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I know Dannie and was excited to hear she had written a book. When I first started to read Desert Heat, I did so with a critical eye because it was...
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Our book club had the opportunity and privilege to meet and have a lively discussion of "Desert Heat" with Dannie Marsden...a great story with strong...
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Interview with Ali Spooner
Nancy – When did you first know you wanted to become an author?
Ali – Wow serious author probably around 2010. Before that I just kind of played around it was more of a hobby and anything else.
Nancy – You said 2010 as an author, but I have been reading you before that. So you've been writing a lot longer than that haven't you?
Ali – Yes, but not really with the intent of being a published author. It was mostly stories that I shared with friends, so it was really nothing incredibly serious.
Nancy – When did you actually pick up a pen and start writing your stories?
Ali – I've been writing probably ever since I was in junior high school.
Nancy – And how long was at 2 or 3 years ago?
Ali – (Laughing) Maybe a little longer than that probably early 70s.
Nancy – What actually inspired you the most to write?
Ali – Just a desire to play out some the stories in my head. I could see things, visualize all the events that were going on. I've always been a storyteller. I have never seriously, until the last few years, actually sat down and tried to write out what my stories were.
Nancy – Well seeing as I have all of your books, I know you have written quite a few. So once you decided to write, what, you just sat down and wrote for days on end? Not even counting the books you have with Affinity, you have probably 8 to 10 other books that you self-published.
Ali – A lot of those are just stories that I had shared with friends from AOL and chat rooms that really prompted me to start writing. They kept encouraging me, telling me that I was a good storyteller because I was always keep them entertained. So that's how a lot of the stores began. And they just kind of grew from there.
Nancy –I'm glad they talked you into that because you really do tell a good story.
Ali – Thank you
Nancy – You're with Affinity now correct and you have three books published with them?
Ali – Yes
Nancy – Okay so you have three books published with Affinity and several more under your belt. With the exception of your series, with Sasha Thibodaux, your books are all so different. Where do you come up with all these ideas?
Ali – I do a lot of traveling for work, and a lot of times I'm by myself and I have no one to talk to, so my mind just wonders. I'll see a road sign, or I see something that just triggers a thought. I have a pretty decent memory, and I kind of play out plots in my head while I'm driving. And when I get to my hotel that night I just jot down notes and write out stuff by hand. You know, ideas and stuff and thinking okay this'll make a pretty decent story.
Nancy –Really? So how many notebooks you have filled with ideas for future stories?
Ali – Oh, quite a few. (Laughing.) Like a couple weeks ago, Andi Marquette had a post on a playlist, and I thought wow that would be a perfect story to write. Loves Playlist and have each chapter be a separate song. It'll probably more of a novella instead of a novel, but that is what I'm kind of working on right now.
Nancy – Okay we know, well least you and I know that on the 15th Bayou Justice is coming out, which is the sequel to Sugarland. What do you have in the works after that?
Ali – I have a contract for the third book in this Sasha series, but I think it's getting postponed for little bit. I have Twisted Lives coming out in a couple months. Then I have The Settlement, which is my most recent, and I'm really excited about that one. It’s got a lot of personal stuff, and for me a lot of memories. My partner and I had a foster child for 13 months. We had her from the day she came out of the hospital. Her mother was in jail, her father was in jail. They were both crack addicts and big-time criminals. As I said we had her for 13 months and it really ripped us apart when the mom got out of jail and they give custody back to the mother. So a lot of that story is some of my interjection so to speak. The little town in Alabama that the first part of story is set in, is actually the hometown of a good friend of mine from college. And every year she does have her annual Dove Hunt. It's only women, they do bring shotguns, but it’s more of an excuse to party and get together. The chance to meet all generations. You got lesbians, and good ole country folk mixed in, all get together for this Dove Hunt. So this book The Settlement is a little bit more my personal life and my personal feelings than I put in any book ever written before.
Nancy – So how many books you working on right now?
Ali –Right now, I'm working on Loves Playlist, and I’m also working on the sequel to one of my self-published stories. It will be The Bee Charmer. It's a pioneer woman series, and I’m probably 30,000 words into that one right now.
Nancy – You're currently working on two different books right now, is that normal for you?
