Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on “The Other Alice” blog tour. Today I have the pleasure to welcome Michelle Harrison the author of this pieace to Chouett.com who took the time to answer of few of my questions.
Well let’s get down the rabbit hole then!
For those readers who are just about to discover your writing, can you tell us something about “The Other Alice” to whet our appetite?
The Other Alice is all about a writer, Alice, whose characters step off the page and into the real world when she is stuck and unable to finish a story. When Alice goes missing it’s down to her little brother, Midge, to find her before her characters do . . . after all, there’s always a villain and they won’t want the ending Alice had in mind! It’s a story of riddles, fairy tales, curses, and my favourite thing of all: it’s a story within a story.
Was this piece a different experience from writing your “13 Treasures” trilogy, and in what way?
It was very different. 13 Treasures was heavily folklore based so I was cross-referencing a lot, whereas this book was straight out of my head (and at the risk of sounding corny, from the heart). The deeper I got into the 13 trilogy the more restricted I was by the rules I’d previously invented, and putting back story into sequels is tiresome. Writing a completely new stand alone was liberating.
Do you miss any of the characters?
Not yet, because they’re all still very much with me. I’ve actually just finished a mini sequel of sorts with two of my favourite characters – well, Alice’s characters – Gypsy and Piper, in the Winter Magic anthology which is publishing in November.
Are you more like Red from 13 or like Alice in your latest work?
Definitely Alice. There is so much of me and my sisters in her character and her relationship with her little brother. When I was growing up, my older sisters were always reading to me and making up stories, just like Alice does for Midge. With writing I’m a lot like her, too, becoming obsessed with whatever I’m working on although not to the same unhealthy degree Alice does – I like my sleep too much. Alice also projects things she wants for herself on to the character of Gypsy – I think most writers do this, me included.
How did you come up with the “unfinished story” idea? Was there a trigger, something in particular that made you think: “what if?”.
I don’t recall an exact moment I started thinking about this, it’s something that’s been on my mind a while: all the stories that must have been started and given up on, or perhaps with the writer dying before getting a chance to finish. I don’t like having ‘unfinished business’ generally in life, and I think of these characters as being in limbo. If one of these tales was so magical it was meant to be finished, what if the magic was strong enough to bring it to life?
If you had to choose among any fairy tale characters you could hang out with for an entire day, who would it be and why? Where would you take her/him?
Well, aside from the Little Mermaid which I mentioned on Enchanted Books (http://www.mrripleysenchantedbooks.com/2016/08/michelle-harrison-other-alice-blog-tour.html?m=1) I’d choose either the Little Match Girl or the Pied Piper. I’d take the Little Match Girl home and cook her an amazing dinner, and give her a safe warm bed and keep her forever, not just for one day. The Piper I’d convince to teach me his tricks, then I’d play a tune to hypnotise everyone into following me to the book shop.
How do you carry on writing? What keeps you going? Is there any times when you found it difficult?
I find all of it difficult, especially starting. Starting a new book, starting a new chapter. I don’t like blank pages. I keep going by focusing on plot points like a big reveal or clue that I want to get to, and especially writing the end of a story which is one of my favourite aspects. I make a list of all of my chapter titles (another favourite thing) and word count so I can see the story growing. Failing that, scary emails about deadlines from editors usually result in fast action.
If you were not a writer, what career path would you go for?
An artist or illustrator. My degree is in Illustration and it’s something I want to continue to develop. I have some of my illustrations in my books as chapter heads (The Other Alice features some of my paper cut art work which is a new direction for me) but I’d love to do some more highly illustrated projects.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My mum once told me: you can say anything you want as long as you do it with a smile. She’s been proven right many times! But I’m guessing you meant something connected to writing, so . . .
At college my art tutor told me that to be a success you must become obsessed with your work. I believe that’s true. The more you do, the more you want to do, the more ideas you get spiralling off from each other, and the more invested you are the more you want to carry on. The opposite is also true: the less you do the less you want to do. It’s easy to become lazy and disconnected from writing, art or any passion.
Any advice you would like to give budding readers and writers?
Keep reading, doesn’t matter what: magazines, comics, picture books. It doesn’t have to be novels if you don’t fancy it. I get cross when I hear teachers telling kids to read ‘proper’ books, not comics. Pictures are just a different way of telling a story. Reading for pleasure will help you in so many ways, not least to become a better writer. Secondly, write what YOU want to write and trust your instincts. Don’t worry about what you mum might think or avoid cutting out a certain character because they’re your uncle’s favourite – if you feel something in a story needs to go, then chop it. If writing something long is off-putting start with shorter pieces: poems, a blog, or even songs.
What is your perfect day?
Hitting my daily word target before lunch, followed by a family afternoon tea and garden party that ends in a water fight. Then relaxing for an hour or two with an unputdownable book before dinner and cocktails with my friends into the early hours. And probably Marmite on toast when I got home.
Thank you so much Michelle!