Friday, April 8, 2011

The Novel Road Interview: Allison Pang

A Brush of DarknessParanormal Romance is a growing genre. No news there. What does make the news is who is new and the way the quality of her work is raising the bar.  

   A marine biologist in a former life, Allison Pang turned to a life of crime to finance her wild spending habits and need to collect Faberge eggs. A cat thief of notable repute, she spends her days sleeping and nights scaling walls and wooing dancing boys....

   Well, at least the marine biology part is true. But she was taloned by a hawk once. She also loves Hello Kitty, sparkly shoes, and gorgeous violinists. She spends her days in Northern Virginia working as a cube grunt and her nights waiting on her kids and cats, punctuated by the occasional husbandly serenade. Sometimes she even manages to write. Mostly she just makes it up as she goes.

I am pleased to welcome Allison Pang to The Novel Road

Allison Pang
Allison Pang

  Me: Paranormal is a hot genre. It’s also highly competitive. How important is having a publisher like Simon and Schuster in your corner?
Allison: A lot of it can depend on the support and enthusiasm the publisher has for the book (and there are plenty of indie pubs that adore their authors and give them as much support as they can.) Even within a larger publishing house like S&S there are different imprints – and each one can vary as to how they handle things like marketing and publicity, but the publisher needs to know the best way to market that particular book, whatever genre it happens to be. The key thing is probably going to be distribution. A larger publishing house like S&S is going to have the resources to get a book out there in places that a smaller publishing house might not.

 Me: As a writer, clarity of idea is crucial to conveying a story. Some authors create a plot first, others create characters, then build a story around them. Explain your process and why.
Allison: I’m a panster at heart. I usually have a vague idea of how I want the story to end and that’s about it.  Even in my more “detailed” outlines, I generally just have an objective I want to have accomplished – i.e. Main characters find a body under a bed in chapter X.  (That’s about as detailed as I get. I don’t really care how they get there - I might have a couple of ideas for some characters, but usually I just throw them together in a scene and see what happens.) When I’m done, I smooth things out as I need to in revisions (or rewrite a bit.)

Dream EaterMe: You have four works in progress. Wow! How do you keep them separate in your mind?
Allison: Well, most of those were started before I sold – right now I’m only really working on the ones that pay me. But I don’t have any issue moving back and forth between them. Usually I’d work on one until I got stuck at some point. If it was something I would need to think about for a while, I’d backburner it and just slide over to a different story. I think part of this flexibility comes from playing in the Play by Post online writing games I’ve done for a few years. I’m usually running multiple characters in different settings (often at the same time), so switching between stories is very much the same.

Me: You’ve recently posted on your blog some of your marketing thoughts. Is it really ever to soon to start creating a buzz as a debut author?
Allison: Maybe not buzz about the fact that you exist or that you have a book coming out – but specific buzz about that book does need to be spaced out a bit or I think you run the risk of overexposure (especially if the release is a few months out.) Within the last few weeks before the release is when things should probably be geared toward heavy marketing – however, you have to remember that many of these blog tours and such are set up months beforehand, so a good plan is crucial.

Me: Talk about your editor and your experience in this crucial part of publishing. Did you mesh right away, or did it take time to get on the same page?
Allison: I was very lucky that Danielle and I meshed so quickly. I knew she loved the book and loved my voice and that helped quite a bit when it came to the revision letter. As long as I could explain my reasoning behind why certain things needed to be the way they were, she was fine with any decisions I made. In return, I had to trust her when she pointed out places that needed to be tweaked or rewritten. It’s an interesting symbiosis, but it’s fantastic when it works. (Plus, she sent me chocolate. J )

Me: Give me a two sentence “hook”, describing “A Brush with Darkness”.
Allison: I’m lousy at hooks. So here’s three sentences direct from the book that do pretty well:
I had a naked incubus in my bedroom. With a frying pan of half-cooked bacon and a hard-on. And a unicorn bite on his ass. Christ, this was turning out to be a weird morning.

Heart of the DreamingMe: You get to have lunch with any author you wish, from throughout history or today, and why?
Allison: E. E. Cummings, simply because  his poetry is about as close to perfection as you can get.

Me: Tell us about your agent and why you two are a perfect match.
Allison: She goes above and beyond for me, to put it simply. It’s a bit of a complicated situation as to how we got to work together and I won’t go into details about it here, but  I can say that I’m truly blessed by our working relationship. For me, communication is key. No matter how busy Suzie is, she always manages to find a little extra time for me, even if it’s just to answer a quick question via email. She is a phenomenal resource and a tremendous person.

Me: Before you had an agent and book deal. Talk about editing your work. How did you know when to stop before submission?
Allison: I’m not sure any writer knows. You write until you feel like it’s the best you can write and then send it out. If rejections or critiques come back and they’re all fairly similar, then work on those parts. After my first round of rejections, I took a look at the manuscript with another critique partner and tightened it up some more and then sent it back out. I also had entered into a few writing contests on the hopes that it would final and I could skip the slush pile (and I did win several, one of which led me to an offer of publication).

My PhotoMe: Can you tell us about your next novel?
Allison: It’s the sequel to A Brush of Darkness – I can’t really say too much about it at the moment without spoiling the first one, but it is the second of a confirmed series of three to be published in the next year or so.

Me: Publishing is going through an evolution at the moment. How has this or will this affect you?
Allison: The publishing world seems to be changing on a daily basis and everyone is affected in some way. It’s an exciting time with a lot of new opportunities and groundbreaking innovations – and a savvy author needs to be able to navigate these new waters with an open mind. As far as how it will affect me? Guess I’m just going to have to wait and see. J

Me: Life experience in the writing process. What advice can you give writers on its importance? 
Allison: Well obviously life experience is important to some degree (that whole “write what you know, research what you don’t” adage is certainly true.) To be a writer, you do need to make a commitment to writing – whether that’s a certain page count or word count per day or some other method, but it’s also important to get away from the keyboard, even if it’s to avoid burnout. Experiencing things first hand can give your work a sense of realism that you might not be able to capture otherwise and inspiration can come from anywhere.