It’s October (and my favorite time of year), which means one thing… horror author interviews!
I’ve followed author Ally Malinenko on Twitter for quite some time. Imagine my excitement when I asked to interview her as part of my horror author series and she agreed. Ally writes a number of things, like poetry and middle grade horror.
She’s a force to be reckoned with, so let’s dive in!
Thank you so much for joining me, Ally! What kind of books do you like to write or haven you written?
I started our writing fantasy and science fiction for middle grade and young adult. But last year, after listening to the song Tupelo, by Nick Cave, I had this unshakeable image of a terrible storm crashing into a small town, a mischievous, story-loving, toe headed 11 year old girl named Zee and a devil disguised as a savior. The story grew from there to include three troubled children who create a bond of friendship to save their broken families. The whole thing is an allegory about consent and the masks people wear to hide the pain they’re struggling through. Right now, this is my favorite book that I have written.
Oh! I love that imagery. How spooky. Your book sounds amazing and I can’t wait to read it. Which brings me to my next question. What is your writing process? Playlists, snacks, quiet, something else?
I write weekdays, before work, from 4:45 am – 7:15am. I’ve been doing this for over a decade and let me tell you it hasn’t really gotten easier! But it works for me. Sure I miss the sleep but I’ve gotten a lot of words down. I drink some tea (Earl Grey – I’m a tea snob) and I cue up WQXR, the classical music station, and I attempt to get make something out of nothing in the early morning before the rest of Brooklyn wakes up.
I love your routine! And 4 AM?! Whoa, that is dedication. No wonder I think you’re amazing. What does your editing process look like?
Curling up on the floor and crying? Just kidding. Sort of. Editing is actually easier for me than drafting. It’s very possible I’m only saying this right now because I am currently drafting and therefore curling up on the floor and crying a lot. I think once I have words on the page editing goes pretty well. I do sometimes get stuck, like a broken record writing and re-writing the first three chapters, though. Then I’m all, “Okay Ally time to move on!”
What is one of your proudest achievements as an author?
Honestly seeing your book in print is always amazing but the proudest I’ve ever been has been when a reader contacted me to say that they got it – that they felt the same way I felt about something. Writing is about connection and building that big empathy web so that someone all the way on the other side can say “Yes! I know this feeling. This happened to me too!” and we can all feel a little more understood. I wrote a poetry book after I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 called Better Luck Next Year. People who reached out who had also been through disease or some other body trauma to tell me that they understood it – the anger, the fear, the helplessness – that made me feel less alone. Honestly I think sometimes I write just to feel less alone.
How scary. I think it’s a brave thing you’re doing – using your gift, your words to help others. That’s a wonderful thing you’re doing and also one of the reasons that I write. To feel less alone and to hopefully help others. So, since this is a Halloween author interview after all, tell me, what is the scariest book you’ve read or a favorite book you’ve read this year?
Since we’re talking middle grade, I have to say The Nest by Kenneth Oppel was utterly terrifying. It tackles mental health issue and trust issues in such powerful ways but also with terrifying dream bees. Yes, bees. SO MANY BEES.
I haven’t read it but now I’m going to. Thanks for the recommendation. What is your favorite scary novel or scary movie trope?
I’m a huge Shirley Jackson fan so Haunting of Hill House is one of my favorite and I think the Netflix adaptation, though different, was also so good. A good haunted house is just one of the best horror story tropes. There’s so much you can do – the haunted house as a metaphor for body illness or for mental illness. The haunted house as a place full of secrets and wishes. The house as a metaphor for the ways in which we haunt ourselves.
I love Haunting of Hill House too. Do you believe in ghosts? Werewolves? Vampires?
I don’t believe in werewolves or vampires but I do think that if ghosts are real, its places were the multiverse might overlap, might be worn a little thin. Places where time – which as we all know from Doctor Who doesn’t move in a straight line – bends in on itself. I know people who have seen something and I believe that they believe that they did. I just don’t know what it was. I don’t think it’s a ghost in the most traditional sense – the spirit of a dead one but maybe more just an echo from some aspect of physics we don’t understand yet.
Have you ever had a real-life spooky encounter? If so, tell us about it!
Nope. I always say that I would love to but to be honest I think I would be terrified. I have an over active imagination as it is. I can’t handle having those things proven. That said, one night, when I was living in Pittsburgh – this was shortly after college – and my boyfriend and I were looking up at the night sky, just chatting and we both saw the same four lights zoom together and then zoom out into a box shape and then zoom away and I swear this wasn’t a plane and we promptly went inside before any visitors came to see us!
Whoa! That’s crazy! What an interesting experience. I think that certainly counts. So Ally, all good things must come to an end and we’re close. Look into your crystal ball and see the future! What are you working on next and/or what should your fans look for from you?
So in the middle grade horror realm, I wrote the devil book and then followed that up with a haunted house book (which is also a cancer book) and I’m currently working on a witch book. Since I’m really enjoying writing horror I’m thinking of doing a ghost book. Because let’s be honest: what are ghosts if not wishes? Is there anything that we haunt more than ourselves? I think you could really go to some powerful places with ghosts.
Which Halloween candy is the best candy? Which one should die?
Best: Milky Way – classic, delicious, and oh that caramel
Worst: Snickers – it’s like a Milky Way only there’s no delicious caramel.
Worster: Anything that isn’t chocolate
Worster! I love it. Thank you so much Ally for letting me interview you. I’m thrilled and it’s been nice to hear what you’ve been up to.
About the Author
Ally Malinenko is a novelist and poet. Her most recent poetry chapbook PRINCESS LEIA ON THE BACK DECK BLUES was published by Holy & Intoxicated Press.
More information about her work can be found at allymalinenko.com or at @allymalinenko where she can be found blathering on about smashing the patriarchy, slaying cancer, writing books, and other shenanigans.