Alexandra Vanhorn


1. What inspired you to write your debut novel?

My work in progress is the direct result of all the stars aligning in just the perfect way. My novel "To Market, To Market" resulted from a horror series "Haunt Patch" I started on my YouTube channel where I tell original ghost stories using dares from my audience. When 'grocery store' won for the setting of my story I dreamed up a market for hags much like the house of Baba Yaga from Russian folktales. I loved the imagery so much and I quickly realized I couldn't contain this world within a short story. It was begging to be a novel!

2. Why did you choose the path of (Self-Publishing/Traditional Publishing)?

At this point, I am working on draft 2 of my novel. I'm open to both forms of publishing but I think the finger of traditional publishing is beckoning me. Then again, I've learned time and time again in my life that fate always throws my plans for a loop, so I'll see where my writing journey takes me.

3. Do you have any advice for other writers looking to pursue Traditional / Self-Publishing?

No matter what avenue you pursue, do your research! Understand what you're getting into and don't be afraid to ask questions! Also, be humble. Value the time of experts if they is offering to help you.

4. What inspired you to become an author & has it always been your dream?

I’ve been making stories up since I was a little girl. When I was too young to read I plucked a book out of the local library and brought it home for my Mother to read to me. It turns out it was in French! I took to making up the story myself, using the pictures for guidance.

I started making my own picture books soon after that. In third grade we read a short story called “I am a Grain of Wheat” about a boy who wanted to be a writer but no one believed in him. He enters a local writing contest where the winner will receive $100.00! He enters but only wins $1.00. His parents are disappointed but the boy is thrilled! That’s when it occurred to me that I could grow up to be a writer. I have chased that dream ever since.

5. Where’s your favorite space to write?

I have different areas depending on the type of work mode I'm going into. If I want to feel relaxed while I write then I curl up on the couch with my dog. If I need to buckle down and focus, I runaway to a local coffee shop and refuse to leave until my task (or my green tea latte) is done. I also love writing at my kitchen table. It's next to my deck door and is a delightful place to collect morning sunlight.

6. What are your top 5 must haves for a writing space?

1. A tea/coffee/soothing beverage

2. My dog, Willie

3. My laptop (and lap desk if I'm on the couch)

4. My bullet journal

5. Warm things (blanket, sweater, etc....)

7. How many hours a day do you write?

It depends on the day, but I try to write or work on a writing project for at least an hour a day.

8. In terms of Outlining are you Plotter, a Pantser or a Plantser?

My friends will tell you I am one of the most hardcore outliners they know, but I never feel like I'm outlining enough! When it comes to novels, I need a firm roadmap of my story to make sure I'm not getting lost of distracted. My technique is different when I'm writing a short story. I tend to take a concept and fly through it, unsure of where I'm going until I get there. It's easier for me to pants a short story because there's less room for me to get distracted.

9. Because I have a pretty Type-A personality, I’m always curious about other peoples scheduling methods. Do you use a schedule to plan out your life / writing & if so, do you use paper or electronic planning?

I have a bullet journal and so many to-do lists to keep my life in order. I need to feel the physical pressure of pen to paper to help reenforce ideas in my mind. My bullet journal records my progress, tasks, and important dates. My to-do lists are for the day to day tasks to make sure I'm not forgetting anything.

10. What is your favorite part about the writing process?

I love tugging at the loose thread of an idea. The more I pull, the more the story reveals itself. In other words, I love planning and expanding on ideas. It’s satisfying helping an idea come together. I also adore setting the scene. With horror it’s the perfect opportunity to wink at the reader and hint at what’s to come. I love dropping tiny clues and seeing what people notice. Finally, I love writing dialogue. I feel like characters reveal so much of themselves through conversation and it’s the way I get to know my cast!

11. What is your least favorite part about the writing process?

That terrifying moment just before you start your writing session for the day. It feels like staring down the edge of a cliff, preparing to jump. My heart flutters and my mind races. But then, I breathe deep and force myself to take the leap. I'm always glad when I do.

12. How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It depends on the perimeters I’ve set for myself. I like to do fast first drafts in about thirty days followed by a month cool down and 3-4 months for additional drafts.

13. What’s your biggest internal obstacle in getting your writing done?

Starting. I have a fear of starting that often plagues all aspects on my life. With writing I always am afraid that what I'm about to write will be worthless or a waste of time. It's funny how much you can build something new to be a big, bad monster in your head. The funny thing is that once I begin, I always find the monster to be comforting, sweet and cuddly.

14. What’s your biggest external obstacle in getting your writing done?

Oh my dear internet, how many hours have we wasted together? As much as social media has helped me build confidence in my skills and meet amazing fellow writers, there's always that fine line between productive and time wasting. I've so often slipped to the other side, getting lost in "Just one more YouTube video!" or "Just ten more minutes on Twitter!" and I always find that hours drip away like minutes!

15. Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

Yes, I just believe that it goes by many names and takes many forms. For some it’s uncertainty and for others it’s hitting a wall and not knowing where to go. I had writers block for 5 years believe it or not and ultimately I was overcome with fear, anxiety, and doubt in my skills.

Oddly enough, I encourage you to embrace the block.

I fought against mine for so long, trying to force myself to write to get over it. All this did was strengthen the wall I was hitting. If you are blocked, it might mean you need to step away and just let your mind rest. Try learning a new hobby, try projects you’ve never done before, let yourself know it’s okay to step away from writing. The time away will clear your mind and free your creativity.

16. Does writing energize you or exhaust you?

The idea of writing exhausts me. I get so caught up in how to start that I’m tried before I even begin. I use a method of starting a timer and only having to write until the timer runs out, this helps me get over my inhibitions and just write. Once I’m actually in the act of writing, I’m overcome with buzzing, tingling energy.

17. Best piece of advice for other writers?

I always say this at the end of my videos and at the end of my writing chat on Twitter #WritersPatch: Keep writing, keep laughing, and keep encouraging each other.

18. What is your favorite quote about writing?

My favorite quote comes from a very thin but impactful writing craft book called “Ron Carlson Writes a Story” and he says to “Stay in the room.” It calls for writers to keep writing through the temptation to stop because amazing idea are just around the corner.

19. Which authors are your biggest inspirations?

Oh my, here goes a lovely long list! *Cracks Knuckles* In no particular order, J.K. Rowling, Jhumpa Lahiri, Junji Ito, Josh Malerman, Stephen King, Cornelia Funke, Jeffrey Overstreet, Patrick Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman, Naomi Novik, Sylvia Plath, Libba Bray, Kendare Blake, Madeleine Roux, Jenna Moreci, Kim Chance, Jerry Spinelli, Netsuki Takaya, Edgar Allan Poe, and my hands are tried so I’m going to stop now!

20. What are you currently working on now?

I am writing draft two of my novel, "To Market, To Market" and I'm hoping to have the draft completed by May or June. I'm also working on several short stories and my horror story series Haunt Patch for my YouTube channel!

21. What is your Favourite Season (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer)? Does the season impact your writing life / creativity?

I adore Fall (I'm a November baby!) and I really do feel seasons influences how I write. Fall is full of my favorite colors, weather, and the Halloween season. I write horror, so having that spooky atmosphere inspires many of my spooky stories.

Connect With Alexandra

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PatchworkNerd

Website: https://www.alexandravanhorn.com

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3eDmo1YEUvN-4G07zeUXaA

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/patchworknerd/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PatchworkNerd/

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