YA Feature: Introducing YA author Alison Walkley

This week on Reading Away The Days YA Feature in author Alison Walkley. Alison is the author of Vuto, Choice & Queer Greer. Enjoy the interview with Alison and don't forget to leave a nice comment below!

A little about Alison:

I have an educational background in journalism, film studies and creative writing. I have written hundreds of articles for newspapers across the state of Connecticut, as well as national magazines like CURVE. I have been writing since I was in elementary school when my parents bought me my first journal in third grade. By the end of 5th grade, I had started writing a detective zine based on the Olsen Twins' video series. That blossomed into Hanson-inspired fan fiction in middle school. I wrote my first screenplay my freshman year of college - a musical based on the music of Queen. I can't think of a time that I wasn't writing. My first book, Queer Greer, was written after graduating college and returning from the Peace Corps as a health volunteer in Malawi, Africa. I now have two self-published books to my name, several unpublished screenplays and one novel that I'll be pitching to publishers in the coming months.

You have written three books, can you tell us a little about your novel Choice?

I decided to write Choice during National Novel Writing Month in 2008, taking up the challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days for the first time. I absolutely loved the push to crank out 1,600-words every day and by November 30th, I had a pretty solid draft that I was eager to flesh out and edit. The idea for Choice came from knowing several women who had had to make the decision whether to abort a pregnancy before; thinking about it for myself, I had no idea what I would have done in their shoes. So, I wrote a book about one of the most difficult subjects for any female: what do you do when you find yourself pregnant in high school, before you have the means to care for and raise a child? I wrote it in two parts as a way to really dive in and discover the pros and cons of the situation as a whole - the first part tells the story of our sophomore protagonist, Haley Fry, when she discovers she is with child and decides to abort; the second half tells what Haley's life would have been like if she chose to keep her baby.

I love the way Choice is written. The first half of this novel being what happens when Haley chooses an abortion, while the second half reveals Haley’s life when she chooses to keep the baby. Why did you decide to write the book this way?

I wrote it intending to keep my own biases out of it, allowing readers to determine what the better decision would be. The subject of abortion is a difficult one fraught with emotions and strong opinions on either side of the line. What does it matter what I personally believe, as the author? It comes down to an individuals' personal thoughts on the matter. All I wanted was to make people think a little deeper about what abortion means for the woman carrying the pregnancy, the would-be father and the family of the pregnant teen. It is not as cut and dry a decision as so many proclaim it to be. My hope is that people will read my book and rethink their stance on the issue, whatever it may be, and to be a little more open-minded about it.

In your book Choice it is told through the eyes of the entire family. I really like this idea as it shows the effect the situation has on not just the person going though it but people surrounding her. When you started writing Choice did you want to write it this way from the start i.e. though everyones eyes?

I actually did set out to write Choice through the perspectives of everyone in Haley's, the protagonist's, family. However, part of that decision came from writing it during National Novel Writing Month. I knew that the story could become stale quickly if I was forcing myself to write it in 30 days. I needed a way to keep it fresh on the page and to give me the impetus to continue with it every day. Thinking about one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, and the way she wrote my favorite book, The Poisonwood Bible, I recalled she had written each chapter from the point-of-view of a different person. Not only did this way of writing keep the story going, it kept me as a reader hooked perpetually; every chapter was completely different than the next and I could not put that book down. So, I used Kingsolver's method (a method many authors have used, in fact) to write Choice and I found that it was the perfect style for it. Every time I felt like I had nowhere else to go with one character, I'd stop their chapter and start writing the next from someone else's stance. Not only did it get me to the 50k-word count by my 30th day of writing, but it kept the plot exciting and seems to have intrigued quite a few readers as well!

Can you tell us a little about your novel QUEER GREER?

Queer Greer was my first full-fledged novel and will thus always hold a special place in my heart. It also means a lot to me because I wrote it for all of the high school and college-age girls grappling with their sexuality, aiming to give them a book to read that I would have loved to have read when I was questioning my own bisexuality at their ages. It's personal and semi-autobiographical, following protagonist Greer MacManus as she starts a new high school and finds herself in a love triangle with both a boy and a girl. There is a dearth of quality literature out there for bisexuals and, while I wouldn't necessarily call my book "literature," I do think it's a good read that brings up a lot of important issues surrounding minority sexualities. It is a book that aims to normalize the feelings many of us go through as we determine who we are and aren't attracted to.

Where did the idea come about for QUEER GREER?

I decided to write Queer Greer because I had a lot of pent up feelings surrounding my coming out process as bisexual and realized I never had anything to read about bisexual women growing up. Thinking it over it really upset me thinking that, if I had had a book growing up that showed me what being attracted to both boys and girls was like, that it was okay and normal, maybe I wouldn't have had as many hardships as I faced surrounding the matter. I have known many self-destructive people in the LGBT community, myself included, who have benefited from surrounding themselves with other LGBTs and educating themselves and others about what it means to be LGBT. I knew I had a book in me at that time and, when I returned to the States from the Peace Corps, Queer Greer was nearly bursting out of me, willing itself to be written. While I cannot say for sure how many people my book may have helped as I hoped it would when writing it, I can tell you I was invited to lead a seminar on Queer Greer and being bisexual in a gay/straight world at the largest LGBT conference in the U.S. - the True Colors Conference - in March 2011. Simply sitting in that room and connecting with LGBT high school students was enough to make me realize there was a good reason for writing that book.

All your books are about real life situations, is this the sort of books you like to read, if so can you tell us some of your favourite books/authors if not which genres do you like to read?

I do love reading about controversial, realistic plot lines, which is why writers like Jodi Picoult and Wally Lamb are at the top of my favorite author list. I'm also a sucker for a little fantasy now and then - J.K. Rowling, Charlaine Harris, Philip Pullman, Alice Hoffman. I've recently gotten into Tana French, who writes about intertwining storylines in Ireland. I do need to read more, though! It's hard to fit reading AND writing into a lifestyle where a full-time Monday-Friday day job is essential to making ends meet!

You wrote you novel VUTO in November 2011! Where did you come up with the idea for Vuto?

Vuto, my third novel, might be the one I'm most excited about to date - though I think I have that sentiment about every new project I've taken on. Vuto, which means "Trouble" in the Malawian language called Chichewa, is about an African woman, a Peace Corps volunteer and a murder, to put it succinctly. The idea came from several sources: 1. My own Peace Corps experience. 2. The inequalities between genders in Africa. 3. A little help from a friend. I knew I wanted to write about a woman bucking an African tradition that prevents men from acknowledging their children until they have lived for 2 weeks, but I didn't have anything beyond that. It wasn't compelling. I took on the challenge last November with my friend, Chloe. While Chloe didn't end up completing the challenge herself, she was responsible for the idea of inserting a murder - either my protagonist or the volunteer murders the protag's husband, forcing them to go on the run. I fleshed out the plot from there and continue to do so!

What do you hope to accomplish this year regarding your writing?

I have great feelings about this year! The independent publisher Rocket Science Productions will be releasing a second edition of Queer Greer, complete with a newly designed cover. I also aim to finalize Vuto and start querying publishers by May.

Thanks to Alison for the awesome interview. Be sure to check Alison's books out!

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/#!/ajwalkley
WEBSITE(S): http://alisonwalkley.com/

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