About Me

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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

An Interview with Alison Palmer

Candace ( http://candacesalima.blogspot.com/ ) ran across this interview on "Running with Quills" the blogspot for several famous romance writers. She adapted it and tagged all the Storymakers to share their responses, so here are mine.

Which book would you like to see made into a movie and who would your dream cast be?
I'm not much of a movie person when it comes to books. I like what my imagination can do with the book far more than I like the outcome of the movie endeavor. Also, I know very few actors names, etc. Yeah, I know I'm pathetically out of the loop.

Do you think that most romance novelists marry their ideals?
Heavens, no. I think most people read romance to get a little, not because they live that kind of life every day. Every man has their good points and bad, hardly any man comes across as so rosy and desirable as the hero in that book. Partly that 's because it's written by and for women. We have a totally different view of things than our husbands. Ideals may be a strong word for any husband. Comfortable and compassionate are probably more the norm. Every marriage requires work and a romance novelist is not the exception to the rule. Of course, my realistic point of view may just be further evidence why am not and never will be a romance writer.

If there was one thing you could go back and change in your writing career, what would it be and why?
"I would have started much sooner." I echo Candace's comment. My only regret is that I didn't stick with it in the first place. I was a dreamer in high school and wanted nothing more than to be a mother and a famous writer. I got the mother part but became a nurse instead, because it was more likely to pay the bills. While I am grateful that it did pay the bills I wish I had not put my pen aside to be "practical". I didn't have the guts to call myself a writer again until 13 years later and writing fulfills me in a way nursing never could.

Has there ever been a book you've written, that you wish now you hadn't?
No. Each book I've written has filled a different niche in creating who I am as a writer. There are things that I look back and wish I had written better and I shuddered when my husband began archiving my junior high and high school material, but I don't regret a single one.

For all the Storymakers...if you weren't writers, what would be your dream job?
I thought about bookstore owner. It would be either LDS or specifically children's. But I'm also a no pressure kind of gal so owning something and depending on it for income might stress me more than my enjoyment of it.
I think I'd like to be a librarian. Still surrounded by books, but a steady paycheck. Bonus points for the quiet environment and the decreased likelihood that someone will yell at you, puke on you, or die on you (see previous job comments).

Do you re-read your own work? And, if you are doing a series with follow-up from previous books, do you reread differently?
Nonfiction, hardly ever. It's actually difficult for me to pull up a certain book's material in my brain when I'm doing promotional things after it's been published. Normally the writing process is very intense for me and when its done, I'm done.
Fiction, yes. This comes from a whole different side of me and sometimes I pick it up just to experience the emotions behind it again and say "wow" that was really worth something.

Has turning your art into your "job" in anyway detracted from the joy you take in writing? Have you ever felt like you had to do less than your best to meet a deadline?
I'm still not completely there yet. I have gotten to the point that when people ask me what I "do" I say freelance writer, but within my own mind I still struggle with calling it a "job". That connotation keeps me thinking of monetary gain from my work, which is sadly lacking. I'm also a guilt ridden woman. Since there is not a significant monetary reward for my work I do it for myself and for those who are touched by the words I write. Those who are touched are generally intangibles. I always end up feeling like I have to be last, so even though I try to think about writing as a job I generally end up putting it last over my family and church calling and everything else in my life that is much more demanding.
When I have a high pressure deadline, I love being able to fully immerse myself in my writing with that as an excuse. Generally I'm very pleased with what I accomplish when it's said and done, but then reality returns with the guilt of what I neglected to accomplish what I wanted (even if it has been dictated by an outside source).

Is there one book you've written, that you wish now you could have changed something major?
Only one lesson in my very first book. I have a lesson based around Christ's time washing the disciple’s feet. While I know this is a very sacred ordinance, I wanted to use the experience on a child's level to understand the Savior's love and kindness toward each of us individually. Just as many things in the gospel it is a line upon line principle that you gain different things from at different stages of your life. Since I wrote it I have worried that some would see it as disrespectful, etc. I think I could have done a better job explaining my purposes or just not included it at all.

What are your top ten romance novels you would take to the beach?
Hmmm... “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer
“Charly” by Jack Weyland
“Finding Paradise” by Michelle Ashman Bell
“Boy Meets Girl” by Meg Cabot
“Ella Enchanted” by Gail Larson
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
“A Walk to Remember” by Nicholas Sparks
“The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks
“Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt
"Beauty" by Robin McKinley
Ok, I'm really stretching it here, I'm not a strictly romance type person. I do take clean recommendations though.

What comes first, characters or plot? What happens when it's characters first? Does the plot just flow naturally from a discovery of those characters, or do you find it difficult to weave a story together to fit the characters you want to write?
Wow, that's a tough one. I'll answer cryptically and say plot driven characters. I generally know something about the "human" qualities of my characters first and see a specific situation that I want to see how they will resolve. For instance my current WIP "The Prodigal Son" is based on three main characters and the "What would happen if" from a biblical situation that throws them all together and makes them prove themselves. I won't know everything that it takes to get them from point A to point B from the beginning, I only know how they need to grow.
Titles usually blossom from these first musings as well. I use them as a defining element for plotting out where things will go. To me it's the ultimate exercise in "summarize your story in one sentence" that tells you you're on track and know where you're headed.

