MP! has a chinwag with A G Howard, the author of “gripping” book ‘Unhinged, part of the ‘Splintered’ series. Writing tips, read recommendations and the low-down on the third book in the series, all here.
When did you know you wanted to write?
Unlike a lot of writers who started when they were young, I was older. In my early years, I was always more of a storyteller than a writer. I bounced around the U.S. as dictated by my father’s Air Force career. Throughout the upheaval, my constant companions were books and my own imagination. This changed on the night I lost my grandfather to brain cancer as an adult. I sat down, cried, and wrote a two page tribute to him and his life. The rest of the family was so touched by it, we used it in his eulogy. It was then that I realized how deeply ingrained writing was in me.
If I could have one moment with my grandfather now, I’d thank him for being my inspiration on that dark night, because the end of his journey was to be the beginning of mine.
Was there any other inspiration for ‘Unhinged’ apart from ‘Alice In Wonderland’?
Well, not ‘Unhinged’ alone, but the ‘Splintered’ series as a whole, yes. The actual idea for the series came to me when I went to see the Tim Burton & Disney Alice adaptation. The cinematography was so vivid, techno-coloured, and evocative that I didn’t want to leave the setting when it was over. So I started playing out Wonderland continuations and scenarios in my mind. I decided to write a follow-up story about the world, making things a little darker and a little funkier, but I needed it to be contemporary and different than it had ever been done.
Then I saw the book ‘Alice I Have Been’ and everything clicked into place. I could have my contemporary heroine be a descendant of Alice Liddell, the girl who actually inspired Carroll to write his story to begin with! Once that fell into my lap, I started the process of writing.
Did you have an image of what Alyssa and Morpheus would look like while creating your book?
Yes. I’m a visual writer, so when I first flesh out my characters, I need to have a sense of what they look like. I go online, look at sketches or headshots of people. I look for faces that hold some sort of aura, some expression or aspect that brings to mind characteristics of my character. Then I print them off and tack them to a bulletin board in my office to help me visualize these people in the beginning when I’m first getting to know their voice. For me, it makes them come alive.
As for Morpheus, he’s a mix between three of my favorite heroes/anti-heroes: The Crow, Jareth from ‘Labyrinth’, and Edward Scissorhands.
Alyssa is kind of blend of Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift. ;)
Pinterest is one of the best tools I’ve come across recently. I have boards dedicated to all of my characters here.
Did you ever study creative writing in school?
I didn’t. I taught myself to write by reading books in the genre I was aiming for, and reading / applying writing books and exercises to my projects. I rewrote my very first novel twelve times while learning to write. Here’s a list of books I used during my studies, if you’d like some examples.
What is your writing process?
My favourite place to write is in my office at home. I have a bulletin board (my desk faces it so I can look at my character headshots or any notes I’ve made while I’m writing).
The one thing I must have is a computer or laptop. I’m not someone who pens their manuscript on paper first. There’s something about the movement of my fingers along the keyboard that sets me into a rhythm and starts the words flowing.
Here are my tools for writing:
Mug shots: I post pictures of my main characters on a bulletin board in my office so I can see them each time I’m in the room. Sometimes that’s enough to either inspire an entire conversation between them, or a scene that I have to sit down and write immediately.
Books and movies: Every Friday night my husband and I watch a DVD together. I prefer movies about my current WIP’s subject (I’m a bit of a fanatic about it). This also goes for books. I saturate myself in the subject I’m writing. This not only keeps my head in the theme, but helps me to avoid things that have already been done in similar books and movies.
Music: When I first start on a project, I’ll compose a playlist of songs to evoke the moods of my characters / scenes, and to heighten the atmosphere of the setting wherein I’ve placed my story. The songs vary from instrumental to vocal pieces. I’m not picky. It all depends upon the book. Sometimes I’ll even listen to this music while doing something other than writing. Just like the pictures on my bulletin board, it sometimes inspires a scene or an exchange when I’m not even at the computer. (To see my ‘Splintered’ series playlists, click here.)
What advice would you give to someone if they wanted to become a writer?
Two things: Write until you finish something, and don’t dwell on the accomplishments or failings of other writers. Don’t compare yourself to them. This is your journey and yours alone. The only way to move forward without tripping is to keep your eyes on the path beneath your feet. I have more advice for aspiring writers on this page of my website.
Are there any more ‘Unhinged’ books in the line up?
There is a third and final ‘Splintered’ series book in the works right now. It’s titled ‘Ensnared’, and I’m doing edits as we speak. Here’s some info on it. It comes out January 2015.
What’s another YA (young adult) author or book we should read next?
If you’re looking for books similar to the ‘Splintered’ series, there’s the ‘Nevermore’ series by Kelly Creagh. It’s like ‘Splintered’ & ‘Unhinged’ in that the MC is a high school girl who gets pulled into a strange, fantastical dark portal but instead of Wonderland, it’s based on a world taken from Edgar Allen Poe’s tales. Here’s some info on it.