Welcome back bookies. Today, we say hello to our beloved and quirky Aileen Erin. For those of you who don’t recognize her off the bat, she is the author of the book, Cipher (The Shadow Ravens series).
Let’s start with a quick bio blurb:
About Aileen Erin
hardcoverlover: Hello, thanks for making some time for this interview! We love hearing from the authors of awesome books. You guys are often the invisible masterpiece writers that we mere mortals can only aspire to be! Just kidding. But seriously, we’d like to get to know you, both as a person and a writer. Let’s start from the beginning. Way back in the beginning…
What do your parents do?
Aileen: My father is an ex-federal judge, who now practices law with my mother.
hardcoverlover: Interesting. That was a very unexpected answer. Do you have any siblings and, if so, how do you get along?
Aileen: I have a lot of siblings, and I love all of them so much. One of my brothers and one of my sisters lives in LA with me. I don’t know what I’d do without them. My other brother and sister live in Texas, and I miss them dearly.
hardcoverlover: How sweet! Do you like your name?
Aileen: Yes. Love it! It’s the Irish form of my mother’s name, which makes it extra special to me.
hardcoverlover: That’s lovely. Speaking of names, how do you name your characters?
Aileen: Characters are actually very hard for me to name. I have a few baby name books to help inspire me, which sometimes helps. I also like to look for character aspects and see if there’s a name that could help describe a character further. I usually end up renaming characters a few times before I find one that fits.
hardcoverlover: Interesting. Names seem to be something that comes easily to me. Do you have a day job?
Aileen: No. I’m very lucky in that I make a good living from my books.
hardcoverlover: Ahh~ Living the dream. Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing on your spare time?
Aileen: I love to read, travel, and spend time with my family. But writing isn’t just my profession, it’s my passion. So, I spend a lot of what should be spare time writing.
hardcoverlover: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Aileen: I used to be more of a night owl, but since having a kiddo, I’m forced to wake up early. It’s painful! But I’ve always gotten the best writing done between 3-7pm. So maybe I’m neither. 😉
hardcoverlover: I can relate. When do you get your writing done?
Aileen: My nanny comes from 12-7pm. So, I have to get all of my writing done between those hours.
hardcoverlover: In addition to having to plan when you’ll write, where do you dream of traveling to and why?
Aileen: I’d love to go back to Peru. It’s such a beautiful country. I’d also love to go back to Ireland with my husband. He was busy working and couldn’t join me, but I think he’d love it. I’d also love to go to South Korea and Japan. I have a love of stationary and washi tape, and I’d love to go shopping there. I think I’d have to bring a second suitcase, though. But I love to travel all over, and I’m looking forward to taking my daughter to see the world.
hardcoverlover: Can I be your daughter? I’ll go with. Just kidding! Have you always liked reading/writing?
Aileen: Yes. I’ve always been a book nerd. I never went anywhere without a book, and now I almost always have my Kindle in my purse.
hardcoverlover: You are describing me and probably most of my bookies too! As a fiction writer, how do you get past the common feeling of “This is awful” when you start to write?
Aileen: The inner editor can be really harsh. Every writer has to deal with that voice in their head from time to time. It doesn’t bother me as much any more. I think that comes with experience. The more you write—taking classes, sharing with people and getting feedback, and eventually finding your voice—the easier it gets. And for me, it’s gotten more fun with every book I write.
hardcoverlover: Guess I just have to give a go too. What was the most difficult scene for you to write?
Aileen: It’s been a long time since I wrote Cipher, but for me—the first chapter of a book in a new series is always the hardest part. Where do you start the story? How much backstory does the reader need? And, depending on the genre, how much world building do you need to include?
hardcoverlover: I always figured that world building would be hard. What is the worst fiction writing advice you’ve heard?
Aileen: I’m not sure I’ve heard bad advice for writing. There sometimes are methods that don’t work for me—for example, I don’t like to do a ton of outlining, but some people like to do a 60 page outline before they “write” the book. If someone told me I had to do that before writing my book, that would be bad advice. But that’s because I’m not an outliner. The key to writing is figuring out what your best method is—outline or not? Storyboard? Writing every day for 1hr or do marathon sessions once a week? Every author is different, and what might be amazing advice for someone else might not work for me.
hardcoverlover: I like to go with the flow. But yes, if I start, I don’t want to stop because it’s so easy to get distracted. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Aileen: With the caveat that every writer is different, I will say know what you want to write. What do you love? What genre do you love? Read a bunch of that. Know what’s out there. What are the genre conventions? What do readers want and expect? Can you give them that and then make it 20% different? What rules do you want to break?
