Sunday, January 24, 2021

Allie Reynolds

British-born Allie Reynolds is a former freestyle snowboarder who swapped her snowboard for a surfboard and moved to the Gold Coast in Australia, where she taught English as a foreign language for fifteen years. She still lives in Australia with her family. Reynolds’s short fiction has been published in women’s magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden, and South Africa. Shiver is her debut novel.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles are so hard to get right! My novel, when I originally submitted it to agents, was titled The Icebreaker. I chose it because the icebreaker game the characters play in the reunion is a pivotal point in the story. Rather than breaking the ice, the game ends up doing the opposite and revealing deep, dark secrets that cause huge rifts between the characters, who are now trapped on an isolated mountaintop, all suspecting each other.

But my agent didn’t feel it was a strong enough title. I guess people might think an icebreaker refers to a ship that breaks the ice in Arctic waters! So we brainstormed alternative titles. My agent eventually came up with the title Shiver at 4AM one morning and I loved it. It definitely suits the novel, which is set on a freezing French glacier and is creepy rather than gory or overly violent, and I hope that readers will actually shiver as they read it!

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

My very first job was a Saturday job in a bookstore, aged fourteen, a job that lasted throughout my teenage years. I dreamt of being a writer ever since then. I even told my boss that, and he just laughed and said: “Doesn’t everyone?”

I’d love to tell my teenage self – and my boss – that one day my novel would end up in a ten-publisher auction and be translated into 19 languages!

In my late teenage years, I became obsessed with snowboarding and the icy white world of the high mountains and started writing a journal which eventually became a novel set in that world. It took me another twenty years to get it right!

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings?

I think both are hard! I have five earlier attempts at novels and always sweated for ages trying to get the opening right. With Shiver, the opening came very smoothly. I came up with the prologue and opening lines late one night when I couldn’t sleep, so I turned the light on and wrote them down before I forgot them, and those lines have barely changed since. My brilliant agent and editors took my manuscript through lots of revisions but I’m happy to say they didn’t change a single word of the prologue! I’m glad I was sleepless that night.

As for the ending, my agent asked for another twist, so I brainstormed various options and luckily I came up with a twist that we both loved. With my previous novels, the endings often only come with time, sometimes months later.

Which do you change more?

I edit obsessively as I go along. This means that by the time I reach the end of my first draft, the opening has already been edited thousands of times! So I definitely change the opening more than the ending. Also I think those opening lines and chapters are so important as a way to draw your readers into the story, so it’s crucial to get them as good as they can possibly be. We don’t want anything that drags the pace or bores the reader in those early pages, otherwise they might stop reading and put the book down.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

The voice of Milla Anderson, the female protagonist in Shiver, came really easily because she’s a lot like me – a feisty, determined tomboy – only she’s a lot more competitive, and a whole lot braver – as well as being a way better snowboarder than I ever was! The other characters in Shiver are also highly competitive. With Shiver being a thriller, it worked well to have them competitive – it drove the plot. In my opinion, we see a lot of highly competitive males in our society, and we tend to admire them, yet we see far fewer overtly competitive females. If they are competitive, they sometimes end up being criticised, so naturally women may feel the need to hide their competitive streak. In Shiver, I wanted to show a group of female characters who are competitive and not ashamed of it.

I get frustrated by women being portrayed as weak and helpless victims in crime novels and thrillers. I hope the female characters in Shiver are just as strong as the male characters – if not more so.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I love sports – particularly board sports. I snowboarded for years, then switched to surfing about fifteen years ago, and I’ve tried just about every board sport there is. As a former athlete, I’m always fascinated by top athletes in other sports. I’m interested in their lives, their mindsets, how they mix their ambitions with their personal relationships, and in the mind games they’re often known to play with rivals. I love reading athletes’ memoirs and figuring out what drives them. Sports psychology is an area of recent interest to me, too.

I love reading fiction with a sports theme and it seems to me that there isn’t that much of it, so I’m filling a void and I hope to incorporate sports in my future novels too. Athletes make great thriller characters, in my opinion because they’re driven, single-minded and ruthless!
Visit Allie Reynolds's website.

--Marshal Zeringue