Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Alina Adams - Guest Author

Alina Adams describes herself as funny, brave, workaholic, busy, and (not surprisingly) tired. Her writing is Plot, plot-twist, plot-point, plotted, plotting (which seems like nirvana to this pantser until I try it!) Without further comments from the host, here are Alina’s answers.

Describe your most productive writing venue. What makes it best for you?

My work commute is about two feet. The table on which my computer sits stands flush against the bottom of my bed (I live in New York City, it’s a miracle I have room in my bedroom for both). It’s my most productive venue because it’s where every day is a race to see if I can get my work done and meet my deadlines before my three kids come home from school. If I traveled anywhere for work, it would take time away from writing. And nothing, not even the prospect of working without a view of the laundry hamper, is worth that.

What makes a great short story?

A point. I know that character is king and poetic language is what all authors should strive for. But if I read a short story that’s all flowery prose and deep, profound internal musing without a point – I feel I’ve wasted my time. A short story is still a story. Tell me a story. Tell me what HAPPENS.

What is your most productive time of the day (and do you need caffeine)?

My mother once said that my husband’s and my worse traits as parents is that we don’t drink coffee. That said, my most productive time of day is first thing in the morning. I get up, I feed the kids, I take them to school, and then I rush back to write. In fact, I even turn my computer on before I leave, so that it can be warmed up and ready to go as soon as I walk through the door.

I’m at my best before noon. After that, anything I write feels like pulling teeth. Of course, days later, when I go back and reread what I wrote when I was flying high versus when I felt like I was being tortured, there is no difference in quality. So, yeah, that’s a little depressing.

How many books do you read in a typical month? Do you read in your genre while you are writing? What’s your most recent “great” book?

Back in the heady days before I had children, I’d go to the library once a week, and check out the maximum allowed – 8 books. Now that the quota has been lifted and patrons can check out as many books as they’d like, I rarely have time to read more than one a week. While I read some work in my genre, the fact is, I prefer reading in a genre that I know I am incapable of writing in. I love thrillers. I love their pace and plotting, even as I know I couldn’t duplicate those myself. I also read a lot of non-fiction.

As a lover of plot and plot twists, I find non-fiction to be much more unpredictable than fiction. Fiction needs to have logic and structure and foreshadowing, which means when you’ve read enough of it, you can pretty much see where the story is going. In real life, stuff just happens. I also love non-fiction that takes common wisdom and things “everybody knows” and actually puts it to the test. My current favorite in that genre is Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It basically takes everything parents believe to be true about child-rearing, and looks at the hard-science and statistical data behind it.

What is the most challenging area for you as a writer? What are you doing to address the issue?

As I may have subtly intimated above, I love plot. I love stories and being surprised by what happens next. This is true for my reading and my writing. Combine that with my utter lack of interest in fashion and a TV director who once called me a “visual wasteland,” and I have no interest in character and/or place description. When I’m reading, I just skip over it. When I am writing I… just skip over it. I don’t care what my characters are wearing or the make of car they drive. I just want to know what they’re up to. As a result, I try to pick one character trait that’s descriptive of my protagonist’s personality, and then move on to the good parts.

What motivates you to write?

On an episode of “30 Rock,” Tina Fey’s character wailed that she had to be a writer because, “I have no other skills!” This is pretty much true of me, as well. Not only do I not know how to do anything else useful, there are voices in my head that keep talking at me until I write down what they’re saying. So, really, what can I do but write?

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

My whole writing career has been a case of “You know, it’s not supposed to happen that way.” My first romance novel was picked and published out of the slush pile. I wrote a non-fiction book about figure skater Sarah Hughes in a year when she wasn’t expected to do much at the Olympics. She ended up winning the gold medal, and my book went into second and third printings. I pitched a novel based on the soap-opera, “As the World Turns,” and it ended up becoming a NYT best-seller.

Then, a few years later, I took a cancelled soap-opera, “Another World,” and revived it on-line as a combination of text and video with readers directing the story. I took what I learned there, and turned my paperback figure-skating mystery novels into enhanced e-books, with professional performance footage alongside the original story. And then I combined everything I’d done up to the point, the interactive fiction, the multimedia enhancements, and decided that I would write my next book live online, and that I would take feedback from readers along the way about where I wanted to story to go next.

At www.AlinaAdams.com/live, readers can literally watch my every key-stroke. They can see my typos, my mistakes, my clunky prose and my badly plotted dead-ends. It’s the exact opposite of what writers are told to do, which is to polish their work until it’s perfect before letting anyone see it. But, what can I say, it sounded like a fun idea, so I went with it. You know, it’s not supposed to happen that way….

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received and why was it so valuable?

My high-school AP English teacher told me, “Just think about what you want to say, and say it.” I was worried about using fancy words and sounding smart. The end result was paragraphs that went on for pages. With the above, all I had to do was figure out my point. And then write it down. It’s especially useful on days when the myth of writer’s block threatens to rear its head. On those days, I ask myself, “What is this scene about?” I then write it down. I ask myself, “What should happen in this scene?” And I write it down.

One sentence, then two, then three, eventually, you have a whole book.  That’s another reason I decided to launch my live writing project. I wanted to demystify the process. There’s nothing magical or holy or inspired or profound about writing a novel. It’s simply a matter of sitting down in a chair and typing line after line after line about what’s happening.  And then, of course, there’s the editing….

To watch me destroy a 20 year writing career, visit www.AlinaAdams.com/live. To see the books I wrote prior to losing my mind, go to: www.AlinaAdams.com, or find me on Twitter @IamAlinaAdams and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alina-Adams-Media/265239180177087
Here's a bit of a teaser for the Figure Skating Mysteries:

Who murdered the judge that awarded Olympic Gold to Russia’s dour ice-queen over America’s perky princess? Why did a skating prodigy disappear the night before his biggest event? How is the baby found abandoned at the ice-rink connected to the dead girl swinging from the rafters (and who’s its father)? What secret is the Russian defector hiding and did it cause his death? And who killed the world-famous coach? His much younger wife? His bitter daughter? The skater he nearly drove to suicide – or the one he guided to Olympic Gold? Learn the answer to all of the above in the Figure Skating Mystery series (5 Books in 1) at: http://www.amazon.com/Figure-Skating-Mystery-Series-Books-ebook/dp/B00HUZ41FI/ref=zg_bs_159911011_32


  1. Another good post in this series. Will check in on Alina's live page now and again!

    1. Thanks, Judy, look forward to hearing your thoughts!

  2. Alina -- I enjoyed your post. A f/u question: What did you learn from Nurture Shock that most surprised you? ~ Jim

    1. I don't know if it surprised me as much as it confirmed my suspicion that "Gifted" tests given to four year olds in NYC are pretty much worthless.