Alyssa B. Sheinmel
books contact bio f.a.q. news & notes
When I created this website, The Beautiful Between hadn’t even been published yet, so I hadn’t been asked any questions as an author, let alone asked any questions frequently. 
So I asked a few of my closest friends to come up with questions that they’d like to ask their favorite authors – or just to come up with questions they’ve always wanted to ask me.  The results are below, along with some more things I’ve been asked along the way.

Who are your favorite authors?
This is such a hard question for me, because the truth is, I could go on and on and on about the numerous writers I love: Jane Austen, Susan Casey, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ann Patchett, Rainbow Rowell, J.K. Rowling....the list is pretty much never-ending since I’m constantly discovering new favorites.

But I’ll narrow the list down to a few just for this question: Ernest Hemingway, J.R.R. Tolkien, Alice Hoffman, and Joan Didion.

I know Hemingway has a reputation is for writing short declarative sentences, but there are also so many beautiful, fluid, and even occasionally flowery tricks in his writing. His attention to detail is so precise that I believe anything else he tells me. I believe his characters are in love, but not because he tells me how and why they fell in love; I believe it because he tells me the exact taste of the oysters they shared at dinner.

I love fantasy stories: Star Wars, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials…And I love The Lord of the Rings best of all. Reading those books is, to me, the literary equivalent of curling up with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day. I re-read all three every chance I get.

Alice Hoffman has a gift for weaving in magic into her stories as though it’s the most natural thing in the world, so it’s not jarring for the reader when a dead boy leaves fish in his girlfriend’s pockets, or when a widow’s tears run red. Her writing fills the every day with the fantastic in ways that are sometimes subtle, sometimes striking, and always captivating. And no one writes about dogs like she does.

When I was in college, I was lucky enough to have a professor who recommended that I read The White Album by Joan Didion—and I’ll be forever grateful for that recommendation. I love Joan Didion’s writing—her essays, her fiction, her memoirs. I re-read Blue Nights each year. With every other book I’ve ever read, when I come across a sentence or a paragraph I particularly love, I flag it with a Post-It note. But with Blue Nights, I never do, because it would mean flagging pretty much the entire book.

Was Faceless inspired by a true story?
In a way, the idea for Faceless popped into my head long before I started writing it—even before my first book, The Beautiful Between, was published, I began making notes for a book about a girl who got into an accident that changed her face forever, who would discover how much of who she was was tied to what she looked like. A few years passed, but I was never quite ready to start writing, never entirely sure how I wanted to tell this story.

Then, my editor showed me an article from The New Yorker about a full face transplant. I’m pretty sure I underlined more of the article than I left blank! I know it sounds corny, but I honestly felt like it was meant to be, like this was the story I’d been waiting to write. While that article (and the many more pieces of research I read as I wrote) certainly inspired and educated me, Maisie’s story in Faceless isn’t based on any one story.

Will you write a sequel to Second Star?
No plans for a sequel at the moment. I have to admit—without giving too much away—I kind of love how the ending leaves it up the readers to decide where the characters will go next. (Though of course, I do have some ideas of my own...)

What was it like working with the creators of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl YouTube series to turn it into a book series?
To me, one of the coolest things about The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is that it was a collaboration from the very start. To begin with, the web series was a collaboration between Paige McKenzie, her mother, and their producer along with all the wonderful actors they worked with. They created a rich world and compelling characters and brought me on to help figure out how to bring all of that good stuff to the page. It was so exciting to be a part of something that had a life both outside and inside of the pages of a book.

What Does The Beautiful Between mean?
The Beautiful Between has a few meanings. It’s the place Connelly has created somewhere between fantasy and reality—she has an elaborate fantasy life, but she’s not cut off from the real world either. And, The Beautiful Between refers to the relationships in the book—between Connelly and Jeremy, Connelly and her mother, Connelly and Kate, and Jeremy and Kate—the things that go on between people.

Your second novel, The Lucky Kind is told from the point-of-view of a sixteen-year-old boy named Nick Brandt. What was it like to write from a male perspective?
I loved writing in Nick’s voice. One of my favorite things about being a writer is getting to play ventriloquist. I never really made a conscious choice to write the novel from a boy’s perspective, but as the idea for the story developed, it was just a boy’s voice that popped into my head, narrating the novel. I couldn’t have written the story any other way—it was always Nick’s story.
Where and how did you get the idea for The Stone Girl?
I couldn’t tell you when I came up with the idea for any of my other books, but I know exactly when I came up with The Stone Girl. I was in a car, driving from the San Francisco airport through the city, across the Golden Gate Bridge, heading north. Out of nowhere, I pictured a girl, crouched still as a stone by a toilet. Suddenly, I knew everything about her: I knew her name, I knew she had a bad boyfriend and a complicated best friend; I knew exactly how she felt about her body and about food. I even knew the name of the book right away, something that usually eludes me until a book is at least half-written. It took me a while to get the book down on paper—or on the computer screen, really—but I knew I was going to tell Sethie’s story one way or another.
Your books often have magical or fairy tale elements. The Beautiful Between describes high school as a kingdom, The Lucky Kind refers to a sort of magic love bond that holds true through difficult times, and The Stone Girl is, in part, a story about transformation. When you were working on each book, did you have specific fairy tales or magical themes in mind?
Magic seems to find its way into each of my stories. I have always loved fairy tales; I love the delicious Disney versions that I grew up with, the darker Grimm tales I read later, the fantasy worlds of The Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials. When I wrote The Beautiful Between, fairy tales—Rapunzel in particular—were foremost in my mind. Writing The Lucky Kind, magic found its way in, even though I hadn’t originally intended it to be a part of the story. When I wrote The Stone Girl I decided to include little bits of magic as another way to illuminate Sethie’s world: Sethie fixates on her best friend’s defined collarbones, and in her mind, they glow when Janey is excited. Sethie longs to be closer to her distant boyfriend Shaw, but his skin is always ice cold, making Sethie shiver. Sethie finds a friend in Ben, who reminds her of an unlikely hero in a fairy tale, the giant who saves the day.
What are your writing habits and rituals?
I don’t think I really have any real writing rituals; I find that reading always helps me move forward if I’m feeling stumped, and I can’t really write with music on. I always end up singing along, getting the singer’s voice in my head instead of my character’s!

I’m a morning person, so I tend to do most of my writing before noon. I like to set myself a daily word-count goal; sometimes I get there pretty quickly, and sometimes hours go by before I make it.

Do you suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get past it?
I think the best way to handle writer’s block is to walk away from what I’m working on and do something else entirely. And, there are a few authors whose work never fails to inspire me; whenever I read them, I tend to find my way back to the computer, and back to whatever story it was that I’d walked away from.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
My number one piece of advice is never stop reading. I think you can learn something about writing from everything that you read—novels, essays, articles, even textbooks.

What are you favorite and least favorite forms of punctuation?
I love the semi-colon; it’s all over my writing. But for some reason I really don’t like ellipses. I try to avoid using that dot dot dot whenever I can.