Hi there everybody! Today I have a real treat for you. I’m interviewing Alison Solomon the author of two great crime suspense novels, Devoted and Along Came the Rain. I’ve read both and enjoyed them immensely. I’m really looking forward to the May 20th release of her latest novel and the first book in a new series for her, Timing is Everything. It will kick off her Gulfport Mystery Series.
First off, I have an ‘Alison’ story to tell:
Last year I attended my first GCLS Convention in Chicago. I had every intention of arriving plenty early on the opening day of the con but traffic conspired against me. When I finally got there, the opening session was starting.
I signed for our room, and while my wife took our bags upstairs, I rounded the corner into the conference hallway and almost ran into Alison, a membership director for GCLS then. Now, I’d never met her in person before, only ‘spoken’ with her on Facebook. She greeted me by name and gave me a big hug. She told me to wait to register, steered me into the meeting room for the opening and stood with me for the next ten minutes or so, and then steered me right back out to the registration table. It wasn’t the last that time she offered guidance and support that day or for the run of the con. She’s good people and if you ever get the chance to meet her, you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Tell us about Alison Solomon; who is she?
Anne: A weird question to get us started: Are you spring, summer, fall, or winter? Please share why.
Alison: Summer! I love sunshine. I grew up in the UK and had to learn to embrace the rain. At 18, I moved to Israel and have never lived in a cool climate since. I find sunshine energizing, peaceful, and warming. And that’s the kind of person I’d like to be.
Anne: The U.K.? So then, tea or coffee?
Alison: Tea. You can take the girl out of England but you can’t take England out of the girl.
Anne: LOL. I figured! I’m right there with you though. I love tea.
Anne: If you could live anywhere on this planet, and take everything that you love with you, where would you choose to live?
Alison: Right where I am! Gulfport, Florida sits on the Gulf of Mexico, and is small, beautiful, charming and friendly. Our library has the first LGBTQ Resource Center in Florida and was recently awarded a national library award for its innovative LGBTQ programming. I’ve lived in Israel, Mexico and California and while they all had a lot to offer, I truly found my home here. I do wish the rest of my family lived here too, though.
Anne: If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?
Alison: The Australian Barrier Reef. When I was 19 I hitchhiked down to the Sinai peninsula and discovered the barrier reef there. Ever since, whenever I snorkel at a reef, I’m always a little disappointed because nothing lives up to the Sinai. But I believe Australia would.
Anne: Now, I’ve met you and listened to you speak. You sound like you were American born and raised to me, with that mix of accents so many of us that have traveled this country have. So, I have to ask, can you fake any accents?
Alison: I speak multiple languages; English, Spanish, Hebrew and some French and people usually have a hard time trying to figure out where I’m from whichever language I’m using. My UK family think my English sounds completely American. Americans think I sound as if I’m from New England. When I lived in Israel and spoke only Hebrew, a local storekeeper was convinced I was Russian and would speak to me in Russian because he didn’t believe it when I said I wasn’t!
Alison on Reading:
Anne: All fiction writers start out with a love of reading and books first. Tell us about your journey from reader to writer. First, what is your favorite childhood book?
Alison: The Fortunes of Doria by Pamela Grant. It was my mother’s favorite novel and she passed it on to all of us. Written in 1931, it follows a very spirited, independent, young girl who lives with her mother and grandmother and yearns to go to a girl’s boarding school. Doria is strong-willed, adventurous, creative and has a mind of her own.
Anne: I’m sorry to say, I’ve never read it but it sounds wonderful. I’ll have to look for it.
Anne: What literary character is most like you?
Doria, in The Fortunes of Doria
Anne: Ah! I see, now.
Anne: Where did your love of books, storytelling, reading, and writing come from? Your mother?
Alison: Yes. My mother read to us every night before we went to sleep. As a child, every Saturday afternoon I would walk to the local library, take out 3 books and immediately start to devour them. Plus, it’s a family thing. When my father died, he had over 10,000 books in his library. He built one in the garden when he ran out of space in the house!
Anne: Wow! And we all think we have a lot of books!
