Book Buzz: Interview with Ally Carter

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All Fall Down: A Book Buzz Interview with Ally Carter

by Lucie Smoker

Bestselling young adult author, Ally Carter, was shaped by her Oklahoma upbringing. In her new mystery, 16-year-old Grace Blakely knows her mother was murdered. She witnessed the whole thing. Now nobody believes her. Labeled crazy and difficult, she’s banished to grandfather’s place—the cloistered American embassy in Atria where he’s the ambassador.

The embassy walls feel like they’re closing in, but Grace is determined to track down who killed her mom … and if she doesn’t stop it, she isn’t the only one who will get hurt. On Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

I tracked down Ally to ask about. All Fall Down, her new series and what’s next.

Ion: In All Fall Down, Grace may be a rebel, but she caught my attention with raw sensitivity and frank intelligence. “My life is a never-ending conversation of the things that people do not say.” Tell us about your inspiration for her.

Ally: Thank you! I had been wanting to write a series about the teens who live on embassy row for several years, but I couldn’t get to it right away because I had other projects under contract. Then when I was finally able to roll up my sleeves and get to work I had to start thinking about who this main character would be. Why would she come to this strange place? What life-changing event has brought her here and what impact has this had on her?

In the end I didn’t so much come up with Grace as Grace just came to me. Once I figured out that she had witnessed her mother’s murder everything just started coming together. She is a very sad kid, but also incredibly resilient. Writing her is a privilege.

Ion: Her taut family relationships stand out as both fantastical against the exotic setting, and real, true to everyday life. How many of us might say this about a relative? “Some people would call my grandfather callous, unfeeling. Cold. In truth, he’s none of those things. And he’s all of those things.” What is it about your own life that empowers such insight?

Ally: At the end of the day I think we just have to remember that characters are people–or are supposed to feel that way. I love stories that show us that even classic archetypes are more than what we see at first glance. My favorite book is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and I remember reading that great line about how you shouldn’t judge a person until you’ve walked in their shoes (but just standing on Boo Radley’s porch was close enough).

So that’s something I always try to keep in mind. I have an obligation to spend time on every character’s porch.

Ion: Grace’s situation within an American embassy threatens international implications for every misstep but it’s the rooftop, the window seat and her new bedroom that signal the most danger for her. What is your danger spot? Do you write there?

Ally: That is a tricky question for a writer! From a productivity standpoint, my “danger spot” is anywhere there is wifi access. It is so easy to go down a rabbit hole and lose three hours before you’ve even begun. So I have all kinds of tricks–programs that turn off the internet on my computer; a word processor that doesn’t connect to the internet at all. Writing is an exercise in self-discipline, and anything I can do to help that along is essential.

Ion: You grew up in Oklahoma but have traveled the world through your work. What special something from your home state gives you the most strength?

Ally: I mention that I’m from Oklahoma at probably almost every tour stop, and it comes up in almost every interview. I’m just so proud to be from Oklahoma, and I have come to realize that that has shaped a big part of who I am. And not only am I from Oklahoma, but I’m from a farm in Oklahoma. Sometimes that feels like ninety percent of who I am. The work ethic and persistence that I saw every day of my childhood plays a huge role in my career. Especially early on when I was trying to write and maintain a day job. When you’re up writing well into the night and you haven’t had a break in weeks, it’s helpful to think back on how hard my parents always worked and the lessons they taught me. It is probably the only reason I kept going.

Ion: What are your plans for the Embassy Row series and what else are you working on?

Ally: I’m working on the sequel right now, and it’s so wonderful to be able to go even deeper into the story and show more of this crazy and interesting world. Book two will be out in about a year, and there will likely be three books total. Of course, we writers always have far more ideas of things we want to write than time to write them. I’m very excited to be writing for teens and young adults and plan to keep doing so for a good long while.

Lucie Smoker is an Oklahoma suspense author and freelance writer. Find more of her work at luciesmoker.wordpress.com

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