Name Theresa Alan
Where are you from The Northshore suburbs of Chicago originally, but I’ve spent my adult life in Denver, Colorado.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I was a blue-collar kid in a white-collar town. My dad is a firefighter and my mom worked her way up from diner waitress to a pretty big deal in the real estate industry. Living there gave me access to a great education. Because my parents didn’t have a lot of money, they tricked my sister and me into thinking going to the library was the greatest thing ever. And it was—they gave you books, you read the books, you came back and they gave you more books! As a result, my sister is a writer, too. Her first novel will come out sometime this fall. I went to the University of Iowa and majored in English and Journalism, then moved to Colorado and went to the University of Colorado, Boulder, where I got a master’s degree in mass communication research.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m working on a new series of comedic books involving firefighters. I’ve completed a dark women’s fiction book, and I just started a women’s fiction novel that is somewhere in between dark and light.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote my first book at the age of nine. I wrote short stories for a while and began my first novel at the age of 25, which I finished at 30. I got an agent in about two months, made some edits, and she sold Who You Know two weeks later. It was a bestseller.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
From my earliest memory.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I just started writing the kind of book I wanted to read. Something fun that was about my life—work, dating, friendships. When I started, I’d never heard of the term Chick Lit, but my agent told me that’s what I’d written.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I write comedy, but sometimes it deals with darker themes. Because I was an English major, for a while I thought I was a literary writer. I think if you have something funny, it’s instantly considered commercial. I’m not a literary writer, but reading all those literary journals and a wide array of books did help my writing style.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Because my first book was about three friends who work at the same marketing company, I thought of the term about how in business it’s all about who you know, but in life, it’s also about who you know—the friends you make, the people you love.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t believe in happily ever after—you have to work at relationships and yourself and just strive to be as happy as possible as a choice. Comedy comes from pain. If things were perfect all the time, that would be incredibly boring.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My first book had a lot of stuff from my real life. Since then, all of my books have had a little bit from my own life, but required a lot more research since I’m not all that interesting.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
One of my favorite authors is Marian Keyes. She does humor dealing with dark topics incredibly well. For example, her novel Rachel’s Holiday is about a drug addict in rehab. That doesn’t sound hilarious, but I read it on a plane and laughed and cried and made a complete spectacle of myself.
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?
Again, I love Marian Keyes for the reasons I mention above, but some authors I’ve been excited to discover are Catherine McKenzie (not a new author, which is nice because she has a backlist); I love Gwen Florio’s mysteries, especially her latest Reservations because they deal with race, class, and gender—important topics to me; JoJo Moyes because, like Keyes, she can deal with dark topics with humor; Amy Poeppel’s book Small Admissions was a lot of fun, Ann Garvin—also very funny; Kristen Hannah; Virginia Franken’s debut novel Life After Coffee was great. One of my favorite books from last year was nonfiction: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. That was the complete opposite of funny despite the fact that he’s a comedian, but one of the reasons you read books is to learn about worlds that are completely foreign to you, and in that book I really had my eyes opened as to what apartheid in South Africa meant.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Small bookstore owners can be really supportive—in a way that the ginormous booksellers aren’t.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
My last published book—well, I was going through a divorce and my husband deleted my hard drive, and anyway, the version that went to print had a lot of typos. I’m also an editor and have taught college-level English, so that was a nightmare.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’m a voracious reader. I’m pretty sure that’s how it gets us all.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m working on several things, but the series I’m working on stems from my father working as a firefighter. I always thought of him as a hero, and my admiration for firefighters has only grown stronger as I’ve gotten older.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
It’s hard for me to always make things worse for my protagonist. That’s how great plots are made, but my comfort zone is just writing about the funny little things that make up the minutia of day-to-day life.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
My third novel is called The Girls’ Global Guide to Guys, and I traveled through Europe doing research. That was not a hardship! In general, however, I set all my books in the Denver/Boulder area because I know the setting well after living here for 23 years.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher, Kensington.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
My first book was the hardest because I was figuring out how to write a novel. Also, I wrote from three different first person perspectives, and making the voices unique was quite a challenge.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
For me, writing a novel is hard work. I’m boggled when I hear people complain about spending a few bucks on a book. They’d think nothing of spending five bucks on a cup of coffee or eleven bucks at the movies (not including parking and paying the babysitter), but they bitch about supporting the arts. It probably took that writer a year of hard work to produce that book. I’ve heard of a few people that can crank out a novel in three weeks, but for others it can take years and years. For the sake of argument, we’ll say it takes a year of lonely toil.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
I actually think two of my books would make great TV series. I couldn’t care less who the actors were as long as the writing team was spectacular.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read, read, read, write, write, write, and join a critique group. Don’t send anything out to an agent until several people have read it—don’t rush it. Publishing is a slow business. Do the best you can. Otherwise, all you’ll get is heartbreak. Even if you get published, you’ll be reviewed, and people can be astonishingly and unnecessarily cruel through the anonymity of the Internet.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
When things don’t go your way, try to find the humor in it. When things do go your way, be grateful.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading a book by Karin Slaughter. I like comedies, but I also like suspense.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No. But I do remember one of my fondest childhood (well, fifth or sixth grade) memories is lying on my bed reading a Judy Blume book. I devoured them all, so I’m not sure which one I was reading that particular day, but it’s a happy memory of serenity and contentedness.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
It’s a fine line. I think it was Stephen King who said, “Humor is anger with its make-up on.” Meaning we joke about the stuff that pisses us off so we can survive.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Gloria Steinem is a hero of mine. She’s the kind of person I want to be—an activist who manages to not get angry at people.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I want to be cremated after all my useable body parts have been distributed to people who need them.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I love movies and stand-up comedy—I used to go to a lot more live shows since my sister did stand-up. These days with Netflix and cable, I can enjoy them without the two-drink minimum. Also, learning about health and fitness and sometimes actually following the stuff I’ve learned.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I like comedies, but so many are insipid. ER is back on TV and I have an unfortunate addiction to it—unfortunate because I immediately decide I ALSO have the disease that the patient on that episode has. Shameless is a show I love—their terrible decision-making makes me feel like, “Hey, I’ve made bad decisions, but not THAT bad.” Movies—I’m generally an Academy Awards’-caliber snob—quirky, and too often depressing films.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music Food:
I’m a vegetarian, so just about anything that’s not dead. Color: olive green. Music—I still listen to the stuff I listened to in college and grad school—Pearl Jam, the Indigo Girls, Dar Williams.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I really admire EMS workers, but I don’t ever want to have someone’s life in my hands. If I make a typo, it’s embarrassing for me, but nobody died. Also, I write book reviews to support my fellow writers. If I could figure out a way to make a good living doing that, I’d love it, although it’s tough ever giving anything below four stars. I once had a major bestseller get angry with me publicly on Goodreads. I gave her four stars but she was touchy about the reasons I gave for not giving it five stars.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I’d love to grow my Goodreads’ friends. My GR page is: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/115314.Theresa_Alan