Rian: Your books are full of lively, engaging characters. Where do you generally get your inspiration for them?
Allison: Thanks! I get my inspiration from absolutely everywhere – snippets of conversation overheard at the hairdresser, while on the bus, bits and pieces I read in the paper. Everywhere. I think the strangest idea I’ve come up with was the idea behind my first novel with Red Dress Ink – It’s Not You It’s Me. The inspiration for the book came when I was waiting to see my travel agent one day. I was flipping through one of those 18-35s bus-tour-through-Europe brochures for a laugh (someone had told me they put in heaps of photos of cute guys in the brochures to lure females in to booking when, in reality, only about twenty per cent of the people on your trip will be male!). Anyway, I spotted this tour that went specifically to Oktoberfest. Now, I don’t drink beer – I’ve just never liked the taste of the stuff – and I wondered absentmindedly how I’d go on that kind of a trip. I stood there imagining myself on a five-day-tour to Oktoberfest and just couldn’t stop laughing. This is the situation my heroine, Charlie, has found herself in at the start of It’s Not You It’s Me. To complicate things, she meets up with her ex-flatmate along the way. Her now very famous ex-flatmate that, as it turns out, she still has feelings for.
Rian: I loved Friday Night Cocktails. Where did you get the idea for such an outrageous and fun plot?
Allison: At the time the idea came to me, I actually had a bastard in my life that I’d just managed to get rid of. I wasn’t exactly looking for ways to get revenge, but when I stumbled across one on the internet, I can’t say I was averse to the idea! After I had my little vent about him, I went on to find quite a few sites designed specifically to let women vent about the bastards in their lives. So, like Gemma, the main character in Friday Night Cocktails, and her best friend Sarah, I spent a whole morning reading through the entries that women from all over the world had submitted. I went to the ‘bitchboard’ at yoni.com, the ‘dick list’ at disgruntledhousewife.com and ‘submit-a-jerk’ at mensuck.org to name a few. The ‘bastard list’ in Friday Night Cocktails is basically a variation on sites like these, a place for women to let loose and warn every other woman in the world about the man who took them to hell and back.
Rian: You have a book coming out in February from RDI called Hating Valentine’s Day. I can’t wait to read it (and it’s near the top of my to-read pile!) What is the plot synopsis for that book?
Allison: Hating Valentine’s Day is about Liv Hetherington, a wedding photographer who hates Valentine’s Day with a passion. She’s been single for a number of years and has decided that, this year, she’s had enough of her family and friends setting her up and is going to put her foot down. As always happens, however, the right man falls into her life at the wrong time and Cupid has to send the ghosts of Valentine’s Day past, Valentine’s Day present and Valentine’s Day yet-to-come to teach her a lesson or two about love.
Rian: Of all three of your books, what was the easiest to write? The hardest?
Allison: I think Friday Night Cocktails was the hardest, simply because it was so long ago (it was initially released in Australia in 2000 titled allmenarebastards.com) – I still had no idea how ‘I’ write novels then. I think most novelists would agree that, after a few books, they start to work out how they write best. Everyone writes novels differently. Some people just sit down and start writing. Not me. I’m a big planner and need a huge outline based on the good old three-act structure and then write up mini outlines for each chapter, to keep me on track as I write. I also under-write and flesh things out later. I really didn’t have a clue that this was how I should be doing things when I wrote my first couple of books. Every book I’ve written since then has become easier, but my 2006 RDI (tentatively titled Mad About Moo) would have to have been the easiest. I just channeled it out! Mind you, it was a race against time – I had to push the book out before I pushed a baby out!
Rian: You’ve been published by both Red Dress Ink and Strapless, which is really cool. Was your experience different in both places, and if so, in what ways?
Allison: The experiences have been very different as RDI is really my ‘home’, while Strapless simply bought the US rights to allmenarebastards.com (which then became Friday Night Cocktails). Thus, I haven’t had much contact with Strapless, but have made myself comfy at RDI.
Rian: Do you have another book in the works? If so, tell us about it.
Allison: I always have another book in the works! I have books lined up with RDI for 2006 and 2007 (tentatively titled Mad About Moo and The Inner Gentleman). I’ve also been working on a YA trilogy and finished writing the first book in the series this year. My agent is shopping it around as I type.
Rian: What are your thoughts on the chick lit genre in general? What about people who bash it?
Allison: The label ‘chick lit’ being stuck on my novels has been both a blessing and a curse in many ways, mainly because no-one’s truly been able to define what the term means. I think it’s rather like bandying around the term ‘chick flick’ where movies are concerned. Naturally, there are some movies aimed at women that are far and away better than others and this is the same where chick lit is concerned. After Bridget Jones’s Diary was published there was quite a lot of awful chick lit that hit the shelves and I think women’s fiction is still recovering from this. I do feel awfully sorry for readers at times having to deal with all these terms – chick lit, romance, romantic novels, women’s fiction, contemporary women’s fiction etc.. It’s very confusing! When it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter what term you use – we’re all just looking for a rollicking good read and, thankfully, most ‘chick lit’ books provide that. As for people who bash it, generally I find they haven’t really read any real chick lit at all, or are simply the kind of people who have to bash everything.
Rian: How did you get your start in the writing industry?
Allison: I did a BA majoring in journalism (and Russian, but we won’t go there) and then a Grad. Dip. of Editing and Publishing. After I’d finished uni, I wrote my first novel (never published and every time I read a bit of it I know why). I had some interest in it from a few publishers, but in the end it was rejected by all of them. I started writing my second novel, allmenarebastards.com (Friday Night Cocktails in the US) and that was snapped up by Random House in Australia. I ended up with RDI through gossiping (I always say this story is a great ad. for why gossiping can be a good thing!). Karin Stoecker of RDI happened to read allmenarebastards.com during a trip to Australia and New Zealand and spoke to a member of the New Zealand Romance Writers’ Association saying how much she had enjoyed it. The member emailed me, I emailed Karin within about 35 seconds and she asked to see any mss I had on offer. It was great timing as I was set to go to London four weeks after this and, while I was there, Karin and Sam Bell made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I knew everything was perfect when they plied me with some Dior make-up, RDI books and dessert. I think they have me pegged.
Rian: Do you have any peculiar writing habits or things that have to be ‘just so’ in order for your thoughts to flow freely?
Allison: I used to like things to be ‘just so’, but now I have a one-year-old on my hands, I can only dream about being so picky! I used to like having large blocks of time in which to write and now I have to snatch what I can. Even though the tot goes to daycare three days a week, writing time can be unstable. For example, at the moment she should be at daycare but is home sick with gunge-eye. I’m stealing time to write the answer to this question while she kips!
Rian: Do you have a particular book or author who you absolutely love, and inspired you to write? (If not, who/what are you favorite authors/books?)
Allison: No-one in particular inspired me to write, but I have a weird line-up of favourite books, as you can see below:
Day of the Triffids John Wyndham;
Perfume Patrick Suskind;
The Shopaholic Series (can’t pick a specific one) Sophie Kinsella;
Rachel’s Holiday and Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married Marian Keyes; and
About a Boy Nick Hornby.
Rian: What advice would you give someone who has written a chick lit book and wants to get it published?
Allison: Do not, under any circumstances, give up! And also, keep writing. Don’t get stuck on trying to sell that first ms. I think it’s very important to be market savvy as well – to know exactly who’s buying what and to make contacts. This isn’t a business you can afford to be shy and retiring in. First of all you need to write something fabulous and then you need to be able to go out there and sell yourself and your work, baby!