An interview with Alyssa Cooper

Alyssa Cooper
The Witches of Armour Hill - 2015


Thank you for taking the time for me

Who are your influences? 

I feel like I’ve been influenced by every book I’ve ever enjoyed, and there’s been quite a few of them! I’ve always felt particularly inspired by the huge, sweeping worlds created by JRR Tolkien and George RR Martin, by the wonderful characters of J.K. Rowling, and by the strange, unique story telling of Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman.

When did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. Before I could even spell, I would tell my parents stories, insisting they write them down in a little black and red notebook. I was addicted to the word processor on the first computer we ever owned, and I wrote countless short stories as a child. I was included in my first anthology in 2008, and my first novel was published in 2012. Since then, I’ve refused to slow down.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?

I’m not sure where my stories come from – sometimes they’re inspired by dreams, or current events, but usually it’s just a spark of a thought in the back of my head that takes on a life of its own. My characters are born of their environments, and often they grow along with the story, sometimes borrowing personality traits from people I’ve known in the past. I’ve always considered choosing names for those characters very important – it can often be one of the most time consuming parts of my world building. I frequent sites such as a lot, where I can sort names by origin as well as meaning, and I generally choose names that add a little extra depth to my characters. POVs are generally born of necessity. If I plan to show a single point of view, I always choose first person, but if I’d like to delve into another character’s world now and then, I go with third person instead.

Do you work from an outline? 

I do, but they’re extremely vague. The entire outline for the The Witches of Armour Hill is only five pages long – one page for each novel. I used to outline extremely heavily, planning out every twist and turn of the plot before I started writing, but I realized quickly that I was stifling myself too much with that method. My characters, as well as my stories, need room to grow as I get acquainted with them. Sometimes the actions I planned for a character during outlining no longer make sense for that person by the time I reach that point in the story.

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel(s). 

I think the best scene I’ve ever written is in Switch, book one of The Witches of Armour Hill. I’m not sure that it’s necessarily my favourite – it was very hard to write – but I think that it’s beautiful, and really pays homage to the characters involved.
I don’t want to give out any spoilers for those who haven’t read the book, but this one occurs right at the end, in the second-to-last chapter. I think you’ll know it when you get there.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy? 

My writing philosophy is all based around honesty. That may sound strange coming from a speculative fiction writer, but I think honesty is just all the more important in those strange, twisted worlds. A world that isn’t real can be honest; it can be believable and three dimensional and built solid around the reader. And the characters in those worlds need to be honest. They need to react to fantastical things in ways that make the reader feel a spark of recognition. That’s my writing philosophy. I want my reader to recognize the world, even when it’s not real. I want them to feel for the characters, even when they’re not necessarily human.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres? 

Though focusing on speculative and paranormal fiction for the moment, I’m also an established poet, and I love writing literary fiction. I’ve had literary stories and poems published in a number of anthologies and journals, as well as e-magazines. I have a published collection of poetry called Cold Breath of Life, which was released by Hidden Brook Press in 2013, and my novel Benjamin (Melange Books LLC) and novelette A Different Kind of Beauty (Fiction Lake Books) both fall into the category of literary/contemporary fiction.
I love to write down everything that comes to me, and although paranormal fiction was my first love, I don’t discriminate based on genre.

Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share?

The first manuscript of Salvation, my first published novel, was written for a scholarship contest. I didn’t find out about the contest until less than a month before the deadline but I was dead set on getting an entry in. So Salvation, a 90,000 word book, was written in about 18 days, while I was also a full time student attending classes. My best night was 19,000 words – I averaged 3000-5000 a night.
I didn’t win that contest, but a more carefully edited version of the manuscript was later accepted for publication. So I guess the moral of the story is, embrace your deadlines. Sometimes they force you to create something great, even faster. I believe in you!

Do you listen to music as you write?

I find music extremely distracting – I can’t help but listen to it. I actually prefer to pick a quiet movie, something that’s only dialogue, and that I’ve already seen a million times like The Virgin Suicides or The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, and let it run in the background. It’s just enough noise that I don’t get creeped out (I don’t care much for silence), but not enough that I get distracted. For some reason I find conversation easier to drone out than music.

On the behalf of my readers Alyssa, I thank you for taking your time with us

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About the author  ~


Connect with Alyssa Cooper

A lifelong lover of literature, Alyssa Cooper was first published at the age of eighteen.  Her passion for the written word started early, and as a child she would carry her mother's novels as part of her wardrobe.  She has dedicated her life to developing her voice and pushing the limits of her craft.  She is the author of three traditionally published books, Salvation, Benjamin, and Cold Breath of Life.

The Motel Room and Whispering Peak, two short stories, were her first foray into independent publishing.  She has since published a full length collection, Whispers, and currently has a five novel series in the works.

She resides in Kingston, Ontario, where she lives with her typewriters and a personal library.

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