Dan: Tell us about your current release, Imbroglio
Alana: Imbroglio is a suspense thriller with espionage undertones. One of my first jobs was with a weapons research facility in South Australia and although I didn’t write the story until quite a few years after I’d moved on the idea for the storyline germinated then and stayed with me until I finally got around to writing it. ‘Imbroglio’ means ‘complicated affair’ and that’s exactly what the heroine finds herself in after she rescues a stranger from a burning car. Much more of a complicated affair than she anticipated in fact!
Alana: I think I need to go to the reviews to answer this. Let me list some of the comments that have been made and see whether you agree with my thinking that readers say it’s the quality of my writing and how well I paint scenes and characters that sets Imbroglio apart from a lot of others:
so well written
beautifully written and well crafted
rare gift of painting vivid, action-packed pictures
the writing is taut and the wonderfully descriptive characters leap out of the pages
wonderfully descriptive style
a master of dialogue
you just can't beat when an author has a movie playing in your head
skillfully constructs an authentic conspiracy-mystery that shines with strong characterization throughout
villains are suitably sinful, but not easily seen
if you're looking for an intelligently-written, maturely-crafted conspiracy-mystery (and one also wonderfully set against the sumptuous scenery of rarely seen cities) Imbroglio is a satisfying, high-quality novel well-worth losing yourself in
this lady can definitely spin a tale
Alana: It’s not on the bestseller lists yet but the number of copies sold each month keeps increasing! So I’m hopeful.
Dan: Any future releases readers should be aware of?
Alana: I’m working on a guide to writing good fiction: 15 tips for aspiring authors which hopefully should be available in the next month. Background to that is that I’m an editor, have been for 30 plus years, and I’ve critiqued quite a few first and subsequent drafts for authors. I thought I’d put into print the weaknesses that I've found writers new to the craft tend to have in common with, of course, the ways in which they can overcome them. I’m also working on another thriller, corporate crime this time, but that won’t see the light of day until next year. But if readers read and like Imbroglio they can also read Automaton which was my first published thriller and which won the Best Self-Published Australian Fiction in 2003.
Dan: Are you reading anything right now, or have you read anything recently that is worth mentioning?
Alana: I write a weekly book review blog which is posted on my website (alanawoods.com), so I read a book a week. If a book is too bad to review—in my opinion at least—I can get a bit tetchy because it means I have to make time to read another one. I like to pick books at random but I’m also asked by authors to review their books. The stand-out one recently was Osric’s wand: the wand-maker’s debate by Jack D Albrecht Jr and Ashley Delay. Such a lovely book I took part in Osric’s wand blog tour in June.
Dan: Does music inspire or motivate you to write? If so, what kind of music?
Alana: I like complete quiet when I write otherwise I can’t concentrate. I attribute it to working in the court reporting service for five years and wearing headphones with voices constantly talking in my ears. I’ve had an aversion to noise ever since. Although, let me quickly say in case that’s taken the wrong way, I don’t consider music to be noise.
Dan: Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite novels?
Alana: Given I’m a thriller writer my favorite authors may surprise. My all-time favourite is Dorothy Dunnett. Sadly she’s dead now but if any of your readers know The Lymond and Niccolo series they’ll understand. Historical fiction. Exquisite language. And for those readers who do know her let me make you very green by saying I was there for the 2000 Gathering in Edinburgh and was one of the 300 who attended the Stirling Castle dinner and received the gift of a personally-signed copy of King Hereafter. Completely at the other end is Dick Francis; I loved his earlier novels although his later ones were also pretty good. Then there’s Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, H. Rider Haggard. Names keep popping into my mind so I think I’d better stop there.
Dan: Are you one of those people who don’t own a TV? Do you have any favorite TV Shows? Favorite movies?
Alana: I believe I could get by quite easily without a TV but I get sucked into watching it every evening. If I didn’t have one it would free up hours for me to read (which I love to do) and to write (which I also love to do). It’s just that I’m weak and when my husband turns it on it’s a magnet that draws me. My favorite show from the US is Big Bang Theory. From the UK, QI and Coast and its spinoffs. A homegrown show (meaning Australia) I’m enjoying at the moment is Miss Fisher’s murder mysteries (based on Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher novels). I also love watching history shows, you know, the ones about the rise and fall of civilizations and cultures, etc. Favorite films? Two that spring to mind are Love Actually and The King’s Speech.
