off novellas too. I have endless ideas, it’s always time I’m short of.
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