Author’s Spotlight: Alana K. Drex and A.W. Mason

Alana K. Drex and A.W. Mason, authors of The Scampering

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

Alana: Alana K. Drex is a pen name and I’m from Missouri.

Mason: My name is A.W. Mason and I write everything from horror/terror/suspense to weird/experimental/contemporary fiction and hail from the Sunshine State (Florida).

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

Alana: My most recent work was a collaboration with A. W. Mason that resulted in The Scampering. It originated after I was devastated over hitting a squirrel. We had been looking for a subject to collaborate on and Mason said, “Let’s go with that.”

This is my second published short story. So, it is about Melinda who thinks it is her mission to eradicate squirrels because of her very personal vendetta with the poor furry things. I would definitely call it ‘Absurd Horror’. Mason and I wanted it to be outlandishly fun, but horrific.

Mason: The Scampering is an extreme horror story and really the brain hild of Alana. It’s my first standalone story and my first published collab as well. It’s a gory revenge tale with a bit of insanity sprinkled in.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Alana: Melinda is a widow who is on a mission. Her strength is culinary arts (you can find one of her favorite recipes at the end of the story) Her weakness is definitely letting bitterness consume her.

Mason: Alana did a wonderful job coming up with Melinda. She’s a bit eccentric and “distracted” by past traumas.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

Alana: I don’t know what it says about me, but this story is one of the few that just flowed from my brain to the keyboard. It was a fun, wild ride to be in the mind of such an unstable person. I really let myself explore some dark places, it was so much fun!

Mason: With this being a collab, Alana and I went back and forth on parts of the story until we had it all fleshed out. But the most difficult scene for me in any writing is when the author needs to make sure the reader can still suspend their own beliefs.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

Alana: We self-published this one. Thank you, Mason for handling the formatting and everything it took to release it out into the wild!

Mason: We chose to self-publish. We can control most of the creative process and the revenue coming in which we are donating to the Animal Welfare Institute.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

Alana: So, for me, ideas pop up all the time, but it is hard for me to stick with something past the 50% mark of completion. I always want to keep starting new projects — I really have to make myself focus. I’ve learned it helps to have a place to store new story ideas, while continuing on my current WIP.

Mason: The most difficult part of the writing journey for me is seeing a clear picture in your head of what the story is that you’d like to write and getting that vision on paper with words. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to not getting what my mind is thinking on paper and my projects stall. My advice to other writers is to just write, get something down on paper because you’re going to work back through it when you’re editing anyway. A rough draft or first draft is always perfect because all it’s meant to be is just that, a rough draft.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Alana: All my stories (I have several completed that are unpublished as of this interview) are unconnected. Maybe in the future I will play around with connecting worlds.

Mason: A good story will stand on its own regardless of connections. However, I am very much a fan of world building and cross-overs; most of my stories in my first book A Haunt of Travels connect in one way or another.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

Alana: I loved Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine as a kid. As an adult it has been the many different horror styles put forth by authors like Stephen King to Joyce Carol Oates to Ronald Malfi to Richard Laymon, and so many more. I think I was inspired to write because I have always been one that enjoyed writing in notebooks. So to write actual stories, I basically just become the character(s) and write for them. I like learning about them as they’re written.

Mason: It’s probably cliché to say these days but Stephen King is a big reason why I write. I started reading him at a pretty impressionable age and the horror genre really appealed to me because you can peel it back like an onion and explore so many different real-world themes and issues. Joe Hill is quite good at that as well. Later on, I grew to enjoy the writing styles of Chuck Palahniuk, David Sedaris and Carl Hiaasen.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

Alana: I really haven’t done marketing so far. I’m pretty new to this thing. I enjoy sharing through Instagram, where I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the bookstagram community. I’m a reader first. Writer second. That’s not to say my writing comes second, but I think that without being a reader first, my writing would never be the quality it is. Writing is a craft, and I have the many authors whose books I’ve enjoyed over the years to thank for teaching me things like structuring my ideas into readable stories.

Mason: As far as marketing goes, I am a terrible self-promoter. Thankfully I have a good group of folks on Instagram in the book community that I have developed friendships with because of posting about current reads and neat editions of books we find. Within that community, there are so many wonderful indie authors and reviewers who are great at supporting each other and promoting each other’s work.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

Alana: I read a variety of things and I’m not picky.  The only style I can think off the top of my head that’s hard to read is when things are too redundant. Sometimes less is more.

Mason: I’m fine with most tropes, I’d never want to discourage anyone from writing what they love even if some folks bash on the topic. The only thing I try to stay away from are adverbs. As King once said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs!”

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

Alana: I’ve been enjoying reading the reviews. I know those negative ones are coming. But so far, I’m new to this scene, and that has yet to happen. I know it will. I’ll remind myself how fun the story was to write and try to shove it out of my mind. Easy to say for me now, huh?

Mason: I read reviews for my work. I think it’s an important part of growing as a writer, seeing the criticisms and using them as tools to better your craft. I can understand how some negative reviews can be sensitive to some authors. It’s like, “Hey this is my baby, I’ve poured my heart and soul and blood, sweat and tears into this thing. How dare you not like it!” But writers have to realize that your work isn’t meant for everybody and never will be. I had a 1-star review left on Amazon that said none of my stories had endings, and they weren’t all that wrong. I do keep some stories ambiguous and leave it up to the reader. As a reader myself, I enjoy that style of writing.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

Alana: I wing it for the most part. I am working on a novel currently and as I go, I type side notes in Scrivener (thanks Billy Ray Middleton Jr for the recommendation). Since it is the most involved story I’m writing to date, those little side notes will help remind me where to go with the story. I would say I wrote the first 10K words of my current novel in progress without any side notes. I love to wing it as much as I can and be surprised, too. Music can be inspiring — the novel I’m working on has a growing playlist.

Mason: My writing process is usually born from a thought or an idea like, “What happens if this were to occur?” and I start from there. I rarely ever outline, it’s too rigid of a structure to me for creativity, but I’ll make story notes when I need to keep continuity in check. When writing, I typically shut the door behind me and type away in silence. I’m distracted easily. But while editing, I’ll put a record on and lately it’s been Coheed and Cambria or The Wipers.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

Alana: Billy Ray Middleton Jr (@billyraymiddletonjr) told me to just write, write, write whatever because you can always go back later and delete some things. This has really kept my projects alive and I’ve only had to delete a little bit.

Mason: The best advice I’ve ever received, and the advice I give other writers (which I think is universal writing advice) is to just write. Put down words on the page. Don’t limit yourself or your ideas. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s only a couple hundred words you can come up with. Don’t think that you have to write every day. That may seem undisciplined but it’s what works for me and gives me the freedom and flexibility to create at my own pace.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

Alana: I’m working on a Gothic Horror novel set in 1899. But before that I hope to release Volume 1 of my Holiday Horror short story collection this Fall. And then follow that in Spring 2023 with Volume 2.

Mason: Next, I have a novella that I’m in the final stages of formatting and reviewing. It’s a weird fiction story called The Cleanup Crew and it’s about a society that doesn’t recognize death.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

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