Interview by Angie Taylor
Thank you, Allyson Gottlieb, for being a part of BOD’s author spotlight interview, and welcome. I’m excited for all of us at BOD to get to know you!
Thank you so much for having me, Angie! I’m excited to be here, too. Let’s just hope you all like what you see—er, read. Hehe.
I’m sure we will!
So, why don’t you start off telling us a little about yourself. How long have you been a writer? When did you first know you wanted to write books? What kind of stories do you like to write?
I’ve been writing stories since I was seven years old. I first knew that I wanted to be an author “when I grew up” around age twelve. (For those of you who don’t know, I self-published for the first time at seventeen. And I’m nineteen now. Yeah, I got an early start in just about every way.) The ideas in my head cover just about every genre, except hardcore horror/gore because I’m a scaredy-cat, though you’ve only seen urban fantasy and dystopian from me so far. Real life kind of gets in the way of the writing and publishing, sadly.
How exciting to have started so young! Real life does get in the way, but it looks like you have plenty of years to write!
So, what is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A couple years ago, I stumbled upon a quote that I love: “A reader lives a thousand lives before they die. Those who never read live only one.” What I love so much about it isn’t just that it applies to readers—which I totally am, of course—but how it applies to writers. Between my fingers, my brain, and a piece of technology, I have the ability to create whole new worlds into existence. I get to be several million different people before I die. Maybe it’s because of my early start, but I just can’t imagine doing anything else. (Not to mention, if I went around talking about all the different people in my head and I wasn’t a writer, I’d probably be locked up in the nuthouse by now. Ha!)
I love that quote! It totally sums up what I love about reading and losing myself in someone else’s story.
What was your favorite book or series when you were a child? What about as an adult? Have these book influenced your writing?
Well, like all kids of my generation, I loved Harry Potter, and that definitely nurtured my love of fantasy, and made me believe that it was possible to write something like that—with magic and monsters and secret worlds—and also have literary merit. Another series I fell in love with when I got a little older was Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series (is series still the right word at this point? It’s kind of a massive shared universe, between all the sequel and prequel trilogies, and I love all of them, even the ones that aren’t out yet, LOL). Her writing has some of the most beautiful and detailed descriptive imagery I’ve ever seen, and I tried really hard to be able to capture some of that in Finding North. Another thing I really admire in her writing is how she includes diverse characters without making their entire development be about their “struggles.” Someone is a friend, a brother, a son, and he also happens to have a boyfriend, for example. I believe strongly in the issue of diverse representation in fiction, and I only hope that I can do it half as well as she does.
Do you have a favorite band or type of music you listen to help you write? Or do you have some kind of routine that helps you get creative?
Well, it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve found music I can write to. For the longest time, I would get way too distracted by wanting to sing along to be able to write to music. Then I discovered this guy Sam Cushion, who makes “book soundtracks”—instrumental score based on popular YA books like Hunger Games and Divergent. So that solves the problem of singing along, haha. I love The Civil Wars (so upset that they broke up right when I was getting into them!), and they’re one of the few exceptions to my “can’t write with lyrical music” rule. I’ve been writing a lot to Kelly Clarkson’s new album (Piece by Piece) lately, too.
So fun! I’ll have to check out Sam Cushion. I have the hardest time listening to music when I write. It has to either be white noise or classical. So, I love learning about how other authors do it.
I love stories that address genres in different ways. You do such a good job in Finding North of showing a dystopian world from the perspective of what could happen if moral decay were to become the norm. To me, this idea is a way more realistic dystopian world than say, zombies and such, etc. Can you tell us where your idea for Finding North came from?
My stepmom sometimes gets free rooms at Vegas hotels, so we would go there as a family a lot when I was in high school. Most people don’t realize that there’s actually quite a lot to do even if you’re not 21. No matter how many times I’ve gone, I still love walking around looking at all the gorgeous hotels. One time, I started thinking about what it would be like to walk down the Strip when it was totally deserted, like after an apocalyptic event, with only a few people left to wander around these crazy-cool hotels. Then I kept thinking about it, until eventually I had the basic set-up for the world and simple character profiles for the main players in the story. The rest is history.
That’s so interesting. I love that Vegas is where you imagined an apocalypse having such a drastic outcome. It would definitely be a sight to see the strip empty of all its activity.
Do you think that America could really fall apart as literally as it does in Finding North?
Maybe, depending on who wins the next presidential election. Ha! But for real, I tried really hard not to make the collapse of our modern society be political, even though it would have been so easy to do, because I’m just not that kind of person. There’s some politics in the series as a whole, because it’s kind of inescapable, but I’m not trying to make any kind of statement. As for the virus-wiping-out-most-of-the-population bit, well, all I can say is that it makes me view the H1N1 and associated viruses like that in a new way, hehe. (I actually remember reading this article about a year ago that predicted a new “viral plague” would be the most likely way the world would end, and going “called it.”)
Many post-apocalyptic books deal with human kind searching for higher meaning and purpose in humanity when faced with destructive and uncertain futures. This is a big theme in Finding North. Can you tell us why you think humans search for meaning when they find themselves calamity, and why this theme is important for Kat and Reynan?
Well, I think a lot of it is just human nature—most of us aren’t inherently pessimistic people, so we don’t want to think we’re going through a shitty time just because the world is inherently shitty. So depending on the person and their beliefs, they’re going to find their own way to rationalize what’s happening, and why, to find their own reasons to keep going. It’s funny, when you really think about it, dystopian scenarios are just a particularly intense or extreme version of real life, in that the characters are dealing with most of the same stuff we do every day, just some different circumstances. In book 1, at least, Kat and Reynan are kind of going through parallel journeys that make up different parts of the New Adult experience, I think. Reynan has spent his whole life up to now taking his father’s word for gospel, more or less, and now he’s starting to figure out who he is and what he believes in, separate from Alistair. While Kat is dealing more with the concept of loss, and love, that life goes on even when it feels like you’re betraying a loved one’s memory.
I love that, that dystopian scenarios are just particularly intense or extreme versions of real life. I agree.
Now tell us some fun facts about yourself. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done, or what is the craziest thing you’d like to do?
The only thing I can really think of right now isn’t all that “out there,” but it was pretty nerve-wracking in the moment, I can guarantee. I worked at an ice cream shop over the summer, and there was this guy who worked at the Wendy’s across the street that kept coming in for smoothies. We’d been sort-of flirting for about a week, and finally, I wrote my number on the side of his drink cup one day. And he actually texted me back! Things didn’t work out between us, because I was moving back to Boston in a month, but it was more like one of those things I did to say I did it, and to increase my confidence for the future.
You can totally claim that’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done. Putting yourself forward in any dating situation is scary!
What can you tell us about your future writing projects?
Well, I’m working hard on book 2 of the Compass series, which should be available in early 2016. I wish I could say it’ll be out sooner, but alas, real life gets in the way. I’m also working on a sweet NA contemporary romance that I hope to have out in the spring of 2016. Beyond those two specific projects, I’m just trying to finish up the Compass series (which will be three books, plus a novella that’s book 2.5) and also giving my attention to whichever set of characters screams the loudest.
Sounds awesome! We look forward to your new books no matter when they’re released. Thanks so much for spending time with all of us at BOD, and for letting us into your world as a writer.
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Growing up, Allyson was always the girl with a big imagination and even bigger dreams. A California girl by birth, she currently lives in Boston while attending Emerson College. She has a small addiction to Starbucks, eyeliner, and chocolate–and, of course, books. Visit her at www.allysongottlieb.com for the latest book news and fun extras.