Welcome to the middle of June! I know it’s not officially summer yet but I hope you’ve been able to enjoy a little good weather and sunshine already!
Today I have a special guest: Aalia Lanius.
What can I say about Aalia? That she’s an author goes without saying, but she’s a multiple award winner for her fiction. She’s also a podcast producer and host on Unsugarcoated Media, using her platform to advocate for social impact through storytelling. Oh, and she’s a musician, parent, and grandparent! I am honored to have her here and pleased to call her a friend.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
As a child I consumed novels. Through these stories I was able to fuel my imagination and go to places that I wasn’t able to as a child.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
This comes from extensive research, whether through books, internet searches, movies/documentaries and travel, but mostly the ideas come from something that happens to me personally in my own life, causing me to find ways to weave meaningful and purposeful positive messaging within the story I am creating.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
When writing, I find that listening to classical music such as Tchaikovsky, is an absolute must. It helps me get into the mental space of creating the scenes I am penning.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book in the latter part of 2017 and I was 42 years old. To give some context to that time of my life, I gave birth to my fourth child on January 5th, 2017 and released my first novel on February 2nd, 2018.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I love to build community and focus on how I can make the world a better place. As the founder and leader of UNSUGARCOATED Media, a social enterprise and media production company, I am focused on using my platform to create social impact through storytelling.
What does your family think of your writing?
My husband is proud of my work, while my kids are unimpressed.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I have written two books, so far, with two other novels in the works. My favourite is JUGEND, because it was my first truly fiction novel and the fact that it has won several awards lends to my true belief that others see the value of it.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Write something daily, write about your day, the weather, current events. Whatever peaks your interest, just keep writing. Also, read what you write outloud, that helps with editing as well.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I not only hear from my readers, but I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them at different places around the world. They share how much they related to something I wrote and the impact it created for them. It always means so much when they do reach out. I had one woman that wrote to me sharing that she had come to the conclusion, after reading my first novel, which she knew was largely based on my own life, to file for divorce from a physically and emotionally abusive husband. I’ve had people relate to different characters, such as one young woman I met in London, who had also read my first novel.
Do you like to create books for adults?
Yes, as well as young adults. I feel that I can speak to both audiences well.
What do you think makes a good story?
This is a tough one for me because sometimes I think what makes a good story is the way that stories can make everything okay, as if life always works out right in the knick of time, right? That happy ending that makes you so happy to have read. Other times, what makes the story good is the unpredictableness and I would say that as a writer, I tend to try and keep my reader guessing on what is going to happen. I tend to focus on the first line of every chapter as much as the last line, because I want my reader to be so anxious to find out what happens next. It’s that hook that keeps a reader engaged. Ultimately, I think what makes a good story is when you are able to make your reader feel something. It can be empathy, love, sadness, or hope, but a good story is going to make you feel “something” and that is for sure.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
When I was a child I wanted to be an astronaut, attorney, and archeologist, depending on my age when asked. I was fascinated with history and adventure. I’m pretty sure the attorney thing was born out of a passion to advocate for others. I saw myself as willing to speak up for others who couldn’t.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
For my most recent novel, I made a pilgrimage to London in order to capture a first-hand perspective of a place and event I was writing about. I had an experience that brought me to tears while visiting The Prince Royal Albert Hall out of complete appreciation of the way that events were unfolding in a way that gave me so much more of an authentic experience as a storyteller.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
I think that would be the way that there are Vanity Publishers out there trying to take advantage of 1st time authors.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing energizes me. Though, I think this might have to do with the fact that I can only write when inspired to. So, if I have an idea, then I become energized by the anticipation of trying to get down on paper the scene that has formed in my head. I know to work in blocks of time when I write so I can give my best quality.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
A common mental trap aspiring writers get caught up in is imposter syndrome, the idea that they aren’t as good as the other writers out there. In truth, it’s okay to have the thought, especially if you’re a humble person, but you shouldn’t allow those thoughts to prevent you from writing and even attempting to be a writer. In truth, if you are a writer, you know it. Another mental trap is the fear that people will not want to read what they put out. If you give someone a reason to read your book, they will read it. Lastly, I would say another trap aspiring writers fall into is the belief that they aren’t capable of writing and successfully promoting a book that can both generate revenue and touch lives.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
An ego doesn’t hurt a writer, so long as it never becomes bigger than the project. I’ve seen people’s ego destroy all hopes of getting their work to move forward in both publishing and film.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
My writing kryptonite is life, because life does tend to get in the way when I am trying to write. I love living life, as well as working, and it can be a juggling act and a half when I want to meet all of the goals I have set out for myself, yet, inevitably I have delays because things come up. I have kids, a family, an organization to run, and time that I have to carve out for myself. Life, for me, is at times something that causes me to say, “you know what, I have this and that to do, but I also have to care for my well being above all”. So, deadlines can get missed and honestly that is okay, because more than anything, it is important to me that I thoroughly living life on my terms.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I have never considered writing under a pseudonym. I am proud of the books that I put out and love that I am able to represent my multi-cultural heritage.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
My approach is to be original with my writings. I want my readers to go on the journey with me, while experiencing new perspectives for themselves. I am purposeful in presenting to my reader, at times something they may not want, but desperately need, in order to have a more well-rounded perception of the world and the way we exist in it. I feel a sense of accountability with anything I produce, whether it is a book or film, and I hope that my readers will appreciate my desire to both entertain and advocate through these mediums.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I feel like this is a bit of a trick question! Haha! I wouldn’t dare to say if someone could, or could not be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly, but I would admit that I wonder how well the content would land on the audience if they aren’t able to tap into that. Personally, there are certain points of my books that if I go back and read it, I will still cry. Those are often the same places that my readers will cry, and I only know that because they have told me so in messages. I believe that as a writer, it makes me stronger to be able to feel emotions strongly, and I believe that in general, deeply feeling personalities tend to be artists. It’s why we have to write, sing, paint, draw, or create…because we have found a medium that becomes an extension of our emotions.
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?
I want my books to be able to stand on their own. Though I am not opposed to a sequel novel.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self not to second guess yourself. Dive into your writing, people want to read what you have to say. You are always enough, and your life journey is worth sharing.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
My first book changed my process of writing because I wanted to show improvement with the second, which I accomplished. I feel similar pressure to a musician, where I want my follow-up album to be better than the first, though each holds a special place in my heart.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Phoenix because just like the phoenix, I too have had to rise from the ashes, and everytime, I have been more resilient and wiser.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have two half-finished novels that are being worked on now.
Thank you so much for your time! Okay, readers, contact and purchase links are below, and we have a special sample of JUGEND just for you too! (You can also click on any image to purchase JUGEND)