Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Monday, June 08, 2009
This is a very good question, not least because I'm still learning A LOT about character development. I recently read a book, Hyatt Bass's, The Embers, which I'll discuss more once it hits bookstores in two weeks, that had the most in-depth, fleshed out characters I think I might have ever read. I mean, I was reading it, and I was so just impressed because truly, I don't know that I'm capable of going that deep. Well, maybe that's not fair; maybe I'm entirely capable, but I'll be frank in saying that I felt like her analysis of her characters blew mine out of the water.
But. To be honest, I guess maybe I'm okay with that. :) At least for the books I've written thus far. I finished her book and thought, "Wow, someday I'd like to write like that," but for now, what I've done with my characters has really worked for my writing process and for my books. My process is this: I primarily start with an emotional connection with these characters, which maybe sounds a little pretentious if you haven't written fiction before, but for me, at least is the most important ingredient in my writing. I've stopped and started several manuscripts because I just didn't GET these characters, and when I don't GET them, I can't figure out all of their other little choices: their likes/dislikes/food allergies, etc. :)
So I start there. Once I'm inside their brains - and to be honest, one of the reasons the first part of book #3 took so long was that I really had to wrench myself into my protagonist much more so than in my other books - the rest of it falls into place when I'm writing. Maybe my characters could stand for some deeper probing, I'm not saying they couldn't. Again, I was truly so in awe of the Bass's character development. But for me, I sort of just connect with them, understand who they are, and then inform their choices as I go.
But as I said, I'm still learning a lot of about this - so how do you guys deal with character development? Anyone have a handy habit chart that you want to share?
Friday, June 05, 2009
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Monday, June 01, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
It was about a thousand times more difficult. I don’t know what your experience was but my first book flowed out of me like the words had just been sitting in the front of my brain, ready to be downloaded onto the keyboard at the earliest opportunity. It was like, “This novel thing is easy! Why do people say it’s so hard?” And then I started writing this book. Because my first novel was based so much on my own experiences and this one was basically an entire figment of my imagination – with bits from an investigative feature I’d done on high-class prostitution for Details – I struggled and struggled and struggled to find the story. I ended up taking the manuscript back from HarperCollins after they’d bought it and explaining that I wanted to do a page one rewrite. The books is 272 pages, and I barely want to think about how many pages were thrown out. 200? 500? I have no idea.
2) Any lessons learned along the way to publication or between books #1 and
I guess I would have leveled my expectations more. I hope I’m doing that this time (sometimes I don’t know that I’m not doing that until it’s too late, if that makes sense). When my first book came out, it felt like such an accomplishment, and I guess I thought my entire life was going to change as a result. Instead, I learned that hundreds of thousands of books are released every year and few make an impact or an actual impression on the world. This time, I’m enjoying the process more. Yes, I’m killing myself promoting this book, but it’s fun to be interviewed about your book and try to get people excited about it and plan parties for it, and I’m taking the time to remember that this is the celebratory part. All that it’s-the-journey-and-not-the-destination stuff.
3) You were open about your first novel, which I loved, btw, somewhat mirroring your own life. Where did the inspiration come for Bought?
4) You have a huge platform and are a media name: how did you go about
building this platform for yourself? A lot of Ask Allison readers are still
at the beginning stages of platform building, any specific tips?
5) You are a Twitter queen. (@annadavid) We've had a lot of debate here on
the blog as to the benefits (or not) of Twitter - where do you come down?
How do you use it?
When I meet people who say, “Yeah, I want to get into Twitter but it would be so much work,” I feel grateful for the fact that I actually enjoy doing it. It doesn’t feel like work to me. And I have connected with some of the nicest fans on there – I’m talking about people who have gone all out helping me get the word out about Bought, created Iphone applications for my blog, edited together video clips of my appearances on shows…I’m telling you, the nicest people in the world. I’ve also gotten help on any number of things – hiring web developers, handling computer issues, even making my DVD player work when it was acting up. But I think it’s too soon to say for certain what the long-term benefits of Twitter are.
6) You used to do a slew of celebrity interviews. Any favorites? Any great stories (even if names are withheld?!)? :)
I’ll tell you my least favorite: when I covered the Oscars for Premiere, I was really nervous. I couldn’t believe I was standing at the Governor’s Ball. I went up to interview this French actress who had been nominated, and I was such a bundle of nerves, she accused me of not really being a journalist. When I swore that I was and asked her how she prepared for the night, she spat out, “I did the Alexander Technique” but she said it in this indecipherable French accent and at the time, I didn’t know what the Alexander Technique was. I asked her to clarify and she told me to get a dictionary and look it up, and then swept off. It was so traumatic that I actually fictionalized this incident and used it in Bought.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Anyhoo, click on through to get my thoughts.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
Saturday, May 09, 2009
We made this film in 18 days with our own money and in our own home as well as many locations donated by friends and family. Though it was fast and furious, we were determined to make it a great experience for all. Gildart and I frequently scrambled eggs in the morning -- simultaneously getting hair and makeup -- so that everyone would have a hot breakfast. Our friends brought their signature dishes for lunches and dinners.