Dan: At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Alana: I’ve always loved writing. I was one of those kids who enjoyed writing essays at school, sad to say. I loved English and history classes because to me they were all just stories. Another thing you could shake your head over is that I always read the required reading during the holidays before the new school year began. I know, I know, SAD. I was a bit of a loner growing up and when I was little I used to tell myself stories to keep myself entertained. When I got a bit older I wrote them down, but they were only ever for me. In my twenties I started sending short stories to magazines but a few knockbacks disheartened me and I went back to putting them in the cupboard. I was in my thirties when my husband told me to either get serious or stop. So I got serious. I think he was hoping I’d jump the other way but he’s never said so.
Dan: Tell us about your writing process.
Alana: It’s changed over time. When I worked full time I negotiated with my husband that I could have Sunday for writing (New writers take note: it’s important you have your partner’s support otherwise things could derail very quickly.) Towards the end of a novel when the pace was picking up I’d also get in a couple of nights during the week. Now I do contract editing at home and if I have a job on I’m totally engrossed in that. The up-side is that when I don’t have any jobs I can put all of my time into writing.
Dan: Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
Alana: They are. I like to have decided on names before I start writing in earnest but I can consider and discard quite a few before choosing the ones I think fit the characters. The main characters names are obviously more important. Names, to me, are what you begin with at the beginning of the story when you put those initial brush strokes down. The lines help define them. Their personalities are the colors I use to fill them in.
Dan: How do you define success as a writer? Have you been successful?
Alana: There are several indicators of success for me. I meet, and I imagine all writers do, plenty of people who say they have an idea for a book and that if they wrote it they’re certain it would be a bestseller. This is when they’re usually looking down their noses at your efforts. I always answer them the same way. I say, ‘Well, write it then.’ I’m not rude but I 'don’t beat about the bush.' So for me the first indicator of success is having a completed novel. In the days before self-publishing became a real alternative getting published was the next indicator but now, because I publish myself, this step has been subsumed into the first indicator, for me anyway. The second indicator now is the responses I receive from readers. I’ve had some absolutely lovely emails and even phone calls from people over the years telling me how much they enjoy my books. What sweeter music than that would anyone want to hear? The third indicator is getting good sales and while, as I said earlier, I haven’t reached the best seller lists yet, my books are selling and with any luck the number of sales will keep increasing.
Dan: Do you have words of wisdom about writing that you want to pass on to novelists and writers out there who are starting out?
Alana: While you’re new to the craft, an apprentice, or aspiring as the description seems to be now, know that you need a lot of feedback about your work. Join a writing group and don’t be shy about workshopping your work, don’t be offended by criticism because that’s how you learn. And if, when, you manage to complete an entire manuscript get a professional editor to critique it. I’m not talking about fixing your spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes—that’s called a proofread and that’s the type of edit good writers look for. You need someone who’ll look at your work and tell you where you’re going wrong, and then show you ways to fix it.
Dan: What should readers walk away from your books knowing, feeling?
Alana: People tell me my characters stay with them for days after finishing my books because they’ve made such an impression on them. That’s what I aim for.
Dan: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Alana: Don’t be shy about getting in touch and saying hello. Authors love it, including me.
Bio: I was born in Leicester, UK. My family immigrated to Australia when I was four and I grew up in the coastal wilds of Adelaide but now live in Canberra. It’s where two of my children live. We (that’s me and my husband John) also spend time in Burgess Hill in West Sussex with another of our children, Simone, also an author. She had the bad luck (well, bad luck for us) to meet an Englishman on her world travels and settled in the UK. So now, if we want to see her and our two UK grandsons, we have to visit. My published books are Imbroglio and Automaton, both suspense thrillers. I also have a short story collection Tapestries and other short stories that range through humor, romance, crime, and travel. Then there’s my Family medical history which is a journal for families to fill in and keep a record of anything of a medical nature that happens in the family.
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