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Interview with Alice Liddell

She graduated from Columbia College of Chicago with a degree in Fiction Writing. During her college days, she began working as a freelance model, eventually making it her full-time profession after graduating. She toured nationally, met scores of creative people, and had many adventures. After retiring from modeling and experiencing a divorce, Alice felt the drain of her creativity. But after finding a loving and supportive community, she began exploring her writing talent and art again. She is now a regular in the local Chicago writing communities and is dedicated to enhancing her craft.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I’m bilingual. My parents taught me French at a young age and invested in a tutor, and later I took French language classes in school.

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books?
I am currently working on my sixth novel Succumb to Darkness. My most recent published work was my poetry collection Synesthesia – Pandemic.

Q.3 When did you decide to write Love of the Sea?
Love of the Sea began as an in-class writing assignment in college (2009). I later expanded on the assignment and began writing a full novel from the original idea. Writing this novel and eventually submitting it for publication was made possible by the support of my former professor and current mentor Tina Jens. It was actually in Tina’s Fantasy Writing class that I created the original idea.

Q.4 How do you come up with the name of your books?
It’s not really something I think about, the names just sort of coming to me. Sometimes I’ll change a title halfway through writing a novel because something else comes along that is a better fit. I don’t really have an official “process” for creating my book titles.

Q.5 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
“You’ll get there.” There were a lot of times growing up where I was discouraged by adults in my life telling me that I needed to develop “real skills” and that writing would never get me anywhere. I’m proud to say I have proven them wrong.

Q.6 How do you select the name of your characters?
This varies depending on the genre I’m writing in. For my fantasy stories, the names often organically come to me; they’re not “researched” or planned. Names for the characters in my historical fiction novels are carefully researched in order to be historically and culturally accurate. I often put Easter eggs in the stories by choosing names that have a special meaning. Such as in Geisha Hands the name “Hoshi” means “star”. In my romance novels, I try to use names that are a bit unusual, but still familiar. I want the characters to have a unique personality on the page, but I don’t want them to be as “out there” as some of my fantasy character names.

Q.7 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I have currently published 5 novels, 7 poetry collections, and 17 art books. I currently have 60 book projects at different levels of completeness on my to-do list. This is not counting my short stories or poems. I’m currently working on 14 fantasy novels, a 13 book Young Adult fantasy series that will be fully illustrated, 14 romance novels, 4 historical fiction novels, 1 sci-fi novel, 1 murder mystery novel, 1 paranormal horror novel, 3 fantasy encyclopedias with illustrations, 3 illustrated children’s books, 3 novels, 1 art book, and 2 coloring books. I’m also currently working as a blogger and I’m writing for two different RPG (role-playing game) companies writing supplement guides and play guide books. I also have a list of personal art projects that I’m also working on in addition to writing my books. My favorite book that I have published is Geisha Hands. It is my crowning jewel thus far as it is a fully illustrated novel. My favorite work in progress is my 13 book fully illustrated YA fantasy series. That will be the absolute crowning jewel of my writing and my art career.

Q.8 How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends on the work and how much time I can devote to it on a daily basis. Love of the Sea only took me about 2.5 years to complete in total (there was a 5-year gap from when I first wrote the novel to when I picked it up again and polished it for publication submissions). My illustrated historical fiction novel Geisha Hands took me 5 years to complete – 3 years to research and write the manuscript, and another 2 years to complete all the illustrations. On average, I typically spend 1 year writing the manuscript from beginning to end, then another year to edit and polish it for publication submissions, and then it can take another 6 months to a year to go through edits with my publisher’s editor. Typically, my fantasy novels take the least amount of time, while my illustrated and historical novels take the most time to complete.

Q.9 Among all the protagonists of your book, which one is your favorite and why?
In Love of the Sea, my favorite protagonist would have to be Asrai. She’s so fiery and fun, but she also learns a lot along the way. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but it was important to me for her to have a major wrench in her plans and have to accept a difficult truth. I like my characters, no matter how fantastical, to have to face “real world” challenges in order to better connect with my readers.

Q.10 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
I’ve never had a strong desire to be one of the humanoid fantasy races (ie elves, vampires, faeries, etc). I’ve always wanted to be a unicorn. That is the fantasy “race” I would most want to be. I’m actually an introverted person and keep my friend circle small. I prefer to be by myself or with a close companion in my daily life. I also love that unicorns are beautiful, majestic, strong creatures. I like to emulate their “goodness” in my daily life, while still sticking to how they are also protective and secretive.

