Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Author Spotlight - Ally Blake

Today we are very pleased to have minx favorite Ally Blake here answering minxy questions. I was lucky enough to attend a 'writing romance' workshop given by Ally in a library in the foothills of the Dandenong Mountains, about an hours drive from Melbourne in 2009. The group of Australian writers were friendly and great fun, and Ally's teaching was fantastic. Here are the questions, and Ally's answers.

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

Five years ago I'd had five books published. Today I am working on my twenty-first. If you'd have told me that five years ago I would have laughed myself silly!

Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?

I get ideas from anywhere and everywhere. Song lyrics, overheard conversations, news articles, my imagination. My husband - whose idea of advice is for me to add aliens or a kidnapping or a car chase - even gave me the idea for one of my favourite stories! The book I've just written is set in Tasmania, the triangular island bobbing beneath the bottom right hand corner of Australia. Hubby and I holidayed their once years ago and it is the most stunning, varied, magical place. I wrote the first scene of this book then. No more. The characters didn't find their story until a decade later. that same scenario has happened to me enough times to know that even the tiniest idea has to be written down. You never know when it might come in handy!

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

In five years my kids will all be at school so I'll have more time to devote to the career I love. As to what I'll be writing? I feel like I was made to write fun, fresh, flirty romance novels. They are such a good fit for my voice I love what I do. That said, never say never. I'd be interested to know what I'm working on in five years myself!

Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - along with her two follow-ups - by Stieg Larsson. Just adored them! Even though they are a mile from what I write. The fact that he managed to make really difficult subject matter palatable was one brilliant move. Add characters and places unapologetically Norwegian meaning readers not from that corner of the world simply have to keep up or fall away. And lead characters who are so unique, so well-rounded, so real, and soooo likeable despite their flaws and you have a trilogy for the ages.

Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?

John Christopher was my favourite author as a kid. He wrote the Tripod trilogy as one of my favourite stories still, the Sword of the Spirits trilogy. My favourite author as I grew beyond young adult tales was Dick Francis. When I think about it I believe my heroes all have echoes of the lead men both those authors created. Something about the integrity and humour and realness beneath the bigger than life heroism.

Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?

Neither. Not a bit. Writing romances I find love scenes simply come as a natural progression of a love story. They are no harder, or easier for that matter;), to write than the all important first meeting, the moments the hero and heroine realise how deeply they've fallen, or their darkest moments when you believe there's no hope. All need finesse and originality and truth to work. All can draw a reader right out of a story if they don't work. As an author I can only hope that readers don't find my love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy!

What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?

My kind of romance is about the small things. The everyday things that my husband does that show me how much he cares. The things he does not in an intricately thought out grand gesture, but the things he does out of love without even thinking about it. Making dinner every night. Putting the dishes in the dishwasher. Making me sleep in when he sees how much I need it. A quiet hug from behind as we watch our gorgeous young daughters playing together, and realise how lucky we are. I'm so thoroughly taken care of I'm practically spoilt. I wouldn't give that up for all the roses in the world.

What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?

Nothing! I'm quite glad that I was ignorant to the fact that deadlines pile up, that ideas don't always flow, that one can't afford to wait for the muse to strike once you become published. I went into it for fun, for the love of writing, when my first book sold it was a complete shock. And I feel very blessed that the the one thing I always did happily for myself, without being paid or read by a soul, is now my profession. That my books have sold over two million copies around the world, that I get the most lovely letters from happy readers from the other side of the globe, that I've made such great friends within the romance writing community is all a beautiful surprise.

What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?

"You can fix a bad page, you can't fix a blank page," as once said by the legendary Nora Roberts. I truly believe it is absolutely better to write something horrible that you can fix later than to become more and more intimidated by the fact that you've written nothing as those awful spots inevitably lead you somewhere you never expected, and often somewhere magical.

Tell us about your latest release.

Come January and February I have two books being re-released in triple packs in the United Kingdom alongside books by other wonderful Harlequin Mills and Boon authors. First is my first ever Presents/Modern Heat, GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS in a collection called BOARDROOM HOT-SHOTS: REAL MEN COLLECTION. You can pre-order the book here and get 25% off the cover price! And in February comes my debut Harlequin Romance novel, THE WEDDING WISH. I am constantly asked by readers where they can track these stories down so I'm so excited everyone will once again have that chance. Outside of the UK you'll be able to grab copies through brilliant Book Depository website. I use that website so regaularly it should be considered an addiction. They ship books worldwide with FREE POSTAGE! If you can't wait til then ;), the Book Depository has a handful of my backlist available, as do eHarlequin on eBook.

