Today we’re talking with Aubrey Coletti, author of Altered, the first novel in The Academy series. Book #2, Shattered, is planned to come out February 2nd.
School’s in session at J. Alter Academy, and for Toni, Joseph, Ann, Charlie, and their boarder friends, that means they are still at the mercy of its draconian ways. While suffering the harsh consequences of their attempted escape, they must now contend with the formidable Headmistress and her taste for human experimentation — with the boarders as her favorite subjects. The seven friends play a delicate, dangerous game as they seek to discover the secrets behind their school and their own unique abilities. Yet as they move closer to uncovering the truth, will one of them be forced to pay the ultimate price?
1. If you were to describe your e-book/book in only one word, what would it be?
Twisty! Lots of twists and turns.
2. What would you say inspired you to write it?
Well, the characters are composites of friends and family, but J. Alter Academy itself is based on real-life behavior modification centers, schools, and camps that exist in the United States. As someone for whom mental illness has always been a big part of my life and family and interests, knowing that there are places where it is dealt with as basically a character defect hit really home for me. As soon as I started to research these places, I knew I had my setting, and then the characters jumped in and ran the story (don’t they always?)
3.What was the source of inspiration for your protagonist? What about your antagonist?
Well I’ve got more than one of each! But again, my own family, friends, and acquaintances. There is definitely a fair bit of me in Charlie, and a lot of one of my oldest best friends in Toni. Joseph and Ann were one of the earliest established characters for me, since even before I knew what the setting was, their relationship was already very clear in my mind. But as always, no matter who inspired your characters, once you give them different names from those people, and place them in a different setting, they develop in ways you never could have planned!
When it comes to antagonists, Seth is definitely one of the characters that crept up on me. As a sociopath his emotional range is limited compared to everyone else, and yet he has so much to say, that he really is the kind of “wild-card” character writers talk about as not following what you have planned for them! Mrs. Carter is very much a composite of all of the kinds of people I’ve met who have the ability to love and care deeply about their fellow human beings, and yet have a hard time seeing shades of grey. Whereas the Headmistress lives completed in a world of grey. Their relationship is definitely one of the great joys of the first book, Altered, and now of Shattered for me. Having two powerful women with very different agendas and outlooks bump heads just makes for a lot of fun drama!
4.Have you ever been hit by the infamous “writer’s block”? What did you do to escape it?
Oh Great Odin’s Raven, yes! For Altered, once I got through the first bit, where everyone is introduced, everything flowed very easily. But for Shattered just figuring out each chapter was difficult. I really had to listen to the characters and myself. I didn’t want to force things — I wanted things to be organic. But of course, you do ultimately have to just sit down and write. Sometimes you sit down, make yourself write, and even if what you wrote isn’t good, by the time you’ve written it, you’re in the “flow”. So then if you keep writing, things start to get better and better.
5.Your all time favorite book?
The Alanna the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce, in particular In The Hand of the Goddess and Lioness Rampant.
6. What made you pick that one above all others?
Not only are the characters vivid and believable, but the story itself slowly builds so subtly that you don’t realize you’re reading a true epic until you reach the end. Then you get that bittersweet feeling that lets you know you’ve read something that will stay with you, that you will instantly want to go back and read again, that may even have an effect on your life in the future. I know they did for me.
7.What’s the longest time you’ve spent working on a project?
Altered took a very long time to come together, just because the editing process took so long. I started writing it in the summer before my sophomore year of high school, but then I became severely anorexic, and so needless to say my ability to focus and be creative came to a screeching halt. Once I started to heal, I picked up the pace, and I finished the rough draft of Altered right before my senior year of high school. Then it took about two years to get basic editing done. Shattered definitely progressed a lot faster because I already had the story and the characters, and so just needed to continue the saga.
8.Would you say becoming an author has changed you? In what way?
Definitely it has, and it’s definitely for the better. Being an author has given me much more confidence and happiness, because when you can see any pain or tragedy as inspiration, and then use it in your writing, it helps you gain a measure of control over the emotions resulting from those situations. When you get to create a whole world and its characters, you can better process pain and tragedy, because you get to see them from an outside perspective.
