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!
1. 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.
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.
6. 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!
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!