Ali – Yeah it is. I bounce back and forth between at least two books whenever I write. I try not to get any more than that because it's a little hairy trying to remember the characters. I have to get my notebooks and index cards to make sure I got the right hair color and eye color each character has.
Nancy – When you write, do you have any little quirks that you have to do every time you write something?
Ali – Not really, I just use my laptop. I do a lot of writing when I'm on the road in my hotel rooms. That's how a lot of my stuff got started. I was up in Wisconsin for year, I had a corporate apartment up there and I was just bored stiff. So I just kinda got started on a couple of short stories and shared them with some friends and they really liked them, so that's kind of how the writing took off. It's also how I entertain myself a lot at night, when I'm alone in the hotel room. I use it as an outlet, because if I don't do something constructive like writing a story, I will work myself to death. I'd end up working on work stuff all night and not relaxing at all.
Nancy – When you write do you like music, or TV or some kind of noise in the background or do you have to have complete silence to concentrate on your story?
Ali – I have to have music, or a TV program or some kind of noise in the background. I don't do well in just silence.
Nancy – Are you often a character in your book?
Ali – Am I often a character in my books? No, I wouldn't say so.
Nancy – I like to people watch and sometimes I'll see something about a particular person that I think would be make a great character flaw or great character whatever. Do you do that too for your characters?
Ali – Oh yeah. I love sitting at the airport in Atlanta just people watching and seeing all the different people that come through.
Nancy – Do you base any of the characters in your books on your friends or family?
Ali – Until The Settlement, I'll have to say no. It's probably the first time that I ever really injected people I actually know. The rest of them are truly fictional characters.
Nancy – When you're writing your books, you find it easy to name your characters?
Ali – Oh, very easy. You know what I do? I'm a big softball fan, I love college softball and they have got some really great names. Dylan and names like that, that are different, and are not strictly feminine names. So when I hear something that I like, I'll just jot the name down and eventually work into a story somewhere.
Nancy – What you do when you're writing and the story stops flowing for you?
Ali – A couple different things. Either I’ll swap over to the other story I’m working on, or I’ll just grab a piece of paper and start writing random thoughts about the story or the characters. And a lot of times that will get me over the hump, and get me moving again.
Nancy – Some people say that when writing a story, the characters actually takes over and write the story for you. Do you find that happens to you, or do you have total control over the story, how it goes, and what characters will say and do?
Ali – No, control at all. The story I’m working on right now, I tried to do some plotting. Which is something I normally don't do. I'll find that I started on a chapter and a third of the way through it they taken over again, they're doing what they want to do, not what I had written down for them to do. So yeah, they frequently do take over.
Nancy – How much research goes into what your books?
Ali – It really depends on what the book’s about. Like with Sugarland, it had a lot of historical stuff in it. The sinking of the Lusitania, and different things like that, which I really did enjoy researching. Also time frames are a concern, I researched that on the pioneer story I’m working on right now. When were brassieres invented? I can't have someone taking off a brassiere if they haven’t been invented. It's also something I enjoy doing, because I enjoy learning new things when I’m writing the story.
Nancy – Do you read any of the reviews that are posted about your books?
Ali – Yes I do. I really love all of Terry's reviews. I think she's very fair and not biased. When I first started writing, and she was just doing her reviews, she would catch all of my misspellings and stuff like that. She would mention in the review that I had the misspellings and I needed an editor but she also said that it didn't distract too much from the story. It gave me the encouragement to try harder to be a better writer.
Nancy – Have you gotten any bad reviews, and what you do when you get one?
Ali – I don't really do much, when Bailey’s Run came out, there was a bad review on Amazon. It was obviously some young kid, and I don't even think he read the book. The comments and remarks were totally off-the-wall, and really had nothing to do the book whatsoever. So I just ignore reviews like that.
Nancy – If there were no outlets to sell your books, no Internet no bookstores no nothing. Would you still write?
Ali – Oh yeah, I have to. I feel anxious if I don't write for a long period of time. It's an outlet for me, just to sit down and have this burst of creativity. Sometimes I'll go a day or two without writing at all. And there’s sometimes when I get on a roll on the weekends, and I will write for 12 to 14 hours straight. When it rolls it rolls, and you just have to put it down on paper, or at least I do. I've even taken weeks were I’ve gone over to the condo and did nothing but write.
