Alane Adams is one hell of a woman. Not only is she the author of the award-winning fantasy novel The Red Sun, she is also the founder of the Rise Up Foundation which supports kids in poverty through literacy. She can be found visiting schools and libraries, helping get up literacy programs and getting kids interested in reading through activities such as her interactive gaming app, BattleKasters, which ties in with her Legends of Orkney series (of which Red Sun is the first book) and features some seriously gorgeous graphics and character illustrations!
In addition to that, she’s also the author of two award-winnimg and award-nominated children’s picture books, with a third on its way as well as the second book in the Legends of Orkney series due out in September! Phew! Here on The Salonniere’s Apartments, Alane has very kindly taken time out from her busy schedule to tell us how she does it all. I could not wait to share her answers on the blog and finally the day has come – I won’t say much more, but to read on below!
Hi Alane! Thanks for joining us on The Salonniere’s Apartments! I thought we’d kick things off by getting you to tell us a little bit about yourself and the Legends of Orkney books.
First off, thanks for inviting me to share part of my story! Writing has always been a passion of mine, a dream career I’ve wanted to pursue since I was five, but I didn’t commit to it full-time until the day my then 12-year-old son asked me to write him something he could read. Before I started writing, I was in a family metals recycling business for many years as its Chief Financial Officer. I frequently would drift away to write a book then promptly shove it in a drawer and get back to my real job! This went on for many years until I finally retired from the business, started my literacy foundation, and had the time to really commit to writing as a career.
I think it’s awesome that the Legends of Orkney feature Norse mythology. There are so many great stories to be found there. Why did you decide on Norse mythology in particular and what’s your favourite Norse myth?
Deciding on Norse mythology was part of creating a book my son would love. He was a huge fan of the Rick Riordan books, and at the time, a lot had been written about Greek mythology but not Norse. Once I delved into it, I realized how rich it was in both interesting characters like Loki and Odin, and amazing artifacts like the Gungnir spear that always come when you call it! My favorite Norse myths usually involve Loki. He’s such a complicated character! Odin had such a soft spot for him, and as evil as he is often portrayed in movies, there is so much more to him than the superhero arch enemy!
I didn’t know until now that Orkney is a group of Scottish islands with a rich Norse heritage, thanks to former Viking settlers. I found that really fascinating and now I want to know more! Could you tell us more about the world building for Legends of Orkney and how the real Orkney influenced the islands in your story?
Finding the Orkney islands was a piece of luck! I was researching famous witches and found a famous Orkney witch-trial of one Alison Balfour who was burned at the stake. Orkney piqued my curiosity with its tie-ins to Norse mythology. As I dug deeper I found a curious piece of folklore that suggested there were witches trapped inside a standing ring of stones called the Ring of Brodgar. This piece of folklore helped build a great storyline for the Legends of Orkney series and gave me a fantastic place to start!
The second key piece behind choosing a real place like Orkney was a question I wanted to answer – mainly, if magic used to exist, then where did it go? Odin has always been considered mankind’s protector, so I considered this – what if magic threatened mankind so greatly that Odin had no choice but to destroy it? As the case for allowing magic to continue is pleaded with him, Odin relents and instead scoops up a handful of islands offered by the King of Orkney as a sanctuary for creatures of magic and takes them up into the Ninth Realm and creates a pocket universe of magic, sealing it off from our world. All creatures of magic were forced to go or lose their magic forever.
The illustrations in Legends of Orkney are beautiful, and also part of the BattleKasters, an interactive gaming app for students. That’s so cool! How did this collaboration come about?
I had this idea that creating a game to go along with the series would help attract those reluctant readers who saw a 300-page-book as intimidating. By offering a game that allows them to get to know the characters, creatures, and objects in the series, kids are introduced to the Orkney world in a fun and engaging way that gets them excited to sit down and read a book cover to cover. The game is location-based, which means I bring Bluetooth-enabled beacons that connect with player’s smart devices and sends them on a scavenger hunt around the location as they search for special cards, cast spells, and try to close the “stonefire”. We spent the first year taking the game to fancons, and this year, we have been taking it to schools and libraries across the country.
You’ve worked with artists to create the illustrations for both the Legends of Orkney series and your children’s picture books, The Egg Thief and The Coal Thief. What’s it like collaborating with illustrators on a project?
I bow to their greatness! I have no artistic talent, but I am constantly awed by what they can create. They truly bring my creative works to life in a way that honors the intent and elevates the work to something beyond mere words.
You’re a passionate supporter of improving literacy, so much so that you’ve started the Rise Up Foundation, which supports children in poverty with an emphasis on literacy projects. Could you tell us a little more about Rise Up?
