Name: A.L. Marchant
A.L. Marchant consists of two people – Sisters Andrea Katz and Laura Finley.
Andrea is 39 years old, and Laura is 34 years old
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
Andrea: We were raised in Travelers Rest, SC. It’s situated right in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I think, at the time, I didn’t really appreciate it, but now I know it was a wonderful place to grow up. I earned a B.S. Degree in Biology. I’m married to the love of my life and we have two little boys. Like Laura, we moved quite a bit. First, Virginia Beach, then we moved to Carlsbad, NM, and we are now settled into beautiful Aiken, SC.
Laura: I was raised in a beautiful town called Travelers Rest, South Carolina. I married a wonderful military man and travelled with him a bit. We ended up settling back down in South Carolina. We have two children together. As far as education, I have an Associates in elementary education. However, I choose a different path and currently am an Optician. Did we mention that Andrea and I are sisters?
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Andrea & Laura: This past year has been a whirlwind for us. We were assigned to a creative-mind reading cover artist, all of our edits are complete, and Soul Search should be out soon. The latest news for us was the chance to participate in our own panel at Soda City Comic Con, Columbia South Carolina. It was the first time for both us, and way outside of our comfort zone. But we had awesome feedback, promotional opportunities, and proved to ourselves that we can do this.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Andrea & Laura: We are both avid readers – no joke. If given the chance, we could easily read a novel a day. I can’t remember the book or the Author, but a few years ago *cough ten years ago* we called each other talking about the novel. We were so mad at how it the plot was weak and predictable, the female protagonist was whiney, and the male lead was border line abusive. I specifically remember in that phone call conversation we had an awkward silence like ‘What now?’ We both spoke up at once in a ‘let’s do this’ conversation. Honestly, this whole series is a labor of love. We actually wrote the book with adults in mind, originally. Eerily enough, we can to the conclusion that it was not working, and scrapped that idea. Andrea had the idea of taking it back to the beginning, ie the teen years. Laura was surprised, as she was having the same thought. Thus, Soul Search was born.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Laura: For me, it was when we received our initial contract. We finished the original version of Soul Search, and approached agents. We got some amazing feedback, and reworked the story into what it is today. The whole process became real for me was the moment we signed the contract.
Andrea: Maybe, it hit me when I first me when we knew we were done with Soul Search and were ready to send it out to agencies and publishers. I remember telling Laura that it didn’t matter how many no’s we received, as we only needed one yes. Now, I have people already asking for autographed copies, and the book hasn’t been released quite yet.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Laura: I kind of answered that a few questions back. As far as inspirations for the actual book, Andrea and I both write what we know. We are both into to Science Fiction and Fantasy plots. I can’t answer for her, but for me once we had the different worlds defined-the story came together. *Laughing* That is once we listened to exactly where the characters wanted to take us.
Andrea: When we started talking about writing together, I lived in Virginia Beach, and I believe she was either in Rhode Island, or had just returned to SC. Either way, we were quite a distance apart. What struck me as odd was that we seemed to be having similar story ideas, and that the voices (or muses, depending on who you talk to) were very much the same. It was like fate saying, “You have to get this story out, and you have to do it together.” And that was right. We could not do this story without working together.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Laura: It is different when there is two of us. When we first started the characters, we had an interview with each of them. The questions were describing physical attributes, quirks, what ticks you off, what do you like, et cetera. Even though we somewhat scrapped the original Soul Search, our characters stayed true to the original interview questions. What is working for us, is we write chapter for chapter. We typically call each other and work out a plot, but for the most part we write alternate chapters. Andrea and I think crazy alike, so now going back through Soul Search I couldn’t tell you what she or I wrote individually. It’s all one author, AL Marchant.
Andrea: To take Laura’s statement one step further, one of us would write until the “voices” were done with us, then send what we had to the other sister. That sister was always able to pick up where the other left off. Almost like we were hearing the same “voices” at the same time. My husband still gives me the oddest looks, because I’ll stop in the middle of the most mundane task, and just have to tell Laura about this idea I just had. And, 9 times out of 10, she’s probably had the same idea.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Laura: Andrea did that. She is amazingly creative at putting the whole theme of the novel into those two words. She also thought of the second novel title.
