AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: ALISON ATLEE
Alison Atlee welcome, to Joyfully Reviewed. We have a few questions we would love to ask you.
Tell us a little about The Typewriter Girl, what inspired you to write it?
Betsey Dobson is the typewriter girl in the title, although she has a rather spectacular departure from that position in chapter one. She’s a working class city girl who has broken just about every convention Society has for a “lady”—she’s determined to support herself, sexually experienced, and likely to say, well, just about anything she’s thinking.
A picture of a Victorian version of a roller coaster was my initial inspiration. Betsey finds work at a seaside hotel, and the wealthy, leisured atmosphere of the resort is a shock for her. She doesn’t fit in and isn’t sure she wants to, even though her hopes for her future require her to make some kind of peace with it.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I have characters more than plotting or outlining, but a lot of it is from the language, from words. There’s something in the rhythm of sentences that tells me what comes next. Setting is an important inspiration for me, too–all the basic elements of The Typewriter Girl were founded on the seaside town and swanky hotel.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I was a goner for historicals from age six, when I first laid eyes on Scarlett O’Hara’s white dress in the first scene of Gone With the Wind.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
That’s tough because I grow fond even of my less lovable characters once I understand them. But Lillian, the girl my hero is pursing at the beginning of The Typewriter Girl, has “the Lillian show” going on up front while behind the scenes is a whole different story. It was fun writing someone who calculates the impact of every gesture and remark. And even more fun to bring her to a point where all that self-consciousness disintegrates!
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
Sir Alton, the owner of the land and hotel. One reason John (the hero) is working class is my preference for a hero who has a purpose, something to do, rather than being a “man of leisure.” Sir Alton started off as a very minor character, and when I realized his role needed to grow, I had to push for something beyond the stereotypical upper-class snob.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
The part where the pages are blank.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I wrote my first novel with only one person knowing I was doing it.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Inside Edition. Without it, I’d never know what YouTube videos are hot or how to warn people about the freak accidents that could happen on their vacations.
What TV Show are you addicted to?
Doc Martin. I love the characters and Cornwall scenery, and oh boy, do I covet Louisa’s flat.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
A goal helps me the most. It could be a page or word count goal, but something like “get a penniless Betsey out of London” works, too.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
A couple of songs popped up in my brain in early drafts, when I was really figuring out my characters. The rebellious and vulnerable voice in “Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man?” is very Betsey.
For John, it’s about the elation and wonder and conflict in his feelings for Betsey, and the “angels and devils and God” in Matt Nathanson’s “Come On Get Higher” captures that perfectly.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
At home on a sweltering day. There was no one around, and after some kitchen dancing, I ended up talking to the thermostat (“I am turning you down!”). And then I called the friend to whom I’d first said, “I’ve got this little project I’m working on…”
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
11 or 12, if we may include L.M. Montgomery in the romance genre. At any rate, I was heavily invested in Emily and Teddy from the New Moon trilogy.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
Do you have a favorite movie you have seen in the last few months and/or an all time favorite?
Les Miserables. And this inspiring documentary, “A Man Called Pearl,” has stuck with me, though it’s been months since I saw it.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
Another historical, one that explores the origin of a fairy tale.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
Dear George Clooney: When you’re ready to retreat to your Italian villa to write your memoir and need a ghost writer–call me.
How do you pick your characters names?
Oh, golly, a ton of different things. Some very thoughtful, like historical records; others shamefully shabby, like turning on the television and finding a list of credits rolling. And once in a while, you have the character who arrives on the page and tells you his name.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
Steady growth, especially when coupled with the “sublime ache” of unrequited love.
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
Hot, with marshmallows.
Ranger or Morelli (if you know to what this refers please answer with which one and why )