Today I welcome the charming Alice Lynn to the interview seat…Join us as we discuss dreams, imagination, strong female characters like Scarlet O”Hara and inspiration through the written and the read word.
Welcome Alice Lynn…
girl with a quill: Ernest Hemingway famously wrote a six-word story. Tell us a bit about yourself in 6 words. Who is Alice Lynn?
Alice: Telling who I am in six words is like asking for a mini synopsis of a 600 page novel. But here goes. “ A writer who’s worn many hats.” Six words. I guess you’ll tease out more details as the interview goes on.
girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?
Alice: Somewhere in middle school, I read a book about a girl who kept a journal that was eventually published. That may have been the genesis of my ambition. In 8th grade, I adapted an excerpt of The Christmas Carol into a play. I starred as Scrooge (!) and we gave several performances. Maybe the applause went to my head, because I wrote a lot of humorous skits that a friend and I performed for fellow students. My teachers encouraged me and I won honorable mentions for a poem and short story in the National Scholastic Magazine. All of these factors contributed to my desire to be a “real writer.”
girl with a quill: How long have you been writing for?
Alice: I began writing stories in 5th grade. I’d discovered Tom Sawyer and was fired with the idea of writing a similar story. Imitating Twain’s writing style, I began, but never finished, my own version of a girl living somewhere in the rural United States of the late 18th Century. My later efforts were shared with girlfriends who loyally listened as I read aloud. Most of these were western romances, as I had my own horse and ran with a “horsy” crowd. I wrote my first novel when I was in my mid-twenties. Then came the first draft of Volunteer for Glory, published this year. I’ve written newspaper feature articles, covered local sports, and reviewed high school theatricals. After my children were grown, I returned to school, earning a degree in psychology. The next five years revolved around my job as a case manager at a women’s shelter. In 2005, I began writing Wrenn, Egypt House, which was published in 2008.
girl with a quill: Besides writing, what are your other passions / hobbies?
Alice: Many of the hobbies I formerly pursued have also been retired. I have been an ardent gardener, a horseback rider, hiker, astrologer, poet, painter, and sculptor. I’ve played the part of a dance hall girl at a Timber Festival, where I sang, and danced the can-can. I am fascinated by the natural world, art, music, the theater, and science. I love horses, cats, dogs and the deer that nibble on our flowers. Not so much the neighborhood peacocks that scream “Help” at odd times during the night. I still play around with astrology, write poems (some published), attend water aerobics at the local gym, and maintain a lively correspondence with friends and colleagues.
girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?
Alice: My “water-cooler” space is a conference room at Clackamas Community College where Chrysalis, a women’s writing group, meets. We discuss our current work, as well as the changing landscape of publishing. These women are so versatile in their knowledge and talent, that information, support, and suggestions flow freely among us.
girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?
Alice: I don’t think I can reduce that to one person or thing. Books have always been a big part of my life. So, I may be begging the question when I say that they are my biggest inspiration. As a child I read practically everything in the local library. When I could afford it, I bought books. I read omnivorously, everything from The Dancing Wu Li Masters to thrillers. Books take me on a magic carpet to different places and times. I have traveled from Middle Earth to Prince Edward Island with Jane of Lantern Hill. I’ve lived on Mars with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series, galloped over the plains with Zane Grey’s heroes, and walked beside Joan Didion as I read “The Year of Magical Thinking.” Emily Dickinson may have said it best when she wrote: “There is no frigate like a book.”
girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?
Alice: My novel, I fear, would be one of those huge family sagas that seem to never end. The story arc would involve the search for maturity and self-expression. Seen as a graph, that line would resemble a mountain range, going up and down. At this moment, I think the arc is slanting upward as I fulfill my life long ambition to be a writer.
girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?
Alice: I write in a many-windowed room that looks out on the “wild side” of our yard. A large maple dominates the area, but native shrubs and ground cover contribute to its feeling of seclusion. Our cats walk down the path, and sometimes Hochito sits on the rock wall and sings. This is true. It’s not meowing. It’s like an oratorio. Maybe he thinks if he sings, the birds will fly down for a visit? Deer wander through come spring, and occasionally one naps in the shade. Squirrels jump from the deck onto the maple tree and provide a good deal of entertainment. Inside my office are telephones, computers, printers, file cabinets, and bookshelves. Bits of artwork and sculpture claim niches here and there, but mostly there are reference books, tomes of writing advice, and a lot of poetry.
girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?
Alice: Since I’m a “dreamer” my ideas come from dreams. The dream incident is unusually vivid and I know instantly there’s a book in it. I play around with the idea until it’s time for the first sentence, paragraph, or page. This is crucial, because that’s when the dream image assumes a concrete shape. Hearing my main character speak for the first time is like meeting someone I’ve been told about. Then as the book progresses, the hope is that something of the initial magical will remain
girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?
Alice: Definitely a pantser, although I usually have a loose mental outline. It’s like going from the east coast to the west coast; you know the destination but not everything you’ll meet on the road.
girl with a quill: What genre do you write in and why?
Alice: I guess my genre is historical, though my next book, (Scattered Pieces) now ready for publication, covers the time period from 1948 to 1961. I think of that more as women’s fiction, but will leave it to you and my readers to decide. Since I tend to write of the past, I hope readers will learn some history along with the story. I’ve always loved old photographs, and this has influenced my desire to bring those long-ago people back to life.
girl with a quill: We all have little habits and quirks that make us individual.
(a) What are your bad habits in writing?
