I’m super excited to have Alison Strobel here today as our first feature author of 2012. She’s a lovely lady with an awesome God given talent for writing books and she is one of my favourite authors!
Today we're giving away not one, but two of Alison's books to two lucky winners. See the end of this interview for how to enter.
Thanks so much Alison for joining us on our blog today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Any hobbies you have?
I'm a mom of two awesome daughters, married for 9 (!) years this August to my 100th eHarmony.com match Daniel, and am a slightly crazed crochet fanatic.
You write Contemporary Women’s Fiction, what has drawn you to this genre?
When I first began writing novels in my early 20's, I wasn't aware of the women's fiction genre. I just knew I wasn't a fan of romances, but didn't mind a little romantic element here or there--really, though, I just wanted meaty stories that challenged me as a reader, didn't shy away from tough subjects, and were centered around characters who were really real.
When I had the idea for Worlds Collide, which I wrote just for kicks, I wrote it as the kind of book I wanted to read--a little romance (though, compared to my other books, that one had a lot of romance!), real characters, and tough situations. Later I learned there was a name for what I was writing!
Jess: I only recently learned the name of your genre too!
Your books contain characters whose faith journeys are difficult, honest and just real. I’m constantly being reminded by God through your books to put Him first in everything. How do you get these amazing people onto paper? I guess, what inspires you to create these characters?
I love creating characters! The process I use to outline my novels (Christian author Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method) also includes 3 steps that help you think through your characters as well. With each step I'm challenged to think a little deeper about who they are, what drives them, what their background and history is like, what they're really hoping to get out of the time that is conveyed in the story. I do a lot of work, a lot more than the Snowflake Method teaches, to make these people as real as they can be, but it's because I can't work with them if I don't know them inside and out.
The plot of a book can be absolutely amazing, but if the people are two dimensional or simply not believable, then the plot alone won't keep people turning the pages. I want my readers to feel as though they've engaged with a real person when they've read my books--and when I get reader mail that says things like, "I keep praying for these people and then remembering they're not real!" then I know I've hit my mark.
Jess: It’s so true about being able to connect with your characters. I get so mad at them sometimes yet I fully sympathise with them as well!
How much time do you usually spend on the research element for your books? Do you visit locations and conduct interviews?
All told, I probably spend close to a couple weeks researching, maybe more, but it's all spread out through the process of outlining and writing the novel. As I go through the Snowflake Method steps, I think of things I need to research, and I keep a list of them to which I add more and more questions the further I get in the outlining process. Then, once I'm done with my outlining, I usually try to spend a few days just tracking down the answers to as many questions as I can. Sometimes I'm stuck waiting for answers from people I've emailed, in which case I just have to wait until they get back to me, and other times I won't realize I have something to research until I start writing. My Facebook fan group members will often see a research question posted from me while I'm writing--anything from "Do they call the evening meal supper or dinner in the South?" to "Is it possible to buy real estate without revealing your identity?" I love engaging my readers in my research because I usually get fast answers (and lots of them!) but also because I enjoy partnering with my readers to write the stories they want to read.
If I had the money, I'd fly to every setting I ever used in a book, but unfortunately I'm not that rich. :) Instead, I use Google Maps quite frequently, and will also put out a call for people who have lived in those areas to answer questions that are specific to the location. And when I figure out what kind of career my character has, I'll ask around to find someone in that field who would be willing to answers questions from me about their job while I'm writing. That's as close as I usually get to interviewing people, and really they're not interviews, more like emails of 3 or 4 questions that help me solve a specific issue within the story.
Jess: Sounds like a fun and interesting research journey that you go on. Yeah, if I could, I’d fly to all the places I want to set my stories in!
Can you tell us about any of your current works in progress, and any books that are coming out soon?
Right now I'm between contracts and publishing houses, so nothing is scheduled to come out any time soon, which makes me sad! BUT, I'm working on a new novel tentatively titled "The House That Built Me," which was inspired by the song of the same name by country music singer Miranda Lambert. It's about a young NYC lawyer who gets let go from her corporation when they downsize and takes off for her grandmother's home in Alabama to try to seek clarity and direction for the next phase of her life. Of course, nothing goes the way she expects it to, and she ends up learning a huge family secret and rediscovering an old friendship that had formed during the summer spent there as a child.
Jess: It sounds great and I hope it gets published soon so I can read it :D
What books did you read as a teenager?
Mostly stuff for school--I was always in the advanced English classes (surprise, surprise, right?) and of course that came with a lot of reading, so it was usually lots of classics. But whenever I had time to read whatever I wanted, I was pretty eclectic--Madeline L'Engle's adult contemporary novels, mysteries, books from "The Best Novels of Such and Such Year" lists, pop classics like Gone With The Wind, that sort of thing.
Whose writing do you admire?
William Gibson, Jodi Picoult, and Douglas Coupland are my three favorites. Gibson is *amazing* with description and narration; Picoult is wonderful to study for symbolism, rhythm, and figurative language; and Coupland is a genius at connecting with current culture.
When you get writers block, what do you do to try and get out of it?
Because I get so little time to write (I get 3.5-4 hours, 4 times a week) I don't really have the luxury of falling prey to writer's block. I *have* to get as much writing in during those hours as I can, and it means I can't let myself just sit there. When I have a momentary brain freeze, I go back over my last page and read it, usually out loud, which somehow helps me to reconnect with what I'm writing. And the fact that I outline my books to such a fine level of detail means that I'm almost never left staring at the screen wondering what should happen next. I know every scene in the book before I ever start writing the first draft, and I know much of the detail of those scenes as well. It helps tremendously when I start writing, because I don't have to stop and think about what has to happen, and I can concentrate more on crafting the language.
Jess: That’s a great system you’ve got!
If you could be any fictional book character for a day, who would you be, and why?
Jess: Anne Shirley is one of my favourite book characters also. I crack up so much at her melodrama and theatrics – perhaps that’s because I identify with her!
What do you know about Australia, and is there anything in particular you would like to see if you came for a visit?
I am sad to say that most of my more recent knowledge of Australia comes from the many, many episodes of The Wiggles that my girls have watched. :D But my father has been blessed to visit there once or twice, and I've heard lots of great stories. It's high on my list of places I want to visit before I die--when I do, can I stay with you? :D I'd love to go to the Great Coral Reef (if I can see it while snorkelling; not sure I'm brave enough to go scuba-diving!), see a show at the Sydney Opera House, visit the Outback, and go to as many museums as possible. But mostly I'd just want to hang out with Australians and see what its like to be them. I love learning about new cultures, especially when someone from that culture is there to guide me.
Jess: If you ever get here Alison you’d be most welcome to stay with me! :D And yes you can see the reef by snorkelling :) (Not that I have yet ...)
Thank you Alison for coming by and having a chat with us!
Find Alison on the Web
We are giving away a copy of "The Heart of Memory" (see our review) and "Composing Amelia" (see our review) to two entrants.
To enter the competition, all you need to do is complete the form below. You must be aged 18 years or older. Entries must include a valid email address, or we won't be able to contact you if you win :) Entries are void where prohibited.
All information provided remains confidential and will not be given to any third party. Your email address will only be used by Book Review Sisters to contact you in the event that you win.
If you are contacted and advised you are the winner, you will have 1 week to provide us with the address for postage of your prize.
Entries close Thursday 23rd February 2012
Optional Extra Entries!
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Please also leave a comment on the post after filling out the entry form. Alison (and we!) would love your feedback and to know you've dropped by.