Alyssa grew up in Central Queensland, Australia, the youngest of five children.
After school, she studied Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Queensland. During her days as a student, and also upon graduation, she moon-lighted in restaurants as a professional pianist.
Her first Speech Pathology job took her to the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. Then, the lure of travelling the world called, and she left her profession for 18 months to become an international flight attendant for Qantas Airways. The excitement of travelling to exotic locations on different continents was fabulous and one she enjoyed…until she met her soul mate! Romance became the priority over travelling. Given that most of the time Alyssa was on one side of the world and her husband, an international pilot, was on the other, it was time to go back to Speech Pathology, the other profession she loves!
Now, still very happily married and three wonderful children later, Alyssa has obtained a Masters Degree in Science and continues to work in her busy private Speech Pathology practice. An avid reader of romance since her late teens, she began writing romances in the evenings when the birth of her twins kept her at home as a full-time mother.
Apart from her writing and work, Alyssa’s favourite pastimes include cheering her very sporty children on from the sidelines, travelling with the family, reading, entertaining, gardening and playing tennis. She and her family live south of Sydney on a five acre property that they share with a dog, three horses, seven goats, numerous chickens and visits from deer, wallabies, echidnas and beautiful native birds.
Now, on with the interview...
ME: Let's start with a few personal questions. What is your favorite childhood book?
ALYSSA: Anne of Green Gables.
ME: What is the first book that made you cry?
ME: Is writing your primary ‘job’ or do you have another source of income?
ALYSSA: I’m a Speech Pathologist working in my own private practice.
ME: Do people around you know you write romantic/erotica and what do they think about it?
ALYSSA: I keep my professional speech pathology role separate from my writing, so I would say that most of my clients aren’t aware of my writing hat. My friends and family know I write romance books and are very supportive. My 88 year old mother and my two elder sisters are my biggest fans!
ME: Do you believe in writer’s block? If not, why not? And if so, what suggestions do you have to start the juices flowing again?
ALYSSA: I’m not sure I’ve ever had ‘writer’s block’, but there are times when I’ve tried to write a character into the story and it just doesn’t work. The Formidable King, which is my December 12th release for Escape Publishing was a case where I had the heroine all mapped out – a fun, alternate woman who was a bit disorganised but very creative. She was going to be the perfect foil for the very formal, very responsible King of Santaliana who would loosen him up and bring out some fun in his personality. However, every time I tried to write Matilda into the story, it just wasn’t happening. Another character, India, intruded and insisted on telling me her life story. Keen to get on with The Formidable King for my managing editor, Kate Cuthbert, I promised India I’d writer her a HEA of her own next. However, it wasn’t meant to be. India kept nagging me and I simply couldn’t write until I accepted that she was the heroine for the king, and he was perfect as her hero!
I do recall Sylvia Day saying that she had writer’s block and the only way she could get her creativity flowing again was to read, read, read!
ME: Alright then, let's talk about your writing process for a bit. Are you a plotter or fly by the seat of your pants writer?
ALYSSA: I used to be a plotter but now I sit down at a story and have a rough idea what I’m going to write and generally a good understanding of my characters. The rest usually just happens.
Having said that, when I was writing “Knight of Her Heart” (under the pen name Alyssa James, which I use for my medieval romances), I was a plotter. I’d written the love scene chapter the previous day, and returned to my computer the following day to get on with the storyline. Nope. The characters wanted more steamy sex. There was nothing I could do but go with it. So, I ‘told’ them they had to have a really good session but they’re hot, insatiable chemistry meant that I had to change the chapters I’d plotted and throw in the ‘dark moment’ earlier so that they wouldn’t just keep ending up having mad, passionate sex for the rest of the book. I had to force them apart earlier than I’d planned. It might’ve been after that experience that I became less of a plotter!
ME: What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
ALYSSA: The medieval stories I write as Alyssa James definitely need a lot of research into the political events of the time and everything right down to the dress, food, class systems etc. That can take six weeks, but it also helps me sometimes with plot lines. I am fortunate that I’ve had my medieval romances reviewed by the UK Historical Novel Society and the reviewer loved my work to the point that she has now become my beta reader and will correct any little mistakes that might have crept in to the work (eg. King Henry V should be called Your Grace, not Your Majesty!)
The contemporary novels I research facts as I go eg. how someone could possibly remain anonymous as the head of a multibillion dollar company, research into diseases or into international law.
ME: Would you rather write standalones, standalones with connections to your other works, or multi book series with no true conclusion until the very end?