(b) What are your strengths in writing?
Alice: A) Among my bad habits is procrastination. I also let interruptions, well interrupt me. B) My strength includes sticking with a project, doing my research, and trying to write realistic dialogue.
girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?
Alice: I might choose mystery since I unraveling clues to discover who done it! Creating well-rounded characters, a good background, and a fiendishly clever plot. I’d like that.
girl with a quill: Can you tell us a bit about the book/s you have written?
Alice: Wrenn, Egypt House tells the story of a girl growing up at turn-of-century Portland, Oregon. Wrenn becomes fascinated with an exotic mansion in Portland Heights, which she names Egypt House because of the twin sphinxes flanking the entrance. And there are the gorgeous men who live there; Simon Hunter, father of Stephen and uncle to Edward. Romance, a mysterious past, and growing up come to a conclusion at the Lewis & Clark Exposition of 1905. Volunteer for Glory is a civil war novel. Rachel Norcross, a minister’s daughter from Boston, is challenged to run the farm when her husband, Stuart, joins the volunteer cavalry and goes to war. Jared Westbrook, a sensitive young man from a neighboring farm falls in love with Rachel and though the attraction is mutual, they struggle to remain true to their individual codes of honor. The personal lives of the characters are intricately entwined not just with each other but with the war itself. Scattered Pieces, soon to be published, begins with the kidnapping of the heroine’s little brother. Katie, now a practicing psychologist, takes us back through time as she tells her story and how that shattering event shaped her path in life. It has love, glamour, suspense, and…well, you’ll have to read it.
girl with a quill: What is your best sentence you have written?
Alice: You must be kidding! You’re not? I especially like this sentence from Volunteer: “The sodden men, hunched over their straining mounts, became a procession of the damned, each face revealed or guessed at, a lost soul continuing into Hades.”
girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Alice: I’m working another book inspired by a dream. Emaline, an exceptionally bright child, lives in New York City (I think) in the 1900’s; It’s about 1910 at the moment. She’s a contrary little soul who learned to read at age 3. She’s also musically gifted with perfect pitch. She lives with her father, a renowned violinist, her mother, a younger sister, and a nanny she doesn’t like. Emaline is precocious and rebellious. In fact, she’s been sent to see a psychiatrist after she destroyed her violin.
girl with a quill: First drafts are for the writers themselves. Who reads your work after you?
Alice: Lisa Nowak, friend and fellow writer, and my daughter, Paige, Harlow, always get the first look. Then comes Chrysalis, my writing critique group.
girl with a quill: Why do you write?
Alice: Because once a story or character invades my imagination I have to see what happens.
girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?
Alice: I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s the idea that no matter how difficult life is, you can survive and find happiness.
girl with a quill: Do you believe in Muses? If you do, who/what is your Muse?
Alice: My Muse must be my “dream master.”
girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?
Alice: I think I’d make Wrenn come true. Wrenn was a lovely character with much to offer as she matured. I think she’s have been a very positive influence in society.
girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?
Alice: For me, story grows out of character. Plots have floated around in my mind and stayed there. A character makes her own story.
girl with a quill: Who is your favorite character that you have created and why?
Alice: I like all my female heroines. Rachel, Wrenn, and Katie. I like them because whatever their challenges, they faced them with fortitude and still maintained their femininity.
girl with a quill: Who is your favorite character in the literary world and why?
Alice: Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. She was a flawed character but a survivor. There were times I could have shaken her but all in all, she remains a force to be reckoned with and admired, however reluctantly.
girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?
Alice: JRR Tolkien, August Rodin, Elizabeth Goudge, C.S. Lewis, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Tolkien, because I simply love his Trilogy; Rodin because he created such awesome sculptures; Goudge, I love her books and she personally answered my first and only fan letter; Lewis for his philosophical insights; and Edna St. Vincent Millay because her poetry touches my heart.
girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favorite fictional characters, who would they be and why?
Alice: First, I’d invite Frodo and Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings. I’m sure they’d have wonderful anecdotes and asides that didn’t get into print. Next, would be Cody Everett from Running Wide Open by Lisa Nowak. Cody is a kid with a great sense of humor but the soul of a writer. The next invitation would go to Lacy Thurman, Secretary of the Interior, from Pat Lichen’s Kidnapping the Lorax. She’d have a good deal to say about politics and how her experience as a hostage in a northwest forest changed her. My last guest would be Sanna from the book Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice by Roxanna Matthews. Pairing her with Gandalf could produce some great feats of magic, to say nothing of good conversation.
girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?
Alice: Don’t give up.
girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?
Alice: The same. Don’t give up.
girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?
Alice: I hesitate to even guess. To leave a legacy, especially a lasting one, seems beyond my capability. My hope is that my books will provide a pleasant reading experience and impart the feeling that life is worthwhile.
girl with a quill: Where can we find your book/s for sale?
Alice: You can find Wrenn at First Books as well as on Kindle. Volunteer for Glory can be ordered in as an e-pub or Kindle at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s or at Smashwords. Printed versions of both books are also available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s.
girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?
Alice: You can reach me through my blog at http://alicelynn.wordpress.com/ or visit me on Facebook, Alice Lynn Author.
Thanks for having me as your guest. You’ve made me feel very welcome.
These are the links to the books I took favorite characters from: Running Wide Open: http://amzn.to/RWOAmazon ; Kidnapping the Lorax, http://amzn.to/mUiD23; and Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice: http://amzn.to/pCR4qf