Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Alanna McFall and I am 29 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I am originally from Savage, Minnesota, but am currently in the Bay Area in California.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I grew up with my mom, dad and younger brother Devron outside of the Twin Cities. I attended Smith College in Massachusetts, a women’s college where I majored in Theater and met my best friend that I am still roommates with. After graduating I bounced around for a few years, living in New York City for two years, before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2015.
I work at Kinetic Arts Center, a circus theater in Oakland. I am engaged to writer and podcast creator Andrea Klassen, which is a great dynamic in terms of being each other’s beta readers.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My debut novel, The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus was published in June 2019 with Atthis Arts. Fans can purchase it online or request a copy from their local bookstore.
“Chelsea is determined to make it to her brother’s wedding. And she’s not going to let the fact that she’s been dead for two years stop her.
Joining with her mime friend from a New York City park and her ghostly mentor with forty years of afterlife under her belt, the three women set out on foot for San Francisco. Along the way, they are faced with joy, sorrow, and the haunting surprises of the open road. This humorous and lightly macabre journey explores relationships, personal burdens, and what it means to keep moving, even when your heartbeat has stopped.”
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember, mostly making up stories to go with my make-believe games around the house as a child. Telling stories, making characters and sharing my imagination with those around me has always been important to me, and somewhere along the line I realized that writing those stories down helped me save them.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have always thought of myself as a writer in some form or another, but I first knew that I wanted to pursue writing professionally when I was in college. Up through my sophomore year, I had focused on the acting side of my theater degree, with an aim towards performing.
But a crisis of confidence when it came to my acting ended up being a blessing in disguise; as I was getting discouraged about my acting potential, I was finding a lot more life and passion in my writing. I switched to a Playwriting Concentration within my Theater Major and started working on scripts and short stories. I sold the first of my short stories shortly after graduation, and have been on that path ever since.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
It is always a bit embarrassing to say, but the impetus behind Triple-C was a random prompt generator. I was doing some writing exercises to prepare for 2014’s National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo) and stumbled across a prompt that included ghosts and road trips. I had already been considering writing a story about a mime, so the two ideas blended in my head and I wrote the novel’s first draft in one shot in November 2014.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The original idea behind The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus as a title was that it was something you could imagine a ringmaster declaiming loudly to a crowd. The group is “traveling” because they are walking from New York to San Francisco; “triple-c” because the three main characters (Chelsea, Cyndricka and Carmen) all have names that start with the letter “c”; “incorporeal” because two of the three are ghosts; and “circus” because the human member of the group is a mime who puts on small street performances for money over the course of their journey.
At times while marketing the novel, I’ve wondered if I should have chosen a shorter title, but ultimately I am happy with the tone and off-beat expectations that the title leaves a reader with.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Myprosetends towards casual and comfortable, good for writing scenes with characters talking and building relationships with one another. In the past I have had difficulty with action scenes or great deals of exposition, but I feel like I’ve developed a comfortable enough hand on it by now.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
While I believe in some sort of spiritual afterlife, I do not believe in ghosts, so the majority of the work is highly fictional. But I have lived in both New York and (near) San Francisco, the start and end-points of the road trip, so those experiences have definitely influenced how I portray those locations.
On a more metaphorical level, a great deal of my own internal experiences with mental health are reflected in the character of Chelsea and the logistics of the ghostly afterlife. At the time I was writing the first draft of this novel, I was dealing with a great deal of anxiety and depression, and the afterlife in the story became a liminal space where those emotions could have tangible impacts on your existence. Ghosts that become too immersed in grief are at risk of becoming something called a “wailer”, while spirits consumed by anger can become the monstrous “poltergeists”.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
While I travel a great deal (my fiancee and I are in a long distance relationship), it has never been particularly vital to my writing process. Unfortunately I have not traced the character’s road trip myself!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover is an original piece by Estée Chan, a wonderful artist based out of London, UK. I first became familiar with her work through the phone app game Zombies, Run!, which she did the original artwork and graphics for, and asked Atthis Arts if they could reach out to her. The rest is fortunately history! You can check out her work at https://esteechan.com/, and I would highly recommend it. I have always loved how evocative her silhouettes are.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That you can find moments of joy in the darkest of drudgery and grief. Additionally, that the performing arts can add so much color and magic to the lives of both performers and audiences.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
She’s not exactly new, but Naomi Alderman is an author whose work I have very much enjoyed this year, especially her novel Disobedience. (She is also the head writer of Zombies, Run!, the same game where I became familiar with Estée Chan’s work.)
