I’m happy to welcome author C. W. Allen. Today, she shares her creative journey and her new release, The Secret Benefits of Invisibility.
What’s the best part of being an author? The worst?
There’s something really magical that happens when writing fiction—I’ve heard other authors talk about this experience too—where once in a while, your characters take on a life of their own and do or say things that take you completely by surprise. I’ve been in the middle of a writing session and had a character tell a joke that made me laugh out loud because I didn’t see it coming. I also love being able to share the worlds and people I construct in my head with my readers, and hearing about their favorite parts of the story.
The flip side, of course, is that writing can’t be that effortless all the time. I have to make myself sit down and write whether or not I’m feeling particularly inspired and motivated that day. There are lots of days I end up staring at a blank document, or writing pages and pages I know aren’t working and I’ll end up deleting later. Feeling like there’s a story trying to get out of you and you just can’t make it work the way it does in your head is incredibly frustrating. Authors also have to deal with lots of rejection and criticism, both from publishing professionals and book reviewers, so it requires perseverance and a thick skin.
Describe your writing space.
My writing space isn’t terribly glamorous, I’m afraid! I have young children at home, so I need a writing space where I can close a door and get some quiet, uninterrupted work done. All the office-type spaces in my home with a real desk are out in the open, so that won’t work. I usually write in my bedroom. I use a laptop computer while sitting up in bed. I can’t work effectively in a messy environment though, so it’s a good incentive to keep my bedroom tidy!
Which authors have inspired you?
My favorite middle grade authors from my childhood were Ellen Raskin (The Westing Game), E.L. Konigsburg (The View From Saturday), and Barbara Robinson (the Herdmans series). I love how all three captured a perspective and writing voice that felt so true to being a kid. Reading these stories made me feel respected, understood, and seen. All their characters carried on without needing adults to save the day or walk them through tough decisions.
My favorite authors still publishing new books are probably Trenton Lee Stewart (The Mysterious Benedict Society), Garth Nix (Frogkisser!), R.A. Spratt (Nanny Piggins), and Kate Milford (Greenglass House). I love the way Stewart and Milford celebrate the unique perspective children have that allow them to succeed—not in spite of being young, but because of it. They notice clues and think of solutions that adults would simply overlook. I love how Nix and Spratt embrace humor, even absurdity, while still moving on with a plot that feels vitally important. The reader gets to laugh along with the characters, not at them.
What is your favorite quote?
It’s tough to pick just one! Most of my favorites are more like mantras or idioms, rather than a quote from a famous person.
“Kindness is powerful.”
“The ax forgets, but the tree remembers.”
“The only way out is through.”
Besides writing and reading, what are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy cooking, especially trying out unusual flavor combinations or looking for ways to simplify a complicated process. I also do a lot of hiking with my family when the weather is nice.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
I always wanted to be a writer, but for some reason I grew up thinking that authors were magical people who were naturally good at writing, and that the stories they told would just come out on the page perfectly formed when they sat down to write. I knew that didn’t happen to me, so I didn’t think I could make it as an author. I didn’t realize how much time and work went into writing a book. Once I learned that even my favorite writers had to study and struggle and go through lots of drafts to work their way to a finished book, the process felt more attainable for me. I realized I didn’t need some magical, perfect talent—just an idea and the willingness to work with it. It didn’t matter how long it took, or how rough it looked in the beginning.
Now that I have some writing years under my belt, here’s what I would have told myself when I was starting out:
– Read a LOT, especially books published in your preferred genre in the last five years.
– Join a professional writing organization or a critique group.
– Set a writing goal (a certain number of words per week, for example). Stick with it, even when you don’t feel inspired or motivated.
– Write and edit like it’s the most important thing in the world, but submit for publication like you don’t care what happens. So much of publishing success depends on luck, timing, and others’ personal taste. Don’t stress about the parts of the process you have no control over.
– Don’t give up! Writing is an investment that takes years to pay dividends. Give it the time it needs.
What are you working on next?
The Secret Benefits of Invisibility is the second book in the Falinnheim Chronicles series. I’m hard at work right now on the third book in the series, Tales of the Forgotten Founders, which is scheduled for publication in 2023. I also have a humorous science fiction story coming out in an anthology later this year (probably November) and I will be teaching classes for writers at the Quills Conference in August. https://www.leagueofutahwriters.com/quills-conference
I have several more middle grade novels in the works, but I’m not able to give details about them yet. Sometimes publishing likes to keep its secrets! I keep my website updated with links to all my publicly-announced work: https://www.cwallenbooks.com/books and I make all announcements about new projects in my newsletter: https://www.cwallenbooks.com/contact , so those are the best ways to keep up with my writing news.
For Zed and Tuesday, adjusting to life in modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim means normal is relative. Lots of kids deal with moving, starting new schools, and doing chores. But normally, those schools aren’t in underground bunkers full of secret agents, and the chore list doesn’t involve herding dodos. The one thing that hasn’t changed: all the adults treat them like they’re invisible.
When a security breach interrupts a school field trip, the siblings find themselves locked out of the Resistance base. With the adults trapped inside, it’s up to Tuesday, Zed, and their friends to save the day. And for once, being ignored and underestimated is coming in handy. After all, who would suspect a bunch of kids are capable of taking down the intruders that captured their families, let alone the murderous dictator that put them into hiding in the first place?
Turns out invisibility might just have its benefits.
Fariq lifted the latch and stepped back to let the doors swing slowly open. An avalanche of dodos poured out, brushing past them like a flock of short, grumpy businessmen in dusty grey suits, impatiently bustling around a train station on their way somewhere more important.
Zed jumped out of the way and whipped out his notebook and pencil. Tuesday jumped too, but more in alarm than amazement.
“Augh!” she yelled. “Why are they so big?” She flinched away as one of the dodos brushed past her leg. Its bald, leathery face came all the way up to her hip.
Zed was too busy sketching to look up. “What were you expecting?”
“I don’t know!” Tuesday blathered. “Smaller, I guess! Slower. Dumber. More like chickens!”
It would have taken a Leaning Tower of Chickens stacked three high to see eye to eye with a dodo. They looked like gigantic turkeys with their tail feathers plucked and stunted wings tucked in by their sides, with bulbous bike horns for heads. It was like someone cobbled together a Frankenbird out of spare parts as a prank.
“It’s okay,” said Fariq in his customary monotone. “Bird phobias are really common. I don’t like spiders much, myself.”
“I’m not afraid of them,” Tuesday protested. “Just…surprised.”
Celia brushed past them with her rake, dropping a derisive chuckle as she passed. “Honestly, it’s like you’ve never seen a common dodo before. You panic about worms in the garden wing too? Or is Her Highness too important to get her hands dirty with the commoners?”
Author Bio and Links
C.W. Allen is a Nebraskan by birth, a Texan by experience, a Hoosier by marriage, and a Utahn by geography. She knew she wanted to be a writer the moment she read The Westing Game at age twelve, but took a few detours along the way as a veterinary nurse, an appliance repair secretary, and a homeschool parent.
She recently settled in the high desert of rural Utah with her husband, their three children, and a noisy flock of orphaned ideas. Someday she will create literary homes for all of them. (The ideas, not her family.)
Relatively Normal Secrets (Cinnabar Moth Publishing, Fall 2021) is her debut novel. She writes fantasy novels for tweens, picture books for children, and short stories and poems for former children. Her work will appear in numerous anthologies in 2021. She is also a frequent guest presenter at writing conferences and club meetings, which helps her procrastinate knuckling down to any actual writing.
C. W. Allen will be awarding $10 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.
Follow the author on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.