Today I welcome speculative fiction author Alys Cohen. You can find the other four parts of the Blog Ring of Power interview with Alys on the following blogs, so please check them out to get the whole story!
- Where do you get your story ideas?
Usually something inspires me out of the blue. Sacred Blood was sparked by my concern about abuse being portrayed as romantic, and the upcoming dystopian by a news story regarding income equality and my wondering what would happen if…well, I don’t want to give it away.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I am a bit dialog-heavy at times, and since my tendency is to use large words and overly-formal speech, I have to be on alert to not slip into purple prose. Otherwise I don’t really think I have any specific style.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Most of the time I know where I want a scene to go, so will jump to the other side of the block and start writing the end, and than leap back to the beginning. I see it as chiseling at the block from both sides.
How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
About thirteen years ago I wrote a female character for a Lord of the Rings role play game (shout out to the old Tolfalas forum!). We also had a long story going where we claimed chapters and took over when it was our turn. We could take the story anywhere we wanted, and even kill characters, as long as we stayed pretty much within canon. I used the same character for both. Later I redeveloped her for a Harry Potter game. This character is the foundation for most of my main female protagonists.
I enjoy a variety of characters in my books. Part of the dullness of Twilight is the homogeny. Part of the allure of Harry Potter is the diversity. When I write an initial cast, I do intentionally give them different religious beliefs, different sexualities, mix the races of relationships so some are interracial and some aren’t, and generally try to give it a real-world mix. Once I have these things figured out, I start writing and let their personalities develop from there.
Plots are similar. I’ll have the main points. A, B, C, and so on, and will write those out. Then I’ll go back and just write and see where the characters take it. I’ve been surprised by some paths I would never have thought to plan out.
Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser” (do you plan/outline the story ahead of time or write “by the seat of your pants”)?
I think number four sums this up. I do both.
Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not?
I am a horrid critique partner, though thanks to one of my betas, Blair Falcon, I think I will be a better one in the future. To date, I have had more betas, a lot of betas. I can not know if I’m getting a point across, or if I’m giving enough detail. I can see the scene in my mind with no description. Am I getting that image across? Am I describing enough? My betas can’t crawl into my brain, and so are the ones who can tell me where more detail is needed.
How much time do you spend on research? What type of research do you do?
Probably half my time is spent researching. When I set my books in the real world (with a secret supernatural world), then I owe it to my readers to get the roads right, and I like to use real locations, such as restaurants. This will mean finding out if there is anything that restaurant is known for so I can add those tidbits in. If they’re having wine with dinner, I’ll consult those who know wine better to find out the best one to compliment the dish. I’ll use Google Earth to find remote towns and their stores, pull up airline schedules to make sure particular flights exist, and find floor plans for buildings I use. Sacred Blood has a scene at a trapeze school located on the pier in Santa Monica. That is a real place, and a friend went and got pictures for me. Yes, I have people scout locations. I usually give my books a timeline, and this adds the challenge of finding out if there are any events in their area on a certain day that might affect them. In Sacred Honor, the sequel to Sacred Blood that is currently in editing, Juliette is driving over the grapevine in Southern California on a certain day. There was a crash on that road when she would have been on it. I added in the helicopters that landed because I just don’t feel right removing real events from the real world if I’m going to use this world and dates.
As you might imagine, editing has the additional challenge of verifying a lot of information. I have several files on my computer with my sources. Of I want people to give me money for my books, I owe it to these readers to give the best books I can, even if these details will be chalked up to nothing more than figments of my imagination. But for those readers who enjoy looking for “did not do the research” points, have fun trying to give me a few.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging to write?
Battle scenes. I spent what felt like years researching how to write them for Sacred Blood, and then I ended up with two chapters of battle! When so much is going on, how do you decide what to show?
Sex scenes are also difficult, not due to a lack of imagination, but because I can really get into those scenes and can get shy. Currently I’m writing a spite-fic on fanfiction.net that has some explicit sex scenes through a male point of view. Pushing my boundaries anonymously is helping me find the boundaries I’ll be comfortably using in the Sacred series.
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6889385.Alys_B_Cohen
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Alys-B.-Cohen/e/B00H6UNYZK
Smashwords Author Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/alysbcohen
Book Back Cover Blurb:
Abused and frightened, Juliette St. Claire has never
known love or kindness in her eighteen years.
Meeting Tristan LaRocque changes that,
infuriating her cruel boyfriend, Nathaniel Jensen.
But Tristan is powerless to help Juliette when merely trying
could result in her death.
As threats to her life intensify,
Juliette uncovers the mystical secrets
they have both kept from her,
and she must make some tough choices
about the men she thought she knew.
Fiercely passionate and profoundly riveting,
Sacred Blood is an outstanding story
that will leave you rethinking
love, friendship, and everything you hold dear.