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One of the best parts of being a book nerd is discovering new authors. I recently discovered Alexis Marie Chute, a Canadian artist and author. She even lives in my province, in Edmonton, Alberta. And, she’s a loss mama too. Along with her YA trilogy (learn more about it below), she’s also the author of a memoir called Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss.
I’m excited to help her celebrate the publication of the final book in her trilogy, and talk to her about writing.
About The 8th Island Trilogy
The 8th Island Trilogy is an epic YA fantasy adventure in which three unlikely heroes (a teenage girl with cancer, her mom, and her paternal grandfather) are transported to a different realm. There, they are searching for a few things, most especially a way to save that world and ours.
The order of the trilogy is:
Alexis is both an artist and an author and has some great perspectives on writing and creating. Scroll down to see her answers to some writing-related questions.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write?
I have been writing since as far back as I can remember—and even before I could hold a pen. As a child, I was very creative and cerebral. I was always coming up with stories and adventures. Fortunately, I didn’t lose that trait as I grew up. I find writing inspiration everywhere, always. My brain is a sponge for my environment and stimuli. Sometimes this is overwhelming, but most often I use this hyper-awareness to my advantage.
Where/When do you best like to write?
Mornings are best for me. When I’m working on a book, I like to write first thing in the morning until 11am or sometimes, with a lot of coffee, till 1pm. Then CRASH (crash = nap). I like to write surrounded by candles and incense. I cannot have distractions or a cluttered desk. My music choice is typically classical, like Vivaldi or Mozart, and nothing with words as I find I begin typing what I am listening to. I like to write at my vintage style black wood desk by the window in my room. My actual work-desk in the office is too distracting. When I am crunching a deadline, I don’t have a “best time” to write; I simply sit down and get it done, no matter if I feel like it or not. I love deadlines as external motivators.
When you are struggling to write/have writer’s block, what are some ways that help you find your creative muse again?
Free writing is the best tool I have found to break out of writer’s block. I sit down and simply start typing, no matter what it is. Getting my fingers moving and the mental juices flowing always opens the floodgates eventually.
What do you think makes a good story?
A good story has characters that are simultaneously loveable and deplorable. The plot is unexpected and varied. There is a lot at stake, and the risks and rewards are always in flux. I can tell a story is good when it keeps me up at night, lingers long after the last page, and I wish I had thought it up!
What inspired your stories?
My memoir, Expecting Sunshine, arose out of the anxiety and introspection of my own life. I wanted to survive my pregnancy after the death of my son Zachary and not go crazy in the process. Coming out of it on the other side, sane and with a living baby, Eden, gave me hope that perhaps I had done something right. I wanted to share that hope with others who struggle with loss and growing their family in the midst of the storm of grief.
My 8th Island Trilogy was inspired by the belief that we go to extreme lengths to protect those we love. The trio of unlikely heroes learn that their past selves do not define their present bravery. They rally against unsurmountable odds and discover that they possess strength they never imagined. In many ways, the trilogy is a fictionalized look at the resiliency of the human spirit. That is a topic I am obsessed with and optimistic about!
What inspired the three main characters in The 8th Island Trilogy (Archie, Tessa, Ella)?
I was inspired to create the Wellsleys—Archibald, Tessa, and Ella Wellsley—based on real families. They have interesting relationships with each other, some good, like Ella and Grandpa Archie, and some more tense and complicated, like Tessa and her estranged husband Arden. I created characters with flaws, but also redeeming characteristics. In Ella, Tessa, and Grandpa Archie, my goal is for readers to relate, to see themselves, as well as have protagonists they can root for.
What advice would you give to someone who is working on a book but tends to go back to re-read the first chapter, and gets stuck there?
Don’t go back and reread the beginning! That’s my first piece of advice. A more productive way to approach your book is to focus and write the whole first draft, from start to finish, not rereading anything you’ve written earlier in the story. Don’t do any editing during this first draft stage. A first draft is supposed to be terrible! The most important thing to do is get your story out, fully, on paper. Then you can go back to address the whole book, switching your mind into editing-mode, and work on improving the way you tell the story.
A really great book about switching between the creative act of writing and then the critical act of editing is called Writing on Both Sides of the Brain by Henriette Anne Klauser.
What was your greatest challenge in writing your books?
My greatest challenge in writing any book is getting my bum in the chair, overcoming that procrastination. Once I’ve gotten over the initial hump, and am in the flow, I’m good to go—until, that is, the end. Endings are just as challenging as beginnings. Then the next struggle is when to stop editing. I am a relentless, picky, and perfectionist kind of editor. There comes a point, however, when I need to hold back and declare a book, “FINISHED!!”
What advice do you have for aspiring young novelists?
Time deadlines work wonders for getting words on paper. I wrote the first draft of Above the Star, book one in The 8th Island Trilogy, during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal with NaNoWriMo is to pen a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Since then I have learned to be disciplined on my own, but that was a great start.
My other advice is to separate the creative writing stage from editing. Write first, edit later. Plus, never feel like you are not ready to write the book that is burning inside of you. You’ll never be ready, so start now, get it done, and continue to write. Writing is a journey and a passion. Always learn and grow.
About the Author
Alexis Marie Chute is a an author, visual artist, curator, filmmaker, and public speaker based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She has three living children, a husband, and no pets (her husband is allergic to everything non-human so she chose him over four-legged friends).
You can find her all over the web:
Facebook: Alexis Marie Chute, Art, Photograph and Creative Writing
LinkedIn: Alexis Marie Chute
Thanks, Alexis for writing and sharing with us. 🙂