Then write. Finish a draft. Then, find an editor or reader or critique group that you trust. And when they give you notes, take them. Because what you think is on the page, might not be what the reader sees.
Since grad school, I’ve seen that the writers that have succeeded are the ones who were the best editors. Who took notes and then made their work shine. Being open to suggestions and changes is essential.
And once you’ve found your voice and know what you want, then you can start deciding when to take a note and when to ignore it.
hardcoverlover: Okay. I’m jotting this down. Who is your mentor? Who do you look up to?
Aileen: In grad school, I had a few mentors. Karen Williams—who writes mostly children’s books. Lee McClain—who now writes for Harlquin. And Maria V. Snyder—who writes fantasy. They each were so helpful in pushing me to be the writer that I am today. I recently took a master class from Margie Lawson, which was amazing!
I really love Anne Bishop. Her Black Jewels Trilogy is amazing and I love her world building. I also love Terry Goodkind for the same reason. Patricia Briggs is another amazing author. Her Mercy Thompson series is fantastic.
hardcoverlover: My pal and sister is a huge Anne Bishop fan too. Are you currently working on something new? And if so, could you tell us more about it?
Aileen: I’m currently in edits on Off Planet, the first book in a new series.
Maité Martinez has always yearned for more than waitressing in a greasy diner, especially when most people have left the polluted ruins of Earth behind for a better life on other planets. It’s not just working at the diner that’s making life hard for her. Being a half-human, half-alien girl has never been trickier. With the corporate government hunting down the last of her father’s alien Auanare race living on Earth, hiding her growing special abilities has become a full-time job on its own.
Every minute Maité stays on Earth is one minute closer to getting caught. The stress is almost more than she can bear, and when a fancy Space Tech officer gets handsy with her at the diner, she reacts without thinking.
Breaking the officer’s nose wasn’t her smartest move. Now she’s faced with three years forced labor on the volcano planet, Abbadon. With the job she’s slotted for, it may as well have been a death sentence.
It doesn’t take Maité long before she realizes there’s more to the mining on Abbadon than Space Tech has let on. As she makes unlikely allies, Maité uncovers Space Tech’s plot to nuke the Aunare homeworld. The firepower stored in Abbadon’s warehouses is more than enough to do the job ten times over.
As the clock ticks, Maité knows that if she can’t find a way to stop Space Tech, there will be an interstellar war big enough to end all life in the universe. There’s only one question: Can she prevent the total annihilation of humanity without getting herself killed in the process?
hardcoverlover: That definitely piques my interest! Could you tell us a bit about your last release?
Aileen: Being Alpha came out July 17th! It’s the seventh book in the Alpha Girl series. It’s young adult paranormal with werewolves, witches, and magic. Definitely one to check out if you haven’t. The first in the series—Becoming Alpha—was free through the end of July.
hardcoverlover: How many books will there be in the series?
Aileen: For Shadow Ravens? I only wrote Cipher. I had plans to write more, but for now, it’s just the one book. The others in the series follow another character, Quanta, and are written by Lola Dodge.
hardcoverlover: How could you be so cruel? We need more Cipher!
Well, in the meantime, how long has it taken you to write your current book?
Aileen: From start to finish, it takes me about 4 months, give or take a few weeks.
hardcoverlover: What were the challenges in bringing this book to life?
Aileen: For Cipher, it was all the world building. Making sure I set it up in a way that readers could jump in was a pretty difficult task and took a lot of trial and error and rewrites.
hardcoverlover: I can imagine. But you did a great job. Why did you choose the genre you write in?
Aileen: I love the immediacy of YA. I love writing in first person, past. The pacing also suits my voice. I think eventually I might transition to an older protagonist, but for now—this is where I’ve found a happy place.
hardcoverlover: Did you know the title before you started writing?
Aileen: For this one, yes. But for some of my other books, it’s taken a bit to find the right fit.
hardcoverlover: Now, it’s not fair if we just pellet you with inquiries. We have to give you a chance too. If you could ask your readers one question, what would it be?