When I left my family business, I knew I wanted to focus my time on how to make an impact on the world around me. I did a lot of travel with organizations like UNICEF and one thing I learned was that education was the key to escaping poverty. That led to the idea of combining my passion for kids, writing, and making a difference to creating the Rise Up Foundation. Rise Up helps sponsor literacy programs in classrooms and libraries by donating funds for new books, classroom supplies, and bringing the Battlekasters game onsite.
I’ve read that you were first traditionally published before deciding to go independent. What was your publishing journey like and what made you eventually decide to go the self-publishing route?
Not exactly. As a business person, the publishing industry is fairly frustrating to understand. I am used to being able to make deals, speak to people directly, and interact on how to get the person on the other end to see the value in my offer. This is the opposite of how the publishing industry works! So I set off on a self-publishing route but quickly learned as much as things have changed, they have in large part stayed the same in the mainstream book stores. Thus, if you want your book at Barnes and Noble, which is important for genres like mine, picture books and middle grade, you need more than Amazon’s publishing arm behind you. That led me to work with my amazing publisher SparkPress who is closer to a traditional publisher while still maintaining some independence. Ultimately, to reach the broadest market, I believe traditional publishing is the best route. There are many genres like horror or romance novels that can do well on the e-book route but many still rely on bricks and mortar stores to really blossom.
I’m loving everything about the way you’ve marketed your books – a gorgeous website, beautiful graphics and book trailer, interactive gaming app, classroom curriculum and even a Disney star (Karan Brar) endorsing The Red Sun! What tips do you have for writers looking to give their own marketing campaign a little oomph?
It is sooo hard for a new author to establish a brand! With the proliferation of self-published books, the competition has never been greater to rise to the top of the pile. I wish I had an easy answer to success but here’s a few key pieces of advice I can offer:
- Stay away from marketing firms that overpromise and under deliver. There are so many predatory firms just waiting to take advantage of your dream. Be very careful whom you hand your money to. I’ve seen a lot of over-hyped blog tours that promise the moon and deliver minimal results.
- Understand who your reader is and find out where they are on social media. There are some inexpensive and easy ways to target your audience by finding them on Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook.
- Don’t skimp on quality when it comes to cover design. People really do judge a book by its cover.
- Do hire a good editor. Remember, it’s always about the writing. If you haven’t had your book edited by a professional, consider that a priority. No matter how good a writer you think you are, you will get better with appropriate critical feedback from a professional.
- Do enter indie contests. They are a great way to get affirmation that your writing stands up to the competition. In my first year, I won almost a dozen different awards in several different categories. It was a great way to know I was on the right track.
- Lastly, the only way to succeed is to be persistent, constantly improving your writing, and never giving up. Everything always takes longer than you expect.
Do you have any particular writing habits?
I consider writing to take place in phases. There’s the Getting Started phase which centers around the world-building, research, and basic characters and naming places. Once the Writing Phase starts, I write every day, 1,000 words a day (sometimes more, rarely less) until the novel is finished. I don’t worry about writer’s block—I believe fear is the only thing that can derail you, that imagination is infinite, and there is no need to worry about the quality per se as you go along (i.e. turn off the critical mind). There is such joy in just writing and creating a story. It tends to unfold in real time for me. I may have certain ideas and feelings about where something is going but I don’t outline or lock the story down beforehand. I am constantly surprised by my characters, especially when they die at an inconvenient time 😉 Once I have a completed manuscript, I let it sit for a few weeks while my brain recharges. Once I pick it up again, the despicable Editing Phase begins. Ugh! My least favorite part, but the part where things get hammered and smoothed out, where the nice pretty details get added, where I search for moments and opportunity to really wow a reader. It is a tedious and time-consuming process that includes repetitive word search, obsessive spell checking, and timeline and plot checks to make sure there are no logic inconsistencies.
What’s a regular day like you?
Writing is less a full-time job and more a daily commitment. I tend to work at least 2-3 hours a day every day, even weekends. I can write morning, afternoon, or night, with or without distractions. (As a mother of three, I long ago learned to tune out noise!) The rest of the time I spend on my foundation focusing on reaching out to classrooms and libraries around the country to support literacy efforts. I am constantly on the road visiting schools, talking to kids about why Reading is a Superpower and bringing my game Battlekasters to schools and libraries.
Finally, what are you working on next?
Ah, so many things! I just finished three drafts of short chapter books that are prequels to the Legends of Orkney series geared for grades 2-5. The sequel to The Red Sun, Kalifus Rising, is finally at the printer and due to be released September 6, 2016. (Which means, I now have to start editing the third book in the series…) I have another picture book coming out next year called The Santa Thief which will be for Holiday 2017. Finally, I am planning to start a YA fantasy novel this fall that I am excited to start work on!
Alane, we can’t wait for your new books to come out! Thanks so much for coming onto The Salonniere’s Apartments and sharing the story of your writing journey with us! For those who want to find out more, you can find out more about Alane and her books on her official website. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.