I’m actually not sure how much of myself gets into my characters (perhaps my husband should answer this). Certainly, I would say my sense of humor comes through, and I don’t write too many shrinking violets (being a rather boisterous gal), but I suppose there’s a bit of me in every hero and heroine. That’s probably why they appeal to me—and why some characters are universal—our favorite characters are the ones we either feel inside us or we know someone just like them.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Oh, quirky is my specialty! For this book, it was to learn to use a bull whip. I love research, and I’ve done some pretty quirky things in the name of research: walked a tightrope, worked a $14,000 espresso machine, learned to fence, interviewed the Seattle Rugby Men’s Football team, shot-put grapefruit into the San Francisco Bay--all kinds of fun things. It’s part of the fun of stepping into another character for me. I do the academic research, too—especially for the historicals, but it’s the experiential stuff that really appeals to me. That may explain why my husband’s been begging me to write a book with a Lamborghini in it…
I'm sure. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
The answer may annoy you: at 33 when my friend (who, okay, just happened to be an editor for a major publishing house) dared me to write a book. I never saw myself as a writer. I have, however, always been a storyteller. And a total ham. The technical side of writing had always been a part of my fundraising profession, and I’ve always kept a journal—so I suppose the pieces have always been in place and it just took my friend to recognize them. I tell people God set up such a fantastic story so I wouldn’t give in to my urge to take all the credit for it. The moral: some dares are definitely worth taking!
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read both fiction and non-fiction, but most of my pleasure reading is fiction. Stephanie Purl McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot) is a favorite of mine because of my passion for knitting. I love Alexander McCall Smith’s dry British wit (I watch loads of BBC television—Dr. Who, Robin Hood, Top Gear) and I love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books. I just finished Mauren Lang’s The Oak Leaves and loved it. My entire family are voracious readers and I indulge them shamelessly—books get their own line item in our family budget!
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
My very first books were published as mass market romances, then I moved to Zondervan and did two parenting non-fiction books: Becoming a Chief Home Officer and Facing Every Mom’s Fears. My last six books have been novels for Steeple Hill: Bad Heiress Day, Queen Esther and the Second Graders of Doom, My So-Called Love Life, The Perfect Blend, and this year Masked by Moonlight and the upcoming Bluegrass Hero.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
One ounce of dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher, non-negotiable) with a cup of coffee every morning. Seriously. I’m an obsessive list-maker, so every day I know just what has to get done. Other than that, prayer and laughter are my two weapons of choice. I’ve got two teenagers so I use those on a daily basis. I also designate one day a month as a retreat day, where I turn off the phones, do no work, but plan, pray, and recharge. Oh, and the Jacuzzi probably helps, too.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I think character’s names choose me, actually. There have been a couple that have needed to be altered for logistical reasons (I’ve got a character in an upcoming book who was named Alice and was falling for a guy named Craig Cooper—we had to change her or she’d end up as Alice Cooper!). Mostly they just come to me. I knew instantly that Lindy from My So-Called Love Life was Melinda Edwards and she was the voice of Maggie Hoot on Arborville. Georgia and Matthew from Masked by Moonlight came to me with their names from the get-go, too. Such discoveries are part of the wonder of it for me (and why I rank the synopsis up there with a root canal…).
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Surviving. Seriously, this business is such a roller-coaster that I’m most proud of making it through my ten-year career with most of my humor still intact. That’s taken some deliberate work on my part. Being on speaking terms with my teenage daughter comes in a close second (if you don’t have a 16-year-old daughter learning to drive, that probably won’t make much sense to you…).
I've been through two 16-year-old daughters learning to drive, and just survived a granddaughter. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Well, at six feet tall I’ve already been called a giraffe many times
What is your favorite food?
Chocolate. Chocolate. Coffee. Chocolate. Oh, and mocha.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
My greatest roadblock was—and still is—getting out of my own way. I tangle myself up in craft and worries about skill instead of just letting the story come out. Often, I’ll expend a lot of energy trying to be “clever” early in a story, because I don’t trust the characters enough yet to let them be clever on their own. Of course, it never works. Readers can always tell when a writer is trying too hard (so can agents and editors, by the way). I’m always cutting out my first chapters or taking them down a notch because I’ve fallen into that trap. As for coping mechanisms, the only way through it is…through it—keep writing until I calm down enough to begin trusting the story to stand on its own merits. I’ve learned that takes about 100 pages, for me, so sheer experience helps.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
The advice given to me: “hush up and just write!” Read books, attend seminars, put the craft in your head but don’t tangle yourself up in it. Take the advice that works for you, ditch what doesn’t. Your process is just that—your process. You can tinker with it as you learn things, but always trust the way you write because that’s how your voice comes through.
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
Masked by Moonlight is GREAT FUN. A swashbuckling story with a sense of humor I don’t think we often see in historicals. I love the dynamic of ordinary people who find themselves in larger than life situations—it’s true of all my books, I think. I love to make a good point, I like there to be a deeper message, there HAS to be fun. I had loads of fun writing it, and I think that comes through for the reader.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website http://www.alliepleiter.com/ has all kinds of goodies on it, including a link where you can hear me read Chapter One of Masked by Moonlight to you—(excellent for knitters!). Every November 1st I host Snicker Bar Salad Day—in 2007 I even had a candy recipe bake-off--so how can you pass up the chance to be part of a community like that?
Allie, thank you for spending this time with us. We loved it, and I can hardly wait to read your book.
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