Thursday, July 21, 2011

Win NYT Bestseller Allison Brennan’s Book by Commenting!

Creator of the hugely successful Lucy Kincaid series, Allison Brennan will be one of the keynote speakers at the RMFW Gold Conference September 9th - 11th. For more details go to

Hi, Allison –

My name is Joanne Kennedy. I’m a romance writer and the lucky member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers who was chosen to interview you for our Chiseled in Rock blog as a lead-up to our Colorado Gold Conference in September.

Joanne: I’m particularly pleased to be interviewing you because I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. When I first started writing, I learned a lot from your in-depth answers on the RWA craft loop. I was amazed that a best-selling author would be so generous with her time, and that brings us to the first question: was your generosity toward other writers inspired by someone who helped you?

Allison: Thank you Joanne! I’m glad things I’ve said have helped other writers. I have a bit of an email addiction—I think that comes from being an extrovert in an introverted job. When I quit my day job, I had a bit of withdrawal—limited adult conversation. So I used the Internet and my writer’s loops to chat. I also had mentors – Patti Berg in my home chapter (Sacramento Valley Rose) was generous with her time and experience. Soon after I sold, fellow Ballantine author Mariah Stewart reached out and befriended me, teaching me the ropes and keeping me from doing stupid things. She also gave me my first cover quote, for which I am very grateful. Over the years many other authors have helped me, and I hope I’ve given some of that back as well.

Joanne: I know that you, like me, gave up television so you’d have time to write, but I also know it’s a late-night guilty pleasure (not that I’m stalking you or anything). Do you have a favorite among the current popular crime programs, like NCIS or Criminal Minds?

Allison: True! I gave up television for three years when I was working full-time because I could only write after the kids went to bed. I have never watched NCIS, though I always meant to. I’ve watched some Criminal Minds, but it’s not my favorite. Right now, my favorite crime shows are Law & Order SVU (has been my fave for years), The Killing, and The Glades. And, of course Justified is my all-time favorite these last two seasons. My guilty pleasure is Castle  … I also enjoy Flashpoint, but more for the teamwork, characters and choreography because it’s a little too neat and perfect for me. (And I don’t like how Jules has treated my favorite character, Sam! If I was writing that show … well, there’d be a lot more conflict and tension and passion there!)

I also really enjoyed the short BBC series Luther and am thrilled they’re going to do a couple long episodes. I am hugely disappointed that the networks canceled Detroit 1-8-7, because I thought that was one of the smartest cop shows. I also liked season one of Dark Blue, but season two was poorly done so I wasn’t surprised they canceled it. Hmm … I do watch a lot of TV! And this doesn’t include the non-crime shows!

Joanne: When you started out, you had five kids and a full-time job. Other than giving up TV, do you have any time-management tips to share?

Allison: I wish. I’m hugely disorganized and a big procrastinator. I work much better with deadlines, so even if I don’t have an official publishing deadline, I give myself deadlines. I also don’t sweat the small stuff, I don’t stress about cleaning, and writing and family always come first. That means I don’t volunteer for everything under the sun at church or the kids’ school, for example.

Joanne: Are you a morning writer or a night owl? Do you keep to a strict writing schedule?

Allison: Both. I write best in 4-5 hour blocks, in the morning (usually 11 am – 4 pm) and at night (usually 9 pm – 1 am) … I wouldn’t say my writing schedule is “strict” because sometimes I write later at night, or start earlier in the morning, or skip one, but I write daily.

Joanne: I think your heroes and heroines strike a perfect balance between courage and vulnerability. Is there a process you use for building a character or is that instinctive? Do you have their personalities and backgrounds in mind when you start, or do these things develop as you tell the story?

Allison: I don’t plot, and I don’t do character charts. I usually have a snapshot of the character … meaning, I can sort of see what kind of person they are, but the background and their actions/reactions come out as I write and rewrite. I’ve called myself an organic writer – I don’t know where I heard that, I didn’t think it up, but I’ve always felt it fit me.

Joanne: Has a character ever totally stunned you by doing something you didn’t expect and forced you to backtrack and rewrite extensively? (Not that that would ever happen to me or anything...)

Allison: Yes. Often. That’s so sad … but usually it happens because I’m trying to force a character into my idea of what he/she should do, not what THEY would do, and then they finally have enough and do their own thing and I realize they’re right.

