Alyson Noël: When I read Judy Blume’s, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET, in sixth grade, my life my life was forever changed! I’d always been an avid reader, having a mom who introduced me to the magic of books early on, but Judy Blume’s were the first that I could directly really relate to—they felt like they were written for me and my friends and all that we were going through. And from the moment I closed the cover I knew I wanted to be a writer too.
Phoebe: Did you know what type of young adult novels you wanted to write about or did you experiment with different genres before you chose the one that you felt was for you?
Alyson: My debut novel, FAKING 19, was the first book I’d ever written. It started as a short story for a writing class I took years ago that I’d always planned to expand into a novel—though many years passed before I finally sat down and did that! I didn’t really try any other genres or stories—I wasn’t planning that far ahead. I didn’t even think of it as YA until I got an agent and it was ready to be sold!
Phoebe: What was the first fiction you ever wrote? And do you still have it with you?
Alyson: I used to write short stories for my high school AP English class that I’d turn in instead of the actual essays my teacher assigned (kids, don’t try this at home unless your teacher is Mr. Sawaya, then feel free!). And though I haven’t looked at them for years, I’ve got a feeling they’re packed away in a closet somewhere…
Phoebe: How much research do you have to do for your novels and does it take you a long time to gather that research?
Alyson: I love research—it’s one of my favorite things! How long it takes depends both on the book and how long I allow myself to procrastinate! Though with EVERMORE being a paranormal, it required far more research than any of my previous books. I spent the last two years reading books on psychics, near death experiences, ghosts—you name it. I even took a three-day psychic development seminar with world-renowned medium James Van Praagh, and underwent hypnosis in a past-life regression with best-selling author, Dr. Brian Weiss—both of which were completely fascinating experiences!
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your latest young adult novel Evermore, which is part of your new Immortals series?
Alyson: Well, a few years ago I lost three people I loved in five horrible months, and just when the dust began to settle, my husband was diagnosed with leukemia and it felt like my entire world was crashing down. A year later, when he was in full remission, I wrote SAVING ZOE and CRUEL SUMMER, both of which explore the subject of grief and unavoidable change. But when it came time to write my next book, I realized I wasn’t finished exploring those themes though I wanted to do so in a much different way, by giving the story a paranormal twist and pushing the boundaries between life and death, and EVERMORE just came pouring out of me.
Phoebe: How many more novels to you have planned to write for your new Immortals series?
Alyson: I’d love to! Writing FLY ME TO THE MOON was an absolute blast! But at the moment, I’m keeping very busy with the YA stuff, so all my adult ideas are on the back burner for now.
Phoebe: Do you have a process of how you start to write your novels?
Alyson: First comes the idea, which I have to say is the most exciting part! That moment when a story begins to form from what was once nothing is pretty thrilling! Then comes the casting call where I determine which characters will take part, then I do a little or a lot of research (depending on the book), then I make a general plot outline of where I’ll start, where I want to end up, and how I might get there—and then I dive in! And even though my stories usually begin and end where I planned—the getting there part usually changes as the characters grow and evolve and decide for themselves.
Phoebe: Which do you like best, writing a series or writing stand alone novels? How is writing each different for you?
Alyson: The IMMORTALS is my first series and I’m really enjoying it! Mostly because I get to delay saying goodbye to the characters I’ve created. It may sound odd, but I become quite attached to them along the way, so it’s been fun getting to hang out with them a little longer than usual, and dream up new obstacles for them to face! Though it is different in that I have to keep detailed notes on the world, keeping it consistent from book to book is imperative, so I’ve got a notebook filled with all the little minutiae that crops up along the way.
Phoebe: What process did you have to go through to get your first book published and did it take you long?
Phoebe: How did you feel when you finally saw your first published book came out and how do you feel about your other novels being published?
Alyson: The day FAKING 19 was released, my mom and I drove around to every bookstore in a 50 mile radius so I could gawk, giggle, sign copies, and otherwise act like a big, over excited, dork! But it was truly a dream come true moment for me so I don’t regret a second of it! These days when a book comes out, I still get really excited and hit my local stores to sign stock, but I try to do so with a little more decorum than before!
Phoebe: Do you ever get writers block? What do you do to get rid of it so you can get back to writing your amazing novels?
Alyson: I don’t get writer’s block—I refuse to even believe in it! But what really helps me when I do get “stuck” is remembering what Robert Mckee wrote in his amazing book STORY—or maybe he said it in his awesome three-day seminar—I can’t remember—anyway, he says that writer’s block occurs when you don’t know enough about the world you’re creating and that the only cure is to do more research. I’ve found this to be true—it works every time!
Phoebe: How do you handle your writing schedule and your personal life without going insane?
Alyson: Um, personal life? What exactly is that?
Sadly, I’m not so great at balancing this. When I’m on deadline I don’t answer the phone or e-mails and barely even go outside—and, when I’m not on deadline I spend all my time playing catch up and hoping everyone will forgive my most recent disappearing act. Writing requires lots and lots of alone time—shutting out the external world so you can create your own. Though I do try to get most my work done during the day so I can spend my evenings with my husband. Except when I’m on deadline of course, then all bets are off!
Phoebe: What do you do to relax after having spent a long while writing?
Alyson: In the middle of a book, I like to enjoy a nice dinner with my husband, watch a little TV, then read before bed. If I’ve finished a book, a little vacation is my preferred way to unwind!
Phoebe: Do you have any hobbies?
Alyson: Travel is my number one hobby—domestic, abroad, doesn’t matter—I’ll go just about anywhere! And since my husband is a gourmet cook, eating runs a very close second!
Phoebe: Is there any advice that you would give to an aspiring writer that you wish someone had given you?
Alyson: I was so incredibly green and naïve when I started—I didn’t know anything! It wasn’t until my third book, LAGUNA COVE, was on the shelves that I started joining writer’s organizations and online groups, and that’s when I really started learning about the biz. But, at the same time, while I think it’s important to arm yourself with all the information you can, don’t get so overly caught up in “the rules” that you start to feel there’s only one way. For every statistic, there’s someone who did it differently, and nothing about my publishing journey went along the “prescribed path,” (I didn’t even know what that was!), which just proves there are always exceptions to every rule!
Phoebe: Is there any writing tips, research tips, promotion and marketing tips that you would give to an aspiring writer that you wish someone had given you?
Alyson: Writing tips: Read as much as you can, write as much as you can, and when you think your work is the best it can be, set it aside for a few weeks. You’ll be amazed at all the things you’ll want to change once you revisit it with fresh eyes!
Promotion and marketing tips: Do only the things you enjoy and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, because the truth is, most of the promotional things the average author can afford don’t make much of a difference in the big scheme of things. I usually make bookmarks and book trailers because I like to have them, do a few guest blogs and interviews because I feel like I’m visiting with friends, and then I cross my fingers, hope for the best, and get started on my next book!
Phoebe: Now for a question that I have been meaning to ask an author. Do you have a favorite genre you like to read? Who is your favorite author(s)?
Alyson: Young Adult is my favorite. Not just because I write it, but because the genre contains such unbelievable quality and is growing in such astounding ways, there is truly something for everyone on those shelves! But since I don’t read YA while I write YA (which makes for massive TBR piles!), I’ve mostly been reading mysteries and thrillers and a ton of non-fiction, research type books, which I actually find quite fascinating! And while I have too many favorite authors to ever pick just one, I will say that JD Salinger is a personal hero of mine!