Nancy – Is or any kind of book you wouldn't write?
Ali – I'm not fond of just a straight romance, I feel there has to be some kind of intrigue or mystery going on. Just to have straight out love story is very hard for me to do. My love is in the paranormal, that's what I enjoy writing about the most.
Nancy – Other than the Sugarland series, I can't remember any of the paranormal that you written, what am I missing?
Ali – It's called Bound and it's about shape shifters and witches.
Nancy – Do you plan your books in detail or do you just let the words flow?
Ali – Most of time I just let them flow. And let the characters take me where they want to go.
Nancy – So how does that work? You got to have an idea about what you write about before you start writing, don't you? How do you conceptualize a book from start to finish if you just sit down and write?
Ali – I have the general direction I want it to go in, but nine times out of ten, the finished product is only half of what I thought it would be.
Nancy – We’re to touch a little bit on Bayou Justice, because that book will be coming out in a couple days. Okay Sugarland, the first book in the series has already been published. When you wrote that book and you were finished with it, did you know then that you were going to write a sequel to it?
Ali – Yes, I knew I was going write more than one book in the Sasha series.
Nancy – Okay, Bayou Justice, which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way, takes a lot of twists and turns. Things that you just don't expect from your normal, run-of-the-mill vampire story. Did you have any of those twits planned or when you were writing, all of a sudden you or one of your character said hey, I think we should do this to this character that might be kind of fun? I think that maybe we should kidnap Sasha's girlfriend/wife, that should really piss off Sasha off.
Ali – No, I really didn't have that planned it was just one of those things that turned out the way did. I wanted to put some angst in the story, to get Sasha all fired up about something.
Nancy – Fired up? You got her downright pissed.
Ali – Sasha is probably one of my most enjoyable characters to write. She’s so diverse, this is probably one of my more fun series to write.
Nancy – I really like Sasha too she was just so unique. When people see that a book is a vampire story, they have the mindset of what is good to be like, how the characters are going to act. But that's just not true with Sasha. With the sale that your publisher has right now on Sugarland, I'm hoping that it will catch attention of enough people that they'll enjoy Sugarland enough to want to purchase Bayou Justice. Because although the two books are in the same series, the books themselves are like night and day. Again like I said before this isn't your run-of-the-mill vampire story it's not just about biting killing and sex, there is so much more to the story that it’s just… Wow. I don’t want to say anymore and giveaway too much about the book, but really wow is about all I can think of to say. Besides buy it, you won’t regret it!
Ali – I have a hard time writing to stereotype. I want my characters to be unique, not the same thing you can read if you pick up 10 other books by 10 different authors. I like to give them as much of a unique spin as I possibly can.
Nancy – When you write a sex scene or love scene in your story, do you find it difficult to do?
Ali – It's very hard for me. Typically I'm a pretty shy person, and I feel like when I get into a love scene or a sex scene I am putting more of myself out there then I'm typically comfortable with.
Nancy – Would you rather write a love scene or a sex scene?
Ali – I would rather write a love scene, with tenderness and cuddly versus just straight out Wham Bam thank you ma'am.
Nancy – What you find most challenging about writing?
Ali – Having the time and the energy to really address all the characters that want to be written about. Staying focused, like I said I usually work on two books at a time. I have to work hard finish one all the way to the end, and the end is the hardest thing for me to come up with. I can start a book I can write and write and write, but I have difficulties in judging that this is a right point for this book the end. A lot of times that's what triggers me to write the next book. I feel like I didn't end it where it needed to end and the characters have lots more they wanted to say.
Nancy – Now you were an indie writer for a couple years, why did you switch to a publisher?
Ali – Because I knew I needed the experience of editor. And Ruth, has taught me so much in such a short time. I needed someone who could see behind the story, and doing the self-editing, I could see some of the issues but I was too wrapped up in the characters, and the story itself to see where the technical problems were. Where I had gaps, where there was a hole in the plot, point of view changes it just didn't fit. And the marketing, I absolutely suck at marketing.
Nancy – Now that your books are published by a publisher, do you find that you write differently than when you are an indie writer?
Ali – Oh definitely. I think my technical skills have drastically improved in the newer stuff I'm doing now. I try to take all the feedback I get from Ruth and my beta readers to heart and try not to make the same mistakes over, and over again.
