Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Interview Tuesday: Sydney Aaliyah

Hi everyone! Welcome to another installment of Interview Tuesday. Basically, I spent a few hours talking to a lot of authors about all sorts of stuff, from guardian teddies to writing methods. Today's author is Sydney Aaliyah. Without further ado, here's our chat. Please note: This interview was done in May already, which explains why we're talking about JuNoWriMo.

Hey Sydney. Welcome to my blog. Please tell us all a bit about yourself?

I grew in Dallas, Texas. I have been living in Shenzhen China for the past 5 1/2 years. I helped create and manage a Golf Academy here in China. I graduated from Florida State University with a BS in Criminology and Psychology. I have a law degree from from Georgetown University Law Center as well. I practiced law for about 9 months before I discovered that it wasn't what I wanted to do. I basically sat in a room with no windows for 12 hours a day with 15 other people. Not the job for me. I really enjoy traveling and am fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to 15 different countries. I have been journaling and writing stories every since I can remember. I am single. I have two older brother and three nephews who I love to death and miss them terrible being here in China.

So what sort of stories do you enjoy writing?

I enjoy writing chick lit. My stories are about relationships, but not really romance. I tend to write about female characters that have stronger confident outer personalities, but inside they have issues. I also enjoy writing legal thrillers as well. I think that is more so I don't feel like my law degree was a total waste.
I have a ton of short stories over the years that I have written where the female character is a singer or a entertainer of some kind. someone who is in the public eye. Those are fun because I can live vicariously through my characters because I can't sing and getting in front of a big crowd to do anything scares me to death.

So how did you get into writing after studying for such different directions?

I have always had a journal going and it is filled with different story scenes, dialogue exchanges, character sketches and plot summaries. All the things that I have recently learned that goes into plotting our outlining a novel. I have a lot of these different parts, I just have never put them all together into one story or novel. I am at this point in my life that I am tired of working for other people and spending so much time doing what I have to do out of necessity. I really want to get into doing something I love. Writing is something I love to do. I have a pretty high stressed job at the moment and often times I get pulled in a bunch of different directions. Right now, writing allows me to be still and be focused for a couple hours per day doing something I love. So, I would say it is keeping me sane right now.

Writing keeps me sane as well. Do you have a fixed writing routine or do you write when you feel like it?

I have been working on creating a schedule over the last month. I typically work 6 days a week from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at my paying job. Sunday I work on getting organized for the week. Plan out my blog posts, find out what I have to get together for my WIP and usually spend about four hours total on that type of stuff. I am currently outlining and getting prepared for JuNoWriMo next month. I work on it from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm every night about 4 days a week. The am trying really hard, but without much success to limit my twitter time to an hour per day.
Since I spend so much time at work, I can usually carve out an hour or two while I am on the clock and gets some work done there as well. Typically that is when I will catch up on the blogs that I follow. It all just depends on what kind of day I am having at work.

With a goal of 1,667 words per day next month for JuNoWriMo, this could all go out the window. I will have to see.

I am very much a planner and a list maker. It is the only way I can function.

Is JuNoWriMo your first major attempt at finish a project?

Yes. The first novel. The goal is 50,000 words in one month. I haven't every written anything of that length before.
I competed in the A to Z blogging challenge in April which got me in the habit of writing something every day. I did pretty good and finished on time, but it really just taught me that preparation is key. So, I have been spending all of May outlining and prepping for JuNoWriMo. But, I have no idea what I am in for.

I am looking forward to it. I keep having this nightmare that I sit in front of my computer on June 1st and can't figure out the first sentence. I sit and sit and sit and can't pull the trigger. So, I come back the next day, sit in front of my computer and again, nothing. I think I am going to write that first sentence before June, so my nightmare doesn't come true. HAHA.

So what have you done to prepare for JuNoWriMo?

I have been reading Outlining Your Novel; Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland. She is a real advocate for mapping out your novel before you get to the writing part. She talks a lot about finding some of the issues and problems with characters, plots and time lines in the story before you get to the actual writing part. Which I love. Saves a lot of time in that sense. It doesn't make the task of writing easier because you still have to do it, but gives you tips on how to focus your writing more.
I am also trying to get my schedule figured out right now. I have been trying to do some daily writing with the word goal in mind. Trying to determine in the perfect conditions, in the writing zone how much time do I need to write 1,667 words that actually resemble a story. I am also asking for any and all advice on how to tackle this month. Especially from others who have done it.

Hahahaha I wouldn't be able to help. I've failed at both my attempts at NaNoWriMo, so... What gave you the idea for the project you'll be writing for JuNoWriMo?

No worries. I signed up for NaNoWriMo last November and opened up a nice blank document on November 1st and that is as far as I got. HAHA.
The novel I am starting in June is about a single women from America who currently lives in China (the similarities to my life end there. I promise. haha). She goes on a business trip to America and mets a guy. It is a story about everything that she has to do to get back to the states to be with him. What I like best about the story is that the lead character has some internal issues to deal with and a female boss who puts some crazy emotional obstacles in the way of her goal. The boss character is crazy insane.
I have thought about this story for about two years now. I am excited that I finally explored the idea further and am ready to write it.

Awesome. What have you found to be the greatest challenge to writing so far?

I think the biggest challenge is just finding the time. Finding the right balance. In my perfect world, I could quite my job and write all day every day. And, those student loans just disappear. But, reality is I have to have a job.
I am actually looking forward to seeing what challenge I run into writing something of this length. Like, will I stick with the outline or go in another direction when I get into? What things will work and won't work?
And, I am sure there are a bunch of other challenges, but I just refuse to think about them at this time. haha.

