Theresa Alan

Rian: I really enjoyed your first novel “Who You Know”. You did an excellent job of separating the three main characters’ voices to make them all unique. How did you go about creating such different characters?

Theresa: Thanks. It was absolute agony! I don’t recommend doing that to yourself. The way I did it was I edited and edited and rewrote and rewrote. It also helped to have a friend take a look at it and point out things like Jen using a large vocabulary word when she was a flake who never paid attention in school. It was appropriate for Rette to use big words because she made a living as a teacher and editor, but not Jen. I had to edit that all out. It took me five years to write this book. These characters lived in my head for a long time. I knew them well. That helped.

Rian: “Spur of the Moment” features a group of Improv comedians living and working together. What was the inspiration behind that story?

Theresa: My sister is an improv comedian and she did this sort of comedy throughout college and then she worked at a place similar to the one described in the book. I thought it was such a fascinating world and I’m not aware of any other fiction that deals with this subject. I don’t think a lot of people know about what it takes to be a sketch or improv comedian, and this was my opportunity to let them know about it.

Rian: For people that haven’t yet read it, what is the premise behind your latest book “Girls’ Global Guide to Guys”?

Theresa: It’s about an aspiring travel writer who isn’t selling any articles, nor is she having success with dating. She comes up with the idea of trying to combine her two passions of romance and travel, and she goes abroad with her friend to learn about how dating, romance, and marriage are different in different parts of the world. I learned a lot of interesting things about cultural differences in dating doing research for this book. For example, I spoke to a French woman who now lives in the States, and she said she was flabbergasted to learn about the concept of a blind date. She also thought it was very strange the way Americans feel like we have to wait a set amount of time after a date before we call the person. I have a passion for travel and learning, so it was fun to write-although a lot of hard work, I must say.

Rian: Do you have any other books in the works?

Theresa: Oh yes. I’m very excited about my next book-it’s my favorite. It’s basically Hamlet except it has romance and a happy (ish) ending and all the gender roles are reversed. It’s currently called GOSSIP AND RUMORS, but that might change. It should be out in April of 2006. I also have a couple of novellas coming out. SEX AND THE SINGLE WITCH will be out in October and I SHAVED MY LEGS FOR THIS?! will be out in Feb. 2006. It’s an anthology on the theme of blind dating and it was a blast to write.

Rian: Of all the characters in your three books, which are you most like, and why?

Theresa: Wow, that’s a really tough question. I think maybe my favorite character is one that is in a book of mine that won’t be out until 2007. The character in that book is by far my funniest. Her name is Eva Lockhart and I just love her.

Rian: What are your thoughts, if any, on the chick lit genre? What do you feel about the people who put it down?

Theresa: I love chick lit. It’s not the only thing I read, but there are times when it’s exactly what I’m in the mood for. Having said that, I don’t like a lot of the chick lit books that are published. Much of the writing is competent but not funny or original enough. I won’t ever get tired of reading about dating, sex, work, and friends, but the writing needs to be really good.

As for naysayers, it really bugs me. It especially irritates me when other twenty and thirty something women put the genre down. If you are writing about women in their twenties and thirties, even if it’s literary fiction, chances are it’s going to be marketed as chick lit. We can’t control how our books are marketed. So if you put down this kind of fiction, you’re putting down a heck of a lot of young woman writers.

Rian: How old were you when you realized you wanted to write fiction? Did anything lead up to the decision?

Theresa: I was nine. I was always an avid reader and it just seemed like the coolest job ever. (I was right, although the financial tumultuousness of writing isn’t the most fun.)

Rian: When writing, do you have a set routine, or do you find yourself writing at odd times?

Theresa: I used to have a really set schedule. For the past year I’ve been able to write full time. Now I’m working on a book that I’m really banging my head against the wall over. Cranial trauma doesn’t actually help the creative process, but what are you going to do? So these days I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to conjure ways not to write, alas.

Rian: Have you ever read a book that you feel changed your perspective or outlook on life? If so, what book was it?

Theresa: Absolutely. I think there have been lots, but one I particularly adored was Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. She also does different points of view in first person and having struggled through the challenge of writing that way, I could really appreciate her accomplishment. The writing was beautiful and I learned a great deal about an area of the world I had been really ignorant about.

There were books I’d read that I’d think, “Pfft, I can do THAT.” I read The Poisonwood Bible and went, “Oh, but I can’t do THAT.”

Rian: What would be your advice to someone who has written 5 chapters of a novel but can’t seem to finish it?

Theresa: I heard a great quote the other day. It went something like, “The worst writing you ever do is better than the best writing you never do.” I think you need to give yourself permission to jump around and not write chronologically-that’s how I write, then I go back and edit and edit and see what needs fleshing out. At least it keeps you writing. And give yourself permission to write crap. It’s much easier to edit crap than it is to edit nothing.

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