Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Freestyle: Author Interview with Katie Alender

It is my pleasure  to introduce one of my very favorite authors.  She's actually a new favorite for me.  And I've been waiting every so inpatiently to be able to post this.  ; )  Not only is she a fantastic author, she's so sweet and nice.  

Please welcome, Katie Alender, author of Bad Girls Don't Die and it's soon to be released sequel, From Bad to Cursed.

Katie Alender (rhymes with “calendar”!) grew up in South Florida. She is the third of four children (three girls and a boy) and the child of three very loving and encouraging parents.

She attended high school at the Palm Beach County School of the Arts, studying Communication Arts. From there, she went on to the Florida State University Film School, which led her to her current hometown, a tiny hamlet on the West Coast known as “Los Angeles.”

She enjoys writing, reading, sewing (especially quilts), practicing yoga, photography, visiting friends’ blogs, and hanging out with her husband (known on the blog as “the husb”) and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Winston.

Her first brush with publication was in high school, when her article “So You Want to Live On Mars?” was published in Sassy magazine in December 1991. More recently, she was the head writer on the 48-Hour Film Project “Best of Los Angeles 2007″ winner, Project 96-B, and worked for many years as writer/producer for the Animal Planet Dog Championships and AKC/Eukanuba National Championship dog shows on Animal Planet. Currently, she is a mostly-full-time author.

She is represented by Matthew Elblonk of DeFiore and Company and is a member of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and ITW (International Thriller Writers).

She does not like scary books or movies, but apparently the books she writes are considered scary by many people. She is also a huuuuge fan of talking about herself in the third person.

To find out more about Katie, please visit her website, blog, twitter, or facebook.  

1.    Where did the idea for Bad Girls Don’t Die come from? 

It came from a daydream I had about two sisters who make up stories for each other, and then one of the sisters starts taking the stories too seriously. Over time, that evolved into the book it is today!

2.   Why dolls?  And do you like dolls?  Or are you like me and think they’re creepy ALL the time.  J

I used to like dolls, when I was little. I never thought about them being universally thought of as creepy until the book came out and people started sending me pictures of scary dolls!

3.   Why did you choose first person as opposed to third?

That’s just the voice I prefer, I guess. I write in first person 99% of the time (when I’m writing fiction, that is… or doing interviews!).

4.   You did a FANTASTIC job with making all of your characters feel real, but the relationship between Alexis and Kasey was AWESOME.  Did you find that hard to do, or did it just write itself?

Thank you! No, I wouldn’t say it was hard to do. I had a very clear sense of the connection between them, the dependence, the loneliness, the annoyance, the antagonism… Writing that relationship felt very organic to me. Maybe because I have two sisters? (Not that either of them is possessed or anything… that I know of.)

5.    Can you give a little hint at what the sequel is going to be about? And (I always ask this ;), how in the world do I get an ARC ;) ?

* The cover for From Bad to Cursed is OMG! Creepy.  I so can’t wait for that book!

The description for the sequel is now available at my website, but in terms of what it’s about… let’s just say that when I finished book 1 (without thinking I was going to write a sequel), I thought I had tied everything up nicely. Writing book 2 was about realizing that I was wrong, in some ways. I really got to know my characters in the second book, that’s for sure.

I love the cover, too! And ARC requests should go directly to the Disney-Hyperion publicity department.

6.   How many books are planned so far for the series? 

Three—I’m up to my neck in book 3 right now, in fact. I think three is the perfect number, especially for the overarching journey I have in mind for Alexis.

7.   When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was in third grade, and we had creative writing time at school. I wrote these long, rambling stories… I was enthralled by the idea that, as the writer, I was in charge and could write whatever I wanted.

8.   Why did you start writing Young Adult books?

When I started writing Bad Girls Don’t Die, I was working in development for TV shows aimed at kids and teens. But I think I would have found my way to YA anyway. In film school, my favorite project was about teens. It’s just a period of life that I feel like I “get.”

