{Writing in Canada} Author Interview with Allie Brennan

It’s been a long while since I’ve done an interview on the blog — I feel like it’s finally time to start doing more of them! And since I’m trying to incorporate more Canadian books and authors on the blog, why not have some interviews with Canadian authors? I hope to meet many more Canadian authors in the future, so here is hopefully the first of many!

Allie Brennan had sent me a super cute email months ago. I was still in that stage of childrearing where I had no time for much, let alone responding to emails, so I left the email alone. Finally, a few weeks ago, I reread the email (with a smile on my face!) and looked up Allie’s books on Goodreads and bought all the books she had available. TOTALLY fell in love with her writing and knew I had another favourite author on my hands.

About halfway through, I decided to contact Allie for an interview and she agreed … so, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Canadian author, Allie Brennan!

allie brennan1. Why did you become a writer? What (or who) inspired you to do what you do?

There are lots of stories of authors who had a dream, or were hit with an idea, or who read a famous book and said I want that. I’m not one of those authors. I’ve always written. Sporadically when I was young and then gave it up completely in my late teens/early twenties because I was supposed to “act like an adult” and not live in these fantasies anymore. Well, that didn’t last either.

I wrote and illustrated my first story at the age of ten as a Christmas present for my young cousin. At age thirteen I was forced into counseling at my school for the disturbing nature of my stories and my imagination. At 19 I wrote my first novel but quit about 2/3 of the way through. At 24 I completed my first novel and spent two years revising it obsessively before admitting it just wasn’t a great story. At 27 I published TIGHT KNIT.

Writing and I have had a love/hate relationship my whole life, but I didn’t get into for any specific reason other than it just wouldn’t leave me alone. I’ve gathered many inspirations since then, in other authors, friends, experiences and landscapes. I study the people I admire and spend lots of time in places I love.

2. What is the atmosphere like when you write – completely silent, or do you listen to music?

It depends on the project. When I wrote TIGHT KNIT, I listened to The National and Wintersleep on repeat the entire time exclusively. I couldn’t listen to anything else at all. When I write fantasy I tend to listen to classical or movie scores. When I wrote the TRUTH ABOUT US (Written as TJ Hannah) I had a playlist of random songs that reminded me of the characters. It changes for every project. I love writing with music playing, but when I edit I need silence. I need more of my brain and less distraction.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00031]3. Tight Knit made me want to pick up my knitting needles, even though I’m a terrible knitter! Are you a knitter? Who or what inspired that book? Can readers expect more of Talia and Lachlan in the future?

My mom taught me to knit when I quit smoking, but I never got any good at it. My Nana knit but I remember her crocheting more than knitting. It’s a great and useful skill to have! I wish I spent more time learning it!

TIGHT KNIT was inspired by my Nana. Each character has a specific character trait of Nana. The endless love of Nan. The severe anxiety disorder of Talia. The medaling nature of Georgina. The gruff pessimism of Mary Beth. The sternness of Greta. The only character that has NONE of Nana is Lachlan. Lachlan actually surprised me. He was never supposed to exist the way he does.

I get a lot of notes and reviews saying that the ending was unsatisfying and that I should write more of them. I would never say never. But as of right now, I think that these two have been through enough together and apart. I’m just going to let them be for now. But if ever a great idea for them came up, I would write it for sure.

4. What book(s) are you reading right now? Any favourite authors you might like to mention?

I’m like a four year old when it comes to books. Every day I have a new favourite author. Every book I read is my new favourite book. I will mention my new found love for Courtney Summers (who is also Canadian) after reading THIS IS NOT A TEST. The sequel comes out in January and I’m very much looking forward to it! Currently I’m reading the SHATTER ME series and my current feelings on it are lukewarm but this has happened to me before. I tend to reserve judgment for when I start actually understanding what’s going on. By the end it will probably be my new favourite series!

Some of my all time favourites over the years include: Brave New World, The Collector, 1984, Harry Potter, Junky, Oryx and Crake… a million others!

5. I love being a Canadian, especially getting to travel and see the beauty of the country. I know you live in one of the prettiest parts of the country, but are there any other Canadian places you love, or would love to visit?

I absolutely fell head over heels in love with Yukon Territory. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. But that said I also love Saskatchewan (where I grew up) and I really miss the huge thunder storms. My partner and I would love to do a cross Canada trip to hike/bike/paddle all the amazing places across this country. If I had to be specific about one place I’d love to go it’s the Maritimes.

Girl and way6. When you’re not writing, what do you do in your spare time?

Well, reading is a big one. But most of my non-writing time is spent outdoors. I ended up with a Mountain Man and he’s always planning our next adventure even before the current one is over. We hike a lot. It’s also winter for most of the year here so snowshoeing is a big hobby. I’ve just gotten back into cross country skiing a bit since abandoning it as a child, but being pregnant it won’t be long before I’m too heavy for my skis and will have to stick to the snowshoes.

