Hello everyone! This week I’m thrilled to bring you one of my favorite YA/mystery and suspense authors, Allison Maruska. When I asked her to pick three or four questions from my huge list HERE she never even batted an eye. We all aspire to be successful authors and the best way to learn some of the tricks of the trade is to ask questions.
Please meet my guest, Allison Maruska.
Allison is a YA and mystery/suspense author, blogger, teacher, mom, wife, coffee and wine consumer, and owl enthusiast. Her blog includes humor posts, short stories, and posts on writing strategy, parenting, and teaching.
Hi, Colleen. Thanks so much for this interview. I’m really looking forward to our chat.
I’d say the most common trap (or misconception, rather) is the belief that since we all learned how to write in school, we can all write a book. Writing a novel is hard. Haaaaaard.
New writers get discouraged thinking it’s supposed to be easy, because duh, we can all write. But there are variables involved with writing a book that you simply don’t think of until you actually do it—like how to keep up the tension, how to keep dialogue tight, and dealing with the mushy middle.
But the good news is writing a good book is a learned skill, just like learning to write letters, sentences, and paragraphs. Even if they don’t study creative writing in college (I didn’t), many writers attend conferences and workshops, work with established writers and editors, or simply read books on the craft. No one knows what they’re doing at the beginning.
I have a thing for owls. It’s not just a branding thing—it’s a real, birdy crush of sorts. I have owl jewelry and art and cookie jars and purses and a tattoo of an owl. Last year, my son discovered an owl sitting in a tree in our backyard and I. About. Lost. My. Mind. I took about a thousand pictures of it, shared my glee on social media, and despite the cool temperature, ate my dinner on the deck so I could spend more time with our visitor. That was a good day. So owls are definitely my mascot, both in writing and in life.
I use dice! Seriously!
I like to start with how I imagine the character to look, then I use my name dice until I land on one that “feels” right. The trickiest book to choose names for was “Drake and the Fliers,” because the characters all (except for Drake) had new “flier” names that they adopted after they became shapeshifters. Weird shifter names like Scopes, Talon, Phoenix, and Sonar weren’t part of the name dice selection.
Back when I was writing my early books, I thought I would be “different” like Suzanne Collins with her Katniss and Peeta tendencies, which is how Levin and Rana from the Project Renovatio series got their names. I’ve since decided dice names are just fine.
Not dishing spoilers (because I’m not naming the book, ha), the hardest scene to write, both emotionally and logistically, was one where an MC watched a loved one murdered in front of him. How do you capture the gravity of that?
There was at least a whole chapter leading up to it, with the suspense of “will he get to her in time.” Then, when the scene in question arrived, it was a matter of relief, hope, extreme fear, determination, and ultimately, crushing defeat.
I put it through my critique group several times and rewrote it about that many times. Talks involving “how would you feel if you saw this” weren’t too fun to have, and after each time I worked it I needed to take a breather for a day or two.
I was a humor blogger before I was a novelist. For the first year, it was just me writing silly posts about whatever because I could—my personal favorite from that first year was about whether or not Chuck Norris ever wore yoga pants.
After I was offered a publishing contract, I shifted to more “authory” type posts (though humor ones do still occasionally get through). I’d say the blog definitely helped sell the first book, and probably the subsequent ones to a lesser degree, though I know for a fact it has attracted book bloggers.
The blog is a great landing spot for all of my social media postings, and unlike Twitter or Facebook, the posts are easily searchable and for the most part, evergreen. I use it in place of a traditional newsletter.
I had a great time, Colleen. Thanks for the invite. ❤
FACEBOOK: Allison Maruska, Author
“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”
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Colleen M. Chesebro is an American Poet who loves crafting paranormal fantasy and magical realism, cross-genre flash fiction, syllabic poetry, and creative nonfiction. Colleen sponsors a weekly syllabic poetry challenge, called Tanka Tuesday, on wordcraftpoetry.com where participants learn how to write traditional and current forms of haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, tanka prose, renga, solo-renga, haibun, cinquain, Etheree, nonet, and shadorma poetry. Colleen's syllabic poetry has appeared in the Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal, and in “Hedgerow, a journal of small poems.” She’s won numerous awards from participating in the Carrot Ranch Rodeo, a yearly flash fiction contest sponsored by carrotranch.com. In 2020, she won first place in the Carrot Ranch Folk Tale or Fable category, with her story called “Why Wolf Howls at the Moon.” Colleen is a Sister of the Fey, where she pursues a pagan path through her writing. When she is not writing, she is reading. She also loves gardening and crocheting old-fashioned doilies into works of art.