9.   Was it always something you planned?  Or did it just happen?

It just happened. I didn’t think about writing YA exclusively until I started thinking about publication, which was well after I’d completed a draft and a few revisions of Bad Girls Don’t Die. Up to that point, I didn’t know writers had to choose a category. (Of course, you can cross categories, but for the most part, when you’re a YA writer, you write YA.) Then, also, I had some ideas for future books, but I couldn’t quite make them work—until I made the protagonists teens. Then everything kind of clicked.

10.     What is the hardest part of writing YA in your opinion?

The hardest part of being an author is trying to stay on top of all of the marketing and outreach stuff. I love interacting with people, and I never want it to feel like a chore. So I have to try really hard to find a balance.

In terms of what’s hard about the writing, when you write paranormal, you have to be very careful to make sure you are honest and consistent with your world. You can make up the rules, but they have to make sense, and you have to follow them closely.

11.What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write all the time. If you’re working on a book, that’s good, but also write rambling, just-for-you stories about people whose lives you want to experience.
Also read as much as you can. And not just YA, although definitely stay on top of what’s happening in the marketplace.

12.      Can you tell us how long it takes for you to write a book and what your work schedule is while writing?

It’s hard to say accurately, because part of the writing process at this point in my life is time I spend waiting to hear back from my editor. I would say I can outline in 2-3 weeks, write a rough draft in 2-3 months, revise in about 2 months, and then polish in 1-2 months.
If I were one of those people who could make myself sit down and treat writing like an 8-5 job, those numbers would probably reduce by half. But that wouldn’t necessarily serve my stories well—sometimes I spend two days not writing, trying to figure out what would make one character do a certain thing in one particular scenario. I need that flexibility.

13.   What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That most writers can’t quit their day jobs when they sell a book! I was floored when I read that. But I liked my day job, so it was okay.

One thing that continually surprises me is how much overlap there is in current YA writing in the language, concepts, etc. I read a book last year that had a paragraph of description that was almost identical to one I’d written into book 2, so I had to remove it. It kind of freaked me out. And that’s one reason you need to read a ton. You never know when your perfectly original plot twist is going to be somebody else’s perfectly original plot twist in a book that comes out eight months before yours.

14.   As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to be an author and artist and marathon runner and caretake for otters at the zoo. All at the same time.
Then I wanted to be Catwoman. Then I wanted to be a director.

*Catwoman!  I wanted to be Catwoman, too!  

15.What’s your favorite book you haven’t written?

Do you mean my favorite book written by somebody else? I think I’d have to go with Pride & Prejudice or Atlas Shrugged.

Or, if you mean MY favorite book that I just haven’t gotten around to writing yet, then… I can’t tell you. But I have the first chapter written in my head. ;-)

16.      Which of your characters is your favorite?

Naturally, I have a lot of sympathy for Alexis. What’s interesting is that I like different characters in each book. There’s a character in book 2 I find really intriguing, and a character in book 3 I really dig right now. But those are just fun to write. As far as my loyalty goes, it’s got to be Alexis.

17.     Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

I was lucky in that reviews for Bad Girls Don’t Die have been overwhelmingly positive. But now I’m waiting to see how people respond to book 2, because I know it’s harder to please everyone with a sequel.

My review-reading policy is: NEVER Goodreads. Avoid Amazon if I can force myself. Other than that, read everything 3 stars and above. I read thoughtful critical 3-star reviews for the first book and actually learned from them. But anything with snark I click away from immediately.

Most book bloggers are really out to share their love of books. But some people consider their reviews a comedy routine, taking shots at an author and book without realizing there’s a human being out there.

What really bugs me are negative reviews where the reviewer gets the facts wrong. They say, “and XYZ in the story doesn’t make sense,” and they’re not representing the story as it actually happens. And there was one reviewer who took issue with something Kasey said (and remember, Kasey is childlike and possessed) and acted like I, the author, was dumb for thinking such a thing! As if authors believe everything their characters think or say. That really bothered me because the review was written as a comedy piece. And that was the last time I let myself read a negative review.

