Author of Eaten, Void, Cradles the Brain, & Rejects
I started my blog as a way to find community with other writers, inspire those who are working toward becoming full-fledged authors, and learn and share useful writing tools. I’m turning fifty in August, and for years, have worried it was too late to write a book, as if we are given an expiration date.
But I found Alyanna Poe on Twitter, and was so impressed with her body of work, especially at such a young age, that I had to talk with her. What I learned from the interview, is that, while some writers start later in life, others as teens, for people like Poe, writing is in their blood. It’s going to come out in one form or another at some point in their lives.
A distant cousin to Edgar Allan Poe, this writer completed her first book as a teenager, and has been writing ever since. She’s authored four books, and is well into a fifth. After trying her hand at YA romance, Poe decided to go back to what felt right for her: horror. She says that by expressing herself through this medium, she is able to deal with past traumas, mental health issues, and address things like politics, social issues, and various aspects of the human condition. What I learned from Poe, is that to get the best results, we must write what’s true to us as individuals, not what we think is going to sell books.
Poe has a comprehensive website with a great blog that includes categories with author interviews, writing tips, book reviews, and new release alerts. While most author websites are a big self-promotion party, Poe is quick to help fellow authors spread the word about their work and help readers with book recommendations.
I hope you enjoy this enlightening interview as much as I did. It was nice to learn of Poe’s family’s sweet moment together when Amazon delivered her first author copy of the book, and they read the inscription together. It was also interesting to hear why Poe listens to chaotic music while she writes, and what she has to say about negative reviews. You’ll love her reaction!
L.A. Can you introduce yourself to my subscribers? I’m sure they’d like to know where you’re from, how long you’ve been writing, and what you enjoy doing in your free time!
A.P. Hello, I’m Alyanna Poe, an indie, horror author from Northern California. I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, but I began my first novel when I was fourteen and self published it when I was eighteen. Now at twenty-one years old I have four self-published horror books and a few manuscripts I’m sitting on. Many assume my last name is a pseudonym, but I’m actually a born Poe with relations to Edgar Allan Poe. We are first cousins six times removed, meaning if I had been born in the 1800s we would have been first cousins *wink* *wink*. I enjoy listening to music and playing with my dogs in my free time. I’m not very extroverted, so you won’t find me out partying, but I do enjoy having time to stare at the sky when I’m not writing.
L.A. Did you have a career before writing? If so, what was it, and at what point did you transition over to writing full-time?
A.P. Due to my age, you probably wouldn’t think so, but I did. I was a sheriff’s cadet at sixteen years old and never expected to be a writer full time. I wanted to work in forensic science, possibly getting to detective over time. Right before I entered the cadet program, I was very sick and diagnosed with Graves’ disease. This causes fatigue, sensitivity to heat, and a host of other symptoms that made it difficult to work as an officer. Worst part was, I couldn’t tell anyone in fear they would boot me from the program. I worked with animal control often, chasing dogs on the freeway and entering abandoned homes, and with my health complications and the dangers they were putting me in as a kid, my parents decided to pull me from the program. I didn’t feel like I belonged there anyway. The other cadets didn’t accept me and I didn’t learn much there except how to make dab oil (it’s a marijuana thing). I felt that my time there wasn’t being used right. When I left the program, I was still in the middle of writing my book, so I pursued writing as a career. My interest in forensics is still present, especially in my latest piece. “Adam’s Murder” will be published by me as well as read by me on my upcoming podcast Indicted Fiction. Each season will be a new book, and Adam’s Murder is the only piece I’ve written that could be considered a crime thriller or mystery. It’s written in first person as an audio diary from a girl who’s brother was murdered. I really look forward to sharing this book, especially providing it for free, as it helped me work through the loss of a family member. I hope it’s truthful and emotional enough to help others work through their grief.
My mom told me I should try to find a way to express myself, and apparently, that was through the most violent, gory piece I’ve ever written.~Alyanna Poe
L.A. How many books have you published so far? Also, how old were you when you wrote the first book?
A.P Four so far. I’m sitting on a manuscript I plan on traditionally publishing as well as the manuscript for Adam’s Murder. EATEN is my first novel, and I began writing it at fourteen because I had anger issues. My mom told me I should try to find a way to express myself, and apparently, that was through the most violent, gory piece I’ve ever written. I tried to traditionally publish EATEN, but a lot of agents feel that zombies are worn out. It’s too bad because my readers have told me it’s a very unique twist on zombies as there’s a central mind-controlling the whole hoard, not to mention they’re fast with superhuman strength. I wrote the sequel shortly after publishing EATEN. And my last two books are actually one author anthologies. I publish one every year on my birthday now, each having the amount of stories to match my age. Next year’s will be twenty-two! So wish me luck on that one. I have a sci-fi that is like a page away from being done, but it’s so complicated and special to me that I needed to step away and clear my head. In total, that racks up to five complete manuscripts and two short story collections, as well as short stories published here and there.
