Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Interview with Shannon Lee Alexander!
I wanted to kick things off with a fun question, so what is your favorite book of 2016 so far?
THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner made me cry so much I leaked tears all over the copy I was borrowing from my daughter. It was the best kind of heartbreak and hope all in one beautiful book.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
It sounds super cheesy, but usually they just tell me their names. Sometimes I’ll poke around on baby name websites, but even then, I’m just reading the names until one of them speaks to me. I don’t give it a whole lot of thought. I know some writers do, but if I get too hung up in names and meanings and whatnot, then things start to get too allegorical and prescriptive and the life just drains out of my stories.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I think somewhere in my subconscious I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but it seemed like a scary thing to want, so I convinced myself I wanted to be other, more sensible things, instead. I’ve always been a writer though. I’ve kept journals for as long as I can remember.
What inspires your writing?
I process my world and experiences through writing, so I’d say I’m inspired to write when there’s something I’m struggling to understand, like sickness, death, violence, and even love and relationships.
What was the hardest part writing “Life after Juliet”?
When I wrote LOVE AND OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES, no one had ever met any of the characters before. They didn’t bring to the book a set of preconceptions about how Charlie and the gang should act. Becca is a big favorite with LAOUV fans, I think because readers can easily see themselves in her. They’re very loyal to her.
I became paralyzed after a critique session of an early draft of LIFE AFTER JULIET. Everyone in my writing group agreed that Becca’s character wasn’t quite right in that draft, but they couldn’t agree on what I was doing wrong. There were ten different (and strong) opinions about how Becca would react to a single situation. I was baffled. I had no idea which Becca was the right one. And I really didn’t want to screw this up because everyone loved her so much! I needed to get it right!
It took a long time for me to figure out that no one knew Becca better than me, and that if I wrote her from my heart, then people would love her again.
Ignoring expectations and staying true to my creative vision was the key. Once I did that, the story unlocked itself.
What is your favorite thing about writing “Life After Juliet”?
I think Darby Jones is my favorite thing about writing LIFE AFTER JULIET. She evolved into a major character that I did not see coming! And I love her for it. I hope readers will love her, too.
Do you have any habits while writing? For example: a specific snack food you have to have or maybe music playing in the background.
I like to burn a candle with a wooden wick when I write. It makes a crackling sound that is good for white noise. I also like to have a cup of hot coffee or tea. My husband can tell if I’m having a good writing day if he comes home and finds cups full of cold coffee in my office. That means I was too busy writing to drink my coffee! And if I’m truly stuck, I need candy! Swedish fish are my favorite.
That being said, I try not to get stuck in routines when it comes to writing. I don’t ever want to use a habit as an excuse for why I can’t write. I don’t ever want to think, Well, I just can’t write today because there are no Swedish Fish in the house. I’d never get any writing done if I was always waiting for the perfect opportunity to write.
What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t writing?
Besides hang out with my family, it’s reading. I love reading young adult and middle grade books.
What or Who were your biggest inspirations for the characters in Life after Juliet?
I had an amazing drama teacher in high school. She wasn’t the inspiration for Mr. Owens, Becca’s theater director because he’s an egomaniacal drama queen and my teacher always put us first. But her love for theater is something that inspired me in high school, and when I was looking for something to inspire Becca, I decided that was exactly what she needed.
What is your next project?
It’s set in a new place with new characters and a new, dark mood. It’s full of secrets and ghosts, and it’s going to be awesome—when I finally finish it.
What do you think is the most special thing about this world you have created?
I think the relationship between Becca and her older brother Charlie is beautiful. I absolutely love the way that they’ve opened up to each other and can depend on each other, too. Becca says, in LAJ, that before Charlotte they were like closed books on the same shelf. Charlotte opened them up and taught them to read each other.
What is the one thing you want readers to walk away from Life after Juliet with?
Grief is not a thing you “get over.” It changes you and becomes a part of you. And that’s okay because it means that you know how to love and be loved.
If could describe your book in five words, what five would you use?
Booknerd looks up. Finds life.
Shannon Lee Alexander is a wife and mother (of two kids and one yellow terrier named
Harriet Potter). She is passionate about coffee, books, and cancer research. She spent most of her time in high school hiding out in the theater with the drammies and techies. Math still makes her break out in a sweat. She currently lives in Indianapolis with her family.
Find her at www.shannonleealexander.com
Link to Entangled Publishing Author Page
Buy Link Life after Juliet