I got to read an advanced copy of Alycia’s new book, Skinshifter. I even got to talk with Alycia about her book! Make sure you pop over to my review and give it a look for more about Skinshifter.


OBN: What other authors influenced your work?

AC: My dad had a habit of reading books aloud to Mom and me when while on trips when I was a child. Thanks to him, I grew up with various adventures from Gordon R. Dickson, David Eddings, Robert Heinlein, James Herriot, Baroness Emma Orczy, Robert Silverberg, and Mark Twain. When I became a teenager, I discovered authors like Anne McCaffrey, Michael Crichton, C.S. Lewis, Frank E. Peretti, Tamora Pierce, J.K. Rowling, and J.R.R. Tolkien on my own. I also delved into classic tales from Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, and Rudyard Kipling. There were many others, but those are the authors that stand out as the main inspirations for my writing today. 


OBN: What advice can you give others who want to break out into writing?
AC: If writers want to be truly great at their craft, they have to work at it—hard. Talent alone is not enough to succeed in this business. Successful authors need passion, persistence, patience, and perseverance. Great authors are forged out of writers who are stubborn enough to work through every challenge. Through every grief and sorrow, they write. Through every joy and dream, they write. Once they’ve finished writing a piece, they rewrite it, send it through rounds of beta reading and editing, and rewrite it again until the writing becomes something more than mere words on a page to its readers. To be great, a story must become a world alive and breathing with a scope even larger than the imagination of the reader it enthralls. It needs to have a heartbeat of its very own.
As a side note, I offer this encouragement: every great writer begins as illiterate. No one is born with the ability to read or write. We all have to learn the skills, so don’t give up. Keep writing. 


OBN: Who are your favorite authors to read when you aren’t writing?
AC: I tend to read both in and outside of the fantasy genre, so my tastes vary from novels to magazines to memoirs to the occasional biography. That being said, Jane Austen, Michael Crichton, J.K. Rowling, and Martha Wells remain my go-to authors for excellent adventures and inspiration. 


OBN: Your mythos is so rich. How long did it take you to plan the world and the lore?
AC: I began creating the world of Sylvaeleth in earnest in 2004 when I wrote the first chapter of Skinshifter as an assignment for a college class. I continued to build the world as I continued the book’s rough draft, rewrote it, penned its sequel Dreamdrifter, and created the related novella The Dryad’s Sacrifice. As you might imagine, I’ve made quite a few notes on the world over the last decade. 


OBN:Skinshifter is not your first book.  What sets it apart from the others you have written?
AC: While Skinshifter may not be my first book, it is my first novel. My first published fiction book Musingsis actually a collection of short stories and poetry, so the length and the scope of the two books are very different. Musings is full of stories that are meant to be quick reads. Each Musings story introduces us to a specific world, but they are designed to give readers a chance to splash around in a fantastic new world in the span of a coffee break. Skinshifter dunks us into the fantastic up to our eyebrows and doesn’t let us out until our fingertips are nicely wrinkled.


OBN: Katja and Lauraisha are obviously very strong characters. Did you base them on anyone in your own life?
AC: My characters all tend to be derived from many different influences. Even so, Katja has more than a little of me mixed into her character. Lauraisha is actually inspired by two main sources. The first is Menolly, the main character from Anne McCaffrey’s book Dragonsong. The second is one of my closest friends. While each character may have started from these inspirations, they’ve grown past their original sources into fully formed individuals in their own right.


OBN: With the lore being so important to the story, from understanding how Katja thinks to how she reacts to situations in the book, did you find it difficult to make sure the reader understood what was happening without just dumping everything on them all at once?
AC: Oh, absolutely! My first three drafts of the book all had this problem. It wasn’t until draft four that I was comfortable enough in my storytelling ability to know how to sprinkle in needed information. Now that I know the basics of the technique, I use it all the time. Sometimes though I’ll get careless and catch myself giving the reader too little information instead of too much. It seems everything in writing is a balancing act. 


OBN: What sort of conditions do you find easiest to write in? Are they the same as your reading conditions?
AC: I’m notorious for being easy to distract, so my favorite writing or reading conditions tend to be in a quiet, well-lit place. For writing, I prefer working at my computer desk in the corner of the home office. I like listening to soft soundtrack music or nothing at all while I write. I tend to switch between typing and using voice recognition software to write my stories depending on my mood. Reading necessitates a comfy chair with a warm cup of tea within easy reach, a fuzzy blanket wrapped around my legs, and a purring cat sleeping by my side. 


OBN: If you could have your readers take only one thing away from Skinshifter, what would it be?
AC: I wrote Skinshifter as a story of hope. Katja’s story is a tale about losing love and finding hope in the midst of grief and despair. I want people to understand through this story that there is always hope no matter what they are going through. If a scorned, orphaned youth can find love and hope, then so can each of us.


OBN: And finally, what makes you an Obsessive Book Nerd?
AC: I think I have to be an Obsessive Book Nerd because I love reading and writing books more than I love just about anything else. Writing, like reading, is always an uphill struggle for me, but the reward of the adventure is always worth the effort of the journey.