Anne: Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Alison: Definitely. I keep a journal listing all the books I read, and I find I have cycles. For a while, I just wasn’t interested in reading novels and only read memoir. Then I discovered domestic suspense novels and read a whole bunch of those. And then there are those times when I just don’t feel like reading at all, and I go to my other love, jigsaw puzzles!
Alison on Writing:
Anne: Let’s talk about writing now. Inquiring minds want to know: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I often compare writing to doing a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle. There is nothing more exhilarating than finding the piece you’re looking for and watching how the picture comes together in ways you didn’t expect. On the other hand, all puzzles have a large expanse of something (like sky) and that part can be excruciating to work through!
Anne: Tell us about your new book, Timing is Everything.
Alison: Kat Ayalon will fight tooth and nail to find the driver who smashed into her friend Wynn and then fled. She’ll also do whatever it takes to protect the new love of her life, Gordy, whose only goal is not to get on the wrong side of the law. After all, she’s always been better at taking care of others than herself. But when the worlds of her friend and her lover collide, Kat is faced with the toughest choice of all: How can she help both Wynn and Gordy if supporting one means selling out the other?
Anne: Timing is Everything is available for pre-order from Amazon right now. It will be more widely available at launch on the 20th (Sunday).
Anne: So, since this is the start of a series for you, I have to ask, do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Alison: Great question. If only I’d realized from the beginning that readers want connections and that there might be characters I wanted to pursue. Along Came the Rain is set in a fictional county (Jade) that in my mind was based very much on Pinellas, where I live. The second half of my second novel, Devoted, is set in the town I live in, Gulfport. Finally I got it — Timing Is Everything, is now officially Book One in The Gulfport Mystery Series and includes characters from the first two novels.
Anne: Almost all of my own books are connected and the readers love it. Right readers?! Seriously though; you’re going to find that writing in series works out well for you. And, you can always go back to the other two books and follow up those stories.
Anne: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Alison: It’s not a secret exactly, but in Along Came the Rain, the protagonist, Wynn, struggles with being extremely absent-minded to the point that could indicate dementia. People who don’t know me ask, “What made you think of her as a character?” Friends say, “I saw a lot of you in Wynn!”
Anne: How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your books?
Alison: As well as telling a good story, I like to look at topics that are current and relevant. Timing Is Everything includes the issue of a woman who, though legally in the USA, is terrified of being deported. As a former immigrant myself, I know how insecure you can feel until you actually have your citizenship. Even more so in today’s current climate. In Devoted, I wanted to portray someone who has to struggle to integrate her sexuality and her faith. I grew up orthodox Jewish, so I know this process well. And as mentioned previously, I wrote about someone with memory problems because I know of so many people my age and a bit older who constantly wonder whether what we’re going through is normal, or the beginning of Alzheimer’s.
Anne: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write in more than one, how do you balance them?
Alison: I love reading books that make you question a character’s reality—an unreliable narrator like the heroine of The Girl on the Train who is an alcoholic, the unfaithful husband in Gone Girl. I enjoy writing in a number of genres. Last year I made a book of first chapters and asked my email list subscribers to let me know which one they wanted me to write next. Almost everyone said, “Kissing the Rabbi’s Wife,” which is my memoir. I’m still working on it.
If your readers contact me, I’ll happily send them a link to the book of first chapters.
Anne: Readers, please see the contact links for Alison, below.
Anne: I always ask this question because the answers are always fascinating and, sometimes helpful to me personally with my own books; how do you choose your characters names?
They mostly choose themselves. I have a character in Along Came the Rain named Barker. Readers ask if it’s her first or last name and I tell them I don’t know – it just came to me that that’s who she was. The protagonist of Devoted was called Erica/Rikki almost until publication when I realized she was actually Ashley/Ash. I seem to have a penchant for names that begin with K. When I got to Timing Is Everything and wanted to use characters from previous books I discovered Kat and Kallie would be in numerous scenes together, so Kallie had to decide to change her name! Luckily she’s an adopted teenager so it was a reasonable thing to do.
Anne: LOL…I’ve so been there, what with writing in series!
That’s all we have time for today. Please check out Timing is Everything on Amazon. The links to contact and connect with Alison are below.