Author Spotlight: Ally Blake

Today we welcome accomplished romance author Ally Blake to the RWA Author Spotlight…

1. You have a reprint of GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS out this month, can you tell us a little about this story?

After writing 10 Sweet Romances for Harlequin Mills and Boon, GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS was my first ever attempt at something a little different.  I had a gap in my schedule, a new editor, and an idea that wouldn’t go away, and I thought ‘What the heck, write the thing and see what happens!”

I wrote half the book in a week.  Seriously!  It’s never happened before or since, but the words flowed like warm honey.  It was cheeky, sexy and starred a hero who made it all too easy to make the heroine blush.

I told my editor at the time that I wasn’t sure if it was a sexy “Sweet” or a sweet “Sexy” but I was loving writing it whatever it was. She loved it too, and helped me make it into my first ever Modern Extra novel. (Now “RIVA” in the UK and “Sexy” in Australia.)

 

2. How did you get started in romance writing, and when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

In grade 5 we had to write a Robin Hood story of our own.  It had to be one page long.  Mine went for seven pages.  But rather than marking me down the teacher loved it so much she made me read it aloud to the whole class.

Even if I had never sold a book, I would always have been a writer.  And to this day I’ve never had a book come under word count!

As for writing romance, that’s just what comes out when my fingertips and a keyboard meet!  Maybe because I’ve read and loved romance novels all my life.  Maybe because I’m an incurable romantic who had new crushes every week my entire way through high school. But probably because Mum used to read Mills and Boons during late night feeds when I was a baby!

 

 3. Out of all the novels you’ve written, are there any that stand out as your absolute favourites, or is it like trying to choose between your kids?!

My favourite book is always the new idea nudging at the corner of my brain ;).  At that point a story is brimming with beautiful possibility and scintillating characters I’ve yet to unravel.  Then at some point, in the squeeze through the passage from brain to page, they seem to go through some kind of transformation that makes them hard work ;).

As for the ideas I have wrangled into book form, each one has favourite aspects – whether they be characters, or settings, or how I felt when I wrote it, or the lovely response from readers.

THE MAGNATE’S INDECENT PROPOSAL was a book that had its own special brand of stardust.  The dazzling reader feedback blew me away. It had rave industry reviews and won numerous awards including the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice for Best Harlequin Presents. Boy do I wish I knew the magic recipe that made that book so loved.  If you want to have a crack at figuring it out for me you can grab it as an eBook from eHarlequin!

 

4. What is the best bit of advice you’ve received about writing?

 ‘You can fix a bad page, you can’t fix a blank page,’ or something to that effect by the wondrous Nora Roberts. She’s so right. If you wish to be a professional writer, you can’t sit back and wait for inspiration to strike as the next deadline is always right around the corner. Better to write schlock than nothing at all, as it will invariably lead you somewhere exciting and you can edit/delete the blah bits later.

 

5. Do you have a writing schedule that you follow?

With three kids three and under I have to grab slabs of writing time wherever I can.  I take off to my local café or library a couple of days a week when my hubby’s home and write like crazy for 2-3 hours between baby feeds.

 I’m super lucky that a) the moment I sit down at the computer I can write like the wind, and b) I can write when surrounded by hustle and bustle.  And it’s a great excuse to have my favourite iced coffee and white chocolate macadamia cookies!

 

6. Do you outline your stories or write as you go?

 I’m a dyed in the wool fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer.   I usually start with a couple of characters, a vague idea of how they meet and off I go!

I do envy those who are organised enough to know where they are going and get there in some kind of beautiful, peaceful order.  I write in fits and spurts, completely out of order, and somehow in the end it all fits together.  I imagine my muse gets its kicks out of keeping me in a constant state of panic when all the while he knows exactly how the story goes.

But I can’t do it any differently.  If I knew what was going to happen next, I’d no longer have the compulsion to write the thing.  For me the joy of writing is in the discovery.

 

7. When you’re not writing, what are some of your hobbies and interests?

Sleep!  (Three kids under three remember ;))

And the rare moments I get to be a real grown up person I love the Collingwood footy team, New York, Las Vegas, Italy top to toe, “The West Wing”, stationery, M&Ms, thunderstorms, cold coffee, red, the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies,  steak dinners, the Yankees, mushy movies, Brown Brothers wine, Ugh boots, “The Little Mermaid”, velvet jackets, citrus scents, tart tastes, gardenias, bubble baths, muscat grapes, getting paid to write books, and yeah, okay, the ever-patient husband and the three gorgeous sleep-depriving kids are pretty much top of the list.