Andrea: The title is really a 2 word phrase to sum up not just the theme of book, but what our main character, Reagan Harbin, is going through at the time of the novel. And now I’ almost blushing by what Laura just said. I don’t really know that I had to think hard about the title. It just came out of me one day, and we both were just very much, “Oh my God. That’s it!”
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Laura: For me, the theme that always pops in my head is that you always have a choice for your actions. Our protagonist, Reagan Harbin, is presented by many situations that will ultimately shape who she will become. At the end of the day, it is her choice alone that defines her actions. I hope that by the end of Reagan’s story, even though some will disagree with her choices, they will at least understand why she did what she did to become the person she needs to be.
Andrea: To take this a step further – Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The scientist in me just came out. Anyway, not just Reagan has choices to make. The choices that other made in the past influence choices that Reagan, and others, make.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Laura: Soul Search is in the fantasy genre, so as far as realism goes…it’s not necessarily realistic. However, we did choose the town we grew up and many of the locations in the novel are real. For the fantasy aspect, we chose to stick with many of the local legends of the area as defining points in the novel. Culturally, we felt it important to stay true-as much as a fantasy novel allows-to local myths and legends.
Andrea: If you are asking if any of the characters are based on real people, the answer is yes and no. Some characters we completely made up. Others, we kind of thought of people we knew, but then took it to a twisted extreme. So the original thought of a known person may have been there, but the character is no longer based in reality.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Laura: This is hard. I love reading that much. As far as genre’s, I enjoy Fantasy (all sub-genre’s), Science Fiction, Romance, Alternative History, Mystery…if it catches my eye, I will read it. So, I would say not one particular book has influenced me, but reading as a whole. Growing up there are two books that are will always be my ultimate read: What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson and Ember From the Sun by Mark Canter. Those two books opened my love of reading and I haven’t looked back since.
Andrea: I very much enjoy fantasy and sci-fi. I guess, if I’m choosing influences, I’ll go with my favorite authors – Sherrilyn Kenyon, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kresley Cole, and a few others.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Laura: I don’t necessarily have a favorite author, but I do lately I have been sticking true to the fantasy/urban fantasy themes. A new author that has grasped my attention is Lauren Stewart, Hyde. What stuck with me was the re-envisioning of the concept of Jekyll/Hyde.
Andrea: Hmm…I don’t really think they are new authors, but I’ve recently started enjoying Heather Killough-Walden’s “13 Kings” series. Also, A.G. Howard’s retelling of “Wonderland.”
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Andrea: Wow, hard question. We are close to our family and they’ve very much supported us through everything. Friends outside the family have supported me, but I feel the biggest amount of support has come from family.
Laura: That’s not a fair question because our family is close, so all of our family has been supportive. My husband is the most supportive and the biggest cheerleader for me. I think that still counts as family, but I am sticking to that answer.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Andrea: Oh my, yes. That would be a dream come true. Take for granted that right now, both of us have jobs, and writing is on the side. But, if one day we actually could make a full time career of it, I’d jump all over it.
Laura: I never thought I would love writing as much as I do. So yeah, maybe one day it would be a career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Andrea: We’ve already written Soul Search completely twice. This version of the book is what it was always meant to be, I wouldn’t write it again. The next book in the series is still a work in progress, so it’s still changing as the story continues. But Soul Search is a completed story.
Laura: No, I wouldn’t change anything. I have a feeling that if something would change then we would have to change the whole plot. I am not sure if I am up to writing Soul Search a third time.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Andrea: I don’t know exactly when my interest started. I just remember starting to hear the story in my head. I also remember that it just got louder until I finally wrote it down. I’m just thankful that Laura was having the same ideas at the same time, and we were able to fill-in any holes in the story the other had.
Laura: For me, I have always loved to tell stories and to talk to whoever would listen to me. It was a natural progression to transition what was coming out of my mouth to writing it on paper.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Andrea and Laura: How about this scene from Soul Search, about halfway through a dream sequence:
As I touched the black, it rippled like how water would ripple if you barely skimmed the top. Feeling brave I stuck my hand through and pulled my hand back. It cascaded like the water effect, but my hand was not wet. My heart threatened to pop out of my chest, but feeling a little braver (or stupid depending on your personal opinion), I closed my eyes and stuck my head through the darkness.
Inhaling deeply and not drowning, I opened my eyes. Interestingly enough, on the other side of the black was a long hallway. Since there was nobody in the hallway, I decided to be braver still, and step through. This could be the stupidest thing I have ever done, but it just felt like the right thing to do.
