Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I was born and raised in New England and graduated from Fairfield University with a B.A in English. I’ve been writing creatively for as long as I can remember, but for a long time, it was just for my own creative outlet. Professionally I’ve written for online and print publications about healthcare and gender equality, worked as an editorial assistant, and most recently my debut novel A Wider Universe was released in November 2016.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I remember telling people as early as seven or eight that when I grew up I wanted to be an author. I think what prompted my seven-year-old self to make that declaration was reading Jane Yolen books, but the inclination to write and create stories has always been there for me.
Tell me about A Wider Universe.
A Wider Universe tells the story of a family: an estranged father and daughter, Gene and Chelsea Shepherd. Their relationship is strained because Chelsea has prioritised her deadbeat boyfriend over her dying mother, so the two are travelling on very separate paths at the beginning of the novel. The story follows Gene, who is living alone, as he begins to get strange visits from a twenty-something religious solicitor and the unexpected developments that come from those visits. It also follows Chelsea’s journey as she realises how toxic her relationship has become and as she forges a friendship with a handsome but much older college professor. Gene’s path and Chelsea’s path seem unrelated but they are much more intertwined than you’d expect.
|Image: Allison Floyd|
My senior year at Fairfield I was taking a British Literature Survey course and we were reading Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, which is pretty lofty and not the most engaging read. However, during a class discussion of the subject matter I was fascinated by the concept of a perfect society in which there was religious freedom but proselytising was forbidden. I wondered how different our society would be if fewer groups pushed so hard to try and make others adopt their beliefs. That inspired a story about someone who wants to be utterly left alone but is being hounded by someone determined to spread their ideologies.
What’s your writing process?
My method is essentially to sit down and write when I’m feeling inspired. Unfortunately, I’m not a writer who can accomplish very much creatively when I’ve lost my muse. On days I can’t muster creativity, I edit. I’m not an outliner and I don’t really do drafts so to speak. Instead, I periodically will go through the whole of what I’ve written and make adjustments and additions.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Coming up with truly unique ideas. Once I have an idea it’s easier for the writing to follow and the storytelling will start to flow. But I can’t just decide “Today I’m going to write” because unless I’m smacked in the face with an idea or inspiration, I’m not going to get very far.
What do you love most about writing?
I love the when every aspect of your story is perfectly clear in your mind. You know everything about you characters; you know their favourite food is, what kind of music they listen to. You can see the setting in your mind’s eye. It’s exciting to see a whole world that you’ve created in your head and then be able to share it with others.
|Image: Allison Floyd|
I love classic literature so writers like Charlotte Brontë and John Steinbeck have influenced my writing. I grew up reading Judy Blume so I will always have a real love for her. As for contemporary writers, I’m a big fan of Jennifer Weiner. She’s really good at creating very different, well-developed characters, getting inside their heads, and then making them relatable.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
The best tip I was ever given was if you have an idea, go for it. If you’ve got a story to tell, commit to telling it. As soon as the inspiration strikes you, write it down, get it on paper and see where it leads you.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?
If I were to imagine myself in a completely unrelated career I would want to do something related to the arts, like museum curating. I think supporting arts and creativity is really important.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love movies. I’m a huge fan of the classics, as well as lesser-known old movies that are hidden gems. I really enjoy watching old favourites and discovering great movies. I also am interested in and active about working towards gender equality.
What are you currently working on?
I’m in the early stages of working on my second novel. It’s about a twenty-something woman who was adopted learning she has a biological half-sibling halfway across the world.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve been rereading Macbeth in small doses a lot lately, but the books on my to-read list for my next library trip are Mara Wilson’s memoir Where Am I Now? and Carrie Fisher’s memoir Wishful Drinking.
To find out more about Allison and her work, visit her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter. A Wider Universe is available to buy now.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!