Interview with Aubrey Coletti: 'You never know unless you sit down and write it'

Aubrey Coletti is a singer-songwriter, dancer, and the author of Altered and Shattered, Books One and Two in The Academy Series. She can be found on her website or connect and socialize with Aubrey on Twitter or Facebook.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I began by taking down notes of things my friends and family said, jotting down anything funny or clever or meaningful into a big notebook. I then started building characters from what they’d said, from different mannerisms and stories they’d shared, making composites from those around me. This was when I was fifteen, the summer before my sophomore year of high school. I came up with the basis for J. Alter Academy when I started learning about “behavior modification centers” and schools that existed near me, where students who are “difficult” (some with
truly severe emotional/mental/behavioral issues, others simply deemed so) are sent and experience a variety of extreme methods used to “help” them. (A great book on this is Help At Any Cost by Maia Szalavitz, which I used as a resource while writing).

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

It was definitely an up-and-down journey. The beginning was very difficult — establishing the characters, figuring out the setting, and just sticking to the story were difficult, as difficult as I think they are for most writers. I also had a period writing Altered where I was severely anorexic, and so my creativity was just shot. But once I got about midway into the first book it really started to flow, and I just raced through the ending. It was the editing that took the longest for the first book. With the sequel, Shattered, it was more of a mapping out style of writing — I really went piece-by-piece, section-by-section, chapter-by-chapter. I had the ending in mind, and basically worked up to it.

My advice to any writer is to make sure you fall in love with your characters. It is really easy to have a great idea that you end up abandoning if there is no real love for the people you are creating to keep you going. If you’re committed to your characters, you’ll stick it out even when the going gets rough. And try to find one person who likes your writing to read your work as you go. Not to critique, which comes later. Just as someone who will say “Ooh, exciting, what happens next?” It’s hard to write just on your own. One of the reasons fan fiction is fun to write is the immediate response to sections. There’s no reason you can’t have a friend be your first “fan” and help you get your writing done!

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My publisher is Escape Artist Press, a cooperative publishing company. We have another author, Arielle Strauss, who has published with us, and we are expanding.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Response. Just seeing people responding to my book, seeing online reviews, knowing people I have never met have read something I wrote. It’s surreal, even with everyone nowadays being on Facebook, to see something you created spreading.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I am working on the third book in the Academy Series, which it should be out this summer.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Facebook and fan boards — television and comics are two of my other favorite mediums, so I am always trying to keep track of my favorite characters in X-Men or on Once Upon A Time.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

Along with exploring what it means to be mentally ill, and the ways we treat people who are, I feel like the big message of the Academy Series is how important family is. Not family in the sense of blood, but family as those people you choose because you love them. Connection is deeply important to me. I firmly believe that you can make it through anything if you have the people you love with you. There is no more important choice in our lives than who to care about and what we do for them. Any book, story, film, or TV series I’ve ever loved has focused on people creating a family, and then watching those in the family trying to hold onto it in the face of forces trying to rip them apart.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Shameless plug, shameless plug, shameless plug! And for any aspiring writers out there, the first step is to put pen to paper. The stories in your head will always be just stories unless you put them down. You might have the next great novel bounding around in your head, but we’ll never know unless you sit down and write it.

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