Nancy – When you were an indie author, did you do print books or just e-books?
Ali – Just e-books.
Nancy –With affinity, you’re getting print books and e-books, how did it feel to hold your first printed book in your hands?
Ali – Well considering that they almost got sent back to the publisher, it felt pretty damn good. I was really excited. It was a dream of mine to see my stories published. And having that first book in my hands was a very emotional moment for me.
Nancy – Did you keep it?
Ali – Oh yeah.
Nancy – Do keep one of all the books are published?
Ali – Yes, I do.
Nancy – When you're reading do you prefer an e-book or print book?
Ali – E-book.
Nancy – Are you single or in a relationship?
Ali – In a relationship.
Nancy – How long you been together?
Ali – Um, let's see, wow, it will be 20 years soon.
Nancy – Wow is right, and congratulations. Would you mind sharing your partner's name?
Ali – Her name is Rhonda.
Nancy – Do you have any pets?
Ali – I have two cats in Memphis, and two cats and three dogs in Florida.
Nancy – Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Ali – I'm definitely a morning person.
Nancy – Do use a Mac or PC?
Ali – PC.
Nancy – Do you write under your real name or do you use a pen name?
Ali – I use a pen name.
Nancy – How did you choose your pen name?
Ali – Well, Ali is a shorter version of my last name. One of my chat buddies shortened it to Ali, there were a few different variations of the spelling, but I like the A L I spelling the best. And I picked Spooner, because I enjoy spooning up next to a warm body.
Nancy – Do have any hobbies?
Ali – I dabble in photography, and I like anything to do with the outdoors.
Nancy – Are you an accomplished cook or your fast food gal?
Ali – Actually, I am a pretty good cook, especially if I have someone to cook for. When I am at home, I'm always cooking something on the grill.
Nancy – For getaway, would you prefer the water or the woods?
Ali – Water.
Nancy – If you could have anything you wish for, what would it be?
Ali – To be home more.
Nancy – If you could choose one of your books to be made into a movie which one would you pick?
Ali – I would have to pick the Sugarland series, because like I said earlier, I really like Sasha and I think she would make a great movie.
Nancy – Who are your favorite authors mainstream and lesbian?
Ali – John Sanford, I love his prey series. I like Laurel K Hamilton, she has a vampire executioner series, the Anita Blake stories that I really like.
This is not being cheesy, but I really like the When Heaven Meets Hell series. I really like Andi Marquette's books. And Kathleen V Forrest, The Kate Delafield series, probably some of the first lesbian books that I read.
Nancy – What your fans mean to you?
Ali – They mean everything. It's not only about writing for myself, but also writing for the fans who have written something or responded and asked for more. It's great encouragement for me to see that someone has loved the book, or someone has one of book and they take the time to respond, or post a picture of them holding the book on Facebook. It's rewarding for me to see that, it's also a validation that they ‘get’ the book the way I ‘get’ it.
Nancy – Do you remember the first door you ever wrote?
Ali – The first story… I was in high school, it was called Descent into Hell. My English teacher challenged the class one day by playing an album, it was just real eerie music, and he said he wanted us to write a story about this song/music. I could hear the violins, and I thought, okay, that is demons going into hell. It was to the point, that by the time the hour was over, my teacher said, you can't stop here. You’ve got to take this home finish it. He really inspired me as a younger person to reach out and tap into the creativity that I had.
Nancy – Well that's pretty cool, I take it that an A on that paper?
Ali – I did!
Nancy – How do you approach your cover designs?
Ali – I say help! That is another reason I wanted to go with a publisher. My self-published books, I was using a lot of my photography. That's something that I'm not real good at yet. I can visualize what I want, but I can't make it happen.
Nancy – Describe what you're writing area looks like.
Ali – I'm sitting in the green leather recliner, that if Rhonda had her druthers, it would be in a dumpster somewhere. But it's just so broken in and comfortable I can get rid of it.
Nancy – I take it that is where you write?
Ali – It’s primarily were I write when I am at home. When I'm on the road, I usually just sit on the bed and write.
Nancy – Is or anything you'd like to add?
Ali– Just that I'd like to thank Affinity for the opportunity they have given me to go beyond being a self-published author, and become more professional in what I do.