Hello, I’m Alana Woods, the Intrigue Queen. Why? Because I write thrillers that people say go deeper, are more satisfying and pique their curiosity much more than other thrillers they’ve read. They also say they love my characters because I get into their heads, so by the time they’ve finished reading they feel they really know them. They say the stories and characters haunt them long after they finish reading.
The ideas for my two published thrillers, AUTOMATON and IMBROGLIO, were sparked by jobs I’ve had. IMBROGLIO from several years I spent working as a publications typist at a weapons research establishment and AUTOMATON from five years as a court reporter. And you know what the experts say: write what you know!
I was born in Leicester UK but moved to Australia when I was just four with my family. My father fought in India and Burma in WWII and couldn’t take the cold when he returned to England, so he upped stakes and moved us all to the warmth of Adelaide, South Australia. I now live in Australia’s national capital, Canberra, also affectionately known by the locals as The Bush Capital because it’s out in the sticks and is forested with native eucalypts. It’s a lovely spot.
If you decide to take a punt and read any of my books I’d love for you let me know what you thought by way of a review. I also love to hear personally and you can do that via my website contact page.
What inspires you to write?
That’s a hard one to answer. I’m no different, I don’t think, to any other author. There are the hackneyed ‘Because I have to’ and ‘Because the characters won’t leave me alone until I’ve told their stories’, and they’re as true for me as they are for others. So when people ask me that question I ask ones of my own: What made Sir Edmund Hillary want to conquer Mt Everest? What makes anyone feel they have to do something? It’s a compulsion. So is writing.
Inspiration to write particular stories comes from anywhere, anyone and any time. My two published novels to date were inspired from jobs I’ve had. The third, that I’m working on at the moment, also came from a job. A three part series I’m still developing came from something that happened to me in Italy last year: I was there for my oldest daughter’s wedding and my jewellery was stolen. It was pretty well everything of value I had. I was going to wear several pieces and my daughter had asked if she could wear another as her something borrowed. Unfortunately it was all stolen before the wedding. I knew right away I’d write a story about it one day and I’ve been patiently waiting for one to stir into being. It is now stirring.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m both an outliner and a seat-of-the-pants writer, depending on the type of story I’m telling. AUTOMATON was a seat of the pants because it’s chronological; starts at a given spot and unfolds on a day-to-day basis until the end. IMBROGLIO needed to be outlined because I had my two main characters playing their parts simultaneously, so I needed to keep dates and times firmly fixed in my mind so I knew what either of them was doing at any given time. I used an foolscap notebook with dates and times in the first column and what Noel and David were doing in the second and third columns. It kept me on track with them.
My characters reveal themselves to me as I write their stories. In the same way they develop to the reader, they develop for me.
A really useful tool I’ve only recently begun to use is to interview my characters. I learnt this trick from another author who invited me to participate in some character interviews for her blog. I had Noel from IMBROGLIO and Elisabeth from AUTOMATON respond to her questions. And I have to say that although there were no surprises the process certainly brought them both into sharper focus for me.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
While I’m writing their story they fill my head. They’re with me every minute of the day. I go to sleep thinking about them and they’re there waiting for me when I wake in the morning. They’re quick to tell me if I write something that isn’t in character. Their voices are in my head. And they stay with me after the story is finished. Their lives continue but they’re content not to have any more of it made public.
What advice would you give other writers?
I have three bits of advice.
The first is to not rush into publishing. This is so important. It’s easy to do nowadays with electronic publishing. I put my manuscripts away for a while and it can end up being a year or two before I get back to them. The beauty of that is the stories are almost totally fresh to me because I’ve forgotten so much of the detail. Flaws leap out.
The second is to have beta readers pore over your book. Then a professional editor. If you’re lucky enough for your book to be noticed by readers once it’s published, you get only one chance for them to be impressed. Don’t squander it by giving them a book containing flaws and mistakes.
The third is to persevere. Electronic publishing wasn’t an option when I started, so the perseverance was all about taking publisher knockbacks on the chin and approaching others. But even if you were picked up and published there was no guarantee your book would sell. And that remains the same today. You can publish yourself but you’re now just one of millions of authors out there doing the same. Your book is more likely to sink into oblivion than it is to become a best seller. So, if you believe in yourself, persevere.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
When I first started trying to become published it was before electronic publishing. So the only route was through a traditional publisher. I wrote four novels before thinking the last one was of publishable standard and I did the rounds of being rejected and trying again. Eventually Pan MacMillan held onto it for quite a while considering it, but in the end decided against making an offer. So after I finished the next novel I approached them first. They read it and heaped quite a bit of praise on it. One thing they said was that I could be Australia’s answer to John Grisham. Then they rejected it! I didn’t bother submitting it anywhere else. My husband and I decided to self publish. So we paid for 1,000 print copies and then cold-called on bookshops up and down Australia’s east coast, placing them on consignment. They all sold so we had another 2,000 printed and decided to cut out the middle man. We sold them directly to the public at speaking engagements, libraries, Saturday markets, anywhere in fact we could think of.
Electronic publishing has made the act of publishing so easy in comparison. Selling remains a gamble though. And although it’s all online through social media sites etc, it’s still time consuming and requires effort.
I wouldn’t bother with traditional publishers again. Why would I when I can self publish to a global market and be paid much higher rates of royalties?
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
As long as people want to read — and they will — books will be published. And authors, being inventive souls, will adapt to whatever form it takes and make the most of it.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
mystery, suspense, intrigue, thriller, romance, short stories, non-fiction
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print