Welcome to my second author-to-author interview. This time I am really excited to introduce a great new talent. Alec John Belle is only seventeen years old and already has two novels, Before I Break and Forbidden Darkness under his belt. I came across Alec on Facebook and liked the sound of Before I Break, which is a novel dealing with homophobia among teenagers, as well as issues such as self-harm and suicide. I decided to check it out and was suitably impressed. Alec has self-published both his books, but has just recently been snapped up by a small press. Personally I think if Alec can write this well at only seventeen, he is definitely an author worth watching! Over to Alec.
1) How old were you when you first started writing?
I was in fifth grade when I first started writing. I was obsessed with the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine and one day in class we had a free write, where we could write about anything we wanted. I decided to write a horror short story about a kid who goes to see a fortune teller who makes all his wishes come true. My teacher was shocked at how well it was written for a 10 year old, so she asked me to write more. That year I won a writing award for school for another story I’d written about a human who woke up to realize they were an alien. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a writer.
2) How would you describe your work?
The best way to describe my work would be “gritty and raw”. My first book, Before I Break, explored topics such as bullying, discrimination, LGBT teens, self harm, suicide, and a few others that would be spoilers. It really was a lot to write, and sometimes even I had to take breaks because it was too much to take in.
My new series, in the paranormal YA genre, called The Forbidden Darkness Chronicles, follows similar topics. It’s about a girl who discovers she is a Monster Hunter one year after her best friend’s attempted suicide. In the series, there’s a physical entity called Darkness that feeds off of negative emotions, such as depression, anxietym bipolar, etc. That’s what makes the Darkness strong. Once again, with a less realistic approach, there are still real world topics that make it fall under “gritty and raw”.
3) What is your writing process/routine?
This may sound weird, but I actually don’t have one. For me, it’s just whenever I get the urge. I may go a week without writing, then one day feel the push. People think that actually means it takes me longer to write a book, but when I do write, I make up fot missing days. I can write the first draft somewhere between 1-3 months.
Also, I’m a night owl. So all of my good writing is done at night.
4) What are you working on right now?
Both of my books, Before I Break and Forbidden Darkness (the first in my new series), are being reprinted under the publishing house, Booktrope. While going through that process, I am working on the second book in The Forbidden Darkness Chronicles, titled Shadow’s Wings.
5) What else have you got planned for the future?
The Forbidden Darkness Chronicles will have 8 books, plus some short stories in between I hope. I also am hoping to make Before I Break a trilogy. The second Before I Break novel, titled Once I Fall, is kind of on the back burner for now, but I’ll get back to it eventually.
6) What is your approach to self-promotion?
Self-promotion is the hardest part about being a writer. For me, I just post on social media about my books ALL the time, especially my WordPress site. It’s helped bring in some new readers.
7) Where do you get your ideas from?
My ideas are usually pretty random. I got the idea for The Forbidden Darkness Chronicles in 7th grade when I was on a Hayride at a Halloween event. That idea sat in my head for years, which created a story that now needs 8 books.
Before I Break came to me one day when sitting in Spanish class when I went to public school. Suddenly, a question popped into my mind: “What if a homophobic straight male became friends with another guy without knowing the other guy was gay?” Then next thing you know, the whole story just flooded into my head, including the ending. I knew exactly what would happen at the end by the time class was over.
8) What would be your advice be to other young writers?
My advice, as cliche as it may sound, is to keep writing. Write your heart out. Think your idea is stupid? Write it. Think your idea isn’t good enough? Write it. Think it’s too controversial? Guess what? Write it. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t write. If I did, Before I Break and Forbidden Darkness wouldn’t be Amazon Bestsellers.
9) What advice would you give to a writer embarking on the independent path?
It’s difficult. It took months for Before I Break to hit the Bestseller list on Amazon. You also won’t make the New York Times Bestseller List. But you will build a fan base. It won’t come overnight and you’ll need to try and try and try and try before you start selling even one book a day, but it’s so worth it. Trust me.
10) Can you describe your highs and low so far?
The highs have included a few. The first high was getting my book published. Before I Break came in the mail and it was so overwhelming. Same with Forbidden Darkness. Another high was making the Amazon Bestseller List. I cried when that happened because it was so overwhelming, and while some say the Amazon Bestseller List means nothing, it does. I also love book signings and being able to meet new readers and talk about some of these issues. It gives me great joy being a figure some people look up to.
The only real low is not many sales. As an indie author, the sales haven’t been that great, but they’ve been alright. Self-promotion is difficult. I just hope that with my books being reprinted under Booktrope, my sales will start to get better.
You can connect with Alec on Facebook; http://www.facebook.com/alecbellefanpage
or follow his blog here; http://alecjohnbelle.wordpress.com/
Find my previous author-to-author interview with Kate Rigby here; https://chantelleatkins.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/interview-with-author-kate-rigby/