ER: Tell us a little bit about yourself. (How's that for a clever start?)
AR: My name is Alice Reeds and I am addicted to reading and writing.
ER: I feel I should say, “Hi, Alice!” as if we’re in a twelve-step group for writing addicts. But please, go on . . .
AR: I recently turned twenty and used to read a lot of vampire fiction at age fifteen, much to the disdain of my religious granny. I love watching good, scary horror movies and, if I like it, I might devour a book in a matter of hours, no matter how thick it may be. I’m a punk rock chick who loves to watch and dance ballet, though I might not look like it. I have been writing little stories or fan fictions since I was eleven. Into the Unknown is my first published novel; though not published the traditional way, it is still a dream come true.
ER: More and more authors have begun to look into self-publishing recently; for some of them, it’s simply a means of retaining full control of the creative process from cover to cover.
Most writers love to read, but your story has a little bit of a twist to that.
AR: In all honesty, as a kid I hated reading. I could never understand why people would just sit down for hours and stare at words; it just didn’t work out in my childish mind. It wasn’t until I was maybe eleven or twelve—I’m not really sure—that I had the crazy idea of picking up one of the books from my granny’s bookshelves.
ER: Well, it’s not about how early you start to read, as long as you keep on doing it. Once you started reading, did you have a favorite book?
AR: One could say my reading journey started when I read twelve books from The Legend of the Ice People series by Margit Sandemo in a matter of two weeks, which were my autumn holidays. Funny enough, I read these twelve books in Polish, which I don’t normally do as I am not really good at it, though I’ve been speaking Polish since I was able to speak. But, overall, I really loved this series and might go back and reread it sometime, just to bring back the good memories.
ER: As a German (and Polish) speaker who writes in English, what is your biggest challenge?
AR: Eloquent words. The problem with leaving the US at age eight and returning to an international school at age sixteen is that you lose out on a lot of great words you would learn during classes or while watching movies, or even talking to friends. Also, another problem that I have, and am sure many trilingual people have, is that sometimes I remember a word in two languages but not in the third, and so on. There are a lot of fancy words I know in German yet don’t know in English, or I just don’t remember them while actually needing them. But hey, that’s why we have dictionaries, right?
ER: I agree! I live with my dictionary close at hand and am forever referencing one online if I’m away from my bookshelf. I’m also feeling like a bit of an underachiever now, being an English speaker only. I know enough Spanish to ask where a bathroom is, so I suppose I’m covered if I end up in dire straits in a Spanish-speaking area.
What gives you your ideas?
AR: Oftentimes when I hear a song, something like little scenes start to build up in my mind; I rarely end up using them for anything, but it’s a nice exercise to get the creative juices flowing. Also, I sometimes have dreams which, if I remember them, I might use to turn them into something later on. For example: A few weeks back I had a dream about a girl sitting in a completely white room in an insane asylum. I wrote that dream down, thinking that it would end there, but over the course of the following weeks I managed to build an entire idea/story around this one snippet. And that’s how my idea for my standalone novel (which I am planning on writing once I am done with the Hunting Freedom Trilogy) came.
ER: Do you prefer any particular atmosphere when writing?
AR: Well, when I write I usually sit in my room and simply write whatever comes to my mind. Often this happen during the evening/night, which makes me end up going to bed around 2 a.m. because I need to finish writing whatever I might have come up with. Basically I just need to be alone, because other people would just distract me. It also depends on the scene: if it’s something light and happy, it might be more fitting to write it during the day. When I write darker scenes, maybe even scary ones, I like to sit in complete darkness with the brightness of my laptop turned down to a minimum to create this particular atmosphere.
ER: Along those same lines, does certain music when writing help you to focus? Does each book have its own playlist?
AR: Oh yes. While writing the first draft of Into the Unknown I always used to put up a song, album or playlist that would fit the mood. In my old document I wrote down song titles next to the chapter headings, just so I could remember what I listened to while creating that particular scene or chapter. For example, in Chapter 29 we see Bexx crossing the forest at night with a knife in hand. This scene actually came into my mind when I was listening to “I Come With Knives” by IAMX. This song perfectly mirrored the atmosphere I wanted to create while writing that particular moment.
Music plays a big role for me, not only because I grew up always surrounded by music, but also because I think music is something that’s not only here to entertain us but also to inspire us.
ER: Do you write a book from beginning to end, or great scenes that get fit in when the timing is right?
AR: I would love to be someone who can just sit down and write an entire book from beginning to end, but unfortunately that is not how my mind works. Oftentimes I write down bullet points for which bigger things are supposed to happen in which order. After write that, I end up adding other things I came up with.
A good example could be my process of writing We the Hunters. Back in November 2013 I made myself an outline of what is supposed to happen and all that. During NaNoWriMo I wrote it all: 60k words in thirty days. But now, months later, I have a lot of scenes in my head I want to add which I think would spice the story up and make it better/complete.
In short: my writing process is messy and chaotic, no matter how much I try to make it neat and organized.
ER: “Messy and chaotic” seems more the norm for most of the writers I know. There may or may not be a general outline, but they’re always open to adding something unexpected if the inspiration hits. Do you have an author whose style inspires you?