What's next for you?

I am revising my next Modern Heat/Presents Extra now. It's been one of those joyous books that was a pleasure to write. Though the fact that I wrote all of it at my favourite local cafe who do a great line in raspberry and white chocolate muffins. Mmmm... Watch my website to find out release dates and title!

Find out more about Ally and read her news at her website:

"MILLIONAIRE DAD'S SOS" out now! UK Apr 2010, Sweet Romance Aus/NZ May 2010

Available from  The Book Depository and other resellers.

And here's a preview of the cover of Ally's first January release, Getting Down To Business, which is re-released in a collection with two other Mills and Boon Authors in the Boardroom Hotshots: Real Men Collection.

Thank you for joining us today, Ally!


Kat said...

Thank you for turning minxy for the day Allie!

21 books - WOW! Way to go, that's some achievement.

You a real inspiration for aspiring writers, I love your light touch with Modern Heat - Winnie & Dylan's story in 'Getting Red Hot with the Rogue' was one of my absolute fave romance reads.

Totally with you on the definition of real romance - a man who will happily change a nappy is more valuable to me than one who can buy a bunch of flowers. :o)

I think I might try out writing somewhere other than home once the kids go back after half term, we have a new coffee shop opened locally that I am eying up. Hope their muffins are up to scratch, lol!

Lots of luck with your upcoming releases,


Lorraine said...

I love the cover for the Boardroom Hotshots, I look forward to reading your first Modern Heat :-)

Tara Pammi said...

Love all your books, Ally.


Sally Clements said...

Hope your new cafe has copious amounts of lovely eats to keep the inspiration flowing, Ally! And love that romantic answer - making dinner EVERY night? What a hero!

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Great interview, Ally and thank you for joining us today.

I agree with Lorraine, your new cover's fab - can't wait to read the book.

Joanne Coles said...

Your husband sounds a sweetheart, can't beat a man who knows how to take care of his wife :-)

I'm not able to write outside the house at the moment, but I think I'll try the muffin idea anyway. Any excuse for a sweet treat!

Lacey Devlin said...

Those muffins sound incredible I have no idea how you got any work done! Great interview :)

Romy Sommer said...

I also loved The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I have the next two in my TBR pile but with more romance novels being added almost daily, it might be a while before I get to them!

Thanks for sharing with us today, Ally.

Maya Blake said...

I agree, Steig Larsson was a genius and Lisbeth Salander is an amazing character! Thanks so much for being here today, Ally. Really enjoyed getting to know you.
PS - really jealous of your Tasmania trip!

Ally Blake said...

Hi all! So excited to be here! And what a lovely welcome.


Ally Blake said...

Joanne, you've made my day with your lovely comments re GETTING RED-HOT WITH THE ROGUE. I'm thoroughly stoked that you enjoyed it so much!

And a man who can change nappies is a true hero! In fact just about my most popular heroes spent a night holding the heroine's hair back as she suffered the effects of food poisoning. What a man!


Ally Blake said...

Lorraine, isn't that cover just yummy? I totally approve ;).


Ally Blake said...

Sri Pammi, awwww you're too sweet! Thanks for the vote of confidence.


Ally Blake said...

Hi Sally! thanks so much for inviting me over. You certainly have a gorgeous crew here.

Since moving I've found a few writing haunts with yummy cakes, but none quite made it to dedication status whichy the raspberry and white chocolate muffins received. Until today.

Today I met the chocolate brownie. Slight crunch to outside. Soft and warm in the middle. Followed by a cold and creamy iced coffee.

Excuse me while I clean up the drool from my keyboard...


Ally Blake said...

Suzanne, I hope my Flynn lives up to the picture! For a sneak peek check out my GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS book page.


Ally Blake said...

Hi Joanne! So nice to see you here.

I remember reading once that whatever you do when studying for an exam, you should also do just before the exam as it stimulates the part of your brain that remembers what you've learnt. Eg. Do 100 push-ups before studying, do 100 push-ups pre-exam. I've used that philosophy ever since when it comes to my writing. My muse is used to chocolate and caffeine, so I simply must indluge so that he works at a premium!

Moral of the story - get thee to a muffin shop!


Ally Blake said...

Waving to Lacey!!!

And ditto as above ;).


Ally Blake said...

Hiya Romy and Maya!

So glad you enjoyed Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Not to everyone's tastes I'm sure. They can be pretty full on. But I just drank them up. Probably partly because they were so far removed from what I write. They do say a change is as good as a holiday, right?