L.A. Have you ever written a manuscript that didn’t translate into a finished novel?
A.P. The sci-fi isn’t done, but it’s about 60k words right now. I’d like to make it a trilogy, but there’s nothing wrong with stepping away from something. It involves politics, religion, revolutions, cults, serial killers, and aliens, plus religion, politics, and revolutions from a new planet. I wanted time to mature and get an understanding for this world before I write a new world of its own. The piece I plan on traditionally publishing, currently named “Home”, was supposed to be a full novel, but it was so fast paced that I only got to 33k words. My beta readers have told me it’s got great pacing and that’s all I care about. I’m just hoping to find an agent interested in novellas.
L.A. Can you talk a little about your writing process? (Do you write at the same time each day? Where do you do your writing? How long does it take you to complete a book?).
A.P. I don’t have one! I generally set goals for each day, and as an indie author, that also includes marketing. As I was on a time crunch for finishing my last project, I would write 1500 words from 11 pm until 12 am. This was because I set a goal on NaNoWriMo’s website to complete the book by a certain day, but I would procrastinate through each day, until I finally felt guilty enough to work. I’m terrible! I don’t have any particular place to write. I’ll write in the shower or on the toilet if I suddenly get the inspiration to. With this in mind, I still do force myself to sit down and write when I have a goal, but that could be outside or at my desk or in bed. Right now I’m not working on writing. I’m editing, so the goals are a little different. This last novel, which actually only got to about 46k words, took me four and a half months to write. Interesting thing is, because I used NaNoWriMo’s tracker, I could see my pattern for writing. Which helped a ton! I realized I could actually write a novel in two months if I set it up right. Using the tracker I could see myself falling off for a week at a time every other week! If I plan accordingly, I think I could whip out my next 50k word novel’s first draft in less than two months.
L.A. Do you write with music, or do you need it quiet while you work?
A.P. Currently listening to the most chaotic music as I write this. I usually require some sort of background noise, and I’ve found music without lyrics, e.g. lo-fi, phonk, or EDM, helps a bunch! All depending on mood though. If I can’t focus and am struggling for words, I definitely have to have silence.
L.A. Do you outline your stories before you begin writing them?
A.P. I didn’t used to. My first book was entirely by ear but it took me four broken years to write. When I began plotting books, I figured out I can write them in a few months. I don’t always stick to the outline, but having notes on how a scene leads to another and so on really helps me from getting blocked. At that point, it’s not about getting from point A to point Z, it’s getting from A to B, from B to C, and so on.
L.A. Do you have a test reader(s) such as a spouse or friend that reads your work along the way? Or do you write the whole thing and then show it around? Details here would be awesome!
A.P. My mom used to be the only one! But I recently put a group of both friends and strangers together to beta read my manuscript that I’m traditionally publishing. For years I only had my mother read through my work as I wrote it, sending her a chapter here, a chapter there, but as I was looking to write something an agent would pick up, I thought it best to get many perspectives. I finished the piece then sent it out so that they could absorb it at once. I’m glad I did because they saw a few issues that I myself didn’t see. I was able to fix them at the same time as make a connection with new readers.
L.A. Can you discuss your experience with publishing? (How you were first published, the process, how it felt, how long it took, etc.).
A.P. I decided to self-publish my book in September of 2019 because I was tired of dealing with agents giving me no feedback. I got feedback from a friend, fixed the manuscript to my abilities, and self-published on Halloween of 2019. That’s right. I gave myself a month to self-publish my very first book. I did the formatting and cover myself. It got done. Only problem was, I didn’t have an audience. I didn’t have an Instagram until I was eighteen. I had no platform. Since then I’ve built everything off of my website and social media because I don’t have an income to spend money on ads or a marketing agent. I still remember when the Amazon driver pulled up with the author copy of my first book. I didn’t tell my parents that I dedicated the book to them, so when they opened it and saw the words, “Dedicated to my parents for giving me the best life possible. I love you,” we all cried a little bit. It was a moment that still makes me tear up. I’ve learned a lot in these few years, but I still have so far to go and so much to learn.
L.A. Where do you draw inspiration for your settings, characters, and plot? (Can you discuss your genre here and what it means to you?).
A.P. I write horror. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized I went through some traumatizing stuff as a kid. Like getting robbed on our vacation in Hawaii when I was five and having someone try to break into our house as we pulled up from grocery shopping when I was a bit older. I still can hear the sound of my flip flops smacking the pavement as I ran to my neighbor’s house for safety. Horror is so expressive of every emotion. We can find ourselves relating to monsters and villains because that’s how the real world is. We don’t live in a romcom, we live in a world of ups and downs. In no way would extreme emotions like rage or depression be commonplace in a romantic comedy, but horror creates space for metaphors with a deeper message. I don’t think people realize how far horror delves in mental health, politics, social issues, and the human being itself. I tried to write a YA romance. I can’t. I relate to the gritty, to the bloody, to the f***ed up because in all honesty, I’m all those things. I’m damaged and traumatized but so are other people. I can tell a grotesque story and relate to someone across the world. It’s beautiful in its own sick way. I draw inspiration from the darkest parts of me. From the places most people don’t dare to look because writing is the only way I express myself. Had you asked me this in person, I would have given a short answer, but when I’m given a keyboard or a pen, I can write like the wind and tell my truth.
