Friday, July 11, 2014
INTERVIEW & SPOTLIGHT
Currently Alison is wrestling with words and laundry in New Jersey. She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.
An underground factory, a terrifying laboratory, and an Edwardian hospital...
Miriam has only her guardians' son for company, and she and Simon dislike each other from the start. But they must find a way to trust each other, or they will end up on the sinister Night Watchman Express.
If you could work with any author, who would it be?
I love this question, since I can indulge in an author daydream! My fantasy would be to
work with Stephen King. Not only does he write slammin’ action and horror, he also
dissects literature with style. That man knows his craft, and his book On Writing is my
go-to guide. Plus, I love the fact that he’s been married for years and is such a family guy.
To get to work with him on anything would be wonderful.
Who is your favorite author and is your writing style similar to theirs?
I would have to choose Enid Blyton, a children’s author from the 40’s and 50’s. She was a
product of her times, but she could spin a tale of adventure like no one else. Her
characters were sometimes wooden and the dialogue a bit cliché, but her books
fascinated me as a child.
I can only hope to approach Enid’s sense of story and development. I do insist on
including ethnic characters, however, unlike her. So, I hope that I am a more modern
version of Enid.
What is your favorite part of a book?
Maps. I love maps. When I’m shopping for a book, if I see maps in the beginning, then I’m
a buyer. As a young reader I used to pour over Middle Earth, Narnia, Oz, and the
Hundred Acre Wood.
When I discovered the illustrator who developed the maps for my own books, I was
excited beyond belief. (It doesn’t take much.) To have the places that I envisioned
become visible was true magic.
When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?
Names have a certain aura, no doubt. I love heroines with old-fashioned names, such as
Hermione, so I chose a very classic name for mine: Miriam.
Some of my characters are ethnic, as I said, and they come from an imaginary land called
Lampala, which I based on Madeira. Manapalata Postulate is one example; she is my
magical governess who comes to teach Miriam. Her first name, Mana, was derived from
the Benin language. It is the same with the other characters from my dream country:
Chichilia, Wekogono, Kyoge…
What is your inspiration or who is?
My love of the Benin language came from the music of Angelique Kidjo. I discovered her
about ten years ago and listened to her songs again and again. She inspired my dream
country, its language, and the character of Mana.
Do you use real-life facts based on true stories?
My books are Edwardian steampunk fantasy, but of course I must base my technology in
the books on real-life engineering. In order to write about quantum physics and time travel,
I had to research those subjects within the parameters of Edwardian tech.
The final book in the series, for example, talks about bathyspheres. I researched them –
and their history is fascinating – so my book is based on those stories from the first
underwater explorers. However, I changed events a bit by making bathyspheres appear
twenty years earlier than they actually did, for the purposes of my story.
Do you use your OWN experiences?
I suppose I do. It’s a subconscious thing; I’ll see the way a child opens her mouth to cry,
or how my sister captures a spider and disposes of it, the way anger makes me feel as
though bubbles are exploding in my nose. Thousands of tiny details like that work their
way into my books.
On a macro level, I used my love of teaching to create Mana. Miriam’s anger and
tantrums were based on personal experiences as well, I’m sorry to say!
Did you ever think you would ever become an author?
Yes, as soon as I got a personal computer. I have dreadful handwriting, and I never
finished a book before my first Apple IIe because I could not bear the appearance of my scrawl on the page.
Computers changed all that; my Garamond script is quite lovely now, thank you!
How do you conceive your plot ideas?
I receive a sudden flash at the oddest, most inopportune moments. I can be stopped at a
red light and an idea will hit me.
As I write it and flesh out the story, the plot develops in my mind. It’s like watching a movie;
sometimes a character will do something quite unexpected and shock me.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to publish?
I’m an Indie, so I’m able to publish any books that I want, luckily! However, I do have a
few howlers hidden in my file cabinet, never to see the light of day. My very first novel, for
example, should be used to line birdcages. However, the thing showed me that I was able
to sit down and write an entire book. That is a true moment of revelation for an author.
How long did it take you to publish your first book, after you started trying?
A decade. The Amazon ABNA contest introduced me to wonderful, supportive authors.
With their love and help, I’ve been writing and publishing ever since. I owe them all so
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
The Crown Phoenix is a series of four books. The Night Watchman Express is the story of
an orphan, Miriam, who is undisciplined and very angry (much like Mistress Mary in The
Secret Garden.) Mana, her magical governess, teaches Miriam self-control and,
eventually, how to love.
There is also a bit of romance with the most unlikely person, Simon, who is the son of
Miriam’s guardians. Simon and Miriam really don’t like each other at all at first, but they
have to form a bond against some very nasty villains.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels,
mysteries, sci-fi, children's books, etc.)?
Steampunk has always fascinated me. I loved Doyle, Verne, and Wells when I was
growing up. The idea of having gears and clockworks perform feats of physics is
gorgeous, I think.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I researched antique technology, such as those bathyspheres and typewriters. I also
continue to research Edwardian society and history. The final installment is set in an
Edwardian hospital, much like Downton Abbey, so I had to research medical history and
the development of nursing.
What is a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you
set a daily writing goal?
As soon as I get my daughter onto the school bus, I rush back to the house and write as
long as I can. Of course, I have to fight my way past the dishes and the laundry to do that!
I love it when I can get 2,000 words a day finished, but that doesn’t happen often, alas.
Still, each new sentence that I create is a concept that never existed before, and I get to
bring it to life. That makes my job the best there is.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Definitely having to interact with bookstore owners and do the hard sell. Like many
authors, I’m quiet and a bit shy by nature. I’m quite good at pouring words out on the page;
my challenge is doing the face-to-face thing.
What is the best thing about being an author?
I get to create new worlds and see the characters I love, every single day. That is
What are you working on now?
The fourth and final book of The Crown Phoenix series is my WIP. It’s called The South Sea Bubble, and I’m almost finished with the first draft. Of course, that means that the
really hard stuff comes next – revisions, edits, beta reads, etc. Writing the book is the
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Buy yourselves On Writing and The Elements of Style. Butt+chair = written work, so sit
down every day and write at least 500 words. Read as much as you can. And, most
importantly, develop a good, thick skin. Harsh critique is extremely valuable – a poor
review can, if it is thoughtfully done, be a real gift.
Finally, be careful out there. Social media is a blessing and a curse for writers.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
I got sucked into Suzanne Collins’ series and couldn’t stop reading. I also love JK Rowling,
of course. The Age of Miracles was incredible. I love Murakami – Kafka on the Shore and
Hard-Boiled Wonderland – as well as Dwight Okita’s book, The Prospect of My Arrival.
11-22-63 is on my bedside table at the moment, as well as a host of others. I’ll read
anything from Bizarro (Placenta of Love) to Georgette Heyer. Got a book? Heck, I’ll read
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would
you answer that question?
I suppose I’d like to be asked: “How will you challenge yourself in your next book?”
I always like to continue my development as a writer. In my last book, The Lamplighter’s
Special, the entire book was from one point of view. Furthermore, the main character was
very near-sighted (as am I) and was too poor to afford glasses. To describe actions and
tell the story, keeping her fuzzy vision in mind throughout, was a lot of fun and a serious
In my current book, I use two points of view. I’m considering different ways of presenting
those POV’s while keeping the story arcs intact, and I have a few concepts in mind. I can’t
wait to see how it turns out!
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
The Tale of A Bespectacled Swot. In school my glasses and lack of athletic ability were a
severe social handicap, let me tell you. Now I’ve learned to embrace my inner geek; in
fact, she is my muse – glasses and all.
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