Welcome to a special edition of Cheri's 20 Questions! My interviewee today is the incredibly talented and prolific Alisse Lee Goldenberg. Welcome! Alisse is an award winning author of Horror, Young Adult Paranormal Romance, and Young Adult Fantasy fiction. She is currently working on four series: The Sitnalta Series, The Children of Colonodona, The Dybbuk Scrolls, and The Bath Salts Journals (co-authored with An Tran). She has her Bachelors of Education and a Fine Arts degree, and has studied fantasy and folk lore since she was a child. Alisse is also a screenwriter and playwright living in Toronto with her husband Brian, and their triplets Joseph, Phillip, and Hailey.
Tell us a little something about what you write: I am a writer of Young Adult Fantasy novels and Horror Fiction. I currently have four series out with Pandamoon Publishing: The Sitnalta Series, The Children of Colonodona, The Bath Salts Journals, and The Dybbuk Scrolls.
Cheri: What is the first book that made you cry?
Alisse: The first book that ever made me cry was Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery. It was also one of the first books I truly remember reading to myself, and I was surprised at how deeply a novel could make a person feel.
Cheri: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Alisse: When I am truly into a story that inspires me, I find that writing can energize me. But there are times when it can be quite difficult, where I can be stuck on a part of a story, and I need to work hard to get the words out on paper. Then, writing can be quite exhausting.
Cheri: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Alisse: I would tell myself not to give up, to press on and persevere. I would tell myself that anything was possible, and to reach for the stars.
Cheri: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Alisse: Honestly, it hasn’t. If anything has changed it, it has been having kids! Now I have to schedule my work around them, so I predominantly write at night, after they go to bed, or when they’re at school.
Cheri: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Alisse: It was on a fancy moleskin notebook. It has a lovely pink cover, and fits perfectly in my purse. I tend to do a lot of my first draft writing by hand, and do a lot of my first edits as I transcribe it onto my laptop.
Cheri: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Alisse: When I was younger, before I learned to read, I would stack books as high as I could and take them to my parents demanding that they be read to me. I was always on a quest for more stories. There was a library not too far from my home, and I would be taken there by bus. I would check out as many books as my little arms could carry. At the time, my obsession was Curious George stories, or Amelia Bedelia. The sheer amount of imagination and fun those stories held for me was amazing. I could spend hours in that library surrounded by those books.
Cheri: What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
Alisse: Under-appreciated? I’m not sure it qualifies, but O.R. Melling’s novel The Hunter’s Moon has been one of my favourite books forever! I’ve read it more times than I can count. It’s such a beautiful story of adventure, love, and family. The main character of Gwen goes on a fantastic journey of self exploration and finding her own inner strength. I just adore it.
Cheri: As a writer, what would you say is your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Alisse: Besides a big mug of coffee? But really, I’d say that my mascot has to be a puppy. Always chasing some new idea, easily distracted, and loving to be curled up on the couch!
Cheri: How many published, unpublished, and half-finished books do you have?
Alisse: I currently have eleven published books, five in the completed Sitnalta Series, three is The Dybbuk Scrolls Trilogy, one in The Bath Salts Journals, and two in The Children of Colonodona Series. I’m currently at work on book three in The Children of Colonodona, and I’m planning a book set in The Dybbuk Scrolls universe.
Cheri: What does literary success look like to you?
Alisse: For me, literary success means that people are reading my work and that they’re responding to it. The beauty of art, and for me, writing is definitely art. It’s subjective. People don’t have to necessarily like what I write to respond to it. If my words enact some sort of emotional response, it’s succeeded. Now, I’d love for everyone who reads my books to like them and to want to follow my characters on their journeys. That would be wonderful.
Cheri: What do you feel is the best way to market your books?
Alisse: Honestly, most days I’m still trying to figure out the magic equation to that one! But I think that social media is a growing and effective tool for that. It’s just a matter of reaching the audience through the noise on all the channels you use as an author.
Cheri: What kind of research do you do, and how much time do you typically spend researching before beginning a new book?
Alisse: That depends which series I’m working on. With both Sitnalta and the sequel series The Children of Colonodona, since I created those worlds myself, and the characters within, the only research I do is within my own writing, ensuring that I’ve kept a continuity that makes sense within the rules of my world. With The Dybbuk Scrolls it was more complicated. That world was firmly set within Jewish mythology and folklore. I wanted to be certain I got things right and was respectful of the history there. When writing those books I spent a long time poring over old stories and books, researching and taking notes on all I wanted to include. It was a process that lasted years through the writing process of those novels.
Cheri: How do you select the names for your characters?
Alisse: In the world of Colonodona I fixated on sounds. Quite a few of the characters are words, or places turned backwards because I liked the sounds. The sound of it seemed to fit the image I had of the character in my mind. In the world of Hadariah, many of the characters’ names have meaning that lend themselves to who they are. For instance, Rebecca is a biblical name meaning “to tie, or join”, while Carrie is a diminutive of the masculine Charles, meaning “warrior”.
Cheri: Do you hide secrets (or Easter Eggs) in your books for people to find?
Alisse: I do. I seed little hints of what’s to come throughout the books, so that readers of the whole series can go back and see how things were almost inevitable for the characters.
Cheri: What was your hardest scene to write?
Alisse: The hardest scene to write was probably the epilogue of the Song of War. For me that’s the end of The Dybbuk Scrolls Trilogy. As the most personal story for me, coming to the end of it was bittersweet. I had put my characters through quite a lot, and the ending was a catharsis for them, and to end it was hard for me to do.
Cheri: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Alisse: Definitely the editing part. I’m my own worst critic. Going through it all and finding my mistakes is tough, and I’m always second guessing the words I put on the page.
Cheri: How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
Alisse: I typically can type out a first draft in a month or two. Then I need another couple of months to do my personal edits before I turn the manuscript in to my publisher.
Cheri: What is your favourite childhood book?
Alisse: I have to divide this in two. My favourite picture book for kids is definitely Robert Munsch’s Paperbag Princess. My favourite novel is A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I’ve read both to my own kids, sharing the stories with them. Nightly family book time is something that’s very important to us, and we go through so many books over the course of the year. Currently we’re reading through Small Steps by Louis Sachar, a request by them since they loved Holes.
Cheri: Where/when do you find yourself most inspired?
Alisse: I’m now a predominately night writer, since that’s when it’s easiest for me to find the time to write. I think I’ve become used to it at this point, so the ideas seem to follow me to this hour. If I have ideas at other times in the days, I carry my notebook with me!
Cheri: Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Alisse: Just put the pen to paper and write! Everyone has a story to tell. Get it out there and tell it. And whatever you do, don’t give up or let anyone silence your voice.
Cheri: Thank you so much for answering my questions, Alisse; it's been a pleasure having you! Later this month the amazing Susan Kuchinskas will be joining us, so stay tuned!
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Award winning historical romance author, wife, and stay-at-home mom of four. Chocoholic, nerd, & bath bomb enthusiast.