The Writer’s Block: An Interview with Alison DeCamp


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Alison DeCamp’s debut book, MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES releases TODAY and has already racked up some impressive reviews. I can see why, it sounds like a hoot!

It is 1895. Stan is on a mission to find his long-lost father in the logging camps of Michigan. And he’s embellishing all of it in his stupendous scrapbook.

There are many things that 11-year-old Stanley Slater would like to have in life, most of all, a father. But what if Stan’s missing dad isn’t “dearly departed” after all? Who better to find this absent hero/cowboy/outlaw than manly Stan himself? Unfortunately, Stan’s fending off his impossible cousin Geri, evil Granny, and Mama’s suitors like Cold-Blooded Killer Stinky Pete. If only he could join the River Drive, the most perilous adventure of all, where even a fellow’s peavey is at risk.

It’s a wild ride for Stan as he finds out about true manliness. But at least Stan has his scrapbook, full of 200 black-and-white 19th-century advertisements and photos, “augmented” with his commentary and doodles.

Stan’s tale will leave readers in stitches, but not the kind that require medical attention.

Alison was kind enough to sit down with the Mafia to answer a few questions about her road to publication and her writing process.

MGM: Congratulations on the release of your debut book, My Near-Death Adventures! Everyone’s journey to publication seems to be different. Can you tell us a little about yours?

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Alison: I will be 49 years old when my debut novel comes out on February 24, and the timing couldn’t be better. Both kids are teenagers, one heading to college in the fall and one who is a sophomore. I taught middle school and high school until our second child was born so I feel really, really lucky I can now focus on my writing without the pull of little kids. I so admire writers who have kids, jobs, and still manage to produce good work. That being said, I did try to get published in the late 1990s. That was a time when you could send a SASE directly to the publisher. Obviously, I didn’t get very far.

MGM: What has surprised you most about this whole process?

Alison: I am most surprised that this process is less about innate talent and much more about hard work. Sara Zarr was the first to point out to me that writing is a craft, something that gets better with practice. This is both a blessing and curse since I’m really good at procrastinating, but I believe it wholeheartedly and encourage anyone willing to do the work to take the chance.

MGM: Why did you decide to write a middle-grade novel? 

Alison: I honestly didn’t write middle grade intentionally. I had never thought so much about writing for children, but MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES was an idea first and it just naturally fit into middle grade. Now I can’t imagine writing anything else—YA scares me (too much drama!) and adult seems indulgent, requiring a lot more emotion. I love this age and all my favorite books ever are from this time of my life.

MGM: Was there a particular scene, chapter, etc. that sticks out as particularly hard to write? Or one that you loved most?

Alison: The beginning was probably the most difficult part to write—I rewrote it several times with both my agent and editor before getting it just right. I wanted to make sure it lay the groundwork for the story but also captured the reader’s attention. And I love most of the scenes where Stan and Geri interact, but I might like the outhouse scene the best.

MGM: I’m always curious about the writing process. Do you write daily, set word goals, etc?

Alison: I prefer to write daily, but that doesn’t happen. Right now there are sporting activities and doctors’ appointments and college applications and I work part-time at a book store (to support my habit), and groceries! Why can’t they just appear in my fridge like on the Jetsons? So I try to get a certain amount written on the days I can actually sit down and write. When I take 5 to 10 minutes to jot down ideas, a little outline, at the start of a writing session I find my productivity goes up precipitously. It’s the best tip I have.

MGM: What are you working on now?

Alison: Book two is due now so I’m working on those edits. I’m also working on two more middle-grade novels, both of them with slight elements of magical realism.

MGM:What do you do when you’re not writing?

Alison: I read, of course, and watch TV and take the dog on walks. I also love to plan travel, whether I ever go on the trips or not. And I attend soccer games and ski meets and equestrian events.

MGM: Any last advice for pre-published writers?

Alison: Just do the work. I always figure if nothing else, I’m helping my brain.

Learn more about Alison on her website, or follow her on Twitter. And be sure to purchase a copy of My Near-Death Adventures!


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