I've followed Alexandra's journey for just over a year, and in that time have had nothing but total respect and inspiration from her. A talented writer, creator and podcaster. She continues to inspire me with her ambition and mad baking skills. Seriously though... the cupcakes are delicious.
Take a minute and devour her interview.
1. What inspired you to write your debut novel, “Tangled in Tennessee"?
When I was 19 I spent a summer in Nashville, Tennessee to pursue my songwriting. Before I left my best friend told me, "don't fall in love with some boyband and never come home." That stuck with me. On the 32 hour drive from Calgary to Nashville I couldn't help but imagine meeting some dashing Harry Styles-esq musican, of getting a publishing deal and moving there permanently. Between co-writes in the morning and playing gigs in the evening I had some downtime, so I decided to write out this story that I had been playing in my head.
2. Why did you choose the path of Traditional Publishing?
I knew that going the traditional route I would learn a lot, which was one reason for pursuing traditional publishing. The other is that I believe in my writing and myself as an author, so why not even try to find an agent or a publisher? They would be able to take my book places I never could, and would be my greatest advocates. I am so thankful for my agent, Kris, and all she has done to protect my books, give unbiased advice, and get it into the right hands. Plus, as I have been working on the TITN series, she has already been pitching book #3! We never stop hustling :) The small royalty that goes to her from each pay cheque I get is NOTHING compared to all she has done for me.
3. Do you have any advice for other writers looking to pursue Traditional Publishing?
Pitch to agencies before you pitch to publishers! Most major publishers won't accept "unsolicited manuscripts," which means they will only read manuscripts submitted to them by an agent. My agency is one of the top in Canada, the Carolyn Swayze Literary Agency. Remember that just because you have an agent and a publisher, doesn't mean you don't do any work. I am CONSTANTLY editing, promoting, answering calls and emails, etc.. Also, while you are pitching yourself to an agent and a publisher, you are most importantly pitching your current and potential body of work. Nobody wants a one-trick pony. Always keep writing and prove that you are worth the investment!
4. What inspired you to become an author & has it always been your dream?
I have wanted to be a writer ever since I was three years old and my parents read me books before bed. I was inspired by Nancy Drew and Narnia. I was always enchanted by the idea that a story you see in your head could be put into words, and that other people would fall in love with those words and maybe that story would mean something to them, too. So it has literally always been my dream!
5. Where’s your favorite space to write?
Sitting in bed, my laptop on a pillow. Sometimes I go stir crazy, though! In which case I go to my favorite Starbucks, where I have worked so everything is so familiar it feels like a second home, and that does the trick. Changing your environment can make a big difference sometimes!
6. What are your top 5 must haves for a writing space?
1). Music: Usually mellow country. My favorite writing song right now is "Middle of A Memory" by Cole Swindel that I still cry to at least once a week.
2). Good Lighting: The lighting needs to be soft and natural, no extremes for me.
3). Comfy Seating: If I start to get uncomfortable I loose focus, so the pillows have to be set up just right...
4). A Notebook & Pen: When I'm writing I will often think of something I need to edit, a scene to add later, or I'll forget what color so-and-so's hair is. Having a notebook on hand to collect these notes is VERY important so I can write them down and deal with them later.
5). ZERO INTERUPTIONS! If someone so much as knocks gently on the door or sneaks in to grab something quick, it all goes up in smoke. I have a little sign I put on the bedroom door now so my husband knows not to even THINK of interrupting me lest our home be engulfed in flames.
7. How many hours a day do you write?
I try to do at least one hour a day, but my schedule can be all over the place with work and other commitments, so sometimes I don't get to write all week, but then Sunday night I'll write for four hours. Plus I go through spurts where I write a TON, and then I won't touch my book for two weeks. I always recommend that at least once a day you open your laptop and read the last page you wrote; most times I do this, I end up writing some more! If you want to be a successful author you can't just write when you're inspired, you have to treat it like a job.
