Remember that book that I reviewed not too long ago, the one that I gave 5/5 stars to? Well, I kind of developed an ‘author crush’ on her. I messaged her on good ol’ Facebook, not actually believing that she would respond.
But she did!
And my crush has now grown even stronger.
Alison Umminger, author of American Girls (My Favorite Manson Girl in the U.K.), was born in Virginia and the fourth woman to be elected president of The Harvard Lampoon. Now, she works as an associate professor at the University of West Georgia.
American Girls, published in June 2016, is Umminger’s first novel. This shocked me because if her first novel is this great, then I can’t wait to read her next works.
My first question was if Umminger had any weird quirks or habits when writing this novel.
“I think my weird quirk or habit when writing used to be that I had a stack of nutter-butters on hand during the drafting process, but that’s something I do less and less of late.
“I used to be a perfectionist on the first draft, and now I’m a tireless drafter. I used to want quiet and calm when I wrote, and now I write however and whenever I can catch 15 minutes. I think it’s good to remember that process evolves, and that you can get a lot done writing in 30 minute chunks on a somewhat regular basis.”
Next I asked how long it took to finish her first draft of American Girls, knowing that getting started is often the hardest part of writing a novel.
“AMERICAN GIRLS took me *forever* to start — I knew Anna and her voice, and that she had issues with her parents, and that she went to LA — but aside from that, I went down just about every wrong path with her before I came to what is now the start of AG. I *knew* all of those false starts weren’t working, but evidently I had to go through a bunch of them before I got to where the novel clicked. That probably took 2-3 years. Then the actual first draft was done in 6 months — so sllooooooow, and then fast.”
Then she so kindly gave me a few hints about her next novel!
“With the novel I’m working on now, the same thing has happened, about 2 years figuring out the story, character, and ideas that I want to play with, and I am *hoping* that I finally have those so that I can finish a good draft by December.”
Another difficult aspect for writers is staying determined. I asked her how she persevered when writing her novel.
“I have encountered plenty of frustrations as a writer — a novel for adults that I really loved that was rejected by dozens of publishers as having no real market, in spite of having some editorial advocates along the way. I wish that I had not taken that rejection so personally, and just kept writing, but I think we all have to find our own way and respect the journey and process of becoming a writer — which involves a lot of rejection. Now, I know that the real joy in writing is the writing of the book itself. Publishing is amazing, but basically out of your control in many respects. I try to be as encouraging as I can to the writers I meet, and I’m constantly grateful for the wonderful publishing experience I had with AG — It turns out that being a late bloomer is pretty great!”
Her parting words of advice for new writers were “it can be a long, crazy slog so try to find the fun and joy along the way,” and even included a little smiley emoji.
See what I mean about the author crush? To see how awesome she is for yourself, here is her Facebook page. To give her some literary love, this is where you can buy her first novel (only $10 for a hardback!).