Thursday, October 10, 2019

Interview with Alison Grey: a Savvy Southern Writer

Greetings ATB readers! You are in for a treat. Please welcome to the blog my dear friend Alison Grey, one of the most diligent--and generous--writers in indie publishing. She writes crime fiction of all flavors--domestic suspense, psych thrillers, and atmospheric mysteries.

If you're interested in self-publishing or floundering with your own titles, pay attention. She doles out great advice.
Welcome, Alison!

How long have you been self-publishing? What is your biggest takeaway when it comes to indie publishing and trying to make a dent in a crowded market?

I’ve been self-publishing for almost 5 years. It’s been quite the ride. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that nothing stays the same in indie publishing. You have to constantly pivot to keep up with the changes in the market. A year in this business is like 7 years outside of it. Almost anything becomes dated (as far as marketing goes) within 6 months. So making a dent in the market is becoming increasingly more difficult because every genre is just saturated now. So I focus on what I can control— I try to write the best story I can and give it the best cover and blurb I can to make it stand out. So learn to adapt. That’s the most important skill in this business.

What three pieces of advice would you give an author looking to self-publish for the first time?

— Be prepared to do a lot of things that won’t be writing. You’re a publisher, and that’s an entirely different job. If you can accept that and embrace it, you’ll be ahead of the game.
— Do not make your own cover or use any cover that isn’t as great as the covers on the bestsellers’ lists. This does not necessarily have to be expensive. I don’t think people realize you can get amazing covers for less than $100. Even so, do not skimp on this. And be honest with yourself. “Acceptable” is not going to work. Not in this market. The cover has to be great. It has to tell the reader immediately what genre it is and what they can expect from the story or they will scroll (or stroll) on by.
— Nothing matters more than writing. If you’re not getting words in, you’re wasting time. Yes, you have to do plenty of non-writing stuff. But nothing should ever come before words. Don’t get distracted by anything else. There’s no course or marketing plan that can make up for not having words to sell. Writing is king.

What are the biggest misconceptions people have when it comes to the indie book market? 

I don’t know if people still think this, but it used to be that people considered anything self-published as being crap. And sometimes it is, but those books don’t sell. It’s not like it was in 2013 when it seemed anything would sell. Today, indie books (the ones that sell and the ones on the bestsellers lists) are indistinguishable from any other book on the market. That’s the great thing about it becoming a competitive market, in order to do well you have to be good. You have to have a professional product. Indie publishing is no longer the slush pile in ePub form.
Tell us about your latest crime series--Murder on the Redneck Riviera.  
My Murder On the Redneck Riviera series is about the Beckett sisters, Dee and Meg. The sisters are estranged and haven’t spoken in years due to a dark secret they share. When their dad dies,  Meg is put in charge of the dilapidated panhandle beach (the Redneck Riviera is the nickname for the beaches on the Florida panhandle) motel their family has owned since the 1950s. Dee is forced to come home for mysterious reasons and begs Meg for a job and a place to crash. Despite Meg not wanting anything to do with her sister, she agrees and that’s when the trouble begins. Dee’s first night working the front desk of the motel she finds a dead body in one of the rooms… and she knows the guy. Except she thought she killed him ten years ago. 

It’s a very Florida story. I was inspired by other Florida series I love by Carl Hiassen and Dawn Lee McKenna. There’s eccentric characters, murder, family secrets, and nothing is quite as it seems. Much like Florida!
(You can preorder it now.) 

You live in South Carolina and really embrace the setting in your thrillers. What is it about the South that lends itself to crime fiction? 

I think what’s great about the south are the people. I mean the south is full of eccentric characters. What’s the old saying? Something about in the south we don’t hide our crazy people. We show them off in the living room and offer them a cocktail. No one asks if you have crazy people in your family, they just ask you what side they’re on. I absolutely LOVE southerners. They aren’t afraid to tell you who they are and they tend to have complicated pasts. They also live in this very haunting place with a dark and Gothic history. I love the Spanish moss, the confederate jasmine that creeps up its antebellum homes, and I absolutely love the food and unwillingness to part with certain traditions. There’s a bizarre sort of social hierarchy that still exists in the south today and I think it’s the perfect recipe for a good crime story. 

Who are your favorite authors? Who are you reading right now?

My favorite author of all time is Pat Conroy. I love Fannie Flagg, Carl Hiassen, Liane Moriarty. Shirley Jackson and Flannery O’Connor are up there with Conroy for me. I love the darkness in their stories. Right now I am reading a lot of domestic suspense, I just read a great book by Anna Pitoniak called Necessary People that was very good.

What TV shows are you binge watching?

I mean, sadly, I watch a lot of reality TV. I really love studying the women on the shows, their desires and their motivations. It’s also just a shallow escape. As far as actual television shows, I am obsessed with The Crown. I love the show Bloodline which is a Florida suspense series. Veronica Mars. Breaking Bad. I’m very into Succession right now.
Can't Let Go, a psychological suspense about Charleston's well-to-do, is available now.

Alison lives in Charleston with her husband and kids. You can connect with her via Instagram to find out more about her work and her life.

And buy her books! You won't be disappointed.

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