Interview – Ally Blake
Author – Ally Blake
What do you consider the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?
As mum to three young kids I am well aware how lucky I am that I can fit my writing around my family time.
With a full-time job I can still attend every school concert, I can help out in class, I can hot glue on craft days with the best of them. To be able to do both is extremely rewarding.
The biggest challenge is fitting my writing around family time 😊.
Parents out there will know how precious those moments are when you finally get a moment to sit down and have a cuppa and take a breath. Using those moments to work requires willpower, of which I have very little. (Stick an unopened packet of Tim Tams in front of me and I’ll prove it.) Thankfully I love writing to bits, so the incentive to work is the work itself. I’ve written in the car at school pick-up. Late into the night after the kids are asleep. Editing on the couch while the kids watch a movie snuggled against my side.
So, so lucky.
If people were considering becoming an author what advice would you give them?
Read read read. Write write write.
Reading, a lot, gives you an innate sense of how stories work. The ebbs and flows. The push and pull. The lifts and falls. The action and the release. The layers of conflict required to keep a reader engaged. To tug on their emotions, to open their minds, to take them away from themselves.
Writing, a lot, is like honing any craft. The more you do it the better you get.
What qualifications or experience is required to become an author?
Not a lot! To become, and remain, a published author simply requires being able to tell a rollicking good tale. And then another, and another, and another…
What path did you take to become an author?
I wrote. All the time. From a young age. Songs, poetry, movie scripts and stories. I’d write if nobody paid me to do it.
In the writing I hit a point in which I had a story coming together that I thought was actually pretty good. Blessed with a good dose of blissful naivete, I googled publishers to see how one might go about getting a book published. Realising my book was shaping up to be a romance, and knowing Harlequin Mills and Boon published such tomes, I started there. Following the website guidelines I sent in a synopsis and first three chapters.
Many months later I heard they’d like to see more. At that point it was no longer a fun exercise but an honest to goodness shot, so I buckled down, finished the book, polished it to a shine and sent it away.
Many, many, many months after that, and a couple of sets of suggested revisions later, I got “the call” to say they’d love to buy my book.
Harlequin Mills and Boon receive 20,000 unsolicited manuscripts per year. From the slush pile they might pick up 10 new authors. My path was lit by timing, talent, persistence, luck, delight and enthusiasm. And that healthy dose of blissful naivete.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A teacher who played the flute. Then an Academy Award winning director.
Is this your first career? Can you see yourself remaining in this line of work forever?
No. And you bet.
What are your standard hours?
No such thing in this gig!
Some writing friends do actually write nine to five Monday to Friday, but they are the exception.
I’ve had twelve-hour writing days. I’ve had weeks when I’ve not written a word. I’ve had days in which I’ve written ten thousand words. Other days putting together sentences feels like pulling teeth.
It’s a roller coaster of a job. Of bliss and doubt, of flowing prose and rabid deletion, of the threat of a looming deadlines while trying to ignore the whisper of the beautiful new idea at the edge of your brain. All fuelled by bucket loads of caffeine.
So long as the job is complete by the deadline the path to get there is up to you.
Is there anything you can tell us about your job that people wouldn’t expect?
- It’s rare to come up with your own book title. Huge marketing departments have a big say in such things.
- How much money you make depends entirely on how many books you sell. That simple.
- I have never once dictated a story to an assistant while reclining on a chaise lounge and wearing a feather boa. (Though a floral garland worn atop the head is a direct link to the creative muse: fact.)