It used to be, well, don’t read any reviews; turn off your Google Alerts. But the thing is, to combat book piracy, authors pretty much have to get Google Alerts now. So we’re going to see the reviews, and in some cases be hurt by them. My preference would be that the first line include the star rating, so I know which ones to ignore right off the bat.

Whew! Sorry for the soapbox.

*LOL. That's all right!  It's great to see how other authors see reviews and reviewers and great to know what NOT to do.  :D  

18.      Which question are you most sick of answering in interviews?

I don’t know that I’m sick of any specific question. I definitely appreciate interviews that ask unique questions. But I’ve never sat down to do an interview and thought, “Oh, here we go again” or anything like that.

And our most important question, if you were trapped on a deserted island which author would you most like to be trapped with? 

Ooh. Gosh. I think I’m going to have to go with Joelle Anthony. She has serious skills (like making butter!).

*Ha!  Great answer!

Katie's books:

Bad Girls Don't Die


(Book 1 – in stores now!)

When Alexis’s little sister Kasey becomes obsessed with an antique doll, Alexis thinks nothing of it. Kasey is a weird kid. Period. Alexis is considered weird, too, by the kids in her high school, by her parents, even by her own Goth friends. Things get weirder, though, when the old house they live in starts changing. Doors open and close by themselves; water boils on the unlit stove; and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough to see their breath in. Kasey is changing, too. Her blue eyes go green and she speaks in old-fashioned language, then forgets chunks of time.

Most disturbing of all is the dangerous new chip on Kasey’s shoulder. The formerly gentle, doll-loving child is gone, and the new Kasey is angry. Alexis is the only one who can stop her sister — but what if that green-eyed girl isn’t even Kasey anymore?

(Book 2 – coming June 14, 2011!)
Alexis is the last girl you’d expect to sell her soul. She already has everything she needs–an adorable boyfriend, the perfect best friend, and a little sister who’s finally recovering after being possessed by an evil spirit, then institutionalized.

Alexis is thrilled when her sister joins a club; new friends are just what Kasey needs. It’s strange, though, to see how fast the girls in The Sunshine Club go from dorky and antisocial to gorgeous and popular. Soon Alexis learns that the girls have pledged an oath to a seemingly benevolent spirit named Aralt. Worried that Kasey’s in over her head again, Alexis and her best friend Megan decide to investigate by joining the club themselves. At first, their connection with Aralt seems harmless. Alexis trades in her pink hair and punky clothes for a mainstream look, and quickly finds herself reveling in her newfound elegance and success.

Instead of fighting off the supernatural, Alexis can hardly remember why she joined in the first place. Surely it wasn’t to destroy Aralt…why would she hurt someone who has given her so much, and asked for so little in return?


  1. ooohh... these books sounds awesome. My TBR pile is growing!

  2. Thanks for the great interview, Jessica!

    To add a quick thought to my review answer, regarding reviewers getting aspects of the story wrong. When a person takes on the persona of a "reviewer" and presents him or herself that way to the public, s/he assumes a journalistic responsibility to make sure the facts are straight.

    It's not that I expect everyone to remember every detail of every book they read. But if you're presenting yourself as a journalist or critic, you owe it to your readers and the people you're reviewing to double-check the facts. Yes, that means more work for the reviewer! But that's what it takes to build credibility.

    Okay, REAL end of soapbox. ;-)

    And hurray for Catwoman!

  3. I'm totally with you on the desert island. I will bring my husband along so he can chop the wood and play the guitar! You can bring yours and Winston as long as he gets along with my cats (Winston, I mean). Great interview!

  4. Okay, seriously creepy sounding books! It's kind of interesting that you say you don't like scary movies/books then turn around and write them, because I'm the same way with fantasy. I absolutely love writing it, but I hardly if ever read it.

    And I am so with you on reviewers. I detest reviews to the point where I don't read any anymore, which brings me to a disturbing point... what's the deal with piracy and Google Alerts? Is this one of those things I should totally know about but don't, and should I be panicking?


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