The hallway was narrow and about fifty feet long. In it were thirteen paintings. The paintings were tall rather than wide, and they all were shaped like doorways. Each painting showed distinctly different scenes. One was a beautiful green field with the beginnings of a forest in the background. Behind the forest was house with smoke puffing out of the chimney. One of the paintings was what I have always imagined medieval Europe to look like. Obviously no electricity, and exaggerated buildings in the skyline. It was just dark. I turned around and looked at the painting I stepped out of and realized for the first time that I must be having a wicked dream. That would be the only explanation. What I do know about dreams is that if I realize that I am sleeping, then maybe I can control it, and I can’t be hurt in a dream. Feeling more in control and a whole lot calmer, I take a deeper look at the scene I stepped out of.
The girl was still sitting there threatening Mikey’s life if he doesn’t show soon, and no longer paying attention to the dark energy. For some reason, I think she actually doesn’t see it; therefore, she isn’t moving. Since I feel a lot less threatened, I decide to step back through the painting and see where this dream takes me. When I stepped back through the painting, the girl gasped. I started to say hey again, thinking that maybe she heard me, but stopped myself when two different entities walked through me.
One was dressed professionally in a suit and tie and close cropped hair. He looked like an average banker-type, except that he was missing both his pinkie fingers, and when he turned around, I could see he had a rather long scar across his left cheek. The light of the one candle does not allow me to see any more detail. The other body was covered from head to toe in a dark robe, like what a monk used to wear. Every part of the being was covered. As it walked through me, it turned around as if it had felt me. For the first time since this dream started, I felt a vague sense of danger, and thought that I could actually get hurt.
The guy in the suit said in a gravelly voice like he has smoked one too many cigarettes, “Hey man, why are you stopping. We got to go.”
The being in the cloak leaned toward where I was standing and audibly inhaled a deep breath, as if it were breathing in and enjoying my scent. The girl then decided to show some false bravado and said with an attitude only a child can show, “Where the Hell did y’all come from?” It stopped inhaling and slowly turned its head around. In comparison to how slow it had been moving, it walked relatively swiftly to the girl. It almost looked as if it were floating slightly above the ground.
“I wasna told I was gonna be fed,” the cloaked figure said with a very distinct Olde Irish or possibly Scottish accent. It sounded excited at the prospect.
The other guy moved toward him and put his hand on the cloak of one shoulder, “This isn’t Obyri, man. If you kill, O.A.T. will come after you.” He pronounced O.A.T in three separate drawn out letters. It sounds familiar. What the hell is O.A.T.? I must be craving oats or something in reality.
“O.A.T. will tremble at me feet.” the cloaked figure said on in a less pronounced accent yet still an oddly formal old fashioned phrase. Apparently, he doesn’t get out much.
“Whatever, man. If you insist, don’t leave too much of a mess,” said the guy in the suit. He shrugged his shoulders and started to walk across the bridge toward the road.
The guy in the cloak leaned down and picked the girl up by her throat from her seated position. She started struggling by kicking and clawing at his hands on her throat. Somehow, she sounded oddly quiet as she was gasping for air. He lifted her toward the opening face of his cloak and I couldn’t see what he was doing to her, so I moved closer.
I moved closer because it looked as if the pervert was going to try to kiss her. But when I moved closer to her, there was an iridescent glow leaving her body. His inhale was pretty audible, and he inhaled that glow deeply, quickly, and audibly into his body. Feeling nauseated by this sudden turn in my dream, but still a little curious, I reached out to touch the glow he hadn’t quite yet inhaled. Once again, my hand moved through the glow and her. My hand did; however, touch the being’s cloak. In fact, I could feel the solid, muscular form underneath the cloak.
The cloaked figure never stopped what he was doing. He just kept inhaling the glow from the girl. It probably took less than a minute for the glow to stop, but the cloaked guy kept on inhaling. The girl’s body, obviously dead, started collapse in on itself. Her bone structure became more and more defined to the point of looking like a skeleton. The cloaked figure stopped inhaling, and touched the body’s cheek, and it disintegrated to grey powder-clothes and all. Other than what looked like ash from a fire pit, there was no evidence of the girl.
