MinInterview #7: Allison Dickson
I met Allison through writer friend Ian Healy–he averred I must interview her and I agreed. Please enjoy her interview and also enjoy her work online. Let’s all cultivate our online relationship to Allison. ~Jenn
5 Questions: Allison M. Dickson Interviewer: Jenn Zuko Boughn
1) How did you get into the editing gig? Do you like it? How does it compare to being a writer?
It really started in college, when I was always the go-to girl in peer editing groups in various writing classes. The act of editing has always come very naturally to me. Having an “ear” for another person’s voice is part of it, but I truly enjoy seeking out errors and looking for compelling ways to express something more visually. After college, I started doing beta reading for some writer friends and one of them was so impressed and suggested that I should consider looking for ways to get paid to do it. That stuck with me. Since I was a stay-at-home mom in need of additional income, and I loved doing it, I figured why not give it a go? I started researching the freelance editing market, getting a feel for the services other companies offered, as well as thinking of ways I could set myself apart from the pack. Eventually, Allison Edits was born. The little company has undergone some adjustments since its inception, and there have been some moments when I’ve asked myself what the heck I’ve gotten myself into, but overall, I have found it to be rewarding. Overall, I bill myself as a “boutique” service. I don’t have a staff or a fancy uploader on my site. Instead, what you get is me devoting as much time and effort as possible into delivering the best edit for your work and making you feel more confident as you wade through the process of getting published. It’s a jungle out there.
Unfortunately, editing takes time away from my writing. I find that when I’m in the course of a hard edit, I’m devoting most of my creative energies to the client. And that’s fine. But I’ve never been able to edit and write in tandem. However, I have found that editing someone else’s work has often given me the inspiration or energy to tackle my own projects again after I’ve finished. And when I do, I find that I write better. I recommend all writers network with other folks in the craft so that they have the opportunity to beta read and edit other writing, even free of charge. It’s easier to see shortcomings in other people’s work than it is your own, and so it’s a priceless educational experience in what not to do.
2) What genres of literature do you like to read most? To write most? Why?
I used to have far narrower horizons in terms of what I liked to read. I was one of those people who would discover an author and want to read everything that person wrote before moving on to the next. Then I married a reader who opened my eyes to science fiction, a genre I had previously snubbed in favor of horror, fantasy, and psychological thrillers. These days, I’ve moved beyond reading genre fiction and have delved into literary and mainstream, and this has become even easier since getting a Nook eReader. I am a die-hard Stephen King fan. I also love Robert Heinlein, Neil Gaiman, and JK Rowling. But Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood are brilliant.
My writing almost invariably has a speculative element. I prefer to write psychological horror and contemporary fantasy with some elements of science fiction (soft sci-fi predominantly). I like exploring the dark corners in the human psyche. I love answering the question “what if” with something that is either disturbing or ironic or both. I like to explore the ins and outs of human relationships and the consequences of some of society’s “rules” or taboos. This makes it difficult to market me as strictly horror or science fiction. But really, I just want to tell an agent or editor that they can put my books in the same section as Stephen King’s and I’d be happy.
3) Whom do you emulate in your own work? Who do you aspire to be?
My biggest inspirations are probably Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. I love how both of them are clearly genre writers, but they aren’t confined by it. Gaiman will write something like American Gods, which is basically modern-day mythology/fantasy and turn right around and write The Graveyard Book, a spooky ghost story for young readers. Stephen King will wow readers with a mainstream fiction tale like The Shawshank Redemption and then take us into the genre mishmash world of The Dark Tower. Both authors take their readers on a ride and it is almost always memorable because their characters leave an imprint. That is exactly what I want to provide my readers. I want to be distinctive enough that they know it’s an Allison M. Dickson book and that regardless of what it’s about, it’s going to be a great read with unforgettable characters.