I’m very pleased to have the multi-talented, Ally Bishop, with us today!
Ally is a freelance editor and writing coach, Podcast interviewer extraordinaire, writer, and an Editor at Booktrope. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Ally and have already learned so much about good writing from her. I’m sure you will enjoy learning more about her in this interview!
What is your book’s genre/category?
So…I’m actually a freelance editor and writing coach for fiction and nonfiction writers. We eradicate writer’s block and create awesomeness for authors. 🙂 But I also have a novel dying to be written – several actually. And I have a mystery novel I’m currently working on called CHASING MERCY.
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Eddie Keen is a washed up musician-turned-private investigator, on the brink of bankruptcy, when she takes on one last case. A local church is embarking on their own reality television show, based on the faith healings of their members, but one member is calling them on fraud. When Eddie digs deeper, she finds that fraud isn’t their biggest sin. As church members start dying, Eddie is drawn into a web of confusion and lies, loyalty and secrecy, and no one is quite what they seem. With fame on the chopping block and Eddie getting closer to the answers, her own death might be the only testimony she leaves behind.
How did you come up with the title?
Oh, grief – it was tough. I’ve never been good at titling my own work. The original title was Blood in Gilead, which was a twist on a hymn. But the story has morphed and changed, and now the focus is different than the vision that inspired that title. Chasing Mercy is a direct comment on Eddie’s personal development, as well as the tale itself.
What is the reason you wrote this book?
I’ve been writing since I was 8. I’ve completed three books that will never see the light of day. This originally started as a project for my MA in creative writing, and it had a vampire and a felon in it. I really wanted to write a paranormal mystery, but my program had so many literary minds in it, I was embarrassed to say that I wanted to write anything in the fantasy realm.
So I figured mystery was safe and “normal.” Ah, foolish me… Nonetheless, I removed all fantasy elements, wrote a straight up mystery (think Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series), and thus, Eddie Keen and Chasing Mercy was born. It’s had probably 11 rewrites (at least), and three major face lifts. It was originally much more snarky, but also, much longer. But now it’s tighter and more focused on Eddie and the story.
What is your favorite part of writing?
My favorite part(s) of writing are the initial idea phase, where the excitement insists you get it down on paper. You write from muse and inspiration, and the words don’t stop. LOVE, love, love that time. My next favorite is when you are finished your first draft, and it’s time to dig into the rewrite process. I love to crunch words, move concepts, shape and polish the story so it sparkles. (My inner editor can’t wait to come out and play).
What is the most challenging aspect of writing?
Honestly, finding time to invest in it. We live in such a harried, distracting world. I’m a social media maven. I’m curious. I have adult ADHD. Sitting down and getting that focus can be tough. The only way I know how to combat it is to have scheduled time to write, that no one and nothing intrudes on. And right now, with a freelance business that is booming and some wonderful opportunities on the horizon, it is critical that I schedule that time and don’t budge from it!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have favorite writers, and then I have favorite storytellers. When I read, it is in my nature to be critical – that is what makes me a good editor. So when I read for pleasure, I read storyteller’s works that are engaging and non-stop but at times, irritate my inner critic. But when I read for the purpose of improving my own abilities, I go to writers who I feel have a writing style that is top notch and something I aspire to.
My favorite writers are people like Ellen Miller (Like Being Killed), Gillian Flynn (Sharp Objects), and James Lee Burke (the Dave Robicheaux series). Amazing wordsmiths that can turn a phrase that will make your heart pound and your brain melt.
When it comes to storytellers, I adore Jim Butcher (the Harry Dresden series), Diana Gabaldon (the Outlander series), and classics like Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep).
What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
My English Composition professor Nkanyisu Mpofu: he believed in me and my writing, and no one ever had before. He made me hungry to go after that approval. Since then, I’ve been wildly influenced by everything I read. Diana Gabaldon was the first book series that I read as an adult that made me realize the power of characters. Despite the fantasy elements of her series, the characters feel so real. It’s hard to believe they don’t really exist.
Jim Butcher taught me the importance of an evolving character. Harry goes so dark and almost evil at one point in the series – he’s barely recognizable as the wizard you fell in love with. But he’s on a journey in the books, and that makes you want to keep reading, keep finding out what his next step is going to be. It also ensures that you can’t guess what’s going to happen.
Every movie, every book, every magazine with short stories towards the back has taught me about what words can do and create in our imaginations. People often say, “But they’re just words.” I want to respond, “Yes, they are just words. And words are what define and unite us as humans!” They matter, and as writers, we know that.
Favorite place to write?
Coffee shops. Headphones, laptop with uber-long battery (thank you, Apple!), and some sort of hot beverage. When I can, I set myself up in NYC, in a different coffee shop each time, and I always do some of my best writing there.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I’ve worked in a large prison, I’ve been on a high-speed car chase, and when I’m not writing, I am gaming. I love Guild Wars 2.
Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?
I completed my internship for my MFA with a small press, and now I am an editor for Booktrope, in addition to my freelancing business. I think we’ve built a mystique around publishing that is simply not accurate. Publishing is a business. If you have a platform and people will buy your book, someone will publish it. But in so saying, you can also do it all yourself – many readers do not care whose stamp is inside the cover. So whether you self-publish or get picked up by the “big 5” publishers, if you have a good story, people will read it.
The really cool thing is that our new social-media-focused world allows for opportunities like Booktrope, where you can get your book published in a more traditional way (with no money out of pocket), have an amazing team of people supporting you (editors, book managers, cover designers, etc.), and not have the headache of self-publishing. Booktrope has such a forward-thinking model for authors, and I daresay, this is only the beginning. In five to ten years, I think we are going to see more unique approaches to publishing that will ensure writers get their stories into readers’ hands.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
I wrote through the awful. Awful writing, awful inspiration, awful plot line. I had never written a mystery before, so understanding how it flows was difficult for me. I kept trying to write to the formula (all genres have formulas, and mysteries have a very set-in-stone formula), rather than trust the process. Once I started to trust the process, the formula just showed up, rather than me trying to force it.
Any advice for writers looking to get published?
Write. I know, I know, it seems obvious. But often, we get hung up on the frustrations of publishing, and we forget to keep writing.
Find a good support system. Chances are, it may not be the people that you love. So find people that love writing. They may be on Facebook, Twitter, through meetup.com, or even your neighbor! Check in with a group at your library or local bookshop. You need somewhere to go and connect with people who get it.
And create your platform now. Get a free blog. Open a Twitter account. Get social media savvy. Gone are the days where we can put our heads down and leave it up to the publishers to advertise for us. And I know some complain about it, but really, you’ve never had more control over your creative identity than you do, right now. You get to choose how big it is, how slick it is, how serious it is. Some people embrace that. If you are someone who wants to but isn’t sure how…contact me!
Where can we find your book?
It’s up on Wattpad (http://www.wattpad.com/story/17714320-chapter-1) J
What’s next for you?
Currently, I’m working on some amazing projects that will be published late summer/early fall, and I’m finishing up my final draft of CHASING MERCY. Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@upgradestory) to hear the latest!
Thanks for a great interview, Ally! Good luck with everything!