The figure grabbed my hand that was still resting on his arm. I jumped not expecting to be a player in this dream. “Who are ye?” the voice demanded. Not wanting to end up like the girl I tried to pull away from his grasp.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Andrea and Laura: How far to push the lines in the Young Adult Genre. Soul Search is a YA book. Eventually, this story will cross over into New Adult themes, just for the fact that our main character is going to age with each book. But, right now, it’s figuring out exactly what point a book stops fitting into Young Adult. How far are we allowed to push that boundary before we know we can no longer say this is a Young Adult story, and say it’s an Adult book?
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Andrea and Laura: We’ve both lived all over the country, so you will see other influences outside of South Carolina in future novels. I don’t think we have travel to areas concerning out book, and it helps that we are Fantasy and much of this series may not take place in the here and now. As for us personally traveling for the book, so far, not much. We’ve gone to Columbia, SC for Soda City Comic Con, but that is very far for either of us.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Andrea and Laura: Great question. We are so lucky with who was assigned to us. Amanda Kelsey designed our covers. It’s like she read our minds and came up with the perfect cover art.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Andrea and Laura: This is an easy question, and we both agree – Listening to where the characters want to take the plot. We will start thinking the story is going one way, then our cast of characters take it in the complete opposite direction.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Laura: Another easy question. What I learned is to stop forcing plots. What that means to me, is to relax and get lost in the characters. If I trust that, then the stories will guide itself and more often than not, the store will end somewhere completely different.
Andrea: I mostly agree with Laura here. I learned that if you try to force the story to go where you want it to go, the story will not work. We did that with the first version of Soul Search. That lesson was quickly learned when we had to write the story all over again. I also learned that when the characters start having a conversation in your head, write it down, because they will just get louder until you either write it down or you have a headache,
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
Andrea and Laura: This is hard one. Some of the secondary characters we’ve have picked out. The main character…not so much. We are both natural red heads, as is Reagan. We are both picky about how fake the color of dyed red looks on camera. So, we can’t find a natural red head that would fit Reagan. We are actively looking. Suggestions are both wanted and encouraged.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Andrea: You only need one yes, so don’t worry about all the no’s you will get.
Laura: Don’t stop at the first no.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Laura: When Soul Search comes out we really hope you enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed creating it. Please write reviews.
Andrea: I just really hope that people not only like the story and want to see where it goes in the rest of the series, but that they can also see how much we enjoyed bring Reagan’s world to life.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Andrea: The Demon King by Heather Killough-Walden
Laura: Crane by Stacey Rourke
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Andrea: Our grandmother gave me the first chaptered book I remember reading, and it may be an odd choice for someone in middle school, but I loved it: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
L: The Forbidden Game series, LJ Smith.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Laura: The weirdest things.
Andrea: Kinda depends on my mood at the time. I’ve been told that I can have rather twisted sense of humor.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Laura: Cleopatra. Why? I would love to know the real deal. Why it happened the way it did, why did she make her choices and then, *cough* I would write about it.
Andrea: Either Queen Elizabeth I or Catherine the Great, just to know how it felt to be the most powerful person in their world while still being in a male dominated society.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Laura: She was happy in life. Why? Because I want future generations to know that as long as you are happy then everything else doesn’t matter.
Andrea: She was loved. Because what is life without love?
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Laura: My husband owns a gun store, so I do enjoy shooting from time to time.
Andrea: Reading, hiking, watching my children grow up…
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Laura: I am loyal to Big Bang Theory, but currently my guilty pleasure is Lucifer.
Andrea: I love The Big Bang Theory and Lucifer, as well. I also absolutely love RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Laura: I love food-not particularly picky there. Favorite color is red because there is always so much more to that color. For music, my playlist has everything from classical to metal core. I currently have X Ambassadors Unsteady on repeat. That is a great writing song.
Andrea: I don’t really have a favorite, but I do enjoy baking cakes. My favorite colors are blue and green – they’re both just alive in my eyes. Music – I don’t really have a favorite kind. What listen to depends on my mood at the time.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Andrea: I’m not yet writing full-time, but hopefully one day, that will happen. I’m not the most social person, but I do like to listen to people, so maybe I would do something with that.
Laura: Writing is currently not my full time career. But, outside of writing I like people. So, I would be doing something with the public.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Andrea and Laura: You can find us as www.almarchant.com or you can always find us on Facebook.