Joanne: I won’t ask you to choose a favorite character, but what character in your books is most like you? I’m voting for Claire O’Brien (and you can take that as a compliment – she’s my favorite).

Allison: Thank you! I love Claire :) … I don’t know who’s most like me. I think there are little bits of me in all my heroines. Since I put myself in all my character’s shoes when I’m in their POV, I think it’s natural that we have some shared traits. I think out of all the jobs my characters have, if I wasn’t a writer, Claire has the job I’d probably have wanted (insurance fraud investigator.)

Joanne: I think the summary of Sudden Death – “By-the-book FBI agent vs. burn-the-book mercenary” – is brilliant. Do your books start with concepts like that, or with a first page, or a character?

Allison: Thank you! I liked it too … it just came to me. I wish all my books started with a cool concept, but that rarely happens. Each book starts differently … sometimes it’s an opening scene I picture (usually action) or sometimes it’s a character, or sometimes it’s a specific crime. But they all have What if … as part of the early thought process. What if a killer used crime fiction as a blueprint for murder? What if someone escapes from a serial killer? What if there was an earthquake under San Quentin?

Joanne: As a bookseller, I remember your books taking off from the start, which isn’t surprising because you create great characters and compelling stories. But do you feel that any particular promotional efforts helped you break out?

Allison: I wish I knew! I didn’t do a lot myself, and I think the best thing for me was catching a wave early—I was (I think) the first debut author who had a back-to-back-to-back trilogy. They had great covers, great placement and co-op—all because of publisher support. That’s something an author can’t buy. I complemented what my publisher did with a website and I also did book trailers before a lot of people were doing them. However, the hits are minimal—a few thousand hits on my last two trailers (to compare … my daughter made a fan trailer for Neal Shusterman’s UNWIND because she loved the book so much. He put it on his website for a few months and now she has over 16,000 views … all my trailers – eight total – might have half that!) So it’s hard to decide what works, what doesn’t. Having at least two books out a year is a definite plus, and because I had two b2b2b trilogies in a row, that really helped launched me.

Joanne: I know you wrote quite a few manuscripts before you published. Were they all romantic suspense, or did you toy with other subgenres?

Allison: Mostly romantic suspense, though I had my Seven Deadly Sins idea before I sold my first book, and an epic fantasy/dystopian YA novel (but that’s not what I called it then—I was really ahead of the curve and wish I’d finished it in 2003!) I also wrote a futuristic romantic suspense. But pretty much all my ideas have a mystery/suspense structure.

Joanne: I’m really intrigued by the trend toward dark, edgy teen fiction, and you write both darkness and teenagers well. Have you ever considered writing YA?

Allison: Yes. I even have a proposal written. But I want to finish the book before I submit because YA is so much about voice. I work on it when I have time.

Joanne: What are you working on right now?

Allison: I’m finishing the copyedits of Lucy Kincaid #3 IF I SHOULD DIE, which will be out on 11.22.11; then I’ll go back to writing Lucy #4, SILENCED, which will be out on 6.5.12, moving publishers to Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press.

Joanne: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers before the conference?

Allison: Thank you for great interview questions and I’m very much looking forward to the conference!

Joanne: Thank you so much for your time. We’re all very excited that you’re coming to the Colorado Gold Writer’s conference, and it really has been an honor to interview you.

Allison: If it’s on a blog, let me know when and I’ll definitely answer questions. I’ll also offer a copy of LOVE ME TO DEATH, the first Lucy Kincaid book, as a giveaway!

Comment for a chance to win a free copy of Love Me To Death, the first Lucy Kincaid book! US residents only please; a winner will be drawn at random. Contest ends Sunday July 24th, when the winner will be announced on Chiseled in Rock.


Joanne Kennedy said...

Allison, welcome to Chiseled in Rock and thank you for stopping by! We're open for questions and comments here at Chiseled in Rock.

Janelle Porter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janelle Porter said...

Allison, I love your books! I have been visiting 2nd hand book stores picking up anything with your name on it. I have had luck finding some of your older publications. It has become like a treasure hunt!

Holly Boone said...

I am a huge fan of yours Allison! I hope you are able to continue with the Seven Deadly Sins series in some way. Can't wait for Nov. for your newest book to be releasest! Thanks for entertaining us!

Chiseled in Rock said...

