1. Tell us about yourself. May include links to Facebook, twitter, blogs, websites, Amazon author page)
I’m a married empty-nester; my three children left home years ago and now all have three children of their own. Two boys and one girl each, how coincidental is that?! My husband’s name is John and we live in Australia’s national capital, Canberra, also referred to as the Bush Capital. It’s a lovely place surrounded by low mountain ranges. Our house backs on to a native reserve and we often have kangaroos outside. Out front we have a view of the Brindabellas, our local mountain range, and sitting on the loungeroom deck with a coffee or wine in hand, depending on the time of day, is a guaranteed soul soother. Our oldest daughter lives in the UK and we spend time there every year. I talk about my professional life in another question so I won’t repeat it here. And I’ve included links at the end of the interview.
2. How do you choose names for your characters?
They tend to just pop into my head. Sometimes I’ll have several jiggling around for top spot but I’m mindful of them fitting the person. There’s a funny story about the main male character in IMBROGLIO. His name is David Cameron. I wrote the first draft before the actual David Cameron became the UK PM but, you know, it never occurred to me that my David had the same name. It was only last year when a UK reviewer pointed it out that I had that forehead slapping moment.
3. Do you talk about your book/characters as though they are real?
Not to other people, no. But do I talk to my characters? Yes. We have a very honest and open relationship; we can say anything to each other. Writing their stories wouldn’t be possible otherwise. And after their stories are told they don’t leave; they get on with their lives and let me know what they’re up to.
4. Do you listen to music when you write or edit? What kind?
I need total quiet to stay inside my head.
5. How long have you been writing?
My 30+ year career was in publishing in the Australian federal govt public service. I worked across the publications, public relations and media fields. I did a lot of writing but was principally an editor. I’ve been fiction writing for that long as well.
6. Tell us about when you realized you were ‘meant to be’ a writer.
I don’t know that I’d couch it in quite that way but I’ve always liked telling stories and am happiest when I’ve got one percolating. And as far as being a professional writer and editor is concerned, I always said that if I had to work it was the perfect job.
7. Do you have a muse?
I have a very understanding, tolerant and patient husband. He’s indulged my need for writing time ever since we got together. Does that count as a muse?
8. How do you improve as a writer? (Workshops, conferences, reading)
Years ago when I realised I needed feedback on my fiction I did a university night course which led to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional Writing and then a Post Graduate Diploma in Communication. I’ve also been a member of community writing groups and writing organisations and participated in writing master classes. Nowadays it’s having my manuscripts critiqued and beta read.
Another way to improve is through reading. I’m a committed reader and I review most of the books I read. I believe that writing a considered review is a good way to hone your analytical skills.
I’m also a professional editor; that’s another terrific way to hone analytical skills in relation to what makes good writing.
9. Writing quirks or superstitions?
No superstitions but maybe a quirk. I guess I’m an anomaly as a writer. With digital publishing most authors seem to write very quickly and publish everything they write as soon as they’ve finished it. I don’t. My first three novels went into the fire; I viewed them as practice while I was trying to find my genre. I discovered it with my fourth and fifth novels and those are the two that I’ve published to date.
I’m also very slow to publish; I put what I think is the final draft in a drawer for at least a year and don’t look at it until I’ve forgotten most of the detail. That way when I look at it again I’m reading it afresh. It’s amazing how the deficiencies jump out. Consequently I have only two published novels to date as well as a short story compilation and a writing guide.
10. Tell us about your current work-in-progress.
My third novel. The draft has been in a drawer for years. I’ve delayed pulling it out for the last two years while getting set up on Amazon and social media as well as getting my website and blog up and running. Amazing how time consuming all that has been.
But I’m now going to delay it again to write a three-book series based on a jewellery theft. I was in Italy in July/August 2013 for my daughter’s wedding and had all of my jewellery stolen. I was traumatised to say the least. I’ve always known I’d turn it into a story one day and now’s the time.
11. What book are you reading now?
Renaissance 2.0 by Dean C Moore. He’s an indie author and I’ll be reviewing the book when I’ve finished.
12. What genre do you write in? What about POV?
I write contemporary fiction. It’s also been tagged as thriller, mystery, intrigue and literary.
My preferred POV is 3d person omniscient. My third novel is 3rd person single. That needs a bit of vigilance to ensure I stay in it! It’s easy to stray.
13. Tell us about writing preparation. Character Profiles? Outlines?
It depends on the story line. With AUTOMATON I had the outline and main characters in my head before I started. When I began to write it the detail and secondary characters just happened. With IMBROGLIO there are two main characters whose stories run concurrently so I mapped out their days on a chart and filled in what they were doing in side-by-side columns. That way I knew what each was up to at any given time.
14. Do you know how your stories will end?
When I set out I think I do. But that can change, depending where the characters take the story.
15. Do you books have a message or theme? Or are they purely for entertainment?
All books have a theme, but not necessarily a message. Both of my published novels are themed and there’s a message in each if the reader looks. But over-ridingly they’re for entertainment. One that’s on the drawing board will buck that trend as it will have a message no-one could miss. But that’s a couple of years away from being written.
16. Do you have any favorite snacks or drinks that you eat/drink while writing?
No snacks because I put weight on too easily. But continual tea and coffee. Constant sipping seems to fuel the flow.
17. Tell us about your other passions.
Travelling is one. My oldest daughter and her family live in the UK (I’m in Australia), so John and I visit her every year. We combine it with other adventures; in 2013 before going to Italy for her wedding we did the UK Coast-to-Coast walk. It took us 18 days and we loved it. This year we’ve been seeing a bit of Australia. Just after Easter we toured the bottom end of Western Australia, and in October we toured around Tasmania and climbed Cradle Mountain. That was a feat worth mentioning!
18. What’s something interesting about you?
Whatever I say here is going to sound contrived, silly or immodest. I’ll go for immodest. My first published novel AUTOMATON won best Australian self-published fiction in 2003 and was nominated by Sisters In Crime for the Davitt awards in 2004.
19. Share a small sample (limit to one paragraph, please) of your writing… can be a WIP or already published.
Here’s the opening to AUTOMATON.
It wasn’t his appearance that unnerved her, unexpected though it was with its neat new track runnelling the middle of his chin, curving through cheek and across the outer corner of his right eye to disappear into the hairline. It wasn’t even that they were alike in colouring and delicacy of features.
It was his expression. A mixture of hope and no hope.
He was red-haired, fresh smooth skinned, freckled with a faded tan, 19, and not far from the trial of his life.
20. Anything you’d like to say to your current and future readers?
Don’t leave me in a vacuum! Let me know what you think of my stories. Reviews are treasure, but so too are the personal emails. You can contact me via my website contact page. Receiving them makes my day. Actually, it’s more like my week. And I always have time to write back.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Alana-Woods/e/B0061UWNN0/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Books (the links are global smart links):
Imbroglio — http://georiot.co/PNH
Automaton — http://georiot.co/4Dp5
Tapestries and other short stories — http://georiot.co/2KQN
25 essential writing tips: guide to writing good fiction — http://georiot.co/3SJs
Thanks Alana! We’re glad you shared with us today!