8. In terms of Outlining are you Plotter, a Pantser or a Plantser?
What does this mean!? I'm not down with the lingo! I do a basic, basic outline to help me stay focused, but I mean VERY basic. For Tangled In Tennessee my plot outline was "Mackenzie in Nashville, meets Dear Juliet, songwriting, Parthenon with Riley, Jake mad onstage, storage closet, plane home/to London, end." So.... SUPER simple!
9. Do you use a schedule to plan out your life / writing & if so, do you use paper or electronic planning?
YES! I love nothing more than a fresh Day-Timer or a new calendar. I color code, I write goals in the margins, I check off competed tasks. Then about every five months, I buy a new Day-Timer and do it all again! I ONLY use paper planning because I like seeing pen on paper. I don't schedule my writing too much because I find it overwhelming, but I like having loose goals written down in a planner.
10. What is your favorite part about the writing process?
I really like when I'm writing and I think of something new to add to a scene that I had not thought about before, or when the characters take it in a totally new direction. It can be frustrating when your characters won't do what you planned for them to do, but it is also a great indicator that you have developed really strong characters.
11. What is your least favorite part about the writing process?
Definetly when I have two major plot events but I need something between--those connector scenes can either turn into something magical or they are just a pain in the butt to write--and to edit! Because your editor will always be able to tell what you couldn't write fast enough and what you wish you never had to write.
12. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
That's a hard question to answer, because I think it just depends on what you're writing and also what you have going on in life outside of the book. For example, Tangled In Tennessee took me six months to write when I was only in school as a full-time student, but the sequel took me 2.5 years to write because I was a full-time student and I was working full-time, too. I try to write on average 10 pages a week!
13. What’s your biggest internal obstacle in getting your writing done?
Feeling inspired. After a long day at work staring at a computer screen writing I don't always want to come home to stare at a computer screen and write.
14. What’s your biggest external obstacle in getting your writing done?
Finding peace and quiet! It is hard to have longer than one hour of uninterrupted time with a dog, a husband, two jobs, a list of chores and errands to run.
15. Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Totally! But I heard someone say once, "learning how to write is important so that when you're not inspired you can still work on your craft; muscle memory and the techniques you learned will fill in the gaps and create inspiration when there isn't any." Since finishing my BA in English Literature I have found this to be so true and helpful in overcoming writer's block! I may not be inspired but once I open that word doc, it normally hits. It's like going to the gym: half the battle is putting on your running shoes.
16. Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
Normally it drains me, especially because what I'm working on right now is a really heavy, historical fiction novel. Coming out of that writing 'haze,' particularly when dealing with heavy topics, can take time.
17. Best piece of advice for other writers?
Believe you have something worth saying! Until you genuinely believe that the words you put on the page are valuable, you will never succeed. Also remember that sometimes you will write things that are valuable to just you or a specific group of people, and that's okay! Not every book has to be loved by everyone. All that matters is that you believed it was worth writing.
18. What is your favorite quote about writing?
When I was in Nashville a sweet southern woman said to me in her gorgeous Tennessee drawl, "Darlin', if you don't write today there is going to be a big ol' hole in the Universe that your voice was meant to fill." So sweet and so true! You have a gift, so share it! The world needs your voice, your story.
19. Which authors are your biggest inspirations?
Sylvia Plath for novel writing; I love her flow-of-consciousness style of writing, and the way she approached her subjects with such intensity. I am also always inspired by Wordsworth, Mary Shelley and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
20. What are you currently working on now?
Right now I am writing a historical fiction novel about two friends in Germany during WW2! I'm very excited about it, because I do think this is going to be the book I can make the greatest impact with. I always end up crying as I'm writing because the subject matter is very heavy, but I love it so much! It has been a lot of work since I have to be historically accurate, but I know it will be worth it.
21. What is your Favourite Season (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer)? Does the season impact your writing life / creativity?
I love when the air gets crisp in the fall and the leaves are golden, I love that period right before Christmas where twinkle lights are up and the snow is falling softly, I love the way green smells in the spring after a rain shower, and I love warm summer sunsets. So how could I pick!? My most productive creative moments are always in the in between of seasons, when things are soft and fresh, not extreme.
Connect With Alexandra