Monday, February 18, 2013

Guest Blogger Alison Bruce visits Jamie Tremain

After a pulse racing afternoon at the movies watching Daniel Craig as 007 in SkyFall, I came home to watch two hours of Downton Abbey. Both have a cult following but are completely different as a form of entertainment.

Skyfall's stunts and visual effects had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I was exhausted after ten minutes and was sure Bond would not survive the thirty or more cars that were demolished along with a train; the bodies were countless. But he prevailed. We all want a hero.

Downton Abbey by comparison is another ‘kettle of fish’. A different fantasy world; at least for the aristocracy who live in a perpetual state of ignorance of how the other half live. The drama has more plot lines than any ‘Licence to Kill’ movie, but I'm drawn to both and they’re hugely entertaining. As a writer I learn much from my people watching both in real life or through the eyes of other writers both for television and the big screen.

Today I want to share with you an interview I did with author Alison Bruce. On this (Family Day in Ontario) sit back and read what Alison tells us what makes her tick.

Pam: As a recent recipient of the Liebster award for ‘cutting edge’ blogging, how do you see the role of a blogger?  Is it entertainment, general information or one’s own view of the world?

Alison: All of the above. I use my blog to promote my work and share my ideas. For the first, I need to be entertaining. After all, the idea is for readers to think, “I like reading her stuff. I think I’ll buy her book.”Sharing my ideas includes imparting information. If in doubt, ask my children. I’m a little like Dr. Mallard in NCIS. I have a story or bit of trivia for almost every occasion.  

Pam: Alison, you wear many hats. Mom, writer/author, editor, Publication Manager of Crime Writers of Canada, blogger. Did I mention crossing guard and now mentor to Jamie Tremain.  Did I miss something?

Alison: I’m also the Arthur Ellis Awards Administrator.

Pam: You must prioritize but do you have a favourite occupation- and what about your least favourite?

Alison: I love the creative process and most of my jobs involve that in some way. Obviously, I love to write stories. But I also love to turn dry facts into readable prose for clients or share ideas and vignettes with readers on my blog. I like the design work I do for CWC.

Every job also has certain housekeeping aspects. I hate housekeeping.

The work I do for the Arthur Ellis Awards has the most housekeeping chores (next to my own house that is), but they're offset by getting to interact with so many interesting people in the process. (I don’t get that kind of benefit doing the dishes.)

1     Pam:  Liz and I met you in a local Starbucks last week and you mentioned it was a good place to work. Do you just tune out the noise and rely on the caffeine to fuel your writing? Or do you just stay for the free fill-ups!

 Alison: The baristas at Starbucks in Guelph, especially the one at Stone Road Mall, know me well. I’ll work through a coffee and a refill a couple of times a week. I go in the morning when they play light jazz and rock. The music and the buzz of conversations blend into the background and I have no trouble concentrating on my work.

At home, I have a dozen other things demanding my attention… paperwork, email, those damned dishes… In a cafĂ©, I can focus.

Someone else making the coffee also helps.

 Pam:  Many writers will tell you they are inspired by different types of music. Do you have a particular playlist to listen to when writing?

I      Alison: I have different playlists for different genres. I have one called “Crime Pays” that kicks off with the Tommy Dorsey version of “Sing Sing Sing” and continues with music that brings to mind the classic mysteries of the 30’s and 40’s.  I have other playlists that are like soundtracks to my novels. They outline the broad strokes of my plots. Thank heavens they’re easy to change.

 Pam: You have a degree in history and philosophy.Which of these subjects influence your writing the most? If neither then what does?

Alison: Both influence my writing but not directly in most cases… at least not my fiction writing. Listening to people has the biggest influence on me. Growing up with stories about my mothers’ family experiences in WWII had a big impact on me. My mother’s stories from work inspired me in writing DEADLY LEGACY.  The whole near future setting on the story came out of an interview with a chief of police. Conversations with cops and detectives and a police academy drop-out, helped shape the world and the story.This pretty much holds true for all my stories. Of course, with the historical stuff, my “listening” has to be reading narratives backed up with research.

Pam: Writers generally are considered, if not eccentric then definitely different.Do you consider yourself eccentric? And is this a good thing?

Alison: Eccentric? Me?
I can be a bit of a space cadet sometimes. My mother blamed my loss of hearing.  I’ve been completely deaf in my right ear since age nine. I think it’s more the case that the stories in my head drown out the rest of the world sometimes.  Long before my hearing problems, I could get totally focussed on a thought and be oblivious to important details, like where I was walking or where my friend’s finger was in relationship to the stapler I was using. (Oops!)

 Pam:  What does Alison do for Alison on a regular basis? Spa/mani/pedi, a weekend with the girls, chocolate and a good book or all of the above? ... Tell us a secret your willing to share- we won’t tell anyone.

 Alison: Ha! I don’t believe you for an instant.
Going out for coffee is my big not-so-secret vice. Playing Animal Crossing  on my kids’ Wii is another. Reading is both a pleasure and a necessity. Chocolate doesn’t count because I only take it medicinally. Really. 

       Pam: How important is having a sense of humour to a writer?

       Alison: How important is having a sense of humour to live? It’s essential. First of all, I ascribe to the Shakespearean model that all tragedy must have comic relief and vice versa. The series M*A*S*H exemplified this. Experience with the terminal illness of my sister and my father’s strokes proved out the theory in life. We could not have survived as a family; I couldn’t have held it together as a person, without a sense of humour.

      Now, add it the petty nuisances of dealing with publisher rejections, frustrating edits when you do get a publisher, and snarky reviews once your book is out there, and you can see that the business end of writing also  requires a sense of humour.

      Pam: Character or plot driven? What is important to you when starting a new book?

      Alison: I almost always start with a character or set of characters imind, then I think about what trouble I can get them into. After that, the broad strokes of my plot create the route from point A to point B, but the characters may take the story off–road.

       Pam:  For aspiring writers like Jamie Tremain, which route is the most benificial to publication. Agent or publisher?

Alison: I lean towards going after both at the same time. The big trick is to get your work noticed by someone who will care about it, at a time when they can do something about it. That takes research and networking and luck. Why limit an already small field by concentrating on one or the other?

Thanks Alison for being our first guest blogger on Jamie Tremain-Remember the Name. We're both excited to work with you as our mentor and we'll put all your good advice to use in our publishing quest.

Stay tuned for our next mystery guest.

Talk soon,


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