Authors: Alistair Cross and Tamara Thorne
Title: Grandma's Rack
Release: Spring 2014
Publisher: Avalerion Book
What are your current projects?
I’m currently working with bestselling horror author Tamara Thorne on a novel due out in spring of 2014 called Grandma’s Rack. It’s a horrific - and humorous - tale of warring witches in a little town called Milkwort which has become a battleground of magic and mayhem. Our protagonists, a ten-year-old boy named Joey and his grandmother, find themselves in the center of the battle. As Joey learns more and more about his family history, he realizes what he and his grandma are up against, and what they must do to protect and salvage their very unique bloodline.
We plan to have the first draft completed very soon, and once that’s complete, I am going full-force into a solo project I began three years ago and Tamara will be completing her sequel to her bestselling vampire novel, Candle Bay. Also, in 2014, Tamara and I will be releasing a serialized erotica for the eBook market and begin work on another horror novel collaboration.
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
Currently, I am under deadline and writing full-time, however, once this project is complete, I’d like to get a job with a fixed schedule. There’s something to be said about having an outlet that has nothing to do with writing. You think you want to be a stay-at-home writer, but once you are, you realize it’s not necessarily so great. You never get to leave the office. So, I’m looking forward to introducing a little more variety into my life when I am able to. Tamara is a full-time writer who commutes daily to work in an office with another writer. Working in the same space keeps them both on track.
My time is pretty organized. I have a set daily word-count goal that I adhere to 5 or 6 days of the week. Once that amount is written, I’m free to take care of other things. Tamara works in similar fashion.
When and why did you begin writing?
I was eight years old when I discovered rock music. I liked the sound of it and this is what caused me to stop and pay attention to the lyrics which are what really snagged me. I immediately developed a kind of word fetish; I loved the way certain words sounded, the sensations they provoked, and I was especially fond of very poetic writers who embedded strong images into their lyrics. I started reading books around that time and also began writing what I thought of as songs, and this quickly evolved into short stories, comics, poetry, and eventually, novels. Tamara was smitten by another kind of poetry - the prose of Ray Bradbury - around second grade. She began writing then and never stopped. There was no reason other than it had to be done.
What are your thoughts about promotion?
I think good promotion is every bit as important as a good product. You can write the best novel in history but without interviews, online media, book tours and signings, the world may never hear about it. It’s rare that something will sell itself without a marketing strategy, and when it does, it’s usually a fluke thing. I believe in promotion. I have to. I consider it arrogant to assume the world will care that I wrote a book. Tamara shares the same philosophy.
Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
I have two publishers. Damnation Books published Beautiful Monster, and Avalerion Books is publishing Grandma’s Rack. I came across Damnation when I was working at a bookstore in St. Louis where an author had dropped off his business card several months before I started work. I happened across it one day and was intrigued. I looked up the publisher and they seemed to be a perfect fit for Beautiful Monster, which had just been finished. So I sent them a query letter and they accepted.
I met the folks at Avalerion through Tamara Thorne. Avalerion is currently publishing some of the fantasy works of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro who is a long-time friend of Tamara’s and also now a dear friend of mine. Avalerion is a great publisher and Tamara and I are both very excited to work with them.
Tamara has been with traditional publisher Kensington Books for many years and continues to work with them as well as Avalerion.
What do you plan for the future?
I have a vast backlog of solo concepts and outlines, as well as several more storylines that Tamara and I are itching to write. We plan to prioritize our solo and collaborative projects and write them out, one by one.
How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
I am on all the social media sites, and you can find us by visiting our websites at: www.alistaircross.com
Please give me a brief synopsis of your book.
The plague witches have declared war, and ten-year-old Joey is in more trouble than he can even imagine. As the town of Milkwort becomes a battleground of magic and mayhem, the only thing he seems to have on his side is the sweet, soft-spoken woman who cares for him - his grandmother. And Grandma has a secret...
When a gruesome murder is committed, the residents of Milkwort suddenly don't seem to be themselves. Little Joey is going to have to grow up fast if he wants to survive. Can he and Grandma uncover the heinous secrets and unravel the twisted mysteries that lie just beneath the surface of this seemingly quiet, small town?
Is this a novel or non-fiction? Which do you think would be more difficult to co-author and why?