Aileen: I always ask readers what they’d like to see next in the series at the end of my books. I’m always curious if there’s a side character that they’d like to know more about. I always wanted to write Bruja (in the Alpha Girl series—it follows Tessa’s cousin), but I never would’ve written Shattered Pack (about Tessa’s best friend, Meredith) if readers hadn’t been asking for it.
hardcoverlover: What is it you love most about writing?
Aileen: I love going on adventures with my characters and seeing new places. It’s always fun for me!
hardcoverlover: Living in the pages~ *drools*. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Aileen: Writing the second act is always difficult. They’re long and can get a little tedious or boring you’re not careful.
hardcoverlover: Wait! Then…do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
Aileen: I’m in the middle! I plot a little bit. I use the 40 notecard and beat sheet from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. 10 notecards for Act 1. 20 notecards for Act 2. 10 notecards for Act 3. Each have just a basic plot point to get me started. I let the story flow from that very basic framework, and then right before I hit Act 3, I look back at my notecards and read through the book to make sure everything making sense before diving into Act 3.
hardcoverlover: Do you aim for a set number of words/pages per day?
Aileen: I aim for 2500 words per day when I’m writing my first draft. Then I aim to revise 2 chapters, give or take a chapter, per day during edits.
hardcoverlover: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Aileen: Same as above. Four months, give or take a few weeks.
hardcoverlover: Ah. So it’s an average. Do you proofread/edit all your own books, or do you get someone to do that for you?
Aileen: I have a developmental editor and a few different copy editors! I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting out a book without at least 2 rounds of developmental editing (possibly 3), and thorough copy editing.
hardcoverlover: Some people like to attract more attention with trailer. What do you think of “trailers” for books?
Aileen: I’m so picky about them. On the whole, I think they end up pretty cheesy, but every once in a while I see one that’s amazing.
hardcoverlover: Since we have many aspiring writers among our bookies, we’d like to ask: what was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Aileen: On my MFA at Seton Hill University. I hadn’t taken a writing class until I started grad school, and I learned so much. More recently I took a Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson, and that was the best money spent since I graduated with my MFA.
hardcoverlover: So that is what was most useful. What about the opposite? What is your writing Kryptonite?
Aileen: Social Media. I have to use the Anti-Social app when I’m writing. It’s way too distracting!
hardcoverlover: If I gave you a time machine, what time period and in what place would you travel to?
Aileen: I think we live in a pretty amazing time. Modern medicine has still room to grow, but even looking back 20 or 30 years? The advancements are mind blowing. I think rather than go back in time, I’d love to see what’s going to happen in the next 20 or 30 years.
hardcoverlover: That’s cool. You’re looking ahead and thinking about improvements. But improvements aren’t always easy to come by. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Aileen: I’ve gotten some harsh criticism, but I try to ignore or not read bad reviews. I have to keep in mind that I don’t love every book I read, and my books aren’t for everyone. I write them for the people who enjoy them. I love hearing when a person who doesn’t like to read fell hard for one of my books. That’s the best compliment ever.
hardcoverlover: Again, you are so sweet! But now we want to start our fun trivia about Aileen. Are you a neat person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point?
Aileen: Yes. I make my bed. Otherwise, I might be tempted to get back in it. 😉 I love sleep.
hardcoverlover: You and me both. E-reader or print book?
hardcoverlover: And we were getting along so well until now. *sighs*.
hardcoverlover: That we can agree on. Dogs or cats?
Aileen: Dogs. I’m super, super allergic to cats!
hardcoverlover: Shame. I have some pretty cool cats and dogs. Tea or coffee?
hardcoverlover: Chocolate or vanilla?
Aileen: I love chocolate unless it’s ice cream. Then, I like vanilla. 😉
hardcoverlover: I concur. State a random fact about yourself that would surprise your readers.
Aileen: I made hands-down the best cheesecake. It’s legit amazing.
hardcoverlover: I’ll have to get the recipe from you. I’m on the quest for the best cheesecake recipe. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?
Aileen: I’m not sure! I guess I haven’t thought about it…
hardcoverlover: Is there anything else you would like to say that hasn’t already been said?
Aileen: No, but if you think of something you want to know, ask.
hardcoverlover: I think that’s it for me. Thank you very much. But we invite all bookies to drop their questions in the comments section below. What do you want to ask author Aileen?