One of the great things about publishing The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle has been connecting with new and fascinating people from around the world. I’m honored today to post a guest interview with Alison Wells, a rising luminary in Ireland’s writing scene. Shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award among others, Alison has published one novel, Housewife with a Half-Life and three short story collections. She lives in coastal Bray, Ireland, which is about 20 kilometers south of Dublin, with her husband and four children.
Diana: You have four children—I know what that’s like—so the first question for me is how has being a mother of a large brood impacted your writing? Does it make you a more efficient writer or—hold on a minute, I have an emergency phone call from one of my kids—more scattered?
Alison: That’s a really great question. The answer is both. By participating in writing challenges like NaNoWriMo I’ve learned that I can produce a quantity of work under any circumstances, even amidst family chaos but I’ve also noted that the constant distractions and lack of extended periods to focus on work make it harder to work on longer projects like novels. It’s more difficult to keep everything in my head. Short stories and flash fiction are far easier to work on under these ‘scattered’ circumstances. My fourth child has just started school so now I treat writing like a job and sit down each morning once they’re at school. However, mentally I find it easier to write early in the mornings (5am) when I’m guaranteed that I won’t be interrupted and the usual demands of the house etc aren’t staring me in the face.
Diana: My blog is about how to write and live our best chapter. Do you have a routine or something you do to make each day a page in your best chapter?
Alison: I recently wrote 31 posts on creative and mental resilience exploring how we can put energy and joy into our lives or at the very least get through our daily challenges. However I’m a flawed guru and don’t always follow through on the things that help. The things that help most when I do them are a) the 5am writing routine, the satisfaction of having produced material bolsters me for the day and b) keeping a daily record of my goals and progress helps with clarity and to orient me to what I’ve accomplished rather than what I have ‘failed’ to do.
Diana: Tell me how you decided to go on the self-publishing route. Has it met your expectations? Are you still planning on looking for a traditional publishing house?
Alison: Although I’d achieved most success (shortlists in major short story competitions) for my more literary writing, when I wrote Housewife with a Half-Life it came from a place of light, fun and wonder about the amazing world and universe in which we live. It is a heartwarming comedy featuring a woman and mother trying to find her own identity while saving the universe! The publishers I submitted it to couldn’t see where it would fit in their categories.
I had also been in touch with many fine writers who were putting out their more genre-busting work as self-published novels. It was an act of learning and optimism for me to self-publish this heartfelt book that didn’t fit neatly into a publishing genre.
I made sure to do it right and to as high a professional standard as possible. I paid for an editor and cover design for the book. There were high points such as being asked to launch and sell my book in an established Dublin bookstore. Having a real-life launch was an amazing feeling and great fun. There have also been challenges – gaining visibility and letting people know about my book has been a learning curve.
I think that self-publishing is not just an either or traditional vs personal route. I released three mini short story collections: Stories to make you go ‘ah’, Stories to make you go ‘ooh’ and Stories to read on the train that feature my more literary writing on love, life and loss so that people can get a flavour of my work while I keep working on and submitting my novels.
Diana: Your novel, Housewife With a Half-Life, manages to be both surreal and realistic–and fantastic and funny. Your collection of stories, Stories to Make You Go Ah, also provide a wonderful insider’s look into domestic life. What are you working on now?
Alison: Thank you. Although I write in different guises – with a more surreal and fantasy slant as A.B. Wells for Housewife with a Half-Life and as Alison Wells for my more literary stories, it all comes from a place of genuine warmth and wonder. The language itself is also important to me, my short stories in particular revel in the music and rhythm of words as well as their meaning. I have just finished a book called The Book of Remembered Possibilities.It’s about what happens to the story of ourselves when memories fail us and what kind of world would there be without stories, It tells the story of a woman caught up in a family crisis who meets her alternate from another reality. However it’s more literary than sci-fi! I hope to submit this book to publishers after one more read over. As well as the occasional short story I’m concentrating on a second draft of The Exhibit of Held Breath – a book about the power of art and belief, and a tale of how an unusual exhibit enthralls the people of the town and transforms the life of its curator. I’m also planning a fun sequel to Housewife with a Half-Life. After that I have more exciting projects, plenty of ideas and stories still to come!
Diana: Thank you, Alison! I look forward to reading more of your work!
You can find more information about Alison on her website: www.alisonwells.wordpress.com Or on her author page http://www.amazon.com/Alison-Wells/e/B00813OJCS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Thought for the day: Keep a daily record of what you’ve accomplished rather than what you “failed” to do.
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What a great interview, and I am so excited to read that Alison has two books at such a progressed stage. I’m looking forward to reading them both.
Thank you, Rebecca. I enjoyed your flash fiction! Look forward to reading more on your site!
Diana and Alison, wonderful interview and sharing!
You know, when the publishers you approach with your books can’t see where these books will fit into their genres, it’s actually a good thing. It means your books are like the books already on the shelves. Yours are unique. And isn’t that what readers want?
Thank you, Marylin! That is a good observation about certain books being unique–but that makes it harder to market them which is why traditional publishing houses are hesitant to take them on. Which is why there’s a boom in self-publishing!