The Author Interview: Get to Know Alycia a Little Deeper
How long have you been writing?
I began writing as a hobby when I was a teenager. Officially, though, I've been writing and publishing nonfiction in the form of newspaper articles and such since 2003. I published my first fiction story "Sumari's Solitude" in 2008.
Where did you develop your love of writing?
I was a terrible reader as a child. When I was in kindergarten, I came home from school every day and cried because I just couldn’t make the teacher’s patterns of letters make sense as words in my mind. To help alleviate my frustration, my parents enrolled me in special education classes to boost my reading skills and my confidence. During my homework hours, Dad would read my textbooks aloud as I followed along while Mom corrected my English papers side by side with me. The combination of those three things vastly improved my reading and writing abilities. By the time I was 11, I could read college level material, but my speed was still three times slower than most of my peers. I hated reading because it was so difficult until my father stepped in once again.
During my summer vacations from school, Dad would read novels aloud to Mom and me as a fun way to pass the time. Every vacation or family holiday became a doubly-special event because each holiday meant a road trip during which Dad would crack open a new adventure. Soon I came to a point in which just reading along with Dad was not enough. In some cases I would actually steal the book and read ahead when Dad was tired.
Dad read books to me well into my college years and it was those stories that helped me realize a joy for reading that stretched beyond the tedious necessity of the classroom. My fondness for reading shifted into a passion for writing during my college career when I took my first creative writing and journalism courses as a sophomore at Texas A&M University. Suddenly I had the ability to actively participate in my own written adventures, not just read along while someone else’s characters trekked around in their own world.
It wasn’t until after college that I began to write in earnest. I wrote sporadically through the years occupied by my first three jobs—learning the fiction writing trade little by little. Writing, like reading, is always an uphill struggle for me, but the reward of the adventure is always worth the effort of the journey.
What inspires you as a writer?
I love a good story—whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. I adore learning about different people, creatures, and cultures. That passionate curiosity inevitably flows into my writing.
What made you want to write your first fiction book Musings?
Early in 2013, I was organizing a few of my computer’s short story files and I suddenly realized how many of them I had written, but not yet published. I began making lists of which stories I thought would work well together in a collection. After much trial and error, I had a good combination of stories and poetry ready to be professionally edited in early 2014. The project took longer than what I had anticipated, but it was worth the extra time to make sure that I had a solid anthology.
As to why I write short stories in the first place, I think short stories are a proving ground for writers. If I, as an author, can first achieve success through writing a short story, then it is much easier for me to take those skills well learned in a shorter work and translate them into a longer fiction form. Thus a powerful short story can sometimes build an author’s career faster than a novel because its smaller word count takes less time to write, but also makes each word used in building the tale more important.
Do you write every day?
I don’t write every day, but I do write three to five times each week--usually early in the mornings. I have a minimum weekly word count that I try to beat by the end of each week and that helps me accomplish my monthly and yearly writing goals.
What is your writing process?
That has changed over the years. Currently, I use dictation software on my phone or laptop to help me hash out my rough draft. I typically write first thing in the mornings before any distractions can interrupt my thoughts as I contemplate each character. The rough draft scenes usually take me a handful of minutes to dictate. Then the real work of editing those scenes into something halfway decent happens. I edit for clarity, conciseness, and correctness just as much in my fiction as I do in my nonfiction.
When the writing gets tough, what keeps you going until you finish?
I’m the type of reader who has to know how the story ends. There are very few books that I don’t ever finish reading for that specific reason. When I write, I make sure that I absolutely love the story idea that I'm working with. If I can fall in love with my characters and their specific story, then the need to find out what happens next keeps me writing through every frustration along the journey. Even if I already have a good idea of what the story’s conclusion is going to be, I still can’t keep myself from writing because I have to figure out exactly how it happens.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned from being a writer?
No one can be a good writer without patience, perseverance, and persistence. It takes all of those traits to succeed in something as monumental as turning an idea into several thousand words of cohesive, riveting story. Since I’m not all that patient, my only consolation throughout all of my hard work is the fact that I am just stubborn enough to keep trying until something works.
Who are your literary influences?
I grew up with Gordon R. Dickson’s The Dragon Knight series, select books from Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor Cycle series, David and Leigh Eddings’s Belgariad and Mallorian series. By way of more mainstream classics, Dad read James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, Baroness Emma Orczy’s The Scarlett Pimpernel, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to me.
In junior high (middle school), I discovered authors like Anne McCaffrey, Michael Crichton, Frank E. Peretti, and Tamora Pierce on my own. In fact, Menolly, the main character from Anne McCaffrey’s book Dragonsong, was the original inspiration for my Skinshifter character Lauraisha.
By scholastic necessity, high school saw me delve into more of the classics: Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Lord Byron, E.M. Forster, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, and Edith Wharton. While I enjoyed some of Jane Austen’s, Charlotte Bronte’s, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, Rudyard Kipling’s, and William Shakespeare’s work, I detested the other authors. To this day, I will argue the validity of Ernest Hemingway’s supreme writing skills with anyone in the room, but you won’t ever catch me reading his work for enjoyment because I cannot stand being around his characters.
College found me happily adding J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien to my personal library. I have read many other authors but Austen, Eddings, McCaffrey, Kipling, Peretti, and Rowling remain my go-to authors for excellent adventures.
Why does the speculative fiction genre appeal to you?
I love the fantasy and science fiction genres for their powerful ability to let me escape from the world around me. As wonderful as this world can be, I often just want to be able explore a completely different realm full of new cultures and unique creatures. Sometimes I really need the opportunity to spend a minute storming a castle wall or riding a dragon in between moving loads of laundry from the washer to the dryer. Reading and writing fantasy allows me to mix magic into the more mundane moments of my life, but it also leaves me grateful that I don’t actually have to battle a harpy over the territory of my own bedroom.
You also write nonfiction and shoot photography, correct?
I do. I've shot photography since I was 11 and I began my writing career as a journalist in my early 20s. Every so often, I like to step away from the fiction and put my photography and nonfiction writing skills to good use. If I'm out hiking, you can bet that I'll have a camera in my hand because I adore capturing the splendor of nature. All of the nonfiction books that I've published to date heavily feature my nature photography. I have a lot of my photography for sale as art prints on my website.
What do your fans mean to you?
I thrive on the communication from my readers. I do happy-dances every single time I read a review or a note from one of them. I cannot hope to succeed in this highly competitive business without the support of my fans. They are quite literally the reason that my family has food on our table.
How can readers keep up with your writing?
Go to AlyciaChristine.com for all the latest updates as well as several awesome extras. I set the website up specifically for the enjoyment of my readers, so please visit! Read my blog, ask me questions, sign up for my newsletter (and its freebies), view my award-winning photography and art, and much more.