Six Minutes with Alyson Noël:
Joining LitPick today for a Six Minutes with an Author interview is prolific author Alyson Noël. Alyson is the author of three book series, The Soul Seekers and The Immortals for teens, and The Riley Bloom Series for tweens, plus several stand-alone books. Unrivaled, the first book in Alyson’s newest series, Beautiful Idols, will be released in May.
With 8 New York Times bestsellers in 2 years, and over 8 million copies in print, Alyson’s books have been translated into 36 languages, sold in over 50 countries, and have made the New York Times, USA Today, LA Times, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal, NCIBA, and Walmart Bestsellers lists, and have won numerous awards, such as the National Reader's Choice Award, NYLA Book of Winter Award, NYPL Stuff for the Teenage, TeenReads Best Books of 2007, Reviewer's Choice 2007 Top Ten, appeared on the CBS Early Show's "Give the Gift of Reading" segment, and selected for Seventeen Magazine's "Hot List" and Beach Book Club Pick.
Chosen as one of OC Metro magazine's "20 Women to Watch," she's been nominated for the Orange County Business Journal's "Women in Business Awards" as well as their "Excellence in Entrepreneurship" award.
How did you get started writing?
I started by writing really bad, terrible, albeit heartfelt poetry in junior high in an effort to sort through the tsunami of feelings that were the result of my parent’s divorce, being bullied, and my general sense of unease in my own adolescent skin. In high school I abandoned poetry for short stories, and though I’d always dreamed of being a writer, my life took many detours until 9/11 happened and I found myself working as a NYC based flight attendant who’d been carrying the same dream for decades but had done very little by way of pursuing it. I decided then that I would give it my all so that even if I failed I could at least say I tried. So I started writing on layovers, and on the jump seat during long weather delays (which was strictly forbidden and I could have been fired but such was my dedication!), and after 2.5 years of writing, revising, submitting, getting rejected, and revising and submitting again I received my first two-book deal. I now have 21 books published, 3 in production, and several more slated. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t gotten such a late start, but then I remind myself that every step leads to the next, and that I needed to do all those other things in order to be where I am now. It makes me feel better, so I’m convinced that it’s true.
Who influenced you?
So many influencers! Namely my mom—an insatiable reader who kick-started my book addiction from an early age; Mr. Sawaya, my high-school AP English teacher who provided encouragement at a time when encouragement was in extremely short supply; and, of course, all of the amazing authors that I read and admired in my youth: Laura Ingalls Wilder, EB White, Judy Blume, SE Hinton, Judith Krantz, JD Salinger, Stephen King, F Scott Fitzgerald, Jackie Collins, Sylvia Plath, Sydney Sheldon, Ernest Hemingway, John Irving, Truman Capote, Shirley Conrad, Colleen McCullough, Dean Koontz, Jane Austen, Victoria Holt, The Brontë sisters, Daphne du Maurier …
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
Not really. In my writing life, as well as my reading life, and just overall life, I like to change it up as often as possible. I started out writing contemporaries, moved into paranormal/fantasy, and now I’m back to contemporaries. I write YA, MG, and adult. For me, it’s all about the characters, their journey, and creating whatever kind of environment best suits the telling of that particular story. My reading choices are all over the place as well. I read fiction, non-fiction, genre, literary, YA, MG, picture books—my only requirement is an intriguing premise, interesting characters, and a plot that sucks me in.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
First, ask yourself why you want to be an author. If it’s so you can become rich and famous and gain the love and admiration of all, then it’s probably not the best career choice. You’re better off trying to secure a spot in Taylor Swift’s #Squad. Because even if you somehow do manage to accomplish the first two goals, then the third will remain forever out of your reach because someone, somewhere, will totally not get you, and they won’t hesitate to let you know it.
I once read a newspaper article written by someone who didn’t like/trust JK Rowling because everyone who knew her had only nice things to say about her. This, for some reason, struck the writer of the article as fishy, and so he declared right then and there his deep dislike of the creator of all things Potter. So see, even JK, Queen of Fiction, has her share of trolls. Or at least one troll anyway, which is all I needed to prove my point.
Then again, if you want to be a writer because you have an insatiable love of books, story, and storytelling—and because you create entire worlds in your head populated by characters (though you tend to see them more as people, perhaps even friends)—and you absolutely, positively must write it all down and share it with the world—then by all means, soldier on.
And as you are soldiering on, you should probably read many, many books on a wide variety of subjects (as many as you possibly can, they all have so much to teach you)—and watch many movies as well (it’s research after all)—and eavesdrop on lots of conversations (best way to emulate realistic dialogue)—and dive deep into the world and all the myriad experiences it has to offer (so you can use those experiences to enrich your fictional worlds)—and then, in between all the reading and watching and spying and world diving you should continue honing your craft.
You should also continue guarding yourself against that all too pervasive killer of dreams otherwise known as I-SUCK-ITIS, which causes many a dreamer/writer (synonyms!) to quit half-way from the finish line.
It is equally important during this tenuous time to remind yourself that yours is but a work in progress. Which is to say that it’s not a masterpiece (not yet!)—so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. Just keep at it—revising and submitting and getting rejected (yes, rejection happens, it’s part of the process. I never said this would be easy-no good journey worth taking ever is!). And when you feel like crying, then cry (but put a timer on it). And when you feel like quitting, then quit (but put a timer on that too). And then get back to pounding that keyboard (or scribbling on your legal pad—there’s no right way, just YOUR way!). Because this big, round, insatiable world we inhabit always has room for another engaging story with complex characters we can root for. Not to mention how we are in dire need of more courageous people like YOU. People who are willing to bet on themselves against all odds (also, ignore the odds as well as those who like to report on the odds!) and head out on the perilous journey of creativity in order to summon new worlds from the jungle-like recesses of their imaginations so that we can someday share in that communal moment of magic which only artists and dreamers can conjure.
For those who choose this path, I wish you God speed.
Where is your favorite place to write?
At home, in my office, with the shutters closed and the door shut. There’s a common misperception that inspiration is born of white sands, cool blue waters, and swaying palm trees, but for me, that’s a call to vacation. Writing is work! By shunning the outside world I can focus entirely on the interior world taking shape in my head.
What else would you like to tell us?
That after writing 21 books in 8 years and going on countless international book tours (5 continents!), I decided to take a year off. During that year, I traveled extensively, spent time with family and friends, and took time to refill the well, as they say. I also questioned what my next act might be. I’ve had many acts in my life, so I figured maybe it was time for another. What I didn’t do was write. Not a word (aside from e-mails, twitter, texts, and the like). By the end of the year, I found I missed writing. I missed creating fictional worlds I could get lost in. I missed pondering over themes and ideas in order to challenge and/or determine my own thoughts and beliefs. So, I decided my next act would be a continuation of the one that went before. And I’m happy to announce that the first book in my new Beautiful Idols series, UNRIVALED, is set for a simultaneous global release in 17 languages on May 10! Also, my new MG, FIVE DAYS OF FAMOUS, will debut on December 13. It’s going to be a busy year, and I’m super excited about getting back to what I love most—publishing books and connecting with readers! I had so much fun writing both of these stories and I hope readers enjoy them as well!
Alyson, thank you so much for spending six minutes with LitPick! Thank you for sharing such wonderful advice with aspiring authors! Congratulations on the release of your two new books in 2016!