Title: Water Witch
Author: Alison Highland
Release Date: 10th March 2015
Marra Wend loves the theatre, pretty dresses, a flirtatious glance from a handsome man – and firing the guns on her warship. One of the most successful privateer captains in Surland, Marra is dispatched to capture the notorious pirate Nat Blue, although she suspects he may not be what he appears. But discovering his secrets will force Marra to reveal secrets of her own, including powers that might be best shared only with the sea.
What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
The name I write under is Alison Highland. I also write books under my own name, but since the style of those books is very different, I used a pseudonym for writing fantasy-romance to keep things separate. I was born in Tucson, Arizona and I now live a little ways up the road in the Phoenix area.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing. When I was in kindergarten and they taught us to write, they gave up big sheets of paper that were blank on the top half and ruled on the bottom half, so we could draw a picture and then write a story to go with it. I always asked for more paper, not so I could draw more pictures like most of the kids, but so I could write more story.
Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
Yes. Even though I've been writing for so long and figured it was inevitable that I would publish, I didn't really consider writing to be something I'd do as my main job. (Sadly, that's even truer now than when I started writing.) I was lucky enough to get a good part-time job, in a public library, which leaves me plenty of time to write.
Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
"Water Witch" is self-published. I wrote three books under my other name that were published by Bantam Spectra, and two more that I self-published. I tried for a long time to sell another book to a major publisher but the market just didn't cooperate. I'm glad that self-publishing offers an opportunity to writers when the Big Five don't think their sales numbers are high enough to put out another book.
Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
I plan to publish "Earth Witch" this summer, the second book in my "Elementals" series after "Water Witch." These are standalone books, with different characters in each but a shared setting, so they can be read alone or out of order. At some point I hope to round out the series with "Fire Witch" and "Wind Witch."
What genre would you place your books into?
For a while I was calling these "my cheesy romance novels." They're actually a combination of fantasy, romance, and adventure with a light tone.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
I've always had a focus on relationships in my books, and in fact, one reader called my first book a "stealth romance." Several years ago I was exploring some new styles and genres to write, and romance seemed like an obvious choice. Crossover books - romance mixed with another genre like fantasy or science fiction - were booming at that time, and I was excited by the possibilities there. I happened to be working on a series of sea stories (under my other name), and I decided to combine some of the research I was doing for those books with a fun romantic premise I had in mind. So my main character - a female privateer captain who loves the theatre and pretty dresses - was born.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
There are lots of things in my life that depend on routines, but writing isn't one of them. I've tried establish routines for when to write and how long to write and they all fall apart. I write when and where I can, whenever I have both an idea and time to write it down, wherever I have room to get my hands on a keyboard. (Google Drive has been really useful and I wish it had been around fifteen years ago when I wrote my first book!) I usually get distracted by music or any background noise, but if I have to write under those conditions I will.
Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
Yes, if I have the format they need.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
This is pretty dangerous. I read just enough to get a sense of what readers' responses are, and of course I'll read any reviews that I request from people. When my first book came out (other name, big publisher) I got seven reviews on Amazon pretty quickly. Three of them loved it and four of them hated it. That was enough to give me an idea of how people were reacting, and after that I stopped reading the reviews. It's easy to obsess about why people didn't like your book, but really all you can do is write the book that you want to write, as well as you can. Readers have their own reasons for liking or not liking a book.
Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
No. See above: readers have their own reasons. Arguing with them about what they like or not is like arguing with someone about how they should like chocolate ice cream better than vanilla.
How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
"Water Witch" was an obvious title once I had my main character in mind. I designed the cover using stock photography I purchased from a royalty-free art site. I took a look at the covers for some recent books in the same genre to come up with the design. Photorealism and portraits of faces are typical in these covers, so I made my design with that in mind, adding things I liked (abstract background) and leaving out things I wasn't crazy about (shirtless dudes). Not that I don't like shirtless dudes, of course, but I'm not crazy about them as a design element on book covers...
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
I write fantasy and science fiction, and one of the things that sometimes bugs me about these genres is when authors go out of their way to make character and place names seem exotic and otherworldly. If the names are so unusual, unfamiliar, and unpronounceable, it can actually make a book harder to read. So I try to make my character and place names variants on familiar names, with some minor spelling alterations: changing Stephen to Stephin, for example.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I always start with basic character traits and fill things in as I learn more about the character. Sometimes a trait I started with doesn't work anymore as I go along and then I have to go back and edit things.
Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
This is pretty much the same answer. I have a really basic plot when I start, usually a premise and a big conflict or revelation that I want to build up to. Then I fill in the details as I go along. I often don't know exactly how my characters are going to solve their big conflict until I get there.
Which format of book do you prefer, ebook,hardback, or paperback?
My preferred format is what I have on hand. I work in a library and if I see a new hardcover that looks interesting, I read it. If I'm in a doctor's office and I need something to read while I'm waiting, I read an ebook on my phone. If I'm buying a book, I'll probably go for a less expensive paperback.
Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
It's unlikely. Trends go back and forth. Ebooks fizzled when they first appeared, way back in the pre-Kindle days. Then smartphones let everyone carry a tiny computer in their pocket and ebook sales skyrocketed. The trend might go back the other way; many people are already expressing fatigue at being over connected. Paper books always work, even when your battery dies. Collectors' books have become a pretty strong category. At my library job we've been having the similar "Are libraries dead?" debate for decades. Libraries have changed and some have closed down in certain areas, but they're still not dead, and I think the same will be true for books.
What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Write. Keep writing. Write some more. Find that balance between being objective and critical of your own writing and still remembering what you love about your story. When in doubt, keep writing.
Where can readers follow you?
Goodreads author page: www.goodreads.com/author/show/13550587.Alison_Highland