AUTHOR INTERVIEW 100 – Christiane Joy Allison


Christiane Joy Allison

USA

Age 34

Christiane Joy Allison is a multi-award-winning author, public speaker, and activist. Her book, “Where is Uncle?,” the first children’s picture book for children experiencing the wrongful conviction of a loved one, won five Honorable Mentions in the 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards. In 2018 she was also awarded a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Project Award as well as a Lin Halterman Memorial Grant from the Alaska Writers Guild. She now serves as the Alaska Writers Guild President while writing and publishing her current dystopian cyberpunk novel series, The Infinitus Saga. The memorable characters include a disabled family inspired by her disability and life-long battle with chronic illness, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS). Sometimes she walks with a cane, sometimes she rides in a wheelchair, and sometimes she needs neither. Her disability is as unpredictable as her life. Her husband was wrongfully convicted in 2015, launching her family into a decade-long struggle against injustice, and inspiring her award-winning series of children’s picture books for kids impacted by the adverse childhood experience (ACE) of the incarceration of a loved one. As an activist, Christiane battles for criminal justice and prison reform and aspires to give prisoner families a voice. 
The community needs conformity. The squids are out to dismantle it. Now both want what’s in her head. Infinitus is the story of Gina Mallorey, a young freedom-loving tech dealer living in the Dregs on her own terms, hiding her disability from the Community. When an explosion forces her into the GRID, powerful forces make her a target. The Community operative sent after her hides a genetic secret of his own, but only time will tell if he’ll choose to be friend or foe.

Romelia: WHAT IS A SIGNIFICANT WAY YOUR BOOK HAS CHANGED SINCE THE FIRST DRAFT?

Christiane Joy Allison: The conversational language of the world has been significantly polished many times over since the initial draft. Figuring out what things were called in this futuristic world was something I didn’t bother to pin down during the initial phase of just getting the story down. Later my editor and I started asking the really hard questions. What do they call the flexible glass they roll up and put in their pocket instead of paper? Would they use that word as an insult in a society without a family structure? What’s the formal term for an apartment versus what everyone actually says? What does swearing sound like with no religion? Answering those questions brought a much more cohesive culture to the dialog that really helps bring the reader into a new world.

Romelia: WHAT PERSPECTIVES OR BELIEFS HAVE YOU CHALLENGED WITH THIS WORK?

Christiane Joy Allison: In part it is a commentary on what some people perceive as the path to world peace. In Infinitus, a worldwide government has erased many aspects that lead to divisions and conflict in our world. The government raises the children and teaches that the highest loyalty is to “the Community.” It teaches that long-term relationships of any kind—friends, lovers, parents and children—are a form of mental illness that leads to domestic violence and mental anguish. Children are taught a common history, identity and worldview. There are no families, nationalities, ethnic groups or competing cultures, and the races have by now been thoroughly intermixed. Religion has been replaced by science. Most of mankind has exchanged the freedom of deciding major aspects of their life for the security of never lacking food or shelter.

Yet mankind is a social and creative animal and significant segments of the population have chosen to break away from “the Community.” A few find they cannot be normal part of it because of genetic diseases or traits that are the remnants of old-world genetic experimentation. Most who live outside the Community are impoverished and live on the fringes, but there are also secret government forces, an active rebel force, and a widespread, diverse, and powerful criminal underground.   

The story also addresses perspectives surrounding disability. The main character has the genetic condition I was born with–hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS). The story is written in first person, present tense to draw the reader into the experience of living with disability both in normal life, and in extreme circumstances where the condition complicates already challenging situations. It doesn’t tell the reader what to think about the disabled, but welcomes them under the skin of a disabled protagonist who is struggling to hide their disability from a government that will “take care” of them by putting them into an institution.

Romelia: WHAT INSPIRED THE IDEA FOR YOUR BOOK?

Christiane Joy Allison: I love to observe how the world works in a social and systemic way. In The Infinitus Saga, much of the inspiration for my books came from looking at various aspects of society today (technology, independence, genetic experimentation, etc.) and pushing those aspects as far to the limit as I could see to create a take on the evolving global society. I also drew inspiration from various science magazines, articles, and documentaries I found as I was writing. Then I threaded my genetic illness, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), into a couple of main characters to allow the reader to explore the adventure from a body that’s not up to the challenge.

Romelia: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR BOOK’S IDEAL READER?

Christiane Joy Allison: The ideal reader for this book would be someone who loves action, suspense, and watching the relationships between characters unfold. There is romance for those of us that love it. Overall, one of the best compliments I’ve gotten thus far was from someone who told me they didn’t expect to like it because they don’t read the genre, but now plan to read the whole series because they fell in love with the characters.

Romelia: HOW MUCH RESEARCH DID YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOUR BOOK?

