Friday, March 22, 2013

Guest Post: Author Alison Bruce

How/why did you start to write?

I was born into a storytelling family. I could visualize the tales my mother told me about World War II so vividly, I had nightmares about being bombed. When I was about eleven or twelve years old, I wrote a story about the apocalypse that scared my teacher. I was hooked.

How did you become an author?

I decided that was going to be an author when I was eighteen years old. That’s when I sent my first story off to a professional publication. After a handful of rejections, I decided I wasn’t good enough, so I gave up. Gave up trying to get published, not writing.

Twenty years later, I was still writing, and still entertaining family and friends. I was also a freelance copy writer and editor. My success writing and editing for clients gave me the confidence to put my fiction out there again. Before I had the time but not the courage; now I had the courage but not the time.

When I was taking care of my terminally ill sister, she insisted that I write the novel I had been telling her as a story. She arranged respite and babysitting for me so I could have a couple of hours every day. When someone gives you that kind of gift, you don’t throw it away.

What was your first published piece?

I had a couple of pieces of poetry published in Scarborough College’s literary anthology - which was cool since I never went to Scarborough College. That was my earliest publication.

My first published short story was in Women’s Work 2000 - a day planner with stories that I edited for a publisher I partly owned.

My first novel was published in 2011 by Imajin Books. I was applying for a editing job when I found out they had a call for new authors. The day after I sent my ms, I got an email telling me that I wouldn’t be getting the editing job because Imajin wanted me as an author instead.

After thirty years, I was an author overnight.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

What have I done? What haven’t I done? I guess the answer to both questions is “plenty”.

I did a double major in history and philosophy at University of Guelph - but first I did a year at Ryerson, was in Katimavik, hitchhiked halfway across Canada and worked at a variety of jobs. After university I worked as a lab tech for an optical company and then managed a comic book store for a few years. It was with the comic book store that I started writing marketing copy and designing display ads. Then, between jobs, my cousin asked what I was writing. I responded: “What do you want written?”

Later, in addition to writing, editing and layout, I went into partnership with my sister and an artist friend to create Women’s Work - which we published for five years - until my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Everything I’ve done, every story I’ve told, every project I’ve researched, every step I’ve taken is grist for the mill. Being a professional writer has hardened my shell and enabled me to work well with my editors. Having been a publisher - albeit micro-publisher - I also have a good understanding of the business end of books and marketing.

What inspires you?

Six months before she died, my sister was working on designing promotional materials for the Guelph Jazz Festival and editing the first draft of my fantasy novel. She did this flat on her back with her desktop computer set up on a rolling microwave tray.

That memory inspires me.

The way that Terry Pratchett writes, so that I can read his books multiple times and still laugh, cry and find something new, is my model for writing. The fact that he continues to write while under the Damocles sword of Alzheimer’s Disease reminds me to keep going.

Most of all, my children inspire me. If I keep doing what is important to me, no matter how challenging it gets, they’ll be more likely to pursue their own dreams.