By April Grace O’Sullivan.
Facebook: Author Ally Aldridge / Soul Heart Readers.
YouTube: Author Ally Aldridge
Good Reads: Ally Aldridge
Book Bub: @authorallyaldridge
Link Tree: https://linktr.ee/redfae
Her debut novel, Ocean Heart, is out this coming Autumn.
Now, let’s hear some more of Ally’s writing process!
- Tell us about yourself and what you love to write, and about your self-published project.
I mainly write YA Contemporary Fantasy. I love putting magic in the real world, but I’ve also dabbled in other genres. I’d love to write full time but to pay my bills I work in education, and spend most of my free time with my children. I’m also guilty of watching too much Netflix, drinking too much tea and I’m a social media junkie. I constantly have new ideas for blog posts and my biggest struggle is finding time for it all.
My current self publishing project is OCEAN HEART. It’s a YA Contemporary Fantasy about a teen, first love, and discovering you’re a mermaid with weather manipulation powers.
- What inspires you?
As a child, I fell in love with Ariel from The Little Mermaid and dreamed of one day writing a mermaid story novel. It was a photograph that inspired me to start writing Ocean Heart. It was an image of a man wearing jeans and a girl wearing a red dress underwater and it got me thinking why they were wearing clothes in a pool. Whilst writing I was inspired by the song Starry Eyed by Ellie Goulding. In addition, the book is set in my hometown and there is a lot of me in my character Mariah.
My first stories, at the age of five, were inspired by the Magic Key series by Roderick Hunt. I guess I started out writing fan fiction. Even today, I am still inspired by the stories around me, whether they are people’s real life tales or fiction found in books, TV shows or movies.
- What was the inspiration behind the project(s) you have self-published?
In addition to the movie, photo and song, mentioned above, I was also inspired by Rachel Vincent’s shifter series about werecats. I loved the world building and politics and I wanted to do something similar for teens. I was also enjoying the Underworld films and it influenced another book in the series.
In book two, SKY HEART, I have been researching Jinn. There will not be a genie in the novel but I have been inspired by their magic and lore. You’ll have to wait until it is released to discover more. I’m working on the ending which may be inspired by a conspiracy theory but I cannot confirm as the tin hat doesn’t suit me.
If you can’t wait, follow me on social media to be alerted when beta readers or ARC readers are needed.
- How did you find the writing and editing process?
I love writing but I’m not confident in my abilities, so I constantly embrace opportunities to learn and develop my art. I also find editing really hard and one of the best decisions I made was paying for a professional editor.
Because my head is brimming with story ideas (but lacking in time), I didn’t see the point of a Developmental Editor, but when I decided to Self Publish I didn’t want to cut any corners. I’ve wanted this for so long, I wanted to be confident that my book was the best it could be when I put it out there. So, I hired a Developmental Editor and oh boy was it an eye opener. I laughed at my mistakes and learnt so much.
Once I fixed it up, I returned it to my editor for a Copy Edit. I always struggle with the English language rules so I knew this was important.
Now I can focus on the stuff I enjoy, writing. I’m often on the go so I have a note app on my mobile phone to jot down story ideas. I do most of my writing on Google Docs and plotting in a notebook. My plotting is usually a brief outline but I am trying to get more detailed as it helps with editing later.
- Have you ever worked with beta readers, writing mentors or critique partners? How did you find this process?
For years I posted my writing on sites like WeBook or Wattpad. I think these readers would be classed as Alpha’s as they read early edited drafts. The feedback is positive, I think there is a fear of coming across negative and hounded by trolls that disagree. The praise boosts my confidence but doesn’t help me improve.
I’ve never had an official critique partner as it often involves an exchange. I barely have time to work on my own projects that I worry I’d let someone down by not being able to honour the commitment.
I did try Scrivener but didn’t like the site. You either needed the money to pay for critiques or had to earn credits by critiquing others. I spent a lot of time critiquing others and didn’t find the feedback I got back very useful.
The most useful feedback has come from friends, and fellow writers, who have taken the time to read my manuscript and make suggestions on how I can improve it. The only trouble with this is it can be tricky to manage all the feedback.