Christiane Joy Allison: For this book, it helped a lot that I’d worked in technology for several years. I hadn’t done anything super sophisticated, but I understood designing systems for users and enough of the basics to help build a story. I also found articles about what is being experimented with in science and technology now, and then extended those ideas out to the future and combined different scientific fields, aiming for the type of technology I could see people reaching for in our future. As the story is global, I also did some research into various local settings and wildlife.

Romelia: HOW IMPORTANT WAS PROFESSIONAL EDITING TO YOUR BOOK’S DEVELOPMENT?

Christiane Joy Allison: Editing was KEY. Infinitus went through several rounds of editing ranging from developmental to copy editing. The world building was completed in the editing phase, not just the writing phase. Editing challenges the strength of your story’s backbone and searches out plot holes that could otherwise lose a reader. It’s also extremely true that you cannot find all the copy errors in your own work. You need another pair of experienced eyes. 

Romelia: WHAT WAS YOUR HARDEST SCENE TO WRITE, AND WHY?

Christiane Joy Allison: There is a scene in Part 2 of the book where the two main characters fight their way out of a hospital that is under siege by rebel forces. That scene includes a lot of characters and action, and therefore, a lot of moving parts. In the editing phase, we wrestled with the language to clearly communicate the movements of the various characters in each stage.

Romelia: WHAT CHARACTERS IN YOUR BOOK ARE MOST SIMILAR TO YOU OR TO PEOPLE YOU KNOW?

Christiane Joy Allison: Crazy Rob, an eccentric but weirdly talented family friend, is modeled off of an idea of my father’s and incorporates a lot of his personality, blended with a few other colorful characters I know. Gina, my main protagonist, has a personality very similar to mine, with a few distinct differences, and her disability and physical experiences in the book are a combination of struggles that I and my family members have experienced living with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS).

Romelia: HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

Christiane Joy Allison: I started writing the book in late 2016, but not exclusively. I worked on it the way I work on most projects, intensively for periods with long breaks due to busyness with other projects or because I was stuck on one aspect of the story or another. I also started writing my first children’s picture book in 2016, and between then and now published three books prior to Infinitus. I turned my full attention to it after the other projects were out of the way. The book was finally ready for print in August 2020.

Romelia: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLE FOR YOUR BOOK?

Christiane Joy Allison: The title landed on me while commuting, just like the story. I did some research and discovered that there wasn’t another prominent work by the same name, so I stuck with it. I had the title before I wrote a single word of the story.

Romelia: WOULD YOU AND YOUR MAIN CHARACTER GET ALONG?

Christiane Joy Allison: Famously.

Romelia: IF YOU COULD MEET YOUR CHARACTERS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?

Christiane Joy Allison: I would tell Hawk that even though he is different, sometimes even scary, he is not a freak. He is worthy of love and compassion. I would tell Gina to have faith, and that hardship is what teaches us, molds us, and brings us into our destiny–although we would almost always ask for an easier route. As for Crazy Rob… he knows he’s a crafty old geezer.

Romelia: WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS LIKE? ARE YOU MORE OF A PLOTTER OR A PANTSER?

Christiane Joy Allison: I am a pantser. I don’t write by planning out story elements in advance. I learn and discover the story as I write it, and my characters often surprise me. The challenge is I often don’t know significant elements of the story until after I’ve written them. Then I have to rewrite scenes, to adjust to and incorporate the elements I discovered later. Sometimes, I have to write additional scenes that will never be published simply because I need to know what other characters are doing behind the scenes.

Also, a story seldom comes to me in order. My imagination often lands me in the middle it and I have to write and discover what happens before and after. I jump ahead when I get stuck or when I realize I need more future context. Usually, I have about a third of the next novel in a series written before I finish the one I’m on.

Romelia: WHAT DO YOU NEED IN YOUR WRITING SPACE TO HELP YOU STAY FOCUSED?

Christiane Joy Allison: First and foremost, I need to be comfortable. I suffer from chronic pain. Maintaining a comfortable space that will minimize my pain is key to being productive. I also love to have physical copies of my related work within reach. Using Scrivener software has reduced my need to use physical copies for reference, but I still find myself flipping through the pages for a quick reminder of characters and events.

Romelia: IF YOU WERE TO WRITE A SPIN-OFF ABOUT A SIDE CHARACTER, WHICH WOULD YOU PICK?

Christiane Joy Allison: I actually already have! After I’d written the initial draft of Infinitus, I went back and wrote a story earlier in the timeline focused on Gina’s missing brother, Arthur. This short story eventually evolved into the prelude novelette available today as The Global Fellowship. However, if I were to write an additional spin off story, I would probably look into eccentric, and oddly talented Crazy Rob’s history in more detail, or into the intriguing anarchist global arms dealer, Jordan Orwell.

Romelia: IF YOU COULD SPEND A DAY WITH ANOTHER POPULAR AUTHOR, WHOM WOULD YOU CHOOSE?

