Interview with Allison D. Reid, author of Journey to Aviad
When and why did you begin writing?
I guess I’ve been writing longer than I can even remember. My grandmother once told me that I won a poetry contest in 1st grade. I have no memory of that event, but somewhere I still have the signed picture book that was my prize. My first actual memory of writing was much later on in grade school. Our teacher would give us creative writing prompts, starting us off with a sentence that we had to develop into a whole story. I was always fascinated by how many completely different stories were born of that one simple sentence. I began to understand that there was no limit to what I could create, and made a point to push my imaginative boundaries any time I was given the chance.
What inspired you to write your first book?
In a way, insomnia was my first inspiration. When I was a kid, I had a very difficult time going to sleep at night. I didn’t have a TV in my room (not that there was cable back then anyway), and cell phones and tablets didn’t exist yet. There was nothing to do but stare up at the darkened ceiling of my room, cuddle with my cat, and wait for the sand man to show up. So I started a story in my head. It was a fantasy story, with castles, swords, a tragic young prince, a brave princess, and of course, the evil nemesis one kingdom over. Every night I added on a little more to the story, picking up at whatever point I had finally fallen asleep the night before. It became quite an expansive tale, and I totally fell in love with the world and characters as though they were dear friends. Eventually I outgrew the need to put myself to sleep in this way, but the story stayed with me. I knew one day I would have to write it down.
The opportunity finally came in college. I was working on a fine arts degree, but sucking up paint fumes in the art building was starting to lose its charm. One spring break, instead of working on my art, I borrowed a friend’s computer and started working on that story. Once I started, I found that I couldn’t stop. Art was fun, in small doses, but writing was my real passion. The book turned out to be way too long, and not very polished. I think I only shared it with one kind-hearted friend in the dorms. But the process of writing it made me realize that I had to change my major—fast! I kept art in my studies, but shifted my major to writing and was incredibly glad that I did. Writing is still my passion and I haven’t looked back. One day I just might go back to that original story and do it right, but that probably won’t be anytime soon!
Do you have a specific writing style?
An editor once told me that I have an older, more European writing style, and I guess that could be true. All I know is that I write from the heart, and I tend write visually. I see with my characters’ eyes, feel what they feel, smell what they smell, and try to write those experiences down in a way that allows my readers do the same. Some readers demand instant, heart-pounding action or they lose interest. For me, every book is a journey. While there is plenty of action along the way, I tend to start a little more slowly, giving readers a chance to orient themselves and get to know their traveling companions. I want them to experience quiet beauty, joy, magic, and mystery in the midst of the twists and trials that make up an exciting plot.
How did you come up with the title?
When I was thinking about titles, I wanted to come up with something that had layers of meaning. Journey to Aviad speaks of the physical and emotional journey my characters go through. It also refers to their spiritual journey as they come to better understand God (Aviad in my fantasy world) and His plan for their lives.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
If he was still alive (and I could stand in his presence without throwing up or passing out), having C. S. Lewis as a mentor would be an absolute dream. I would love to have been a fly on the wall of The Eagle and Child pub when the Inklings were meeting there. Lewis’ writings have mentored me since the day I first picked up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and felt God reaching out to me through the pages. As a child I read that series over and over again, until the books literally fell apart in my hands and had to be replaced. I moved from those to his less well-known sci-fi series, and eventually the Screwtape Letters and his apologetic writings. I don’t write the way he does, but his works and thought have definitely been my greatest teacher.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The Christian elements of my story are allegorical. Presenting Christian truths through the lens of a completely different world and historical timeline proved to be more challenging than I expected, and a huge responsibility. Aside from that, the biggest difficulty was keeping track of all the little open threads of storyline that are yet to be resolved in other parts of the book series.
Do you suffer from writers block?
Occasionally. But usually I find that I’m stuck because I’m emotionally, mentally, or even spiritually not ready to write the section I’m supposed to be working on. Even when I’m not writing, I’m constantly working things out in the back of my mind. When I’m finally ready, the words start flowing again, and I’m never disappointed that I waited. Some people say that you should just force yourself forward, and write even if you are uninspired. That doesn’t work for me at all. Patience and thoughtfulness usually serve me better, and result in a higher quality of writing even if it takes longer. While I’m waiting for my “writer’s block” to resolve itself, I work on other things; research, editing, character sketches, outlines, etc.
Do you use an outline or just write?
I always start the writing process with an outline of every chapter, though sometimes that outline changes as the story grows. The outline keeps my plot, and key details, on track. It also allows me better oversight for the entire series, so that everything connects and flows as one continuous story.
What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
Right now I am very close to finishing the next book in my series. I am really excited by the prospect of publishing it this year—there are exciting new characters and plot twists just waiting to be revealed!
Do you start with character or plot?
I almost always start with characters, and with the vision of a world—usually someplace beautiful or intriguing. Emotional investment up front is key. If I don’t care about the people I’m with, or the place I’m in, what happens to them doesn’t really matter all that much.
In your words, what defines a good story?
Real, three-dimensional, lovable characters are a must. A good story also has layers of meaning, so that you can read the same book more than once and catch different things each time. There should be an element of beauty and hope, but also plenty of mystery and suspense. I want to be moved by a story without being traumatized by it. I don’t deal well with dark, graphic, or tragic stories—they haunt me without mercy to the point where I wish I had never read them. The real world has enough trauma of its own!
Allison D. Reid was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her love for medieval fantasy was sparked by the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, which fed both her imagination and her spiritual development. When at the age of thirteen her family moved to Germany, her passion for medieval history and legend only increased, and she found herself captivated by the ancient towns and castles of Europe. Allison returned to the United States to study art and writing at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. She earned her B.A. under the tutelage of the well-renowned and prolific writer Andrew Salkey, a student of her other great inspiration, and the father of fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien. After graduating from Hampshire College, Allison moved to Connecticut. There she got the opportunity to attend seminary and further explore her faith before returning to her home state of Ohio. Allison now lives in the Miami Valley area with her husband and children. She continues to work on her first published series while taking care of her family, editing for other independent writers, and managing a home business.
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Join me on Sunday when I will have an excerpt from Journey to Aviad, and information on how you can get your copy.
Thanks for stopping by