After reading all the Storymaker blogs for a while now and learning what hectic schedules you all keep between your writing and other activities, how do you find time to read other authors books? Is there one particular author that you ALWAYS read no matter what? What is your favorite book of all time?
My husband laughs at my running list of books to read. At last check there were 437 entries. I generally "read" 3-5 books a week. I qualify that because a lot of things will strike my interest but with my busy schedule not everything will hold it. Some of these titles will end up being scanned instead of read and some will be put aside altogether for offensive content. I also listen to audio books while I drive. I keep books everywhere for stolen moments. I'm also not a very social person so I'll sometimes take books with me to events that I have to go to, but want to appear "busy" or unapproachable. Yes I know, it's a wonder I have any friends.
My husband has favorite authors, if he finds one he likes he reads everything he can find by them. I'm not as particular. Since my tastes are so eclectic I don't have time to play favorites, each book is judged on it's own merits. The only exception would be choosing between a friend's book (a fellow Storymaker) and one by someone else. My friends will win every time.
My all time favorite book is actually a series. I think I'll always value the Chronicles Narnia over most others. As a child I wore out 3 different sets.

When you don't want to sit in the chair and write…what do you do to make yourself sit there? Duct tape? Crazy glue?
I tried internal deadlines for a while, but that doesn't work so well for me (guilt issues). I write when it feels good. If it's torture to sit there, I get up and walk away. Sometimes just takes that simple act of giving myself permission to enjoy it again and the wheels will start turning. Pretty soon the words in my head become the glue.
If I absolutely have to get something done that really doesn't excite me I have to remove myself from my home. I take my laptop to the library and hide in a very visible cubicle. Something about people watching me and knowing I'm typing away at something keeps me going like it or not. Hmm, maybe I have self-esteem issues as well.

If a person had never read any of your books, which one would you want them to read first and why?
Since so much of my work is time based I'd have them start with the current year stuff and then look around at the other stuff. Honestly, I think the ones I'll be most proud of are still coming out of my fingertips or still waiting in the wings. Note to self- learn how to write faster.

Do any of you work on more than one project at a time? I find myself doing this more and more lately and it's about ready to drive me insane. All these people just keep bumping around inside my head.
Yes, but I have to be careful not to play favorites too much.

Is there a novel (famous or otherwise) which you wish you had written?
"Rules" By Cynthia Lord. The first time I read it I was amazed at how well she addressed a difficult subject in an honest and fun way. I could see my children in it in so many ways.

How do you organize research? Do you try to do it all ahead of time?
I'm very relaxed when it comes to research. I tend to know all the basics and use research to break up the writing as I go. I find immersing myself in specific details for one scene at a time makes the writing flow easier for me than if I tried to get it all right before I ever started. My husband tries to be helpful by quizzing me about details and recording them all on computer for me. He keeps me on top of things.

What happens when you run into something that you need to look up before you can finish the scene? Do you just type {research blah} and keep going, or stop then and look it up, or some other option I haven't thought of?
It depends. If I still have portions of the scene circling around in my head, I have to finish getting it out before I can stop and research. Once I've done all I can I'll fill in blanks. Ideally, I do the research before beginning the scene I know I'm going to need it for.

Do any of you find that having a clear notion (such as a map) of the area you're setting the story in is worth the time it would take to set it up?
I don't like to get too bogged down in the setting unless it is crucial to understanding of the story. Setting is one thing that the reader should be able to let their imagination build on from their own experiences. Or maybe I'm just lazy. Honestly, I'd rather they understand the characters than exactly how far it is from their home to the grocery store.

My question to all of you is, do you find the ancillary activities inseparable from being a professional writer a welcome balance and counterpart to the intense concentration of actually writing, or just a distracting pain in the neck?
"I look forward to the day when I am so famous that I am making enough to replace a full-time job and can just write, write, write." Amen Candice. The rest is just necessary evils as far as I'm concerned.

3 comments:

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Alison,

Great interview. I enjoyed your comments and it gave me a fresh perspective on things. Thanks for doing it.

Tristi Pinkston said...

http://tristipinkston.blogspot.com/2007/08/im-thoughtful-i-think.html

Here's a present for you, Alison, come get it!

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

I posted this on my blog today and wanted to share:

"Okay, I'll admit it. Anne Bradshaw over at Not Entirely British did a really good thing and I am shamelessly borrowing from her idea of spotlighting the most amazing youth in the world. I think it is incredible what she has done and the youth that are the finalists in her contest are truly amazing. If you haven't gone to her blog yet, read about them and vote, you're going to want to do that as soon as you're done reading mine, submitting a nomination and generally recognizing that I'm the greatest blogger to ever walk the earth . . . all right, all right, you don't have to do that last part. As long as it exists in my mind I'm okay with that.

Announcing the Best Husband in the World Contest" -- please check out my blog today.