 

8. Do you have a favourite book and/or movie?

Apart from just about everything by Dick Francis and LaVyrle Spencer, my favourite book is ‘Catch-22’.  It’s clever, witty, innocent, sad, and impossibly brilliant.  I haven’t read it for a few years and am getting the itch to read it again. In fact my new eReader is a great excuse to buy it again as an eBook!  Though for a book like that it might be best to wait til the baby brain syndrome has worn off a tad more. It does, right?  Eventually?

I have a zillion favourite movies.  Some are Notting Hill, Aliens, The Way We Were, Funny Girl,  Cyrano de Bergerac, Field of Dreams, When Harry Met Sally…  I could go on and on!

 

9. What are you working on next?

I’m finishing up book number 22 which I have enjoyed to absolute bits.  It has been one of those rare books that has just flown.  I adore the heroine, I have a massive crush on the hero, and grin from ear to ear when they get their banter on.

That said I had to throw in the towel on nearly 40,000 words of another story before starting this one.  It was a terrifying decision – all those words, all those months, my deadline whooshing past.  But boy was it the right one!

 

10. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

Your voice is your greatest asset.  Take great care when having others critique your work that your voice stays pure.  It’s the one thing that will make you stand out from the crowd.

For me the most enjoyable writing moments are when my voice takes flight.  Those are the bits that when I read them back always make me laugh, give me goose bumps, and get the waterworks going.  If those passages grab me by the emotions and don’ let go, chances are they’ll do the same for readers too.  Protect your voice with your life!

 

11. Where can readers find out more about you and connect with you online?

I can be found at http://www.allyblake.com/ , I blog occasionally on http://www.allyblake.blogspot.com/ , and tweet @ally_blake

 

Thanks so much for letting me come play!  Happy reading everyone!

Ally

xXx

 

 

 

 

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12 Comments

  1. Nas Dean

     /  July 21, 2011

    Hi Ally,

    It was lovely reading about you. Three kids? And you manage to find time? Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

    All the best with your upcoming release!

    Reply
  2. Suz Hamilton

     /  July 21, 2011

    Lovely blog, Ally. Thank you so much for sharing. I well remember those does when all my brain was capable of doing was singing “The wheels on the bus go round & round” or Thomas the Tank Engine theme song.

    I really took note of your advice re voice and thought this is a great tip for aspiring authors. Good luck with your next release.
    Kind regards

    Reply
  3. Hi Ally 🙂 I’m a *huge* Dick Francis fan also. I have every book and they are very well worn from abundant re-reads!

    Wish I could write like the wind. When I get hubby to take our 2 sons out he comes home expecting me to tell him about my monstrous word count, unfortunately eventhough I have slaved over the keyboard it is usually quite teeny. Very jealous 😉

    Reply
  4. Very interesting comment about voice. I enjoyed your post. Three children under three. Are you a supermum, or what??? lol

    Reply
  5. Was lovely to have you at the Author Spotlight Ally, I enjoyed your interview! And how amazing that you wrote half that book in a week!! …btw, sleep is also one of my favourite hobbies, I really should do it more often 😉

    Reply
  6. Great interview Ally and Juliet! i hear ya on the sleep! And i just have to say your ”Magnate’s Indecent Proposal” is probably up there as one of my all time favourite category romances!! I WISH I knew how you did it, cos then I’d be stealing a little of that magic too 🙂

    Reply
  7. You’re amazing! Love that your last story came so easily. Bet your editor adores it!

    Reply
  8. Waving madly to all! Thanks sooo much for all your lovely comments. Aussie writers rock!

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who would give up just about anything for sleep ;).

    And yes ladies, protect your voices with all you got. It’s your “point of difference”, your “brand”, the thing that makes you you.

    So glad to be here!

    Ally

    Reply
  9. Two of Ally’s comments resonate with me: Protect your voice, and the fact that she dropped 40,000 words because they were not right, and started a new book. That takes a huge amount of courage. The voice thing I’m struggling with since reviewers say I have a strong distinctive voice but my crit partners tend to make me tone it down. Balance – that’s what I seek.

    Nice hearing about Ally’s journey.

    Reply
  10. Wow! The silent achiever. Nice to meet you.

    Reply
  11. Hey Vonnie! Finding the balance of letting your voice shine and writing in a way that draws others into your story is a tricky thing. My natural voice is verrry Australian. I never knew how much until my editor pointed it out…many many times ;). I write exactly how I want to write in first draft, never holding back on voice, language, making up words if that’s what needs to happen as that’s how I talk. I tidy it all up when revising as having that distance gives me a chance to see where I can make things clearer if necessary.

    Hope you find your balance soon!

    Ally

    Reply
  12. Nice to meet you too Jen!

    Reply

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