Ally Carter, the New York Times bestselling author of Heist Society, Embassy Row, and the
Gallagher Girls series, recently gave the Inkitt team an inside look at her life as an author. The YA writer spilled the beans about where she finds inspiration, how she outlines her work, and how to overcome the hurdles of the publishing world. She also gave us a sneak peek at her latest novel, Not If I Find You First, which will hit shelves Spring 2018. Have we piqued your interest? Read on to get the inside scoop!
Where do you get your inspiration?
Really, everywhere! Three years ago my family went on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I’d never been to Alaska before, and I immediately fell in love with it. It’s just so gorgeous and vast. One night I was up on deck, looking out over about a million acres of wilderness, and in the distance I could see one solitary light burning, and it hit me: if something happens here, you can’t call 911.
That’s when my next novel, NOT IF I SAVE YOU FIRST, was born–from the idea that if two kids were kidnapped in the Alaskan wilderness they would have no choice but to save themselves.
Do you have a writing ritual that helps to keep you motivated and on task?
I need deadlines. So many deadlines. Really, nothing motivates me more than knowing that if I don’t do my job I’m going to be letting someone else down. Aside from that, I’m a big believer in 1. knowing what distracts you (email, TV, social media, or whatever), and then 2. doing whatever you have to do to remove those distractions a few hours a day until you get the job done!
When writing a first draft of a novel, do you plot everything out first or just write as you go and then revise later?
I do both. I like to start with a “storyboard” which is an old screenwriting technique where you write all of the scenes down on a post-it or notecard and then arrange them in the order you think they’ll go in. That’s the bones of the story. But I also know that, as I write, I’m going to figure out stuff that I missed initially–or things that I thought would be great but ended up not working at all.
I try to write a clean first draft–really, I do! But it never, ever works out that way, and that’s okay. I require at least three drafts to get the characters fleshed out and the plot just right. Through the years, I’ve tried every trick under the sun to make that process easier, but there is no substitution time. That’s the key to this business–giving yourself the time to do whatever you need to do to make the book as strong as you can make it.
What were challenges you faced when getting your first novel published, and how did you overcome them?
There are two different steps to getting your first novel published. The first (and by far the hardest) is writing a publishable book. Not just a good book. Not just a competent book. Not just a book that’s free of typos. But a publishable book–meaning a book that’s really, really good but that also is in demand in the current market. Don’t be fooled. That’s the first hurdle in this business, and it’s the hardest.
The second step is to research how the publishing process works. If you want to be traditionally published and have your books in stores (not just eBooks) then you’ll probably need a literary agent. Researching agents is very easy in this day and age and there are about a million articles online about how to do it. Expect rejection. Lots of rejection. But if your book is ready, you will get an agent.
If you don’t get an agent, write another book. Then another. Then another.
What is your top advice for aspiring authors?
Read as much as you can. Write as much as you can. I think a lot of people start out wanting to Be Writers far more than they start out wanting to WRITE. There’s a difference. A huge difference. And at the end of the day you have to have a product that a publisher wants to buy and readers want to read. It all boils down to the book, and never lose sight of that.
Ally’s next novel, Not If I Save You First, will be released next spring. You can read about it below, or visit Ally online to learn more about this and her other works.
Maddie thought she and Logan would be best friends forever—but when
your dad is a secret service agent and your best friend’s dad is the
president, life has a way of throwing a wrench in your plans. One kidnapping attempt gone awry, and Maddie is shipped off to the middle-of-nowhere Alaska, far away from the life she once knew in Washington, D.C.
No phone, no internet, and not a single word from Logan for six years— until one day, he shows up out of the blue. Maddie wants nothing to do with her former best friend, until an assassin appears, tossing Maddie aside and stealing Logan away into the treacherous Alaskan wilderness. Maddie really wants to kill Logan for how he treated her. But now she has to save him first.