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Flashback Friday – Ally Carter

I’ve been so lucky in  my life to not only meet amazing people, but question them and learn from them. I’ve been able to amass a pretty large catalogue of interviews because of their generosity and they have really helped me get my foot in many different doors.  So first, to all the people who have been gracious enough to give me their time and patience, thank you!

I’ve created the Flashback Friday series to show these interviews and reviews.  They’ve been locked away in my archives but now it’s time to share them.  I hope you enjoy this look back on the articles that got me started and introduced me to some of my best friends.  Enjoy!

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I like interviewing people. Which is good, since my job as a magazine writer has me interviewing tons of people all the time. (Funny how life works out.)

So when the opportunity presented itself that I could interview someone whose work I really liked, I jumped at the chance.

Ally Carter has written two of my favorite YA books, I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You and Cross My Heart And Hope To Spy and is currently on the third. Her stories are sharp, funny, quick, and incredibly poignant. My heart ached a few times for her characters. I felt like they were my friends.

I’m glad to say that I count Ally now, as a friend too.

Your website and blog are great places to not only learn about your progress with current works, but it’s also a great writer’s resource. You give tricks of the trade, tips, motivational posts, etc. Is it hard for you to think up a new and interesting post every day?

Thanks for the kind words! I try not to worry too much about the blogging. If I don’t have anything interesting to blog about one day, I skip it and try not to beat myself up about it. And, most of all, I try not to let it take away from my real writing. Most of all, I just write what’s on my mind. Some days I’m thinking about the industry and the things I’ve learned; and some days I’m worrying about what color to paint the dining room. Amazingly, I get far more reader comments on the latter than the former.

Have you noticed changes in sales since you started the blog?

Actually, I don’t have any idea what impact—if any—blogging has had on my sales. I know from talking with some readers that they first heard about my blog and then picked up my books, but I think, overall, sales are driven by other things more than by blogging. At least that’s my gut instinct.

Your agent, Kristin Nelson, has a wonderful blog. Did she ever give you any advice as to what a blog should and should not do?

Kristin and I have never really discussed what an author’s blog should do simply because I don’t think there’s a universal answer to that question. It’s a personal thing. Mine is called “Ally’s Diary” and when I think about it, that’s exactly what it is. The blog stems from the writer. And, as a result, it needs to be a natural fit for who that writer really is.

Let’s talk books. Your newest book, tentitively titled Heist, is about a young girl named Kat. Can you tell us any more about it at all?

Kat. Or Heist. Or whatever we end up calling it is probably best described as Veronica Mars meets Ocean’s 11. Kat is the daughter of a very high-end thief/conman, and she desperately wants to leave the life. Unfortunately, she’s finding it very difficult to leave the family business without also leaving the family. So when her father is framed for stealing some very valuable paintings from a very scary man, Kat has to re-steal and return the paintings to save her father’s life.

It’s a lot of fun to build a world and a cast again. I’m really enjoying getting to know the characters and learning (or making up, as the case may be) the lingo and the backstories of the people who inhabit this very colorful world.

Is it hard to go from one book to the other? Was it difficult turning off the Gallagher Girl’s cast of characters and moving onto the characters from Heist? If so, how did you compartmentalize the two story lines so you could successfully delve into each one completely?

To tell you the truth, I’m still not really sure. I probably won’t know until both books are completely finished, but I can say now that the challenges are different than I thought they would be.

Initially, I thought it would be difficult transitioning from one “voice” to the other. (I purposefully chose to write the new series in third person while the Gallagher Girls series is told in first for this reason.) But it’s turning out that voice isn’t that difficult to change (so far). I’m even doing okay (so far) with plot elements. What’s tough, I’m learning, is going from doing a final “polish” draft on one book one day and then turning around and hammering out a rough draft on the other the next.

It turns out my internal editor doesn’t shut up that quickly.

But I’m having some stern words with her to try to figure that out.

What’s a typical writing day for you like?

They still vary quite a bit. I’m not much of a morning person, so I usually wake up, eat cereal while sitting at the laptop and spend the morning doing email, catching up on industry news and blogs and so forth. Then, I try to go upstairs to my office about one o’clock or so and write until five.

That works well for rough drafts because I can set a word count goal for the day and once I meet it I can call it a day. For re-writing, however, it’s harder. Then I can only really rest when the book is finished, so I find I’ll work really late at night. Get up the next morning and start it all over again.

You met Stephenie Meyer a few weeks ago at a signing. How does hearing about such a success story impact you? Does it motivate you? Do you find yourself comparing your writing to hers? Does it bring out your competitive drive?

I think that what’s good for one writer is really good for us all in many, many ways. In fact, I’m a big believer that the biggest competition for good books are bad books—the books that someone starts and then puts down and says “I don’t like reading” when, in truth, maybe he or she just didn’t like reading that book.

So for that and many other reasons I’m thrilled for the success of Twilight. As a reader, I know I’m jazzed about BREAKING DAWN. As a writer, it’s exciting to know that in a post-Harry Potter world teens are reading in great numbers and they’re still talking about books and authors they love.

In answer to the rest of your question, I don’t compare my writing to anyone’s. Or at least I try not to. Voice is a very unique thing, and I think it’s best that way. And Stephenie’s success doesn’t make me any more competitive than I’ve always been. Ultimately, my new book will be compared most against my previous books, so that’s the only competition that I really allow to enter my mind.

It was great meeting Stephenie and having a few minutes to get to know her. Writing is such a solitary experience—especially at her level of success—that it’s always good, I think, to meet other people who do what you do and to whom you can say “I got the weirdest copyedits last week” and they’ll know what you’re talking about.

Getting a book published is strictly business. And it’s tough when you are a beginning author to not get competitive and just a bit jealous. So what would you tell a beginning author so she/he doesn’t compare his or her road to someone like Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King or JK Rowling?

Probably the best advice I can give is that you shouldn’t get into this business because you want to “be a writer”—get into this business because you want to WRITE. Period.

Unless you’ve been involved in the industry, it’s easy to have a skewed conception of what the writer’s life really is. As a rule, it’s not million dollar advances. It’s not national tours. It’s not going on Oprah. Even the writers who have those things spend more time staring at a blank screen than they spend doing any of the glamorous aspects of the business.

So write because you love writing. Writing is the only thing in your career that you control and that will never change.

So let’s switch gears. You quit your day job a bit ago to become a full time writer. Can you tell me a bit about the transition?

It’s a tricky transition, to tell you the truth. Not only did I quit, but I also moved. So now I have a totally different life in many ways. I write at different times. In different places. With different foods available at the grocery store! But it’s all starting to feel familiar now, so that’s okay.

The biggest difference is that I have to be far more proactive in managing my time, and it’s taken a little while to get into a routine that works for me. But now I know what’s working (for this book, at least) and I’m excited about the prospect of what’s to come.

Finally Ally, you have written a series that has become incredibly success. Disney optioned the movie rights, your fans design t-shirts. You have, for all intents and purposes, created a life’s work that will supercede your life time. 100 years from now, people will still be able to read your Gallagher Girls series. When you look at your work in that kind of grand scope, how do you feel?

Well, I think you are far more optimistic about the staying power of the Gallagher Girls than I am! Every week I expect to see sales nosedive, so I don’t dream about thinking five years down the road—much less a hundred.

It is good, though, to have that feeling of doing something that’s permanent. Even if the books themselves go out of print or wash away, the girls who have read them will live on. And as long as the readers are alive, the books will live with them in some small way.

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