In terms of all-time favorites, I feel like Tamora Pierce will always have a special place in my heart. Not only did I real the Song of the Lioness quartet as a child (drawn in by a lead character with my same name), but I became enamored with how well she blends heightened and fantastical realities with realistic and deep character dynamics.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My playwriting professor from Smith College, Andrea Hairston, was a great inspiration and support to me. I was fortunate enough to be able to contact her when the book was ready to be published, and she provided one of my promotional quotes:
“In The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus, Alanna McFall creates a marvelous, surprising ghost story that celebrates the power of theatre to lift spirits and save lives. A delightful company of living and dead performers journey across a haunted house America, facing audiences that would just as soon rip them to shreds as enjoy their shows. Through all their high drama, spooky encounters, and close calls, the Incorporeal Circus struggle with love and loss and forge deep friendships. McFall’s first novel is an exquisite meditation on embracing the past and letting it go. This book will haunt you!”
—Andrea Hairston, Award-winning author of Will Do Magic For Small Change and Redwood and Wildfire
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. That has been one of the bigger changes in my life in the last year or so. While I have a full-time job as the Administrative Manager at Kinetic Arts Center, between the publication of Triple-C and receiving a position as a Resident Playwright with the PlayGroundtheater in San Francisco, a great deal more of my time has been dedicated to working on professional projects, with expectations and deadlines. While there have been some drawbacks to not writing willy nilly this past year, this has been a wonderful experience and growth of my life as a professional author.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would confer with more people in the minorities that my characters are part of. The human character, Cyndricka, is mute and communicates using American Sign Language, and I wish I had put more time into learning about what life as a mute person truly entails. I believe I did a respectful job of portraying Cyndricka’s life, but there is always more for me to learn.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
More than anything, I learned that I can write a novel. Triple-C has been my longest project to date by a large margin, and learning how to build a narrative arc over an entire novel was a huge challenge and learning experience for me.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Ooh, I don’t think I actually have any good recommendations for that, I am terrible at remembering actors’ names!
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Be dedicated to your work and your stories, but prioritize your own health and wellness first. Your stories cannot flourish if you are not taking care of yourself.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Believe in the power of joy and of spreading joy to others.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
So my roommate and I have a yearly “Reading Resolution” list that we challenge ourselves to, trying to read books from a number of different categories. I am currently working on “A book you are intimidated by”, which is why I’m 300 pages into Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I think the earliest book I can recall reading is But No Elephants by Jerry Smath.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I have a very silly sense of humor, so internet memes often make me laugh from the sheer absurdity. As for what makes me cry, I have a huge weak-spot for characters drifting apart from one another over time.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
While I have met her very briefly at a convention, I would love to meet Allison Bechdel. Fun Home is one of my favorite books of all time and I think picking her brain about the dynamics of the queer female community over time would be fascinating.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I crochet, cross-stitch and bake. Those, combined with my love of stamps and stationary, makes me very much a little old lady. I also have learned how to juggle over the last two years.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I am a sucker for baking shows. My fiancee and I desperately need to catch up on The Great Canadian Baking Show.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I love bread in almost all forms. My favoritecolor is dark green. My favorite band is The Mountain Goats.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Ideally, act. Writing and acting have always been twin loves in my life, so I hope I would be able to focus on the other if one gave out.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Trying to get my fiancee, my best friend, my brother and my parents in the same room so we could play board games.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“A Good Bro”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My website is https://alannamcfall.com/
My Amazon author page is https://www.amazon.com/Alanna-McFall/e/B07SQF494C%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
The main page for Triple-C is here: https://www.atthisarts.com/dd-product/the-traveling-triple-c-incorporeal-circus/