Friday, October 9, 2009

Alice Henderson - a frighteningly good writer

Alice Henderson is a horror writer whom I had the pleasure of sharing a book signing with at a local comic book store. We swapped books, Voracious for Awesome Lavratt. I don't usually read horror, but I needed a good escape one weekend when my back was out. I hadn't promised to review it, either, so it wasn't "required reading". I inhaled Voracious in two days. My review—I had to do one since I like it so much—can be found on Mostly Fiction. Maybe I'll have to start reading horror now... at least Alice's. :)

AW: What was your first published fan fic piece?

AH: Fan fiction is actually different from licensed media tie-in fiction, which is what my Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels are. I’ve actually never written any fan fiction. The work I’ve done with licensed universes (like Buffy and Star Wars) were always written after the publisher contacted me and gave me the go ahead to officially write for that franchise. My first piece of media tie-in fiction was my novel Night Terrors, which was set in the Buffy universe. Simon & Schuster wanted to do a series of Buffy books written in the style of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. They created the Stake Your Destiny series, of which Night Terrors was a part. It was a fantastic challenge to write. I had an immense flow chart on my wall that tracked all the possible threads and endings.

AW: You have written some Buffy the Vampire novels, including a choose your own adventure one. Why Buffy?

AH: I wanted to make some solid connections with editors, and I thought writing a tie-in novel might be a good way to break in. I loved the show and was very familiar with the characters and types of plot lines they used. I also have a love of horror and the supernatural. It was a blast to write for Buffy. I had a lot of creative freedom, and was honored to contribute some stories to that universe. I’m very excited to say that my second Buffy novel, Portal Through Time, won a Scribe Award for Best Novel (which is an award given by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers to honor licensed fiction like Star Wars and Star Trek novels, etc.).

AW: How did you land an agent?

AH: I talked to a lot of writers about their agents before I approached any. I found writers to be very willing to discuss how helpful, communicative, etc., their agents were. I’d heard very good things about an agent who represented a fellow Buffy writer. I had an offer from a publisher on my novel Voracious, and I asked this agent if he’d be willing to negotiate the deal. He said yes. Getting an agent can be very difficult, and having an offer in hand is really helpful, as is having a publishing history. By the time I got my agent, my two Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels had already been published. It also helps to go to conferences to meet agents in person, talk to other writers, and get recommendations for other agents to approach.

AW: You were telling me about some of your experiences with "drive-by" signings. Can you share some here? Perhaps best, worst, funniest and most unexpected?

AH: I did a slew of these after the release of my novel Voracious. I’d read that signing your stock at a bookstore is a win/win situation. Your autograph adds value to the book for the bookseller, and it benefits the writer as the books are often faced out on the shelf with an “autographed copy” sticker. But I quickly learned that with drive-by signings, I never knew what I was going to encounter. I’d visit a bookstore, find my books on the shelves, and offer to sign them. I am always very polite, kind, and friendly. In return, I’ve been greeted with kindness, rudeness, enthusiasm and absolutely bewilderment. During a few (my best), the booksellers were very kind and ordered more copies of my book into the store. They also suggested I come back for a regular signing. That’s the best outcome, what I hoped would happen. During the worst experiences, I was forbidden to sign them because the bookseller did not seem to understand I wasn’t a random person off the street wanting to write in a book, but that I was the actual author. Sometimes once the person understood this, I was then given the green light to sign copies. But on a few occasions, this concept was never understood and I had to leave without signing the stock.

AW: Can you give advice to newbies on why and how to foster relationships with booksellers directly?

AH: It’s very important to develop a positive relationship with booksellers. Go talk to them in person. Tell them about your book. If you are local, be sure to tell them that. Be polite and upbeat. If you can win over a bookseller, they are far more likely to hand sell your book, suggesting it to more readers. They will invite you back for author events. When you go into a store to do signings, order pizza for the staff. Give them something (a bookmark, a mug) that you have personalized. Be approachable and kind. Go to bookstores that specialize in your genre and meet the owners and staff. Independently owned specialty bookstores tend to do the most events for writers in specific genres. They are usually avid supporters with an in-depth knowledge of their genre. And when you go in there to talk to them, support them in kind by buying a book.

And here we are getting excellent ideas from Kathy Bottarini at The Comic Book Box in Rohnert Park.

AW: We obviously share a love of shapeshifters. What character sparked that interest for you?

AH: I don’t think it was any specific character that sparked my interest in shapeshifters. I’ve had a love of monsters and the supernatural from the time I was little. I loved tales of werewolves changing at the full moon, and vampires transforming into bats or mist. I wanted to create a character who had the ability to change into whatever he desired, and so I created Stefan for my novel Voracious.

AW: Who are your three most favorite authors and why?

AH: Robert McCammon is a huge favorite of mine. His novels truly immerse me in their worlds. I feel like I’m there, as if I know the characters, as if I could call them up on the phone and invite them out on an adventure. His novel Boy’s Life is simply amazing. Richard Adams is another favorite. Watership Down is rich with folklore, characterization, a whole world created between those pages. Mark Twain has written some of the most hilarious non-fiction I’ve read. His travel accounts and essays frequently make me laugh out loud. If I can add a fourth author, I must say that the writer I spend the most time with is George Gissing, a Victorian novelist who kept a diary that truly does the writer’s struggle justice. He wrote openly about the struggles (“days of blank misery,” as he would say), triumphs, the sheer joy of finishing a novel and the agony of being confounded by a plot. It’s comforting to know that the journey of a writer, though a century separates us, is still universal.

AW: What are you working on now?

AH: I have several projects going on right now, a horror novel, an urban fantasy novel, and a Crichton-esque science thriller. The research for the thriller has completely taken over my desk and floor. I can barely see over the stacks of books and maps. But it’s fascinating, and the discovery process of writing a novel, when one is first figuring out the plot, is one of the most exciting stages of the craft.

Visit Alice at

Photos by Patrick Wilkes

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lovely to see Alice getting well-deserved attention!