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Alison G. Bailey: Present Perfect touch your heart

Alison G. Bailey - author of the novel Present Perfect touches very difficult problems regarding acceptance, low self-esteem, love and true friendship. We talk about the process of creating novels, creating heroes and difficult relations between characters. I invite you to a conversation with a debuting writer whose novels I have the pleasure to patronize as Kulturalne rozmowy blog. Enjoy. 


Sylwia Cegieła: In our country you are not so famous yet. Tell your Polish readers something about yourself?

Alison G. Bailey: I was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. I majored in theater in college and worked for several years backstage at different theaters around the United States. As a child I loved TV shows and movies. I’d often rewrite scenes from my favourite shows. I think this is when my love of writing began. During college I wrote, directed, and produced stage plays. One of the one act plays I wrote was accepted into the school anthology and that was the very first time I was published.

S.C.: What do you like to do the best in your free time?

Alison: In my free time I love spending time with my family, friends, and my sweet little dog, Charlie. I’m a big fan of TV and movies and still, on occasion, rewrite scenes from them.

S.C.: When did you discover your talent for writing?

Alison: When I was in college. I really enjoyed writing plays. You’ll notice in my books I have a lot of dialogue. I love the creative process. Starting with a blank page and in the end bringing it to life, whether on stage or in a reader’s imagination.

S.C.: What do you like to write about?

Alison: I like to write about thought-provoking issues that you don’t always see in romance novels. In each of my books the romance is the central theme but it’s always surrounded by a subject matter which impacts the character’s lives profoundly. I work hard to draw the reader in so they experience the emotions along with the characters. I also like to surprise the reader but putting in a few twists and turns.

S.C.: How would you describe your writing process? Do you have any rituals?

Alison: I don’t really have any rituals. I do make playlists for each book and before working on the book I listen to it. Music helps me visualize the story. My process is pretty simple… the story has to have a purpose and I have to have a passion about the subject matter. I don’t write in a formulaic way. I think that’s why I’m not as prolific. Also, I can only work on one book at a time. I admire authors who can work on multiple projects. I don’t have a publishing schedule. I’ve had people tell me I need to write faster and publish because readers forget authors who don’t have several books out a year. That’s just not me. It takes me at least 6 months to research and write a first draft. Since I started publishing I’ve averaged one book a year and my readers have been wonderful to stay with me.

S.C.: What was your friends' and family’s reaction when they found out that you wanted to publish your first novel?

Alison: I didn’t tell anyone I was writing Present Perfect until it was all done, so they were very surprised.


S.C.: Present Perfect – this is you first novel in general and additional the first novel in Poland. What are you feeling?

Alison: Disbelief. It’s hard to imagine that one of my books is being published in another language. When I first published Present Perfect in the US my goal was to sell enough copies to make back the money I’d spent on the cover, editing, and formatting. So, to meet and get messages from readers around the world is mind blowing.

S.C.: It’s not a traditional romance, because love isn’t so obvious. Why did you decide to use a diary? What was your goal?

Alison: The diary helped chronical a certain time in Tweet’s life and what she was thinking. In a way it was the only way she felt safe enough to express her inner most thoughts.

S.C.: In my opinion Present Perfect is extremely moving, where sadness mixes with suffering and love. In one moment I hated Amanda but finally I understood her behaviour. Tell me your mystery of creating this character.

Alison: It’s hard creating a character like Amanda, especially when you first meet her as a child and basically grow up with her, seeing her teenage years and young adult years. Older readers, say ones in their 30s and up, got very frustrated with Amanda. But you have to look at her life through her eyes. You can’t apply the maturity and thought process of a 30-year-old to a teenager. Amanda was making her way through life and made mistakes like we all do.

S.C.: Are all of your characters created in your imagination or are some based on real people? Did you or someone you know survive the same story or does this story come from your imagination?

Alison: None are based entirely on real people. I take different aspects of people I’ve met and know to create some characters. Parts of the story came from my real life but for the most part it came from my imagination.

S.C.: Which of these characters are your favourite and why?

Alison: That’s like asking a mother to choose her favourite child. One of my favourites is Dalton because he developed so naturally. At first he was going to be a 12-year-old girl but then I changed the character to a 21-year-old young man. He’s not in the book a lot but I loved writing everything about him.

S.C.: Amanda is a very closed person. Which part of her features come from you?

Alison: Definitely her humor and sarcasm. Also, her diary entries mirror my thoughts and opinions.

S.C.: Every time I start to read any novel I notice the same schematic erotic scenes. What role do they have in your novel?

Alison: They are so different like different are the men who Amanda meets. I wanted to show the two sides of sex. How people use the act itself to cover up pain, hoping the ache for your true love will magically disappear. I also wanted to show how beautiful, natural, and uncomplicated it is when it’s with the person you are meant to be with. I thought it was interesting that some readers felt Amanda and Noah weren’t a “real” couple for most of the book because they hadn’t had sex yet. To me, they were a couple from page one. You see their entire romance from beginning to end. Sex is only part of a relationship and shouldn’t be confused with the romance two people share.   
     
S.C.: Present Perfect is the novel which during reading evokes extreme emotions. At the same time it is full of love and pain which doesn’t allow the reader to be happy. With what reception have you met so far?

Alison: There is a lot of love and pain, but also times of happiness, just like in life. I’ve received mostly wonderful reception. Of course, not every reader likes every book and that’s okay. Readers have told me they felt like they were on an emotional rollercoaster and drained but in the end felt incredible.

S.C.: Present Perfect is your first novel published in Poland. What would you like to tell your potential readers in our country?

Alison: I would say if you like stories that touch your heart, allowing you to experience love, pain, romance, humor, frustration, and yes even anger then Present Perfect will deliver that and more.

S.C.: What did you feel when you finished the story? Did you feel emotional emptiness or relief?

Alison: Both! Ha-ha. It was a wonderful experience but draining.

S.C.: How should we understand this story?

Alison: Present Perfect is a story about true love, hope, acceptance, determination, and the joy of living.

S.C.: What do you plan now? Do you have any ideas for your next story?

Alison: The book I’m working on now is titled Crazy, Sexy, Love. It’s a romantic comedy spinoff from my book, The Dance. I hope one day Poland will be reading these and more of my books.     

S.C.: I hope your next book will be as good as Present Perfect. Thank you for interview. 

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