I’ve lost track of how many people have said I inspired them to write just for being me.~Alyanna Poe
L.A. How do you handle negative reviews and general criticism of your writing?
A.P. I say f*** ‘em. No, but seriously, I actually wrote a blog post about how to use negative reviews to your advantage. I use critical reviews to sculpt my work. If someone says the dialogue is stiff, I look at my dialogue and fix it. If someone says a character didn’t seem believable, I look at the character again and decide for myself. Most negative reviews give nothing of the sort, so I ignore them. If all they have to say is “this book is bad,” those words are not worth my time. If anything, I’ll use them in an advertisement. “Hi, I’m Alyanna Poe and this is my book EATEN. Why don’t you come see why amazonreader13 didn’t like my book?” I’ve been bullied my whole life, and this sort of stuff just fuels the fire. At least they left a review. At least they tried the book. Did I cry when I got my first one star review? Of course I did. Will I cry about any more of them? No. I will work on my writing or brush them off.
L.A. What is it like connecting with your readers and hearing how your stories have impacted their lives in a positive way?
A.P. I cry a lot. I was the quiet girl in the back of class. I was ignored by teachers and students often. To hear someone say “Your book impacted me and has inspired me,” it hurts because my childhood self is so overwhelmed. People care about my words? They want to hear what I have to say? Never would fourteen year old me believe that. Never. Yet here I am. I’ve lost track of how many people have said I inspired them to write just for being me. It’s all I could ever hope for. No amount of book sales or money could give me the feeling someone saying that can.
L.A. What advice would you give to someone who has writing ability, but is stuck in fear and can’t go the distance with a full-length manuscript?
A.P. Realize we’re only temporary, but words are almost permanent. Mary Shelley published Frankenstein in 1818 but I read it in 2020. You don’t have to share your writing with anyone, but I guarantee you’ll feel better getting it out. Find the time to clear your mind, relax, and just write. It doesn’t matter how it sounds. Doesn’t matter if you hate it. Just do it, and I think gradually you’ll find yourself in a position to share your writing with others. And if you can’t do a full manuscript, write the first sentence. See where it goes. Novellas are valid forms of writing. Short stories and flash fiction are valid as well. Length doesn’t matter. What matters is the way you feel when you’re writing.
L.A. What are you currently working on?
A.P. Adam’s Murder. My thrilling horror mystery. I’m currently editing it, then I will be reading each chapter as an episode for my podcast Indicted Fiction. It will be airing later this summer. It all started as I read poetry on my YouTube channel Poe Reads and Writes, and some of my subscribers wanted me to start a podcast. As I don’t really know what to talk about, I decided to do a fiction reading podcast. I can’t wait to provide readers an audio experience for free as I know we’re in some trying times. More than anything, I’m glad to have written the book because it helped me work through the loss of my own brother. I open up about things I never have in my writing before. I just hope my readers can relate and feel something. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much while writing a piece. It was cathartic.
L.A. What books/tools did you use to learn the science of story development? (This could be books, YouTube videos, courses, etc. that helped you with character development, story arc, and so forth).
A.P. Honestly, just reading a lot. I also always had an interest in English class, which I think helped a lot as well. I’ve never thought too hard about the science of story development. I guess I’ve just gone with what feels right.
L.A. Which authors influence and inspire you?
A.P. Stephen King was my first love and still is my favorite. He inspired me at a young age mainly due to his boldness. His stories are always realistic and attention grabbing. Authors like Mary Shelley and Kathe Koja will always have my heart for the way they craft beautifully dark tales. If I could read one book for the first time again, it would be The Cipher by Kathe Koja. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House terrified me when I was a teenager for its tenseness. It was quite literally a haunting tale.
L.A. Do you have a favorite book? If so, what is it you like so much about this story?
A.P. The Stand by Stephen King. Why this over a thousand page book you may ask? Because at a swap meet I met a man in a white van selling books. He sold me The Stand and Hearts in Atlantis for the combined cost of $5. I was thirteen when I started the book, not finishing until I was fourteen, and, oh, how it changed me. It was my first experience with adult horror and quite obviously the inspiration for EATEN, my first novel which is also apocalyptic. I could read a million amazing books but not one will replace The Stand as it’s the entire reason I even considered writing adult horror. And in case you’re curious, Nick is my favorite character. I recently watched the newer TV series and it brought back so much for me. I actually cried because it took me back to my younger self and how excited I was to read the book.
Thank you so much, Alyanna Poe! It was wonderful getting to learn about you and your writing process.