So what do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy the processes. From idea, to research, to outlining, to writing, to editing. Actually, I am learning to loving editing.

I enjoy the idea of having a thought in my head actually turn into a story on paper. I like when the emotions I felt from that idea come across in the actual written story.

I also have really enjoyed the writing community that I have meet online. Everyone is so supportive of each other and wants to help each other succeed. That is great to be around.

So which phase is your favorite and why?

I like the first draft writing phase the best. It is the anything goes phase. I love when I get in a zone and just put it all out there. I sometimes go down a tangent that I didn't originally plan, but I am flexible enough with my outline process that if its good and it has a place in the story, I will keep it. Even if it doesn't quite make sense, I will go back and rework it to make it fit.

I am learning to appreciate the editing phase just in the sense that you actually see your story getting better. My issue with it is if I don't have deadline, I will edit and edit and edit and edit.
I participate in the Writer Wednesday Blog Hop where every Wednesday we get a photo and 5 words to use in a story with a 500 word limit. I write the story on Thursday and Friday and know that I have 4 more days to edit it. I will look at it for a short time every day, but Wednesday comes along, I just put it out there because times up.

But, with no deadline, I have three short stories right now in my edit file and I can't let them go, yet.

Finally: Where can people find you on the social networks and blogosphere?

You can find me at:
On twitter - @sydliyah

Thank you very much for this interview, Sydney. How did JuNoWriMo go? Anyone else do JuNoWriMo? Who's doing NaNoWriMo?


  1. Hey Sydney! Wow, six full work days a week. That's a lot. If you can squeeze in blogging time at work, that's a bonus. (That's how I manage.) And preparation is the key to beating NaNo or any of those writing months.

  2. Hi Misha. Thanks so much for the interview. It looks great. It was fun to do. JuNoWriMo was a huge success for me. I ended up with over 75,000 words so I was able to pull the trigger on the first day. It was a great experience. I have put that novel away and am currently outlining for August Campnano. Then spend the rest of the year outlining them both. That's the plan.

    Alex, I do work to much, but since I am there so much I don't feel guilty about taking an hour here or there to work on my own stuff. I don't know if my boss would feel the same, though. Yes, prep is the key. I am looking forward to discovering if JuNoWriMo was beginners luck or if I can write like that again. We will see.

    Thanks again Mischa. I really appreciate the interview and the support.

  3. I've signed up for Camp NaNaoWriMo. But I've never ever plotted a thing. I'm a panster mostly. However, I have a storyboard covered in post-it notes.


    1. Hi Shelly. I wish I was a panster, but I can't go against my nature. That is what happen with the 1st attempt at Nanowrimo last year. I though I could just sit down and write. My brain doesn't work like that. So, why fight it, right? See you at Camp.

  4. I keep a journal of story ideas. Two if I count my Word files of ideas.

    I've never done any of the writing challenge months though. It's always been bad timing.

  5. Living in China would be interesting. Lots of fodder for your creative side. Nice meeting you, Sydney.

    Waving at Misha.

    1. Hi M Pax. You are 100% correct. Living in China has unlimited story line potential. It has been fun. Challenging, but fun.

  6. Hi Sydney. Wow, hearing about your schedule made me feel so tired for you! What a trooper. Good luck with your writing!!!

    1. Thanks Christina. It makes me tired just reading about, too. It really makes me stay focused and take advantage of my down time. It will let up a bit starting next month as we are moving to a new facility and it won't be up and running until next year. After going hard for 5 years, I am welcoming a 5 month break.

  7. Great interview. Time is definitely the biggest challenge. Good luck on JuMoWriMo. I say every year that I won't do NaNoWriMo, yet I always give in. :)

    1. Hey Ciara. I really enjoyed JuNoWriMo and was excited that I had actually finished something. I will see if I can do it again in Nanowrimo.

  8. Awesome interview! The first draft phase is my favorite too. I'll be doing NaNoWriMo in November. It will be my tenth year!

    1. Hi Christine, Wow. 10 years. That is so cool. Good luck.

  9. With all that time spent at work, it must take some major focus to stick with your writing.

    1. Hi J.L., One of my gifts/curses is being very organized. My job also is stressful in spurts, the rest of the time it is pretty easy, so I get time at work to get some other things done.

  10. Hey Sydney, you work six days a week and then find time to write, blog and tweet. Wow! Its super. Good luck with your writing endeavours.

    1. Thanks Rachna. I should say that I am in the office 6 days a week. I carve out an hour or two per day to get some other stuff done. As far as tweet, Buffer and Triberr are the busy writers best friend.

  11. Congratulations on your JuNoWriMo win. ^^ I've won NaNoWriMo three years in a row now and plan to do it again this year. Currently I'm planning for Camp NaNo in August (good luck on that as well!). I did it last year in June but only wrote 17k. I didn't feel too disappointed because I was simply using it to motivate me to finish a rewrite.

    I also have to outline before writing a novel. Plotters unite!

    1. Us Plotters have to stick together. :-) Three year in a row. That's awesome. Looking forward to camp next week. See you there.

  12. Well done, Sydney! 75k is a MASSIVE achievement! I completed my first NaNo last year (just made it!), and it's sitting in a drawer, waiting to be rewritten once I've brushed up on my writing skills. I loved reading your interview :)


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