I picked up the page-turner THE KILL, Allison and can't wait to chat with you about it at the conference. And to our readers, my comment doesn't count for the drawing. Wouldn't be fair.

Gusto Dave

Joanne Kennedy said...

Allison, I have yet another question. Do you have any particular techniques you use to make sure the reader keeps turning the pages? (Note: My comments don't count in the drawing either.)

Allison Brennan said...

Thanks Joanne for having me!

Hi Janelle, and thank you! One of my mom's best friends owns a new and used book store and she says she doesn't get a lot of my books back, which is good for me because that means people put the books on the keeper shelf, which makes me happy. :)

Holly, I really want to finish the Seven Deadly Sins series and am pursuing ideas, but first I need to write the next Lucy book. I just turned in the copyedits for IF I SHOULD DIE and I'm very happy with that book, and the ending. :) Now I'm writing Lucy #4, which is very fun because the conflict is so real and complex I don't know how Lucy and Sean are going to get past it. ...

Thanks so much Dave! I appreciate it. THE KILL was a very interesting book for me on multiple levels because I used real laws and things I knew about in the legislature to craft the storyline. And I really wanted to focus on the survivors--the families of murdered children, because I think sometimes they're forgotten.

Allison Brennan said...

Joanne: I don't have any specific techniques. If I'm bored, my readers will be bored. In editing I look specific at repetition because that will slow pacing. I look at dialogue and make sure it's relevant. I like the Law & Order technique -- go into a scene late, leave early.

Elisa DeLany said...

Hi Joanne, Allison!

I never see your books in my local used bookstore, and when I ask, they usually tell me it's because people never sell them back. Your books are just that amazing!

I love how you create your characters and plot; organic writing to me always feels somewhat more real than when everything's been charted out and organized already. It just flows better.

j.a. kazimer said...

Hi Allison & Joanne:

Great interview. Thank you for sharing, and for giving us a chance to hear you at this year's RMFW conference, not to mention giving away a book.

See you in September!

Jeff Darling said...

Hi Joanne, Allison;
As a writer still looking for my first breakthrough, I am always very much interested in what a really good a popular author has to say. It means so much to me when someone as good as you will sort things out and be specific. Even thoughts about how to do writing times and how to say"I can leave this behind for a day" make sense to me in ways that actually penetrate my writing. I am grateful when someone of your stature makes it seem so natural to give back. Thank you
Jeff Darling

Donna Volkenannt said...

Great interview--questions and answers. Your book sounds intriguing, and I love the cover.
Donna V.

Allison Brennan said...

Thanks Marlena! I think what's most important is that writers write in a way that is natural for them -- there's no one right or wrong way. If you need to plot, plot. If you can't stand plotting, don't. As long as you're moving forward on the book, you're doing it right :)

Jeff, thank you for your kind words! So many people have helped me and continue to help me, that it really isn't hard to share what I know and maybe something I say gives other writers that AHA! moment.

Hi Donna, thank you! Ballantine did a great job on these covers, though wait until you see my new St. Martin's covers for books 4-6. I hope to have them by September :)

Gabbi Calabrese said...

Wow! I'm excited for your Lucy book! Definitely on my TBR pile now!

Dean K Miller said...

Always interesting to read an author's view of their work and their relationship with the characters. thanks

Joanne Kennedy said...

Allison, thanks so much for the interview, and for participating in the comments. I'm going to post a quote from one of your responses over my desk today: "If you're moving forward on the book, you're doing it right." That's so true, and we tend to forget it as we second-guess ourselves and get caught up in following the rules. Great advice!

Joanne Kennedy said...

Readers, we're still taking comments for a chance to win Allison's book, and a little bird told me she might even be able to come by today and answer a few more questions. The winner will be announced July 24th here at the Rock!

Allison Brennan said...

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Joanne! I'll pop in later today to see if anyone has any questions for me :)

Joanne Kennedy said...

Allison, thanks again for all the great info! We're all looking forward to seeing you in September!
I put the commenter's names in a cowboy hat and pulled out Marlena Cassidy's name as the winner of a copy of "Love Me to Death." Marlena, send us your info and we'll get the book to you!

Pauline said...

Love Allison Brennan's books. I'm hooked from the first page and kind of wish the story would coninue forever. Of course, they always mean that I'm up past my bedtime, lol, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Its hard to put a good read down.