Q.11 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
I have synesthesia, and the type I have greatly impacted my writing and my artwork. (Reference: A neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (for example, hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (such as vision).) I taste words and I taste colors (both as visual colors and reading color words on the page). My writing is always heavily detailed with lots of colors. This is because I like to write with words and colors that taste good to me. The same goes for my artwork. I also avoid using colours and words that taste bad to me. Thankfully, there are far more “tasty” words and colors than bad.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
Yes, I believe in writer’s block. For me, it’s typically a problem with focus and motivation. I suffer from ADHD and depression, so sometimes finding the ability and energy to just sit down and write can be difficult. I overcome this by trying to create the “mood” to help me be inspired and energized. This often includes listening to instrumental music, having snacks on hand, minimizing distractions, reading something short and fun, and petting my cat, Squishy.

Q.13 What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
I learn a ton of fantastic information when I’m researching to write my historical fiction novels. It’s simply the nature of the process. However, in terms of learning about the process of writing itself, I would have to say that I’m constantly learning more about how to better write for my readers and streamline my writing process so it takes less time to complete a full novel.

Q.14 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
My all-time favorite book is actually the Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier. It’s a Celtic fantasy trilogy with beautifully written characters and settings. It’s actually the basis for a lot of inspiration in my own fantasy novels.

Q.15 How does your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
My family has always been super supportive of my writing. I started writing little stories in notebooks when I was a young child and my parents loved reading them and did everything they could to help nurture my craft. My Mum is also a writer. She has a manuscript that I’ve been begging her to polish and submit for publication. Writing runs in my family, and I have women long past who were also writers. My friends are also very supportive of my writing. They are often some of the first people to buy my books. I don’t believe in keeping unsupportive people in my life. The unsupportive people I have dealt with have often been teachers when I was growing up (especially in high school) and random adults. While it is discouraging to have people tell me that writing is not a “real” career, I have not let it impede or stop me by any means.

Q.16 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
My romance novels are often fairly formulaic, but this is also the nature of that genre. For my other works, I just naturally let the story “happen”. I’m often inspired by listening to music, or by dreams that I have. I then write down the scenes, and full story arcs bloom from there. Once I get the full inspired idea out of my head, the hard work of making it into a readable story starts. This is where I begin to ask myself questions about character development, the logic of the series of events that lead to the story climax, and the logistics of the ending/resolution of the story. But in terms of original idea creation, I have no formula, they just happen to me.

Q.17 What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
My advice would be first and foremost “Write what makes you happy. If you don’t enjoy reading what you have written, why would anyone else enjoy it?”. A lot of writers make the mistake of trying to copy famous writers and try to reinvite lightning in a bottle, which is a fool’s errand. Books become popular because they’re fun to read. Make sure you as the writer are having fun first. Then, of course, take the proper editing processes to make sure it’s readable and appealing to your target audience.

Q.18 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would literally die. That’s simply not an option for me. I have too many stories to tell and ideas to create. Writing is ma raison d’etre. Without writing I would lose my main reason for existing in this world.

Q.19 Who designed your book covers?
A. Love of the Sea
was designed by an artist selected by my publisher, though they did give me the final say on the overall design. I designed the covers for my other 4 novels – I designed and drew the cover for Geisha Hands myself, while I commissioned a close artist friend, Rebecca Storey to draw the covers for my 3 romance novels. I’m still going to continue to use Rebecca for some of my future book cover designs, as well as design some myself. If future publishers wish to use an in-house designer for book covers my only desire is to have a say in the final product to ensure it reflects my vision.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
It has been a long journey, and in a lot of ways, I feel I’m only just getting started. I began telling myself little stories at the age of 3 and would insist my Dad write them down for me. I was scribbling in notebooks once I learned how to read and write, and started writing my first full-length novels at age 12. I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in fiction writing and began writing for my own fashion magazine (alongside my co-editor Bryan Thompson) at age 25. My first art book was also published that same year. My first novel, Love of the Sea was published when I had just turned 30 years old. From there, I dove headfirst into the world of working as a convention author – going to events multiple times a month to sell my books and speak on panels. Even though the pandemic has decimated my finances and I have been forced to switch to an all-digital marketing format, I’m still working on my writing works and moving forward with my craft because the day for conventions and festivals will come yet again and I want to be bigger and better than ever. I have learned so much over the course of my journey, especially over the past 2 years. But I know I still have so much I need to learn, and I can’t wait to see where my writing will take me.

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