Learn more about WriteOut, a writing camp for teens founded by Ally that starts this summer in Cedar City, UT.

questions and answers

Today I’m answering some of your questions from twitter and from comments on this blog. These are some great ones. Thanks to everyone for asking them!

Q: How do you pronounce Cassia’s name?

A: Cash-a. I know. It’s tricky. It’s the name of the cinnamon flower (see pic above) and I chose it because I liked the sound, the classical/unusual feel of it, and the connection to botany.

Q: When is the cover for CROSSED going to be made public?

A: I don’t know. I imagine sometime in March/April, since that’s about when they came up with the final cover for MATCHED, but you KNOW if I get the go-ahead to post it sooner, I will. For the record, I haven’t seen the final cover yet, so I’m not holding out on you.

Q: Besides perseverance and time, what is something that you’ve learned over the years that you could share with us…about writing?

A: Take the time to know your process. How do you work? How do you write? Where are your strengths? Do you like to plot? Do you love voice? Exploit those. Have fun with them. Write to your strengths and then work on your weaknesses. Draft. A lot. Let it be bad. You can fix it later. Take classes. Go to conferences. Don’t be afraid to tear your book apart. Don’t be afraid to write something new. Don’t be afraid to finish something hard. Write for yourself first but choose a few others to listen to later.

Q: Has it been fun having your dream turn to reality, or like all dreams is the reality not what you expected?

A: It has been very fun! Mostly I love everything about it. And now and then I get comments like this on a post of mine (this one came on the eight years writing post): “I teared up when I read this post. I was on a blog the other day and it seemed people were making you out to be a rich lady, who just tried her hand at writing out of boredom.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, I can’t even breathe at how funny that is. (I’m laughing at the blog, not at the lovely commenter, who is very kind and sweet and I very much appreciate her comment.) But the point is, yes, there have been things that have been unexpected. With more attention comes more negative attention. There are people who don’t know me at all who have strong opinions based on…I’m not sure what. But I promise you I did not start writing because I was a bored rich lady. A really poor lady who had little kids and lived in a student apartment/two tiny rooms in a sorority, yes.

Q: Can you tell us where you got the inspiration for MATCHED?

A: Yes! It’s over in the FAQ part of the site.

Q: What is something you learned the hard way before being published? What do you wish you would have done differently that would have made the road to success possibly easier or less time-consuming?

A: This is kind of a hard question because my road has been both long and short. Long, in that it took me seven years to get an agent/a national publication deal. Short, in that my smaller regional publisher did publish other books of mine during that time. So I’m not sure if you mean before I was published at all or before I was published nationally. I’m going to presume published at all. So here’s my answer for that one–I wish I had realized earlier on that I was a writer, not just a writer of one book. I knew that I would always write, but I think I thought that I’d written one book and it might be really hard to write another. And actually, that’s not something I needed to be afraid of at all. I would have taken some of the pressure off myself and told myself–“This book is one book. You can write it, AND you can write other things later. This book will not make or break you.” Does that make sense? I think that would have saved me some angst!

I hope I’ve answered everything coherently. If not, feel free to ask again! And be sure to come back on Thursday. I have an awesome little contest planned in honor of the Breathless Reads Tour, which starts NEXT WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 9th. I can’t wait!




+ comments (14)
  • Emy Shin
    February 1, 2011

    Thank you for answering all these questions, Ally. I’m sorry there have been negative attention — especially coming from people who have their facts wrong.

    I’ve been afraid that one book — or this book — is the only book I can write. That I will use up all my wonderful ideas in one go. But I agree that it’s not something to be afraid of at all.



    • ally
      February 2, 2011

      Thanks, Emy! And don’t worry. For the most part I expected it and was prepared. The rich lady thing did crack me up.

      And keep writing–and do trust that you have more than one story in you. I know, it’s hard to do!



  • Debbie
    February 1, 2011

    Great post. I love learning more about my favorite authors and their writing.

    I may be seriously ignorant here but what/why is the ‘connection to botany’ you mentioned. Is that what you studied in college?



    • ally
      February 2, 2011

      Debbie, I studied English teaching in college. I just liked the botanical connection because of Cassia’s mom’s job. 😉



  • Shari
    February 2, 2011

    It’s so wonderful to hear your responses, especially the ones about writing. Saw you on Good Things Utah. Awesome!



    • ally
      February 2, 2011

      Oh, thanks Shari! 🙂



  • Karen Krueger
    February 2, 2011

    I love your advice about taking time to know your process. I’ve been working on the same book idea for 3 years now and I started to think, “I can’t do this with every book. I have to get faster!” But I think that this 3 years has also been discovering my process as a writer, what works and doesn’t work for me, etc. It’s definitely worth the time and I’m hoping that my next manuscript will be better because I was able to figure it all out this time around.



    • ally
      February 2, 2011

      Karen, i think that is totally true. It definitely took me longer to write my first book than any of the others. I think the discovery of process is so important. Congrats to you on finding yours–and don’t worry about how long it takes!



  • Kathy
    February 2, 2011

    So sad to hear about the negative comments. Some of the stuff on other YA blogs is just mean/personal. I hope it doesn’t get you down. How do you develop thick skin for all of that? Because you totally don’t deserve the nasty comments, and neither does your writing! I really enjoyed Matched (and so did my husband, though he’d probably never admit it!)

    Is it true you’ll be presenting at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference this summer?



  • Laurie
    February 2, 2011

    Thanks for your inspiring posts! I loved Matched and am looking forward to the rest of the series.
    My question is this– how did you begin writing the book? Did you start with what we read as page one, or did you start with a later scene and then go back and fill it in?
    Also, since you are writing a trilogy– did you sit down and plot each book before you wrote the first one?
    Thanks!



  • Jeigh
    February 2, 2011

    I love your last answer. One of my worries is that I will only have one story in me. Why put that pressure on myself, especially so early in the journey? Now I don’t have to, though, because you told me not to fret about it. 🙂



  • warnagirl
    February 2, 2011

    I enjoyed this post Ally. Thank you for answering my question and the other great questions. I am thrilled that you take the time to let us get to know you better. Happy writing!



  • anthony bernier
    February 4, 2011

    How many times have you read Ayn Rand’s Anthem and Atlas Shrugged?



  • Millicent
    February 4, 2012

    Hi Ally! I am absolutely hooked to Matched. I don’t want to put it down! Once I finish reading Crossed, what am I going to do while I wait for the third book?!

    Thank you for writing something amazing that gets me out of my bed every morning!

    Millicent




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