I am so happy to welcome Alison DeCamp - Michigan native and MG author of hilarious historical fiction - to Written in the Mitten! Today she's going to be answering some questions about her books My Near-Death Adventures and its sequel I Almost Died. Again. and give insight into the behind-the-scenes of publishing.
Question #1: Humor is a big selling point for me when I'm picking out a new book, and My Near-Death Adventures and I Almost Died. Again. have it by the Paul Bunyan-sized armload. What inspires your humor? Certain books, TV shows, etc.?
Alison: I can find humor in almost anything, sometimes to a fault. I’m pretty sure I’ve unwittingly offended plenty of people. I’ve had dreams where people have told me I’m really not all that funny and my husband finds me not-at-all funny. I love self-deprecating humor, inside jokes, and anything unexpected. I also LOVE to laugh. I find the comments on Reddit to be inordinately filled with humor. Also, Twitter (although I’m not on it a whole lot)—people can be so funny on Twitter. The people I work with at Between the Covers in Harbor Springs are so smart and funny. If I’m going to read humor, it’s probably David Sedaris. I find Parks and Rec makes me lol as does The Office. Conan makes me laugh. I think a dream job would be to sit around a table and come up with the skits or humor for a show like Conan or Colbert or the Daily Show. Or Ellen. I don’t know that I’d be any good at it, but I would laugh a lot.
Question #2: My Near-Death Adventures and I Almost Died. Again. have clever graphic elements, taking vintage pictures and making a scrapbook with Stan's funny captions and overlays as they relate to the plot. Did you write these stories based on the pictures or did you make the pictures fit the stories?
Alison: Such a good question! The answer is Yes! Because I did both things. In my first draft of the first book the pictures didn’t even relate to the plot. And then I realized they probably should go along with the story. It’s such a “duh” moment, but honestly that took me months to figure out. There were many times when I would be stuck and then research old photos in order to get ideas, which actually worked quite well.
Question #3: Describe the ideal reader of My Near-Death Adventures and I Almost Died. Again. Someone who likes…
Alison: Historical fiction, Michigan, my kind of humor (which is all so subjective, isn’t it?), bacon, strong women characters, adventure.
Question #4: What was your biggest challenge in writing a sequel? Any advice for writers embarking on their second book?
Alison: Because I already had the voice, the sequel was in some ways easier than the first book. In my experience, if I loved the first book, I’m always a bit suspect of a sequel. In this case, perhaps because I had learned so much writing the first book, I feel like the second book is actually better. That being said, the only advice I have is to let the characters take you on a ride—if they have a story to tell, it will be told.
Question #5: As all writers know, it's a terrifying thing to submit your work to agents and editors. Do you have any tips or encouragement for writers in the query trenches?
Alison: Listen to any feedback you might get. Have people who will be honest with you read your work and take their advice to heart. You most likely will be rejected time and again, but the people who get published and have a career in publishing have one thing in common. They don’t quit. Everyone gets rejected whether or not it’s by agents, or editors, or readers, or reviewers. The difference in your success is simply not to quit.
Question #6: I'm completely biased, but I think Michigan is the most beautiful, inspiring state a writer can live in. Is there a particular place in the Mitten (or U.P.!) that sparks your imagination?
Alison: I agree. We are such a well-kept secret up here in northern Michigan. I don’t know if I’m inspired by the state, but there’s something about the lakes and their vastness that makes our horizons seem limitless, our options favorable, and helps with the stress of everyday life. Unless it is snowing again in April. Then I just want to crawl back into bed. I love Sturgeon Bay north of Cross Village. I have a very soft spot for the Mackinac Bridge and St. Ignace since it is home. I like Grand Marais a whole lot. And there are so many places I haven’t yet been!
Bonus Question: Is there anything that's surprised you about being a published author? An unexpected perk or challenge?
Alison: Publishing is hard. I truly thought it would be a big party and I probably would be the guest of honor, but when it comes right down to it, writing is a job, and the best people in the profession are humble and thoughtful and work really hard. I also truly feel that anyone who wants to put in the work can make it. The perk is meeting people who read your book and genuinely connected to it. It’s like an invisible, magical link between you and your reader.
You can find out more about Alison DeCamp and her books by visiting:
Website - https://www.alisondecamp.com/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/AliYooper
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/alison_decamp/