Twice now my blog has featured a book called Dreamfire by Kit Alloway. An original story with a refreshing array of characters, I’ve lamented the waiting time until the sequel in my post “Books I Need More Than Air” and praised it from the rooftops when it made my “Favourite Reads of 2015” post.
Now, I’ve been lucky enough to interview the author! Read on for a snippet into the mind of one of my favourite authors of the year.
Hi Kit! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview – tell us a bit about your book, Dreamfire:
Where did you get the idea for this series? It was so long ago, I honestly don’t remember. But it probably began with my own nightmares. I have a problem with nightmares.
What was your favourite scene to write? I really enjoy writing scenes where my characters bare their souls. Emotional honesty is my thing. Frequently, those sorts of revelations take place during arguments, so I tend to enjoy writing scenes where characters fight with each other. I also enjoyed writing the nightmare sequences, because I could let me imagination run wild.
Who was your favourite character? I love Josh. I love how obsessive about dream walking she is. It probably says something weird about me that I admire that in her. I also love that she plays with the idea of the “strong female character,” which has become the bane of YA fiction, in my opinion. Sure, she can kick butt and throw off snappy one liners, but that’s not true strength. Josh is an emotional mess, and I think her story is a lot about developing real emotional strength by learning to trust herself.
Did you face any challenges whilst writing Dreamfire? How did you overcome them? First, I love that you used the word “whilst.” Dreamfire used the word “dreamt,” and my editor made me change it to “dreamed.” But back to the question. The original ending of the novel was terrible. It made no sense, and involved the characters stumbling into an alternate dimension used over by a manticore (look it up) that wanted to eat their souls. My agent read it and pointed out that it was very random (and very Greek, for no apparent reason) and said I should rethink it. That’s where Feodor came from. Once I had a villain I liked, so made sense in context, then I had to go back and rewrite whole sections of the book so that his presence made sense. It was a lot of work, but completely worth it. I can’t imagine the story without Feodor at this point.
Now a little about yourself:
When did you start writing? I started writing seriously when I was twelve. I finished my first (very bad) novel when I was fourteen, and I just sort of kept going. I got into a habit of writing each night, and when I finished one thing, I’d start on something else the next night. I’ve taken a lot of classes and gotten an MFA in writing, but the truth is that there’s no substitute for sitting down and writing the words. It’s the best education there is.
What is your favourite writing playlist? I tend to get obsessed with one album and listen to it over and over. I wrote the first draft of Dreamfire while listening to Dido’s first album, No Angel, endlessly. I’ve also obsessed over Abra Moore’s Everything Changed, the score to the movie Gladiator, and Dar Williams’s entire discography. Right now I’m hooked on Sarah Jaffe’s Suburban Nature.
What is your favourite genre to write, and why? I’ve always wanted to write for young adults. I started reading YA when I was about nine, and I never stopped. The teenage years were incredibly intense for me, and I think they’re intense for most people. It’s this time when you have the opportunity to make decisions that will affect your life forever, and you’re absolutely unprepared to make them. (How could you be? You’ve never made them before.) Also, I just like teenagers.
What book have you enjoyed reading lately? I’m reading Thin Places by Lillian Price right now. I met her recently and we became friends, so of course I had to read her novels. It’s subtle and weird, and the more I read, the more I like it. I’ve also been reading Hawthorne’s short fiction, and lamenting that he wasted such talent on writing moralistic fables.
What helps you get through writer’s block? I don’t really believe in writer’s block. Sometimes I don’t know what’s supposed to happen next, but I don’t believe in a mysterious affliction that prevents one from typing words in meaningful order. If I don’t know what should happen next, I do one of two things. I either go expose myself to a bunch of art and new ideas to get my mind stirred up, or I just sit down and work. Often if I start writing, something will come to me.
What is your number one tip for writing? Learn to edit. I meet a lot of people who want to write, but they feel like they can never get that first chapter or first page or first sentence right. Stop trying to get it right and just put it down, then edit it. Come back to it over and over again, and make it a little better each time. The first time a sculptor mashes her hand into a ball of clay, she doesn’t end up with a sculpture. She has to come back to the lump over and over and over, and each time it becomes a little more what she had intended. Writing is the same way.
What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started out? That I would need a steady day job. I wish I had gone to college for accounting for something straightforward like that. I wish someone had told me that even successful writers often can’t support themselves.
What other hobbies are you interested in? I quilt almost every day. I started a few years ago and fell completely in love. I also bake a lot, I am endlessly improving our house, and I’m learning the hula.
A few more obscure questions:
What genre do you have no interest in writing? Autobiography. If I can’t be someone else, what’s the point?
What is the weirdest thing you’ve had to research? I had to research goat vision the other day. Then I had to cut that scene, of course.
What is the strangest question or remark you’ve received about your books/writing? I don’t read reviews, good or bad, but my boyfriend reads them and occasionally passes along something he thinks I’d find entertaining. Apparently one reviewers on Amazon complained that my writing seemed to be aimed at teenagers. That seems like a hard thing to avoid when writing YA. I was once asked during a blog interview, “If your novel was a cupcake, what would it look and taste like?” Turned out to be a hard question.
Who is your personal cheerleading squad? My boyfriend of six years is amazing. I can’t count the number of two or three hour conversations we’ve had where we work through plot issues together. He insists that I make time for writing. Even if I want to blow off work to hang out with him, he says, “No, this is your work and it’s important.” My agent, Rachel Orr, is always there to hold my hand when I feel like things are falling apart or when I need advice. My parents have supported my writing since the start, and I have a sister who is still my favourite beta reader.
Describe your writing space in three words: Mess, mess, mess.
Do you have any writing buddies? I have an editing partner I meet with every other week. I’ve also just started meeting with a critique group. I have a lot of writer friends who are supportive and encouraging.
What does the future hold for you? I wish I knew. Hopefully getting my office cleaned out.
Big thanks to Kit for taking the time to do this interview with me!