Needless-to-say a lot of heart went into making our film and I am so proud that audiences seem to be moved by the story, leaving the film inspired to call their spouses or loved ones to say "I love you”. Our first review – In Boulevard Magazine – was fantastic:
“Melora has given us more than a cool indie film. She has succeeded in gently reminding us that every moment in life is a gift – with all its frustrations and hardships and imperfections.” (Boulevard Magazine)
YOU is one of the first movies to ‘Open’ on the internet. We are very proud to be pioneering this new world and would love your support. Please visit us at youthefilm.com and if you like what you see please buy YOU from Itunes, Amazon or from youthefilm.com. Please watch it with your family and friends. Thank you so much.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
One of the things that I think I forget as a writer is how much fun it is to be, um, you know, not sitting in my office by myself all day long. I swear, in high school and college, I was super-social, but slowly, with every passing year, I've become hermetic, and honestly, if you locked me in my house with a computer and some supplies, I could probably live out my days happily. :)
Monday, May 04, 2009
Friday, May 01, 2009
So I just wanted to post the pieces because, yeah, I'm psyched! :)
They're also good segues into some of next week's posts in which I'll talk about celebrity interviews. If you have any questions about that realm, post them below or email me. Happy weekend!
Jennifer Garner: Come On, Get Happy
Taylor Kitsch: Big Man On Campus
Thursday, April 30, 2009
This is a much-debated question here at Ask Allison, as we've raised this discussion a few times before. Now, with some perspective after a few books, I can tell you that I don't think they have as huge of an impact as some authors think they do. But I'm open to being convinced otherwise. Maybe I'm just old and jaded. :)
When I was a debut author, I stressed, stressed, stressed about blurbs. OMG, was I frantic about them. Partially because yeah, I thought it would help book sales, but in hindsight, I suppose I also wanted some validation from my peers. Fortunately, I got it: I got six glowing blurbs from well-known authors, all of whom I am still grateful to today. Really. I still buy all of their new books as my way of a thank you. Did their blurbs help sell actual books? Who knows. They did certainly help excite my editor and publicist and likely gave me some legitimacy when it came to wooing magazine placements, but in terms of sales, I have no idea. Which isn't to say, of course, that they didn't help: a good blurb is always better than nothing, and in this industry, you can use every leg up you get, but did they make or break my book's success? No. No, no, no, no, no.
Interestingly enough, I solicited fewer blurbs when it came to Time of My Life. I wasn't as frantic, though sure, I wanted some choice quotes for the back of the jacket cover. And rather than six, I had three. And you know what? That book sold the hell out of itself. Was it the blurbs? Well again, I'm sure that having these wonderful, wonderful authors endorse my work didn't turn people off, but at the end of the day, The Today Show and People Magazine and strong word of mouth is what generated sales.
So my conclusion? Yeah, get those blurbs if you can but have some perspective: they're a small part of the package. A nice one to have, but so many other things go into the success of a book, that a few more (or a few fewer) likely won't tip the scales.
But I'm open to changing my mind. What say you?
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Now, before you rolls your eyes and think that I'm just pimping one of my author friends to increase book sales, I wanted to give you a little background. Yes, Laura is one of my dear friends, but we became dear friends because I wrote her a fan email. Yes, this is true. Even authors write other authors fan emails. :)
A few years back, I plunked down on the couch and started reading her debut, London is The Best City in America. I barely removed my ass from the couch until I was done. (And this was while I was at the beach, which is seriously saying something.) I saw that she and I had gone to the same college, so I fired off a note to her about her precocious and tender writing. Well, she wrote me back, invited me to meet for coffee (because that's just the kind of gal she is), and a friendship was born.
Here is the type of friend, author aside, that Laura is: not only did she insist on reading a print out of an early draft of Time of My Life (which she actually printed herself), she then promptly offered me what is now the epigraph in the book. It was one of her favorite quotes, a quote, in fact, that she had reserved for one of her own books, but she insisted, INSISTED that I take it. I have countless other ways that she rocks, but that one really exemplifies her collaborative, supportive spirit and why I hope you'll take a quick sec to click on the Amazon link and buy the book, which is a wonderful, smart, insightful novel that stands on its own, even if she were the most horrible person on the planet. :)
I just always think it's great when authors embrace other authors: there are those out there who are threatened by their peers and there are those who bring out the best in their peers. You already know which category I choose my friends from. Same with Laura.