7. What has been the most challenging part of writing and publishing? Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

The most challenging part of writing is doing it when I don’t feel inspired. But I just keep telling myself that 500 words is better than no words… Everyone writes in a different way. I write differently depending on the project I’m working on. I wrote TIGHT KNIT in 5 weeks, I wrote another book of mine in 10 days… Both those books needed heavy and devoted editing. I wrote one book over six months and another over a year, one needed barely any editing, the other needed to be totally rewritten.

So when it comes to advice for writers I say do what is necessary to get your book down and get it right. You don’t need to be a certain “kind” of writer. You need to tell your story the way it needs to be told, and that will change from project to project. Allow yourself to grow and evolve.

Publishing in general is challenging for me. If you’re the type of person who takes things personally, publishing will crush you or make you lose total sight of who you are as a person. That sounds harsh but I really wish someone had told me that when I started. Maybe they did and I just didn’t listen…

Publishing and writing are VERY fundamentally different things. That’s the biggest bit of advice I have really: know the difference and always keep track of your goals. Ignore the trends and write what’s true to you exactly the way it needs to be written.

I try to sit down every few months and get my goals/priorities in order. It helps me remember who I am and why I write in the first place. It also helps me evolve as a writer. My goals are always changing.

8. Can you share any details on what you might be working on next? Any exciting projects in the works?

I’m all over the place at the moment. Like I mentioned above, I often sit down and assess my career. After the epic failure of my second book (not hitting the right audience), I decided that self publishing wasn’t the ideal place to publish YA for me. I have an agent now that deals with my Young Adult titles. I have a book on submission with her, one in the editing phase, and one half written. My New Adult titles are self-published (and always will be unless a publishing house come knocking at my door) under the name TJ Hannah, but those have been on hold for while as well due to life readjustment things. I also write YA paranormal with Jolene Perry under the name AJ Brooks. Our first book is on submission with editors at the moment.

Right now I’m working on a project for NaNoWriMo to boost my confidence and rekindle my love of stories. I need to relearn how write the stories of my heart without letting business get in the way! After this month who knows where I’ll be… and what I’ll decide to finish up next!

Connect With Allie: 
Twitter | Web | Goodreads

Have you guys read any of Allie’s books? If you haven’t, stay tuned tomorrow … I might have a special treat for you all! 

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{Book Reviews} A Blast From the Past and Something Spooky & Hilarious

Like I said yesterday, this week has actually been pretty crazy for books! I promise, this is the last of the major review posts and soon, after sharing my short story reviews, I’ll be back to ONE review per post! These are the last of the horror stories I’ve read and listened to this week — it’s been a bit of a whirlwind!

revenge of the living dummyFirst up, I decided to find a shorter audiobook to listen to yesterday morning, so I found a blast from the past, some good ol’ R. L. Stine, on Hoopla to download. It was only a few hours long, which was perfect AND it had a creepy doll. Is there anything creepier than a doll? I think not.

This book was a little bit confusing to me since it was broken up into two parts. The first part is about the doll and the second part is about Horrorland. I think I liked the part with the doll a lot more than the second part. The second part just seemed so disjointed from the rest of the book, BUT maybe that’s just how the stories are laid out. I’m not 12 years old anymore — I’m not sure how these are supposed to work.

At any rate, it was a fun listen and it made me want to maybe check out some more of the books in the future. I think my favourite thing about this audiobook was that there were sound effects! Can ALL horror stories on audiobook come with sound effects, please? I felt like that added a whole new element of scariness to the story and it made the whole thing really fun to listen to.

Sad that this book didn’t totally live up to my expectations (again, book for 12 year olds), but I was happy to have given it a chance. From what I can see, the second part, the Horrorland part, continues on in the next books in the series, so I guess that’s a good enough reason to continue on!

a grimm conclusionNext up, I read the final book in Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm series, The Grimm Conclusion. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that these books are not only clever, but absolutely hilarious and a great addition to any child’s library.

That being said, these books are extremely dark and gory, which is something I love about them. Being a person who studied children’s lit in university, it’s fun to visit these tales the way they’re meant to be told. No Disney here, that’s for sure. Of course, not only are they told in an extremely dark way, but there’s so much humour sprinkled throughout the story! It’s a great balance of horror and humour, and Gidwitz really is a natural born storyteller.

This book was a lot of fun, especially one part — and don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled! — where the main characters, Jorinda and Joringel, meet the author. SO much fun. And really not something I expected in the story, but it really gives the reader a good idea as to what Gidwitz does in real life and what led him to actually write stories like this.

End spoiler.

