Alys Arden is a Book Country writer from New Orleans. We first came across Alys’s young adult paranormal novel-in-progress THE CASQUETTE GIRLS a few months ago, and it was the first book Lucy reviewed when she joined us in July! We wanted to catch up with Alys and learn more about the inspiration behind her young adult book.
NG: Thank you for joining us. How did you become a writer?
AA: I made a 2012 New Year’s resolution, never thinking that anything would come of it other than a bunch on fancy to-do lists. But once I started writing, it kind of became an addiction, like going to the gym can be if you can just manage the pain of the first couple of weeks.
NG: THE CASQUETTE GIRLS is set in post-hurricane New Orleans, as sixteen-year-old Adele is trying to rebuild her life amid the chaos. It’s a paranormal story loosely based on several New Orleans legends. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to pursue these legends and what went into building the paranormal world in the book?
AA: At the time I started THE CASQUETTE GIRLS, I had been traveling for two straight years for work, and living mostly abroad. I became homesick and bought a place in New Orleans, to try and ground myself a bit. I hadn’t really been home for more than a long weekend since college. I’ve always been fascinated with mythology and the urban legends in your own hometown are the best kind! Especially because in New Orleans some of the legends are older than dirt and others seem to materialize from the thick, humid air. The paranormal world is something that I spent a lot of time working out. Like you said, it’s post-hurricane (a fictional storm, by the way, not Katrina), but I wanted to pay homage to some of the places that no longer exist because of Katrina or various other hurricanes. So, the setting is a blended reality, both in the paranormal sense and a historical sense. I’d say it’s paranormal with a high dose of realism, depending on your tolerance for mystery. A New Orleanian might just call it normal.
NG: One of my favorite parts about the book is Adele’s voice, which is witty and mischievous. How did you go about writing her character and perspective?
AA: The book is written in a close first person POV, (and the book is thick!) so I wanted Adele’s head to be a place where I wouldn’t mind settling into for incredibly long periods of time. I also really want her to have a voice that was authentically YA, but didn’t speak down to teenagers by being overly cliché, which is something that drove me nuts as a teen, and still does today.
NG: The excerpt of the book you have on Book Country ends on a note of mysteriousness and foreboding. What’s your technique for keeping readers on their toes?
AA: Hmm, personally, I love surprises. I loathe spoilers to the point where I likely will stop watching/reading something if someone ruins the ending for me. So in that regard, I kinda put myself in the readers shoes and ask, what would I want? Or what would drive me absolutely mad? And then I work that out.
NG: Who are your literary role models, the young adult writers who’ve influenced your work?
AA: Such a hard question! My tastes are all over the place. I grew up reading Anne Rice as a kid, who I still love, but now it’s anyone from Dorothy Parker to Patti Smith to John Green. I read mostly non-fiction, which freaks people out sometimes, LOL. THE OUTSIDERS is hands down my favorite YA book of all time. We had to read it in the 5th grade and I can still remember feeling like such a nerd for liking, no loving a *gasp* school book. I also love all of the really big blockbuster series that I can trap myself into for a week and forget about the world, like HARRY POTTER, THE HUNGER GAMES, etc.
NG: What is your writing routine like? Any favorite writing tips or resources you want to share with us?
AA: My routine is crazy! I am super-duper routined. Most of THE CASQUETTE GIRLS was written between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. At first it was the only time slot that I could fit into my hectic work schedule, but then I quickly realized that it’s my most creative time of the day—before the world’s had a chance to bombard my mind. My biggest tip would be just to write! Even if it’s garbage. It’s the most simple tip, but still seems to be the hardest to grapple with.
NG: Why are you on Book Country?
AA: My favorite part about Book Country is the community aspect. I’ve gotten some great feedback from members and the staff has been so welcoming, too!
I joined Book Country for several different reasons, the most obvious one being that I was writing a book. Actually, I was editing the book at that point. Second, because I have a general interest in Internet culture and how it’s influencing business and disrupting entire industries. I’m always looking to test new sites, start-ups, blogs, whatever. It’s such a fascinating time for the publishing industry—a writer can really hone their skills and their stories on sites like Book Country, and then if they want to and feel ready, make a jump into publishing. Which is where my New Year’s resolution will come full circle! The full version of THE CASQUETTE GIRLS will be coming to print and e-readers on Halloween 2013!
NG: What is something fun that we don’t know about you?
AA: My hair is fifty shades of violet, which is well documented on my Facebook page!