Here is the link: check it out!
Also, NYC-ers, Laura and I are doing a joint reading/discussion on writing and publishing THIS MONDAY, AT MCNALLY JACKSON (52 PRINCE STREET) AT 7pm. Hope to see some of you there!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Here's the thing about bad reviews: they may be eviscerating, gut-punching, vomit-inducing at the time, but I promise, you can look back at them and giggle. I swear. Case in point: when The Department came out, the Washington Post ripped me a new one. I mean, it was like the reviewer knew me and launched a personal attack. (Seriously, my agent saw it and called me to ask if I knew her!) The review, at the time, literally gave me the shakes - it was physically revolting. But now, omg, I saw Josh's tweet, and I'm actually laughing as I try to find the review on the internet to post it up. I mean, seriously! It was one stinking review that the reviewer took a little too seriously.
Anyway, whether you're on twitter or not (and if you are, come post your own bad review!), this is just a good reminder that this too shall pass. :)
Twitter: TOTAL PAN TUESDAY! #tpant
My twitter tag: @aswinn
UPDATE: Josh stops by in the comments section and weighs in! Say hi to him below!
Monday, April 27, 2009
This is a timely question for me, as I'm sitting here typing this with a stack of ten or so to-be-read-for-potential-blurb manuscripts and galleys on my desk. Sigh. I feel soooo badly that I haven't had time to read them all, but given where I am with my manuscript, it hasn't been possible. BUT, now that I've been on both the asking and the being-asked end of this question, I do think I have some insights.
First, I can't and won't blurb a book that hasn't been sold. A lot of authors feel this way, and there are several reasons for it. To begin with, as noted above, I have a long pile of books that HAVE been sold, and truth told, I just don't have the time to read a manuscript that might not see the light of day. That sounds terrible, I know, but it's honest. And I think understandable. Second of all, agents and editors advise authors not to blurb anything that hasn't yet sold for legal reasons: if the manuscript never sells and the author THINKS he sees something similar in your next book, who's to say that said author won't raise a stink about plagiarism, stolen ideas, etc? Again, I know, very unlikely, but people can do very weird things when they don't fulfill their dream and see someone else doing it, and it's not a chance worth taking.
So, let's say your manuscript sells. Hurrah! Congrats to you! What now? Well, once you have a finished ms, you can certainly start sending out notes to your favorite authors. If you're not in the galley stage, however, this means one of two things: that the author, if she agrees to read, will receive a bound copy of the ms (sort of like a bound term-paper/thesis that you might have made at Kinko's in high school or college) or the author will receive a 300-page print out of your book, akin to a loose ream of paper. You can guess which ones get relegated to the bottom of the pile. I do my reading at night or on the subway or in hit or miss places where I might find a few spare minutes. I simply cannot carry around loose pieces of paper, not to mention that it feels much more like homework than pleasure reading when you're reading a literal print-out.
BUT, sometimes, you can't avoid that, and it is what it is. If you really want an author, it might be worth asking, even if she receives a 10-pound lug in the mail. Most often, however, I'd simply advise that you wait until the galley stage. Yes, it's soooo wonderful and joyous and perfect to have blurbs on your galley, but unless you personally know an author, I really wouldn't have an expectation that she'll read those 300 loose pages.
How do you ask? You send a very, very polite email to said author, explaining why you'd like HER to blurb, why you think the book might resonate, and of course, being very, very understanding if she can't. I'd also make note of the fact that blurbs aren't obligatory, and when I was asking for blurbs, I never, ever assumed that someone would like my book OR would have the time to read it. If one did, bingo! And if she didn't, there were no. hard. feelings. You should also leverage your agent and editor contacts: they might rep or work with authors who are good fits and with whom they have an in. Authors always feel more obligated to read a ms if there's a connection.
Finally, don't take it personally if you don't receive a coveted blurb from a particular author. I can honestly say, now that I'm on the other side, that I am so, so busy, and I am trying to bust my way through all of these, but a realistic voice in my head also knows that's not going to be possible. I used to think: how hard is it to read one lousy book? But it's never one lousy book; it's a lot of them, along with juggling my own work, my own life, and ideally, my own reading for pleasure.
I'm also trying to be judicious: there are authors who blurb just about anything, and I don't think that's fair to readers. I'd like to think that I'll be someone who readers can count on to be honest in my endorsements, so if I don't fall in love with something, I just don't feel right tacking my name on. It's not personal. Hell, plenty of people didn't blurb me. And I get that. It made the ones that we DID get all the more sweet. And that's not to say I wouldn't go back to these authors and ask again next time. But when and if I did, I'd keep in mind their own looming tower of to-be-read manuscripts, and I'd recognize that one blurb won't make or break my book. Really. You won't believe it now, but looking back on it, I promise you that it's true.