In future, I’m planning to use a website called betabooks that helps protect your story when you share it with readers and it helps organise the feedback.
- Tell us about your typical writing day.
My days are packed with work or dealing with my children. Any writing during the day is done covertly on my mobile phone. I can get my kids watching cartoons while I draft a blog post, or create graphics in Canva. I can also do research and my social media on the go.
It isn’t until the evenings, when my kids are in bed, that I really get to work on my projects. I tend to focus on one project at a time and break my projects up by months, and quarters (every three months). I could spend my evening plotting, writing, editing, publishing, etc. Some evenings, I allow myself to rest and spend time with my husband.
- How have you found the publication process?
I’m still learning as I go but I am enjoying it. I have spikes of anxiety and excitement, ranging from “What am I doing?” to “Wow – My book is becoming real!”
I couldn’t afford to do a rapid release. Paying for it all myself is expensive and I’m having to do a little bit at a time to make it more affordable.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by what I need to do and how much I need to learn but there are lots of helpful authors and resources about to help. For example, World Indie Warriors is a great resource, Ingram Sparks do free courses, and authors like Pagan Malcom often share their expertise.
For a long time the cost and not knowing what to do put me off self publishing, but now I wish I’d started sooner. It’s a lot of fun getting to choose everything, and next time I’ll have a better idea of what I’m doing so it’ll be easier.
- What are you working on at the moment? Do you plan to write and publish more books in the future?
My main focus is publishing Ocean Heart and I’m now finalising the last bits and then it will be available to Pre-Order. Eek!
When I’m waiting on stuff, I’m working on Sky Heart (book two). I’ve also recently launched my YouTube channel which is another steep learning curve but lots of fun.
Many of the books in the series are almost written but they’re terrible first drafts. Over the years I have evolved as a writer and I can see these drafts needing a lot of work to raise them to the same standard as Ocean Heart. I also have a few projects that are not related to my Soul Heart series but these are currently not getting as much attention.
- Have you ever worked with an editor or writing mentor? How did you find this process?
Getting an editor has been one of the most valuable things in my writing career. Having someone go over your work in great details, giving thorough feedback not only improves your novel but you too. I have learnt so much about my own personal bad habits and how to fix these.
I chose my editor after seeing what she did for J D Groom. In addition, this editor works with teens and therefore is in touch with my target audience – she even let them read a few bits to get their feedback.
- How do you market your projects?
I enjoy social media and have been using various platforms for a while to talk about reading and writing. I also have a website and post regularly to my blog, and have a newsletter. I am most active on Instagram which is where I have my largest following.
I’ve created a very relaxed Street Team on Facebook called Soul Heart Readers. I don’t like putting pressure on people to do things for me and want the engagement to be organic. I do share with this group behind the scenes stuff and keep them informed of what I am up to and how they can help me out. It’s more of a fan group and you’re welcome to join.
I’m planning to arrange an online book tour and an online book launch party.
- What drew you to self-publishing rather than traditional publishing?
My novel doesn’t sit neatly in a box and there aren’t any clear comparison novels. I think this puts Literary Agents off as it makes it more challenging to sell to a publisher. I got tired of waiting for someone to say yes, when I can say yes right now. And, right now I am actively making my dream come true instead of waiting for someone else to give me permission.
- Would you go back and change anything about the process if you could? Why?
Yes. I wrote the first draft of Ocean Heart back in 2009. I wish I had started saving for self publishing back then. Even if it had been just £10 a month, I would have saved over £1,000 by now.
If I’d known I was going to self publish, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time querying. I did get some useful things from the process such as how to write a pitch. Even when I self publish I will need to pitch my novel to readers, so this is still a valuable skill.
I also wish I had started learning about self publishing sooner and got myself an editor earlier on. I longed for an English degree but never had the time or money, but I now think an editor is much more valuable.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing and if we’ve learnt anything from stories about time travel it is that you shouldn’t mess with the past, it almost always doesn’t turn out the way you expected. I’m sure I needed my journey to be the way it was for me to reach the point I’m now at. I’m proud of myself for where I am.