Ali Cross is a writing ninja. She likes to wear black. She also likes to type madly, alone in her office, while entertaining the voices in her head. Except, she likes to write in the afternoons with the sunlight streaming in. Guess she’s a day-ninja. Or whatever…
Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author? Ali:
I didn’t think about it consciously until I was riding with my family on a road trip and out popped the words, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel.” I didn’t realize it was true until I said it. But thinking back, I realized the evidence had been there all along. I met author Anne McCaffrey when I was eleven or so and I told her I wanted to be a writer—she said to never let anything stand between me and my dreams. And in university I kept the info from a favorite Dungeons and Dragons character I’d played, because one day I wanted to write a novel about her. So I suppose deep down I’ve always known, but I never said it out loud until about nine years ago.
Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background? Ali:
I graduated university with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Vocal Performance. They don’t exactly go together, do they? :) And I didn’t take a single creative writing class. But in the last six years I’ve attended about eight writer’s conferences which have taught me so, so much.
Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing? Ali:
I can’t say. I’m honestly not sure what it is. It just feels like the most real thing I’ve ever done. It feels important, bigger than myself, and almost as essential to my happiness as fresh air and sunshine.
Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents do you have? Ali:
Haha—nothing like putting me on the spot. :) Well, all my life my talent was singing. I sang in an elite national youth choir, then went to university for vocal performance. After graduation, I sang with a professional opera company for about five years. Besides that, I’m pretty handy at making pretty little crocheted baby things. :) I’d like to learn how to translate that into items I can wear, but so far I haven’t figured out how to make myself fit into the pretty little pink dresses.
Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like? Ali:
Well, I homeschool my boys, and pretty much the second we’re done with our day (usually around 2:00 p.m.) I put on my headphones and settle in to write! I usually get in an hour or two every day, Monday through Friday—and I try to write for at least an hour on Saturdays, too.
Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it? Ali:
My ideas come from everywhere. Some have come from dreams, some from random what-if games with my husband or children . . . One came from cloud gazing. :)
Usually I dash out a quick outline—the nugget of the story. Then I try to write it. Some stories only have a chapter in them, but there are enough ideas that have a whole book’s worth of a story to keep me busy for a very long time.
Deirdra: When did the idea of writing a book first come to you? Ali:
Back about eight years ago, on a drive with my family.
Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books? Ali:
Great question. I hope, when people read my stories, that they’ll find truth. That they find themselves and come to know themselves better through the stories I tell.
Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first? Ali:
My husband is totally my muse. He has the best ideas ever and my stories almost always have him to thank for the bulk of the ideas. I used to be largely a “pantser”, but since reading Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT, I’m now an outliner—sort of. I “beat” out my stories, with my hubby’s help, and from there, writing the novel is almost . . . easy. ;) (ha!)
Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it? Ali:
Sure I do, but the Blake Snyder “beat sheet” really helps me avoid most serious snags. And then, of course, there’s my hubby—he’s awesome enough to play the “what if” game with me until I work through the problem.
Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing? Ali:
I write anytime, anywhere, but I prefer at least my headphones with Pandora tuned to some station that suits my story, but ideally, I’ll be in my office (with the headphones and music), and sunlight streaming in through the window.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods? Ali:
Pretty much just music and a hefty dose of daydreaming.
Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer? Ali:
My husband, David. Always and forever him.
Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life? Ali:
I’m not sure there’s a secret. My crit partners help me ensure my characters behave appropriately, but otherwise, just a lot of digging deep for that truth I mentioned earlier.
Deirdra: What authors do you admire and why? Ali:
I love Guy Gavriel Kay and his Fionavar Tapestry series—those books are the ones that have inspired me the most. Add to that Anne McCaffrey for enlivening my young mind.
Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing? Ali:
Ack. I should NOT snack while writing and yet . . . I really love it when I have Mike ‘n Ikes on hand!
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print? Ali:
To not over think the writing process. Sure, there’s the chance your story will be dull and lifeless, but you’ll never know until you try and you might just discover that you’re story is not only bright—it shines.
Deirdra: What are you working on now? Ali:
Oh man, I’ve struggled a bit finding my place after completing a major rewrite and revision. But I think I’ve settled on revising a middle grade fantasy and maybe even some drafting of a young adult science fiction. I’m excited!
Deirdra: What is the most difficult thing about being an author? Ali:
Totally, 100%, the waiting/trying to get my books out there—on the shelves and into a reader’s hands. So, so hard.
Deirdra: What is the best thing about being an author? Ali:
The ability to dream and to live through my dreams every single day.
Deirdra: What are your goals as an author for the next three years? Ali:
Oh wow. Well, I’d like to say that I’ll have a book on the shelves by then, but I know I can’t really control that. So instead, I intend to do what I can to help myself—keep writing, keep revising, keep querying. Work hard, dream, and never stop trying. :)
Deirdra: Where is your favorite place to write? Ali:
Definitely my office, with the afternoon sunlight lighting up all the stories in my mind.
Deirdra: How do you come up with your character’s names? Ali:
Usually their names come from them and they whisper them to me.
Deirdra: What is the best complement you could receive from a reader? Ali:
That I made them feel something, that something touched their hearts in a meaningful way.
Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share? Ali:
Sure! Writing is a solitary art, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. At my blog and on Facebook (it’s a baby Facebook page, but it’s growing), you can join up with other writers working hard just like you. We’d love to have all the writers join us!
Thank you so much for having me, Dierdra. You have a lovely blog and I’m honored to be apart of it, if only for a day!