- How our upbringing, favorite restaurants and vacations can have influences on the settings for our stories.
- The importance of the inciting incident and why it needs to happen as soon as possible.
- How dialogue is essential to character development and relationships.
I have always been over-imaginative, and I think this is a quality that all writers share.
Welcome to the thirtieth episode of Interviews from the Void, where I interview writers about their writing process, discussing the mechanics and physicality of the craft.
In this episode, I chat with writer Allison Mullinax.
From BREAK THE LINE:
“The weight of the rod handle rests firmly in the palm of my hand. The feel of it always reminds me of coming home. I may have fished on hundreds of lakes across this nation, and won my share of tournaments, but the feel of a rod in my hand when I cast out the line never gets old. The anticipation of what could be waiting for me under the murky waters sends a wave of chills underneath the seat pooling on my forearms.”
Arthur: Tell me about your journey to becoming a writer. When did you start and what would you consider to be a few of your major accomplishments as a writer?
Allison: Thank you so much for having me! I have always been over-imaginative, and I think this is a quality that all writers share. Often times, an author’s day dreams make the best novel premises, and this is exactly what sparked my desire to become a writer. My brain simply cooked up a plot that had to be let out.
Arthur: What was your inspiration for writing BREAK THE LINE and THE SOUTH WINDS?
Allison: I grew up and still reside in a southern lake town. In fact, my hometown hosts the Bass Masters Fishing tournaments quite often. This was the main inspiration for Break The Line, a story of a professional fisherman falling in love with a local.
My family and I take a yearly vacation to the beaches in south Alabama. One of our favorite places to eat is an oyster house. From there, The Slippery Oyster, one the main settings in The South Winds, was born.
I want the world around my readers to disappear and pull them into mine.
Arthur: What kind of experience are you hoping to create for your readers?
Allison: If one of my readers of BREAK THE LINE finds themselves transported to a small southern town, where the tea is sweet and the characters have a drawl…then I’ve done my job. If they crave the taste of raw oysters and smell of sea salt in the air while reading The South Winds…then woo hoo! As for WHEN IT ALL GOES STILL, I hope my readers are engulfed in a love story that has them swooning.
I want to make the world around my readers disappear and pull them into mine.
Arthur: There are many theories for how to start a book. Some say don’t start with the weather. Others say write your entire book then delete the first chapter. For your new book, BREAK THE LINE, how did you decide where your story would start?
Allison: BREAK THE LINE is on the shorter side, more of a novella. Because of this, I wanted my hero/heroine to be together as much as possible in each chapter to give their relationship time to develop. Therefore, it was vital an inciting incident between the two happen within the first chapter. They needed to meet, and there needed to be a problem right away.
It was vital an inciting incident between the two happen within the first chapter.
Arthur: BREAK THE LINE has such an authentic feel to the writing, everything from your descriptions to the dialogue. I felt like I was in the fishing boat with the characters. The reading was so genuine. How did you develop such great dialogue? How did you learn to describe the settings and scenes so well?
Allison: Wow! Thank you so much. For me, believable character relationships are built through banter and dialogue. It was important to me that Benson and Danni-Rose’s individual personalities leap of the pages and feel authentic to the reader. No one wants to read a flat one-dimensional character! A good character trait analysis helps me accomplish this. Giving each character small mannerisms, tics, or words they often use makes them feel authentic. For BREAK THE LINE’s setting, I only had to describe my home town.
Arthur: What is your editing process? Has it changed between your first book and your newest, THE SOUTH WINDS?
Allison: Admittedly, I have not always had the best self-editing process. I tend to get so excited about a project that I’ll rush the editing just to get it out into the world. This is bad! Editing is where the magic really happens. It’s where you already know who your characters are deep down and how the whole story in its entirety plays out, so you have an advantage when beginning a second draft. That really cool thing that happens in chapter 29? While editing, I can throw some foreshadowing for it in chapter 4. Through writing several novels, I’ve learned to slow down and take my time and appreciate what the editing phase has to offer.
Believable character relationships are built through banter and dialogue.
Arthur: BREAK THE LINE has a great emotionally satisfying ending. Did you always know how to story was going to end, or did it come later after you started writing?
Allison: I knew that BREAK THE LINE would require a happy ending as a contemporary romance novel, but I really wanted to make my characters work for it. And I wanted my readers afraid it might not happen. I typically know the desired ending before starting a novel, but I don’t always know the twists and turns I’ll put my characters through to get there.
Arthur: I’ve been asking many writers about their approach to outlining. Some say they plan the entire story out in advance prior to writing. Others say they don’t like to outline because it can constrain the freedom of the story. Where does your outlining process fall within this spectrum?
Allison: I will typically do a vague one page outline and a character traits list for each character. Other than that, I try not to plan ahead too much. In my one page outline, I’ll mostly jot down major plot points and sub plots. As ideas strike me while writing, I’ll add them to the outline along the way. I’m somewhere between a plotter and a pantster.
Editing is where the real magic happens.
Arthur: Katherine Karch talks about the importance of children’s books in that the first book a child reads will have a huge impact on their literary influences. What is the first book you remember reading and how has it impacted your writing?
Allison: My parents are both book lovers. As a preteen, I would sneak my Dad’s James Patterson novels up into my bedroom and read them. I loved suspense, thrillers and crime novels growing up. And I believe Mrs. Karch is correct. This is still my favorite genre to read, and I’m currently working on my first thriller.
Arthur: One question often asked has to do with book reviews. How do you get reviews for your books? What is your process for promoting your work?
Allison: Ahhh, the beast that is marketing. I spend several hours a week, sometimes a day, marketing my novels. In the beginning, typically before the release, my time is mostly spent reaching out to book bloggers and reviewers, as they are invaluable to authors. When a book blogger features your novel, it is visible to all of their subscribers. Blog tours can be a very useful marketing tool in gaining readers. And with readers, comes the reviews.
Thank you so much, Allison for sharing your writing wisdom with us. I can’t wait to read your thriller! Be sure to check out Allison’s other works.