Guest Post

Hello lovely readers! It’s a pleasure to have my words read by you, from all sides of the globe! I am continually amazed at the power of a story and how it surpasses oceans and cultures. In that respect (and many others) I must thank Sam for offering me the priceless opportunity to be a guest blogger on her website!

First, I suppose I should introduce myself. I am Allison Rose, born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area. I have always had a close relationship to the city that covers 500 square miles and 80 different neighborhoods. It is an eclectic place, populated by millions of transplants from all over the globe, all determined to follow their dreams, whether or not they have what it takes to survive here. There’s a running joke in Hollywood, that when someone tells you they’re an actor, you ask “in which restaurant?” I lived and worked in Hollywood for several years, and let me tell you, it’s not always a glittery and dream-filled place; it is a dog-eat-dog world.

It’s this disheartening reality of a dreamer’s wasteland that set the initial tone for Tick. Jo Bristol is an artist in future LA, where everything is digitalized and the allure of fine art is fading faster than Jo can capture it. The movie industry has dissolved and moved on, the city is in a perpetual state of decay. It is Jo’s goal to stay true to her heart and her calling, despite living in a world where survival is seen as more important. Jo fights against this ... she a visionary and an artist to her core, and damn anything that dares stand in her way … even her tick.

The story of Tick comes from the phrase “what makes a person tick”, and examines how we get through our daily lives with our greatest attempt to appear perfectly sane, all while grappling with whatever anomalies tug at our minds and souls. Jo struggles to become an artist all the while hiding a dark and violent secret, that when under stress she imagines killing people in gruesome and gory detail. Jo is determined that no one will ever discover the darkness in her mind, but the possibility is real in future LA, and if they send her to the brain adjusters to make her “normal” she will lose the very thing that makes her who she is.

Jo is, in some ways, an alter-ego of myself. I too spent many years trying to convince people that I had a greater story to tell, that I could stand out from the crowd and let my piece be heard. Jo’s challenge is to fight through that darknessdespite the challenges and expectations that lay ahead of her—and become the girl she is determined to be. Just as I was. The mural at the end of this book is to Jo as this story is to me. You are free to make any conclusions about that as you would like. In the meantime, I simply have to thank you for reading.

The Girl and the Book  Allison's blog
Twitter @AllisonRoseBook

Interview with Allison

How do you feel about the rise of kickass women in literature and being a part of that?

I think it’s fantastic! … to a degree. I’d read an article recently that discussed this current surge of the Strong Female Character and how awesome it is, but also how limiting it is. For a strong female character to be accepted in literature, she is only allowed a certain amount of character flaws and faults, otherwise she won’t be a “likeable” character. These standards frustrate me. The article mentioned how some unlikeable male characters can be accepted because we understand them to be complex people. Women, on the other hand, are held to different standards. They must be attractive, not too interested in men but still open to the option, and always do the right thing in the end. I’d love to see more female characters that are quirky and flawed and overall realistic individuals, because even a pretty young woman with a gun in her hand has some skeletons in her closet.

What draws you to writing about this genre (of books) than say a traditional romance or drama/crime novel?

There’s not one specific genre that I feel most drawn to, whether it be literature or TV and film. I have a historical fantasy manuscript sitting in a drawer that is waiting for its own time, so I don’t set out to specifically write science fiction, but Tick was born as a sci-fi out of necessity. I love science—I’m a total geek that way—and I’m fascinated by how technology affects the human race and vice versa, and adding this concept of people using technology to “fix” themselves was something I really wanted to dig into.

On the flip side, I don’t have a lot of interest in writing romance or a crime drama, mostly because I don’t feel philosophically challenged by romance stories. For me, writing is about discovering human nature as much as it is about telling a story. Traditional dramas certainly allow for that sort of discovery, but there are less action scenes, and I dig action and adventure.

How do you prevent the course of a story from becoming predictable and therefore stand above the crowd?

When I come to a point in the story where there is either an important decision to be made or a place where the story arc should change, I ask myself “what would be the one thing I wouldn’t want to happen to these characters, and how would it come about?” I have very few qualms about delving into the part of human nature that is dirty and maybe a little scary because I find it fascinating, and that is where I draw my story plots.

Too often when I read a book or watch a movie, the “twists” are predictable because they’re safe, as though the writers determined it was too difficult of a presentation for the audience. I don’t want to play it safe, not in writing or art. I believe we as people learn compassion and empathy by understanding that human beings are not only capable of the darkest evils but also the brightest passions. I aim to tell stories which may be a little uncomfortable to read in the beginning, but end up being that much more rewarding in the resolution.

What sets Tick apart from other dystopians?

Most dystopian stories take place several hundreds of years in the future and present a society well into an oppressive and/or post-apocalyptic time period. Many of those stories follow characters that have little if any knowledge of the society we know today. I set out to bridge the gap between our generation and those much more futuristic societies, which is why Tick is set in the near future, some two or three generations from now. For example, instead of writing a story where everyone had already been “fixed” of their brain abnormalities, the Tick series shows the process of how someone would choose to have their brains adjusted in the first place, and how that could essentially turn into an epidemic. Like so many science fiction writers, I’m fascinated by what is possible. I, however, have a tendency to look into the “how did we get here” question, and that is how I approached Tick.

The Main character Jo has an affinity for painting. Is this something you love to do as well and is there a work of art that may have inspired you for the artwork described in Tick?