Of course, the downside of that is when you can create a whole world, you can then inflict pain and tragedy on your characters and if it serves the story, you can feel good about it! So you have the danger of falling into the Joss Whedon/George R.R. Martin mindset of killing off characters, destroying relationships, and over all just causing death and horror that tortures your fans. It’s kind of the “God mode” of writing — you can see what serves the story, and so feel better about doing these things than your fans, who just feel the pain of reading/seeing it. And sometimes there’s even a nasty little trickster aspect of writing some shocking twist or tragedy, and then seeing the reaction! (Not that I would ever do that. Ahem).
9.Was there ever a time, during your work on the e-book/book, when you felt like giving up? What made you change your mind?
Definitely. It was probably in the beginning, when I wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen. I knew the end, but not the beginning and the middle, and I was worried it wouldn’t be as good as the first book. But I just sat down and listened to the characters. I knew I loved them, and their story, and so I just kept pushing myself, since I knew they would help me get it right.
10.What does your day-to-day life consist of? What else do you do, aside writing?
Well, I have always loved dancing, in particular belly dancing, so I do a lot of that. I also read, of course, since reading is what bred my love of writing. And I write songs, so I’m working on that, as well as basic producing, though I intend to work with real producers and musicians before I put anything out! And I watch shows . . . I watch a lot of television shows. I’m particularly addicted to Dracula, Once Upon A Time, and Lost Girl at the moment, and I’m always watching re-runs of Buffy, Firefly, and Dollhouse.
11.How do you deal with bad reviews or acid criticism? What would you advise other authors to that effect?
Well, firstly, not everyone is going to like your book, no matter how good it is. There is always someone who dislikes something — no book, or movie, or show is ever universally beloved. A lot of it is personal taste. Accepting and understanding that is important. Secondly, it’s important to know that those people who do like it are the people whose criticisms matter. If someone just plain doesn’t like or get your characters, your plot, or your writing style, then there is no point in dwelling on that, because to please them you would have to totally change your characters, story, and style, and even then they might not like it! But if people love your characters, writing, and style, but have some criticisms or things that they feel don’t work, then those are the people worth listening to — in short, your fans’ opinions are the only ones that matter!
12.Is this title part of a series? Without giving us spoilers, of course, what can we expect from the next e-books/books in the series?
Things always have to escalate, so we’ll see things get bigger and darker for our seven friends. We’ll also really start to see them come into their own when it comes to their abilities, and see the mystery of J. Alter Academy slowly be revealed.
13. What do you have stored for us in the future? What are you working on/planning on next, aside this title/series?
First things first, of course, is the next book in The Academy Series, but I also have an idea for a whole new series. This one would focus more on magic than sci-fi, and I don’t want to reveal too much, but it definitely will keep up my pattern of complicated villains, mysteries with lots of twists and turns, and people who make their own families through love for each other.
1.If you could wish for any one thing, and it would immediately come true, what would you wish for?
To be the show-runner of the TV show I am constantly planning episodes for in my mind.
2.If you were stranded on an isolated island, what’s the one book you’d absolutely wish to have with you?
The Idiots Guide to Surviving on an Isolated Island.
3.Name your favorite fruit.
4.Coffee or tea?
Tea forever, yo.
Fall. It’s all about Halloween/Samhain/All Hallows/The Excuse to Wear Costumes As a Grownup Holiday.
6.How about fav time of 24 hours?
Uh, four o’ clock?
7.Were you a boyscout/girlscout?
I was. Then I got sent to the Russian front. (That was a forced attempt to work in a The Great Escape reference. No, I was not).
8.Favorite food for breakfast?
Banana or blueberry French toast.
9. Do you collect things, like stamps, or key chains, or shoes?
No, my room is too cluttered with books to leave room for much else.
10. Favorite color, you know you want to tell us!
I do! It’s purple.
11. Drama or comedy?
Dramady, I refuse to choose.
12. Have a fav quote or personal motto?
“The function of freedom is to free someone else,” quoth Toni Morrison.
13. Cats or dogs?
Cats all the way. My own big fat princess is named Alanna.
14. Dinner by candlelight or a night out clubbing?
That’s hard. Clubbing probably, if the club is one where people really dance, and don’t just stand around trying to look cool. (Of course, if they do, I’ll still be up on the table getting down by myself, but it’s nice to know there’ll be someone else in the future embarrassing YouTube video).