Today, Ally Malinenko is joining me for a guest post and interview! Check out all of the fun below!
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The best part of writing, for me, is the beginning. You know the part I’m talking about. That first moment where you see a character.
You picture her, standing on the train trestle, her hands clutching something. What? Anything. Down below someone calls her name and she starts running. Who is she? What is she running from? Why? What’s in her hand? In her head? In her heart?
That leads up to the first draft. I think a lot of people dislike the first draft. It’s full of mistakes.
Of bad writing.
Of atrocious moments of dialogue.
But I still like this part the best. The part when my brain spins faster than my fingers can slide over the keyboard. It’s all exciting and new and I’m not even sure what’s going to happen next. Look at me! I’m TELLING A STORY!
If only it was like that all the time.
Then comes editing, which should in fact be called Crippling Self Doubt. Revisions are difficult for me. Probably because I don’t take enough notes in the beginning. I don’t slow down. I don’t stop and think, say “Wait if X happens, what about Y?” I just write X X X X X X and then fall into some massive plot hole that I can’t claw my way out of. Next comes the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
And that was what I had been doing with the Sci-fi Time Travel TOME that I had been working on for years. The manuscript that no matter what I did it seemed determine to stay just inches out of my grasp.
And then something weird happened. One morning there was an image of a teenage boy, full of anger. Before he had a name I just called him “My furious boy.” And then a girl, trapped in a home she no longer knew how to navigate. In a family that was suddenly so foreign that she felt abandoned.
And the one person, his girlfriend, her sister, that they shared in common. The girl who got in her car one day and disappeared.
I slowly tried to fit them together like puzzle pieces – Colin (my furious boy) and Claire (my trapped girl), together on the good ship Heartbreak.
Like I said at the time I was (am) in the middle of a big revision on a very long, very complicated Time Travel Sci Fi TOME. But each morning, when I got up at 5 am to write, there was my furious boy and my sad girl. And over time, I started hanging out with them more.
I’m not going to say anything as ridiculous as “follow your Muse” because a) that sounds like the terrible sort of stuff that amateur writers (that would be me) say and b) it makes it sound like your Muse is this elegant ghost-y thing in a white chiffon dress that sounds like Cate Blanchett when she whispers in your ear which is just ridiculous.
What I am saying is that sometimes your brain switches gears on you.
Go with it.
There’s a part of you that knows what story you want, what story you NEED to tell before you even do.
Trust that part of you. The rest is mostly typing.
1. If you could have coffee with any character from your novels, who would it be and why?
Probably Colin from This Is Sarah just because I think he could really use a friend. Though decaf might be a better choice for him since he’s already pretty high strung. I feel bad for Colin. I wound up packing so much of my own sadness into him, which was good for me, but that poor guy is carrying a heavy burden. I would feel obligated to buy him a coffee. Or possibly a stiff drink.
2. At what age did you decide you wanted to pursue a writing career?
I’m not sure it was ever a formal decision. I wrote my first story when I was eight. I think about that time I started telling people I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. When I was a teenager I wrote a lot of bad teenage poetry – but really who didn’t? And then in college I got serious about poetry. Stories started cropping up around then too. I started my first novel (Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb) when I was 27.
3. Do you remember the first book you ever wrote? And if so, what was it about?
Very well! It’s called Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb and it was published by a small press called Antenna Books. It’s the story of Elizabeth Speare who on the eve of her 12th birthday finds out she is the only living descendent of Shakespeare and that an immortal muse named Jonathan is the only creature than can protect her from Dmitri Marlowe (the only living descendent of Kit Marlowe) who is hell bent on revenge in a 500 year old family feud. It was a blast to write and I’m so thankful to the readers who read it and shared their thoughts with me. Especially the kids.
4. Are you an outliner or a pantser?
Unfortunately I’m a pantser. I say unfortunate only because it means that it usually takes several drafts for me to figure out what my story is really about. My current WIP, Palimpsest, is on its 5th or 6th massive revision but is now finally starting to gain some shape. It’s kind of exhausting to write this way and I can’t help but wonder if I could manage to control my excitement and itchy fingers and NOT start a new project until I thought it all through then things would be easier. But I don’t do that. I just dive in and start writing and before I know it I have a 550 page monster to sort through. A friend of mine told me about Scrivener, saying that it would certainly help me manage and organize my thoughts and ideas. I haven’t tried it yet. Mostly I just cover my wall in post it notes and hope for the best.
5. How long did it take you to write This is Sarah?
It was written in a fits and starts, initially starting out as a short story, then a novel, then a novel but the book that was finally published took probably about 6 months of real writing in total. Half to do the novella that it started out as and half as the novel written under contract by BookFish.
6. What is your favorite social media site and why?
Probably Facebook but only because it helps me keep in touch with family and old friends. People are so spread out and FB provides a nice way for me to know what everyone is up to. I should definitely be a bigger presence on Twitter, especially for book stuff, but mostly I wind up feeling like I’m just shouting in a really noisy room. Also I always feel weird doing promotion stuff – all that “HEY I WROTE A BOOK!” No kidding, Ally. So has half the world. Also I’m not nearly quippy enough for twitter. Honestly social media is sort of exhausting. It’s got nothing to a good glass of wine and a book.
7. Do you prefer writing children’s books or young adult?
Young Adult because there are less restrictions on it. Especially if you publish through a small press that doesn’t care if your main character curses a blue streak. I really enjoyed writing Lizzy but it’s much harder to get back into my 12 year old frame of thought than it is my 18 year old frame of though when writing This Is Sarah. Probably because there hasn’t been much maturation between then and now!
8. Where is your favorite place to write?
I write at 5 am, before work, in a small closet built off the side of my living room. It holds some built in bookshelves, some boxes of Christmas decorations, and my little writing nook. It’s snuggly as all hell.
9. What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment since you began writing?
Finishing. There is so much to be said, for better or worse about finishing a project and about accepting it in its finished form. I think it’s normal for a lot of writers to want to keep tinkering and changing a story. At some point you need to say, for better or worse, this is it. This is THE BOOK. This is what I have to offer. Usually that point is when you’re holding the thing in your hand saying Holy Crap. It’s a book. It’s a THING now. At that point it’s kind of out of your hands and you need to just let it be. Accepting that is not as easy as one would think.
10. What gives you inspiration?
Life. My family. My relationships. Random Chinese food menus slipped under my apartment door. The skyline of NYC on my early morning walks. My early morning walks. The books I read. The crazy things people say. Music. Interviews with other artists. Other artists in general. My friends. The town I grew up in. People I used to know. Love. Television shows. Traveling. Sadness. Museums. Illness. My imagination. Other people’s imagination. Regret. Other people’s regrets. Conversation. Autumn and Winter. European cities. People whose heart I broke. People who broke mine. Exhibits. Science books. String theory. All the things I won’t know or understand before I die.
Basically my life.
Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collection The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press,) the children's fantasy Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb (Antenna Books) and the YA novel This Is Sarah (BookFish Books) She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a very cranky cat named June.
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