The other nice thing about this book was that it teaches the readers that it’s okay to make up stories and change stories and be creative. Yeah, we go through a lot of blood and gore (let’s just say I’ll never look at a box of apples the same way), but the whole execution of these stories is done so brilliantly that I feel like these will be treasures in childrens’ libraries for some time to come. If I were a kid’s author, I’d wonder why I didn’t think to write something like this.

Utterly charming, completely horrific, and laugh out loud funny, these are definitely keepers — and one of the top series in my collection. So happy to have stumbled upon this series AND I hope Adam Gidwitz releases more fun stories in the future.

Have you read either of these books? Have you seen the Supernatural Bloody Mary episode? 

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{Book Reviews} The Horror! The Horror! A little more Bloody Mary … and a visit to Hell House.

This week has been FULL of reading books! And I love it! Nothing says fall (or winter!) like curling up on the couch with a mug of tea and a good book! A little trickier now that I have a little guy to chase after, so I take advantage of naptime. Especially this week when I want to gobble up as many horror stories as I can!

hell houseFirst off, I downloaded an audiobook from Hoopla, a pretty awesome service from my local library. I was trying to find something good and spooky and Hell House by Richard Matheson seemed like just the ticket. I mean, ghosts? A haunted house? Just what I like!

In the end, this one was just okay for me. It was good, but I do tend to multitask a lot while listening to an audiobook, so listening to horror means that I don’t get creeped out that much. Though, when it comes to haunted houses, this one wasn’t bad! It definitely had its spooky moments.

The only thing I really didn’t get with this is why it had to do a LOT with sex. Is that an adult book thing? I say “adult” but mean just a grown up book, not that kind of an adult book. I find that when you get into the adult fiction in this kind of genre, it always has some kind of sexual aspect to it. I mean, I guess you could say it worked in this story, but I didn’t much care for it. I wanted different kinds of scares, personally.

I also really had to laugh towards the end — and you might want to not read this part if you don’t want to be spoiled — since it was set up so horribly, in my opinion, for something bad to happen. Matheson goes on and on about how things are good and life is good and all is well not and blah blah blah … I mean, if you’ve read any horror story, you just know that’s a set up for something bad to happen.

End spoiler.

So yeah, Stephen King might have had a few quotes about this being good, but it was just okay to me. Nothing over the top scary or anything. Maybe something was lost in translation with the audiobook? Maybe it’s better read on paper? Who knows. If you like haunted houses and demons and sex, well, this one’s for you. It definitely had its creepy moments and the characters weren’t too bad. It takes place in 1970 and I didn’t find that it was too old school or anything. I just think when it comes to haunted houses, there might be a better book for me out there.

say her nameNext up, I read ANOTHER Bloody Mary book. Remember, I just finished one earlier in the week? Well, I read some reviews saying Say Her Name by James Dawson was way better, so I picked it up at the library and decided to give it a go.

Like most horror novels I’m really looking forward to, I decided to start this one as I went to bed. The husband was watching a TV show, so it was just me in our room, with the little lamp on. As I mentioned in my review of Mary: The Summoning, I remember doing the whole Bloody Mary thing as a kid and I think the worst part of that is the anticipation. Within the first 50 pages, this book does a really good job of building up that anticipation. So much so that I got up to use the bathroom and had to turn on the light when I went in because I was just a little creeped out.

Not to mention the fact that I avoided looking in the mirrors when I was reading. Oh, and I should mention that I went back to bed afterwards and cuddled under the covers, was reading a particularly spooky bit, AND THE FREAKING POWER GOES OUT. Yup. This one was definitely much scarier than the last one.

Part of my wonders if it’s because this is a foreign book. It’s like watching foreign horror movies, they’re always so much scarier than American made movies. Maybe because the American ones are all about gore and shock, where as the foreign ones try to dig a little deeper psychologically? I felt like that’s what this book was doing. It didn’t have a chuckling Mary or anything super over the top, but it was one of those books that made you think there was something standing behind you just waiting to pounce. It made you think there was something in the mirror — just in the corner of your eye — that you know is there but you’re trying not to see.

I think my only complaint is that the story is outlined very much like the movie The Ring. You see Mary and then she sends you message to say that she’s going to get you in 5 days. There’s even the nosebleed part. BUT, even though it had major similarities to the movie, it was still pretty creepy. Maybe it’s because I find that movie super scary and can only watch it during the day (I know, I’m a wuss) but I felt like it only lent even more creepiness to the story, being so similar.

So if you’re looking for a good Bloody Mary book, definitely pick this one up! And be sure to not only start it, but to finish it in bed, at night, terrified in the dark. My body wanted to sleep facing towards the bathroom when I finished, but I’ll admit that I cuddled just a little bit closer to my husband the night I finished. It really freaked me out!

Have you read either of these books? What did you think? 

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