While growing up, I was always surrounded by art. My parents met in an art class in college, and my mom filled the house with her artwork and ceramics sculptures. I learned to paint from an early age, and I have worked with anything from oils to pastels to pencil, so it has long-since been an outlet for me personally. The character of Jo is an extension of that feeling of necessity to express my innermost feelings since I was not a very open and talkative teenager.

The artwork created by Jo came out of my perception of her character. I did, however, create the cover art for the book because I wanted to capture the inner turmoil and conflict of my main character, a conflict I can personally relate to (although I don’t have visions of killing people!).

What is Jo's best and worst trait?

Undoubtedly, Jo’s best and worst trait is the same thing: her stubbornness. Jo is steadfast in everything she does and how she feels, and no one can come close to changing her mind. It works in her favor because she is not a pushover, and once her mind is set she is determined to reach her goals, no matter what anyone says. Of course, this bites her in the ass more than once, because it is her faithfulness to herself that sets her whole downward spiral in motion. It’s not until she meets Evie that she realizes how dangerous this kind of stubbornness can be, and she’s forced to make some decisions that go against her belief that she is always right.

What is your favorite section in the book and why?

I have a fondness for two parts for different reasons. The first is Jo’s seventeenth birthday night, when she goes out on the town with her friend Lyle and the dads. Jo connects with her femininity (after spending most of her life feeling like she could never be a real woman) and sings her heart out on stage in this sexy outfit with all her old friends watching in awe. It was a very satisfying part to write. It was just so fun to be inside her head as she was really feeling the moment. Things quickly go bad for her after that, but I loved giving Jo this moment to shine on her own terms.

My other favorite section has to be the first half of her time in prison. (Spoiler? Hopefully not!) I had a blast writing dialogue for the other inmates. They are such a colorful bunch, and since the whole process takes Jo out of her element, it’s fun to see all of it from Jo’s perspective.

What author and book do you look up to or draw inspiration from?

This is a difficult question, because I find inspiration everywhere. Stories, concepts and characters don’t just exist in books. For concepts, I look to real-world science and news. For dialogue, I look to TV writers like Steven Moffat and Aaron Sorkin. For pacing and story plot, I study the act structures of action movies. For prose and word rhythm, I study the song lyrics of people like Tom Waits and Tori Amos (I am also a songwriter). But as far as book authors go, I draw inspiration from anyone from Raymond Chandler to Carl Sagan, Roald Dahl to Charles Bukowski, and basically anyone who has an interesting way of stringing words together to make them sing.

What made you come up with Evie's character?

Evie was so much fun to write! I brought her to life with the memory of my younger sister and her friends when they were Evie’s age. They were such a goofy bunch, and I could picture them whenever there was a scene of Evie rolling her eyes or generally getting annoyed with Jo’s grumpy attitude. What really made her necessary as a character was her mirroring personality with Jo. In order for Jo to get out of her dark place, she needed a catalyst to propel her, and Evie was the perfect means for that. Her character does not have ulterior motives, nor does she see Jo in a context other than what’s right in front of her. It’s Evie’s innocence (and similar stubbornness) that helps turn Jo around.

Tick puts our main character through some very hard times. Was it hard to write those scenes? Which point was the hardest?

The strong emotional moments were the most difficult to write, not because I couldn’t imagine it myself, but because it is very challenging to put such tough emotions into words. There’s a scene in the prison when Jo is locked up in these inhumane conditions and she’s about to completely give up on life, and to describe those emotions of desolation and isolation was one of the hardest things I’ve had to write. It needed to be projected in a way that would not isolate readers who could not personally relate to such a feeling, but also be brutally honest in a way that readers who understood did not feel like I was softening the moment.

In many of these scenes, I had to be in Jo’s headin her soul, reallyand it took me back to a very dark time in my own adolescence. They are important emotions and play in to the bigger picture, and hopefully make Jo’s resolution that much more satisfying. In many ways, Jo’s journey through Tick is much like the healing process I went through while writing this book. I can only hope it lends a hand in the lives of other young girls and boys and helps them see the light in their darkness.

Can you give us  a teaser of what is to come in the next installment?

The next installment of the Tick Series is tentatively titled ‘Vice’. The next challenge in Jo's journey is to find her mom and unlock the answers to the questions Marius Frey arose in regards to the scientific truth behind her tick. There are a lot of secrets to be discovered, a lot of new and fascinating characters for Jo to meet, and some pretty difficult decisions to be made that will not only affect her future, but everyone else’s around her. Vice goes beyond Jo’s immediate circle, and reveals how that one thing she did in the first part of Tick has sent a tidal wave of conflicts through the country.

Is there a fun fact you wish to share about Tick or yourself?

About Tick: There is some real hard science in Tick. The brain implants and light stimulation referenced in Tick were inspired by optogenetics, which is the process of changing the signals of brain neurons. It’s barely in the baby stages (no studies done on humans … yet), but the hope is that optogenetics will help cure mental illness, such as schizophrenia and PTSD. I am fascinated by psychology and the science of the brain, so you can be assured that there will be more of this in the rest of the series!

About me: I was an adamant daydreamer as a kid. My mom used to call me Allison Wonderland (as a play on “Alice in Wonderland”) because I was always lost in my own dreamland. The real world felt flat and boring, so to entertain myself, I made something up. I spent most of my childhood creating worlds and characters that I could interact with. This, I believe, is what made me a storyteller. Perhaps that should have been my author pseudonym: Allison Wonderland!

Check out Allison on the Good Nerd Bad Nerd Podcast made live on Monday, March 30!

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