Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meet M.J.Allaire

Meet M.J. Allaire, the wonderful author of the fantasy novel Dragon's Blood, also the author of quite a few other novels featured in the picture to the left. I got the wonderful chance of interviewing this author, and here's what transpired -
To start off, tell us a little bit about your background:

Heather: How long have you been writing?

M.J.: Since 2005

Heather: What started you writing for publication?

M.J.: My friend Kate and I were swapping emails back and forth one day, and after one particular email she wrote back, “I love your writing - you should think about writing a book.” I’ve always loved English and reading, but never thought about being an author until I received that email from Kate…

Heather: Do you have a set time when you write, or just whenever you get the urge?

M.J.: I work a fulltime job, have spent the past few years raising three teenagers on my own, and write whenever I can. I don’t have a set time to write because if I put myself on a schedule, I’m bound to be disappointed when I don’t stick to it. So I write whenever I can – in the mornings before work (rarely), or after I get home in the evenings. Or on the weekends of course, if and when I can find the time…

Heather: Who is your favorite author?

M.J.: Stephen King is a biggie – I love the Dark Tower series. I’ve recently started reading Dean Koontz again though, with an author’s eye and not just a reader, and I’ve found that I really like his writing style.

Heather: Have you ever had writer's block, and if so how do you get rid of it?

M.J.: Sometimes I do – like the past few months when trying to start book four in my YA fantasy series, the Denicalis Dragon Chronicles. I knew what I wanted the story to be about, but was having a hard time starting it. It finally took a weekend away to a remote cabin in New Hampshire where I was really away from the hubbub of life to get the story started – and away it goes J

Heather: What do you recommend to aspiring authors?

M.J.: 1) If you really want to be an author, know from the get-go that it will NOT be easy. If you’re serious about taking the plunge, you’ll likely have to work harder at being an author than you’ve ever worked at anything else before. But also know that anything worth having doesn’t come easy, and just keep putting one foot forward as you head down that path; 2) Figure out who your market will be for your book, and market to them in any way you can think of; and 3) Don’t let anyone say you can’t do it – believe in yourself and never give up!

Heather: How do you invent your characters?

M.J.: In my YA series, I decided to use my three children and my daughter’s best friend as the main characters, which is really interesting. Just imagine being in the middle of a series where you literally know all the characters, and deciding you want to kill one of them off to make the story better. Which character would YOU choose? (Note, in book four, one of my main characters dies …)

Heather: I know a few authors who keep records (almost like police records) of height, weight, background, etc. of their characters. Do you keep tabs on your characters, and if so, what do you usually make note of?

M.J: I do keep notes on all sorts of things pertaining to my series, not just about the characters. I love that I’m writing a series, but it makes it more challenging four years after the fact to remember if I said Tonia had blue eyes or brown, etc...

Heather: Some authors say that they feel as though his or her characters are real. Do you feel this way, and what do you think about this?

M.J.: I absolutely feel that my characters are real, but this is because the four main characters are based on my three children and my daughter’s best friend. Many of the characters in the series are from someone or something in my life. Take Ragoo for instance, the yarnie cat in The Prisoner (book two in the series). He is based on my cat in real life, whose name happens to be Ragu. He was found in a dumpster with spaghetti sauce on his head and was turned into the Humane Society when he was found (true story) – which is where we adopted him from.

Heather: Do you have anything in the works?

M.J.: I’m currently working on book four in my series, to be titled Dragon’s Breath, and hope to have it live sometime in April, 2010! And for the record, my literary wheels are already spinning with ideas for book five …

Heather: What would you say is the neatest thing you know?

M.J.: The absolute neatest thing that I know is that I finally know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m in my early 40’s and it took me this long to figure it out – and I’m not stopping until I’m doing book tours and going to schools full time!

Heather: What was your favorite part about writing your book?

M.J.: Getting lost in the story, even though I know it’s not real, and having an elementary or middle school student come up to me and say, “Your books are awesome!”

Heather: Has music ever inspired your writing?

M.J.: I wouldn’t say it inspires my writing, but when I was writing my latest book, a memoir about my life as a military dependent, I got into listening to Ludovico Einaudi, which totally caught me off guard because I would have bet my life’s savings less than a year ago (and all the years prior) that you wouldn’t ever catch me listening to classical music, but Ludovico’s piano playing is mesmerizing!!

Heather: Do you like to write in complete silence or does it have to be noisy?

M.J.: I like listening to either nature sounds (frogs, owls, birds, running water) or Ludovico – if there’s a TV, radio, or any kind of conversation in the room I have a hard time concentrating.

Heather: What made you put your characters in the setting that you did?

M.J.: I wanted my characters to be in a place where I would love to find myself, which ended up putting them with nature (in the woods) and then exploring a cave. Eventually they wound up in an entirely different world with dragons and magic, which I think would be kind of cool if it was possible to see something like that in real life.

Heather: Keyboard or pen?

M.J.: Definitely keyboard (I can type almost 95 words per minute on a good day) – I do tend to use a pen to scribble notes on napkins (which I’m lucky if I can find later on when I need them) at least a few times a week though.

Heather: What do you think is the hardest part about being an author?

M.J.: The marketing aspect of it – hands down. If you want to write a book, say, for your mother – you write it and give it to her, that’s fine, you’re done. But writing for a wider audience (in my case young adults), you have to think of ways to get your work out there. I visit schools and libraries and sell books at local fairs or craft fairs every chance I get. Little by little my name and the books are getting “out there”, and if I have my way, they’ll continue to do so. A lot of my friends and family can’t understand why or how I do what I do, but I do it because I’m determined (and maybe a little bit crazy) to make a difference. JK Rowling did a wonderful thing with Harry Potter, getting both young and not-so-young people to read (and keep reading), and I want nothing more than to have that same effect on readers.

Heather: What do you usually do while writing?

M.J.: Listen to Ludovico, with my laptop on my lap, and occasionally find myself interrupted when Ragu wants to curl up on my lap, too.

Heather: What were the circumstances surrounding your decisions to become an author?

M.J.: When Kate suggested I write a book I was about to go through a divorce and decided sure, why not? My oldest son likes dragons and was my reader, so I decided to write “a book” for him. I got a little sidetracked along the way and now am on book four (of at least five in the series). I had no idea I would find my own destiny when I started writing, and I’ve thanked Kate many times for believing in me before I believed in myself.

Heather: Some people say that you need to live life before you write a book. Do you think that it’s experience that writes a book or imagination?

M.J.: I don’t necessarily think that experience writes a book, but I do believe it makes it easier to write once you’ve got some life experiences under your belt. For those who may be young and lacking in some of life’s experiences, they have the benefit of a much fresher (and younger) imagination.

1. I like the color: purple.
2. The sky is most beautiful when it’s: waking.
3. My favorite feature of a computer is: convenience.
4. I think inventors should invent a/an: mind-recorder.
5. Thing I love most in the world is: wildlife.
6. Things I hate most in the world is: death.
7. My favorite type of electronic device is: i-pod.
8. My favorite thing that has been available before the year 1900: nature.
9. My favorite thing that has been available since the year 1960: electricity.
10. The oddest thing you have ever written on (hand, wall, etc.) is: tree.


MJ Allaire said...

Hi Heather,

Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to interview me! I love talking to readers about my books, and to other authors about the fun and challenges involved with writing!

Happy reading, my friend, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


DunKan said...

I would definitely have to agree with you, the best electronic device IS an iPod!

Selena said...

Lovely interview Heather and M.J.! It tells a lot about you and your books!

Heather Paye said...

You are most welcome, M.J.! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

~ Heather Paye