AR: I would say I take a great inspiration from my all-time favorite author: Sebastian Fitzek, one of the most famous authors of psycho thrillers in Germany. I simply love his novels. I've always dreamed that one day I'd write something as amazing as he does. Who knows? Maybe that’ll happen one day. But since I’m writing a story set in the dystopian genre I took some inspiration from writers like Suzanne Collins or Katie Kacvinsky. Yet, it wasn’t the plot of their works but rather the way they created their worlds and characters that fascinated me. My greatest fear is that I will end up writing a novel with ‘flat’ characters in a boring world that no one wants to know, so I always looked back at them and tried to improve my writing with every new idea I had.
AR: I would say my favorite is Shannon, not because he is this strong, good-looking leader of the rebels, but rather because of who he really is. In Into the Unknown the reader gets a look at him, sees that he’s a good guy, but there is a lot more to him than just that. He has a quite horrendous past which no one really knows of, and despite that he managed to become who he is when we first meet him in the book. But I will not tell you what past he’s had and all that; you’ll have to read We the Hunters and the third and final novel to find out.
But I can tell you, it’ll be worth it.
ER: Do you think it will be difficult to leave the characters when you finish the series?
AR: Of course! All the characters have become very dear to me and I think it’ll be a weird feeling once I finish writing down their story. But I know that that’s just how it goes. Besides that, I’m simply happy to see that people are willing to take the chance and read Into the Unknown, experience the story, and maybe fall in love with the characters as much as I did. It’s not like the characters will disappear once I’m done; they will always live on in the Trilogy. (And yes, I am aware that they are fictional characters who do not really exist.)
ER: I feel the same about my favorite characters, and I’ve got to tell you, Bexx and Shannon quickly made their way right up that list.
You can find Alice Reeds on Amazon.
Alice has provided a chapter excerpt for us to enjoy! We've trimmed it a bit for space considerations, but this is a point in the story where Bexx Kajan, the main character, goes on a military assignment that should be routine, but which changes her life completely.
As I leave the building it is already completely dark outside. I walk along one of the paths that lead to the border of TS-TF or actually DX-9, one of the military sectors in the city. The military building looks like a dark mountain of cement, stone and shadows. It’s five floors high and reaches sixteen floors into the ground. It’s one of the biggest buildings in the city, except for the Rose tower, inside which the government sits. There are hardly any windows so that one cannot look inside—not like anyone could come close enough to peek in, but that’s how they wanted to have the building. As the days pass, living under lamplight becomes so normal that the sunlight seems to be weird.
I have to walk approximately 3.5km to the first transmitter on my map. As long as I’m still in DX-9 I can walk normally and don’t have to worry that somebody might find me. As I’m walking, I look up at the sky. I can see a million stars shining light-years away from us, and the moon with its dented silver surface looking down on our little earth and our city. Somehow the moon always makes me feel calm and I know that even in the darkest night he will be there and shine upon my way.
[ . . . ]
N-NN is one of the abandoned sectors of the city; we suspect that somewhere here there might be a hiding place of the rebels, which is why we have the transmitters all over the sector and all the other abandoned sectors. The transmitters detect movement, and they can check to verify if it is someone from the military, a citizen, or an unauthorized person, a rebel. If they detect a rebel—or a group of them—they immediately send signals to the watch-centers in the military bases, which then send units to catch or eliminate them.
[ . . . ]
My mother always used to say, “Don’t walk in the darkness; you can never know what is waiting there until it finds you,” to scare me off. Well, mom, your plan didn’t quite work out. I wonder if people still live here or if all the houses are empty. I heard that in sector MH-HF people are still living in the old buildings, which look like they could fall apart any minute.
After crossing the park, I walk along the wall of an old building and pull out the device with the map from my backpack. There is a transmitter marked on it that’s not far away from me, maybe ten meters or so. I look around and then run across the street and into a little side street. It is almost completely empty; only two piles of paper are lying in the corner. I look along the left wall and finally see a little round thing lying on the ground, just next to the wall. If I walked along the street, I surely would think that’s just an old marble that’s been forgotten by someone. But I know better. I put the map back and take out the charger. I hold it so that its front touches the marble and push a button. For a moment nothing happens, but then a little light turns on. The transmitter is working. I put the charger away and stand up.
[ . . . ]
It takes me another hour to find and test seven more transmitters, all working. Next to me is a big building, at least five or six stories high; I think its front walls were once all covered in glass but by now they all have been shattered. Little pieces of glass are still lying on the street, sparkling in the moonlight. As I reach an intersection I see the entry to an old underground train station. The sign is long gone and planks are covering the hole in the ground, but some are missing, so one could still enter it. I have never been in one of these. They say that wild animals are living down there, but I always ask myself, Why?
An old tower clock strikes two in the morning and I turn around with a scare. This would be the perfect moment for someone to attack, as I would not be able to hear them. I run as fast as I can to the nearest shadow; I hide to survive. I listen to the silence after the clock fades away. No footsteps. No one’s there. I’m alone. I let myself sink to the ground, leaning against the wall as I take my bottle out of my backpack and drink. It feels good as the cold water runs down my throat. The minutes pass; I need some time to rest but I know I can’t stay too long in one place, because that would only make me an easy target.