Christiane Joy Allison: I would love to spend the day with Stephenie Meyer. I’d talk to her about how she handled the explosive popularity of her books, and how she got to be so involved in their conversion to film.

Romelia: WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE LIKE WHEN YOU’RE WRITING A BOOK?

Christiane Joy Allison: I am a person that’s practically allergic to routine, so I can be found writing at all times of the day or night. However, when I want to focus in on getting a lot of writing done, I often use the various events of National Novel Writing Month. I am a goal oriented person and I do well with deadlines, so their “camp” programs throughout the year and NaNoWriMo itself in November give me helpful motivation to make leaps of progress on my manuscripts. I also use them for editing goals – not just writing.

Romelia: HAVE YOU EVER TRAVELED AS RESEARCH FOR YOUR BOOK?

Christiane Joy Allison: No, but I have traveled. We moved all over the country when I was a child. I also frequently traveled for work before I became so disabled. I have never traveled out of the country, though. I think that would be an awesome experience.

Romelia: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WRITING SNACK OR DRINK?

Christiane Joy Allison: Previously, I would have said “anything bubbly,” but now that I’ve eliminated sugar from my diet that mostly looks like sparkling waters or the occasional diet soda. As far as snacks, I’m a sucker for sugar-free chocolates (yes, they can be amazing) or cheeses and vegetables.  

Romelia: HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE WHEN YOU FINISH YOUR BOOK?

Christiane Joy Allison: Finishing a book always feels like this marathon process that just wrings me out. So, although it’s not very exciting, I usually reward myself with lots of sleep and recovery. Also, my family jumps around and hollers with me, and my husband finally agrees to read it–now that it’s not going to change again!

Romelia: WHAT RISKS HAVE YOU TAKEN WITH YOUR WRITING THAT HAVE PAID OFF?

Christiane Joy Allison: As far as writing goes, organizing and telling a story from two first person viewpoints, like Infinitus, is very challenging. Having done it, I understand why most books are not written that way. In past tense, a first-person narrator can know more than they did when the events were happening which helps fill in the setting and story. A third-person narrator can fill in a huge amount of information. Also, switching between two first person perspectives can be confusing to a reader without careful organization and cues to whose mind you are in when the point of view changes.

However, there is nothing like first person present tense to help the reader feel like they actually experience what is happening. Since a major goal of mine is to help people experience what it is like to be disabled, rather than merely watching or hearing about it, the struggle to write and organize a story in first person present tense was well worth it.   

Romelia: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU GOOGLED YOURSELF AND WHAT DID YOU FIND?

Christiane Joy Allison: Well, of course I Googled myself in response to this question. I was very excited to see so many links to interviews, book blurbs, and highlights of my writing career.

Romelia: WHAT IS YOUR KRYPTONITE AS A WRITER?

Christiane Joy Allison: Right now, it’s probably crochet. I just learned to crochet in 2020 and it’s SO addictive! I have to keep telling myself to put down the hooks and yarn and write.

Romelia: TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY FROM YOUR ADULT LIFE.

Christiane Joy Allison: So, no kidding – when I was 21 years old, my husband and I locked ourselves out of our apartment dressed as pirates. We had to call a locksmith to let us in with no form of identification, while our neighbors across the hall vouched for us… also dressed as pirates. I wrote a very funny short story about the whole series of events.

Romelia: describe yourself in a few sentences. Tell us something we do not know about you and something you hate about the world.

Christiane Joy Allison: I’m a multi-award-winning author, public speaker, activist, and President of the Alaska Writers Guild. The memorable characters in my cyberpunk series, The Infinitus Saga, include a disabled family inspired by my disability and life-long battle with the chronic illness, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS). Sometimes I walk with a cane, sometimes I ride in a wheelchair, and sometimes I need neither. My disability is as unpredictable as my life.

My husband was wrongfully convicted in 2015, launching my family into a decade-long struggle against injustice, and inspiring my award-winning series of children’s picture books for kids impacted by the adverse childhood experience (ACE) of the incarceration of a loved one. My first book, Where is Uncle? – the first children’s picture book for children experiencing the wrongful conviction of a loved one – won five Honorable Mentions in the 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards. So, the thing I hate the most is wrongful conviction. In fact, most of Infinitus was written while my spouse was wrongfully incarcerated. As an activist, I battle for criminal justice and prison reform, and aspire to give the families of prisoners a voice.

CONTACT DETAILS:

www.InfinitusSaga.com

www.Books2Read.com/Infinitus

AllisonPublishing.AK@gmail.com

(907) 830-3075

Facebook – @ChristianeJoyAllison

Twitter – @cjallison7

Instagram – @ChristianeJoyAllison

LinkedIn – Christiane Joy Allison

Website – www.AllisonPublishing.com

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