Interview With Author Allison Alexander

# Please introduce yourself!

Hello! My name is Allison Alexander. My day job is Editorial Director at Mythos & Ink publishing, and I’m a host of the Wayfarer’s Guide to Worldbuilding podcast. I’m also the author of Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness (part memoir, part research, part pop culture analysis about living with a disability) and the upcoming Making Myths and Magic: A Field Guide to Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels, which I’m co-writing with fantasy author Shelly Campbell. On my blog, I review SFF books and discuss how to represent disabled and chronically ill characters in fiction. Most of my work falls under the categories of sci-fi, fantasy, worldbuilding, and diversity.

# What are your books about?

Check out the summaries of my books below!

Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness

Superheroes aren’t sick.

They certainly don’t have chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, or diarrhea. After all, spandex suits and sudden bowel movements don’t mix. Do they?

With raw sincerity and tongue-in-cheek humour, Alexander holds nothing back while discussing how to navigate doctors, dating, sex, friendships, faith, and embarrassing symptoms. Part memoir, part research, part pop culture analysis, Super Sick offers a friendly hand to anyone with chronic illness, a reminder that they aren’t alone and have much to offer the world.

With a new foreword, updated information, and bonus materials, this second edition is a must-read for anyone who has-or knows someone who has-a chronic illness.

Making Myths and Magic: A Field Guide to Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels

So you want to write speculative fiction?

It’s time to get that fantastic world that’s been stuck inside your head for years, complete with dragons and androids, onto paper! Whether you’ve written several novels already and need a resource to refresh your storytelling, or you’ve got a single idea that’s ready to be transformed, Making Myths and Magic was written for you.

Fantasy author Shelly Campbell and executive editor Allison Alexander have teamed up to provide a comprehensive resource for speculative fiction writers, distilling the information they’ve learned from years in the publishing industry. To keep you inspired and engaged as you grow in your craft, they take a deep dive through your favourite media, including The Lord of the Rings, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Star Wars, The Legend of Zelda, The Hunger Games, and more,

In this concise, friendly guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • Brainstorm and outline.
  • Structure your novel.
  • Hook readers from the first sentence,
  • Add tension and conflict.
  • Play with familiar tropes from sci-fi and fantasy in new ways.
  • Write within your sub-genre and for your target audience.
  • Create three-dimensional, diverse characters.
  • Write myths, songs, riddles, and prophecies.
  • Craft unique societies.
  • Design creatures and monsters.
  • Design worlds and planets.
  • Create magic systems and imagine futuristic science.
  • Describe clothing, weapons, and armour.

Take your imagination beyond the expected and use this book to bring readers into the wondrous worlds you create.

# What are the real-life stories behind Super Sick?

Writing often helps me sort out my thoughts about a topic and reflect on my own life. Writing Super Sick was a love letter to myself, in a way, because each chapter addresses how to find peace with a particular frustration about living with a chronic illness. For some of the topics, I was figuring out how to live with those frustrations while I was writing. One of the biggest reasons I structured the book the way I did, drawing attention to a fictional character with a disability in each chapter, is because I noticed disabled characters in pop culture are few and far between. When they do exist, they are often portrayed using harmful stereotypes. For someone like me, who adores sci-fi, fantasy, and geek culture, diversity and representation matters.

I also didn’t want just my voice in this book, because disabilities and chronic illnesses take so many forms. I interviewed other people and included another personal story or perspective in each chapter as well. I think that helps the book speak to a wide variety of people. 

# How do you deal with creative block?

I celebrate the little victories. Even if I only get 50 words down, that is more than 0 words! If I’m having trouble getting words down, I also evaluate whether it’s because I don’t feel like it due to the fact that writing is just hard work sometimes—and if that’s the case, I’ll push through—or whether my brain and/or body actually needs rest—and if that’s the case, I’ll take guilt-free time off.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Haha, well, as an acquiring editor at a SFF publisher, I could write an entire book about this (and I did—see Making Myths and Magic above). Though I tend to use positive examples rather than negative ones. Some of the more frequent mistakes I see in my query inbox are lack of tension (readers need reasons to keep turning pages) and misunderstanding of how dialogue should work. Where diversity is concerned, I always encourage authors to hire sensitivity readers when they include minority identities they aren’t part of. For example, if you include a character in your story who’s blind, but you’re not blind yourself, get someone who is blind to read your book, check for inaccuracies, and advise on whether you’re contributing to harmful stereotypes.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

Mythos & Ink has a vigorous method for selecting titles—we brainstorming words and phrases associated with the book, then compile those into phrases, then transform those into potential titles. The staff does this together, and I find more creative brains involved in the process helps. We’ll market test 3-4 titles, sending a poll out to random people who give their opinions on the options. This gives us a small glimpse of how the public might react to each title, and we take that information into considering when making the final selection.

The most important things about book covers are that they match your genre and look professional. 

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.

I’m a huge nerd! I love gaming—The Legend of Zelda, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age series are some of my all-time favourites. I’m also into anime; Fullmetal Alchemist was my gateway into that wonderful world. I can’t keep plants alive (though I am attempting to grow a mint plant right now—fingers crossed). I’m an artist, but I can’t stand the smell of pencils, so getting a drawing tablet was a delight. In D&D, I play a childlike, adventurous sorcerer who owns a talking dagger and finds disturbing things fascinating.