Grandma’s Rack is a work of fiction. I think fiction would probably be more difficult to co-author because you have two writers full of ideas and visions. I can’t be sure, though, because I have never co-authored a non-fiction work. Tamara hasn’t co-authored non-fiction either, but began her career with a collaboration done under a pen name. Because of that experience, she she had no intention of ever collaborating on fiction again -- but then we met and found we shared such strongly similar sensibilities that it was hard to ignore.
What gave you the idea for this particular book?
Tamara and I were playing on Facebook. She said something and it sparked this strange little idea which grew and grew to become what it is now. Our first wave of consciousness wasn’t to do anything but have fun. We just happened upon this concept… and we ran with it.
Why did you decide to co-author this work?
Tamara and I quickly learned we had the same sensibilities. We had been discussing the idea of collaborating for several months before we came up with a solid storyline that we both were in love with.
How did you meet your writing partner?
After my first book was published, I began meeting other authors and started interviewing them on my blog. Tamara Thorne was one of the first people I asked for an interview. I grew up on her books, really, and I was thrilled when she agreed to be a guest. We quickly hit it off and it soon became very apparent to both of us that there was more to this than a passing association. There was, from the very beginning, an element of familiarity that bordered on being downright eerie. I think this happens a few times in a lifetime, and when it does, it’s a shame to ignore it. Tamara calls it synchronicity and agrees completely.
How long have you all been writing and why did you decide to become writers?
We were both writing at very young ages. Tamara’s first novel was published in 1991. Mine was in 2012. It’s safe to say that while other, more logical ways of making livings were presented to us, neither of us every really wanted to be anything but writers. From age eight on, Tamara’s theme song has been Paperback Writer by The Beatles.
What genres do you each prefer to write and why?
We both prefer writing horror. I don’t know if there are any particular reasons why you write what you do. For us, horror is just fun. Tamara is a life long aficiando of ghost stories, true and fictional, and can never get enough of them. We’ve even begun ghost hunting together.
What are the difficulties of co-authoring a book?
It takes twice as long and double the effort to get together and start working. Luckily, we both have a lot of fun doing this, so it hasn’t been an issue. But still, there are two schedules to consider instead of just one.
What are the benefits?
Writing together is a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow. It’s also wonderful for brainstorming and getting fresh perspectives and ideas. We laugh a lot and feel very alive when we work together. It’s pretty addicting.
What is the process for jointly writing a book?
It varies. In the case of Grandma’s Rack, we both have equal investment in the characters and scenes. We decide which scenes would be best written by whom and then go and write them, meeting a few times a week to discuss and plan our next moves. We do each develop favorites and tend to get to know them and write from their points of view more often than other characters.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
We try to outline, but keep it open-ended as stories tend to evolve as the characters do.
What comes first: the plot or characters?
Which characters were the hardest to develop and why?
I always have a harder time with the good guys. In the case of Grandma’s Rack, I’ve turned the majority of Grandma and Joey over to Tamara and focused more on the bad guys. But there are plenty of scenes with the bad guys that she has written, and plenty of the good guys that I have. It’s pretty 50/50. Tamara generally prefers baddies, too, but loves writing from the potty-mouthed or fear-glazed point of view of a child -- and Grandma isn’t exactly sitting around knitting snoods for the bridge club.
How did you decide how your characters should look?
That’s a good question. I don’t really know. The appearance of characters just tends to occur. We rarely plan out characters' appearances. We have general ideas about the main characters but it’s best to let the reader fill in the details. Many minor characters are more closely drawn - perhaps even compared to a well-known face - because it helps the reader keep track.
What are your plans for marketing the book and where can readers purchase the work?
We will be doing a lot of online media and are hopeful about other events our publicist arranges as well. We live in different states so it is not an easy thing to hook up. Grandma’s Rack will originally be released as an eBook, and possibly in paper later on. It will be available everywhere eBooks are sold.
Where can readers learn more about you and your writing?
What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
Something that will take me out of my own world and firmly plant me somewhere else, somewhere I’ll enjoy spending my time. Good characters, sharp dialogue, and questions that demand answers are always good hooks. Tamara agrees.
What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?
Boring, predictable characters. I think that the best fiction is directly rooted in an ability to identify and tell the psychological truth about people. I have a hard time getting through books that lack this very seemingly non-consequential element. Tamara agrees.