ALYSSA: Because I love reading romances where each couple have their HEA as a standalone read, but then appear again in other stories, that’s what I’m tending to write now. The Royal Affairs collection is a series of four stories I wrote for Escape Publishing. Khalid and Sabrina from “The Defiant Princess” re-appear in their friends’ stories “The Irredeemable Prince”, “The Formidable King” (due for release 12/12/2017) and “The Irresistible Royal” (release date TBA).
ME: Where do your story ideas come from?
ALYSSA: The ideas originate from all sorts of different experiences.
My first medieval novel “Knight of Her Heart” grew from one scene. At the time I was writing contemporary romance but I knew that what I envisaged in this scene – which was pivotal to the whole conflict between the characters — could never work in contemporary romance. I’d always had a love of things medieval, so this scene pushed me into this genre.
From that one scene the novel grew. In the second medieval romance “Knight of Her Dreams”, the research I did on the era and the varying opinions of King Henry V’s tactics in France led to my storyline...A French heroine who despises Henry for the carnage he’s wrought during his ‘invasion’ of France, and an English knight (hero) who has sworn loyalty to Henry. Instant grounds for conflict, despite the attraction between the hero and heroine.
“The Defiant Princess” stemmed from a trip I had to Dubai, then my managing editor, Kate Cuthbert asked me to follow that story up with a royal series. In “The Irredeemable Prince”, I decided the heroine was going to be an Image Consultant and the story ideas flowed from there. Ideas in “The Formidable King” were incorporated into the story after the conversations I had with my daughter regarding her Legal Studies subject, and “The Irresistible Royal” grew from the character who formed in my mind (the heroine’s mother) after I’d watched the “Absolutely Fabulous” movie. (Although the heroine’s mother was a very nasty, scheming woman, when she spoke she definitely had Patsy’s voice!)
ME: Do you ever base your characters, events or locations on real people, events or places?
ALYSSA: The medieval romances I write as Alyssa James mention or portray King Henry V, the Duke of Burgundy, and a couple of other historical people in different scenes. They were real people and the events of the time such as various battles, plots or peripheral people are based on reality. The main characters, however, have always been purely fictitious – both in the medieval romances, and also in my contemporary romances.
ME: Is there a character in one of your books loosely based on yourself?
ALYSSA: No. I am, however, a strong resilient woman and I’d like to think my female characters are quite capable of standing up for themselves.
ME:What process do you use for selecting the names of your characters?
ALYSSA: Sometimes I use a name book but basically I just use names I like for my hero and heroine.
ME: Who has been your most difficult character to write so far?
ALYSSA: I don’t remember having difficulty with any of the characters except for Matilda, who I tried to write as the heroine for “The Formidable King” and who simply wouldn’t materialise!
ME: Have you ever killed off someone who pissed you off in one of your books?
ALYSSA: I’ve killed off some evil people in the medieval romances, but they were always destined to get their gruesome ends—they weren’t killed because they annoyed me.
ME: What was your hardest scene to write?
ALYSSA: The love scenes are always tricky—trying to word events in a different way so they don’t come across as clichéd.
ME: Does writing energise or exhaust you and why?
ALYSSA: Totally energises me. Writing is so satisfying and I just love seeing the characters come alive and overcome all obstacles put in their way. Rewarding, energising...absolutely the best occupation ever!
ME: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal, and why?
ALYSSA: I’m not sure about an animal. I was told by a psychic once that I have a spirit guide. The really amazing thing is that I knew what she was going to say before she said it. When I first started writing I sensed an Incan presence. Right, now you’re going to think I’m a total weirdo, but there you have it! According to my own suspicions and to the psychic (years later) I have an Incan spirit guide!
ME: Time for some advice for the budding novelists out there. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
ALYSSA: Don’t be in a hurry to be published. Write the story then put it in the filing cabinet for twelve months, dig it out and have a fresh look at it and see what you really think!
ME: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
ALYSSA: Gosh, there are so many. How about I share the best advice I was ever given instead? Melanie Milburne once told me “The Delete button can be your friend”! And numerous people have cited Nora Roberts’ famous line, “You can’t fix a blank page”. Definitely two pieces of advice that are ‘gold’.
ME:What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
ALYSSA: Membership of the Romance Writers’ Association of Australia (RWA). If you’re an aspiring romance writer and you’re not a member, do yourself a HUGE favour and join. The benefits are fabulous and I’m sure that what I’ve learned through my membership of this association and the mentoring and encouragement I’ve received from other members has been the difference to me from being a writer to being a published author.
Thanks so much for your time, Alyssa. Keep up the great work and we'll see you in September 2018!