Allison Tait, or A.L Tait, as she is well-known as in the kidlit world, says she writes adventure stories because she is the least adventurous person she knows. ‘I like to send my characters to climb mountains, ford streams and generally get themselves into (and out of) trouble so I don’t have to do it.’
Her first two heroes (Quinn from The Mapmaker Chronicles and Gabe from The Ateban Cipher) are reluctant types – much like her. But, she says, she has branched out. ‘Maven and Reeve are both go-getters, if in entirely different ways. Does this mean I’m becoming more adventurous? (Spoiler: probably not!)’.
She lives on the south coast of NSW with her family and an insta-famous border collie and she loves it. It seems she also really loves to talk about books and writing, as she has not one, but two, top-rating podcasts: So You Want To Be A Writer (with Valerie Khoo) and Your Kid’s Next Read (with Megan Daley).
‘No-one in my extended family is AT ALL surprised that talking is a big part of my professional life. Apparently I’ve been training for this moment my whole life.’
Allison loves mysteries. She likes really big stories, with strong plots and characters you can fall in love with. For that, she says, you need time, and, preferably multiple books – hence why she seems to only be able to write series fiction! Her favourite books to read when she was young were all mysteries involving big groups of kids solving problems together.
‘I think that’s why all of my adventure novels also have mysteries in them – and in the Maven & Reeve books I’ve put a big spotlight on it. Mostly, I like to escape. There’s nothing better than being snuggled up, safe in bed, and disappearing into a brilliant story.’
After 30+ years of being a writer in one form or another, Allison says she has developed the hide of a rhinoceros. ‘It’s something I recommend all writers start to work on from the moment they construct their first sentences. It certainly makes the feedback, the rejection and the structural edits easier to bear. They still hurt, but at least I don’t waft about wailing for days now.’
Five Things About Allison’s Current Work
- The Wolf’s Howl is book #2 in the Maven & Reeve Mystery series. In The Wolf’s Howl, our intrepid pair cement their new friendship while investigating the disappearance of a missing woman, navigating an unfamiliar castle, and doing their best not to get charged with treason. It’s a delicate balance all round.
- The majority of this book was written during lockdown in 2020 and I think that may have impacted on the creation of the fief of Glawn, where Maven and Reeve find themselves in The Wolf’s Howl. There’s no plague in Glawn, but … well, let’s just say that it’s not the most welcoming of places.
- I take great delight in creating fiendishly complex puzzles for Maven and Reeve to solve. The downside of this is that, er, I have to solve them. It’s easy to forget this bit and when you’re someone who doesn’t tend to plot their stories in advance, it can make for some tense moments (for me, and for Maven and Reeve).
- While my characters are most decidedly fictional, there is something about Reeve that reminds me of my youngest son. He, too, is a real charmer, with a smile that lights up a room. Perhaps that’s one reason that I found myself very worried for Reeve in The Wolf’s Howl, when he discovers that perhaps he’s not quite as clever as he thought he was – and the consequences are not pretty!
- I think every series needs a fabulous villain, the character you love to hate, and while there are a few to choose from in Maven and Reeve’s world, my favourite is Anice, the Airl’s daughter. She’s so close to home and such a thorn in Maven’s side.
Five Things That Help Alison Keep Writing
- One of the benefits of not being a plotter is that I never get bored with writing my stories, mostly because I just don’t know what’s going to happen next. I think this makes it exciting for the reader as well.
- The key to getting a book written is not inspiration, or creativity, or the Muse, or any of that (though all of these things are very helpful). Nope, the key to getting a book written is just deeply unsexy routine. Routine and discipline. Habit. These things don’t photograph well for Instagram, but gosh they work well for getting the words on the page.
- I’m always trying new things. They’re not always successful, but I keep trying them. I’ve got four picture book manuscripts, two junior fiction ideas half-written, two middle-grade novels as yet unpublished. Even three full-length adult manuscripts. In fact, there are probably half a million unpublished words sitting in various files on my computer. Many people might think of them as wasted words, but I see them all as part of the process. Some of them will never, ever see the light of day. But others… well, let’s just say that I’m getting better and better at editing all the time (see above for rhinoceros hide), so you just never know.
- I love meeting new characters and discovering what their stories might be. Love it. And I hate saying goodbye to them at the end of a book (just another reason I write series fiction…).
- I like being a published author. I like bringing out new books and I like talking about them. The only way to keep doing that is to keep writing, so … there’s that.
‘I know how blessed I am to be doing something I love every day. I never take it for granted, even if I might whinge occasionally about the admin involved in being a writer (and, oh my, there’s a lot of admin). Making stuff up for a living is a dream come true.’
In the future Allison hopes we find a way out of the Covid mess we’re in and that we find a way to soothe and heal our planet and keep it beautiful for our kids and their kids.
‘I hope we learn to listen, really listen, to each others’ stories, so that we can find our way to a better future for all humanity.’
She also hopes her boys learn that making their beds every morning is one of the best ways she knows to set yourself up for a good day (this is what she has been telling them their whole lives and so far…). Finally, she hopes lots of readers discover and love the Maven & Reeve Mysteries so that she gets to write more of them!
‘I’ve got this brilliantly complicated idea percolating for the next one and I can’t wait to tie my brain in knots while Maven and Reeve figure it out.’
Find Allison at all of the following places:
So You Want To Be A Writer podcast: https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/category/podcasts/so-you-want-to-be-a-writer-podcast/
Your Kid’s Next Read podcast: https://childrensbooksdaily.com/podcast/
Featured Image: Allison’s team from the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group. L-R: Allison Rushby, Megan Daley, Allison Tait. (credit: Little Family Photo Co).