Pen Friends ~ Please welcome YA Author Alissa Zavalianos to talk about her latest novel, ENDLEWOOD, and her writing journey! I’m so excited to have Alissa here with us!
SP: Hi Alissa! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey.
My writing journey started in 4th grade, scribbling adventures and drawing maps, taking creative writing courses throughout high school and college (English major with a focus in Creative Writing).
Becoming a published author was always a dream of mine, but it felt unattainable . . . like, that’s for people who are older and have more experience, fill in the blank. But no—it’s possible! In January 2020, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I picked up my stories and became determined to get my books on the bookshelves. It takes work, but it’s possible! Since then, I’ve written and published 3 books, and I’m currently working on my 4th, 5th, and 6th. EARTHTREADER was my first book.
SP: ENDLEWOOD came out April 18th, 2022. Please add on Goodreads! Here’s the blurb:
In Griskol, magic and deceit are forbidden. And to practice any form of them could lead to death.
Holland doesn’t know who she is. For reasons she can’t explain, she’s drawn to the tragic story, “The Tale of Endlewood”, seeking to leave home and find where she belongs, even if it means disguising her identity—an action that could cost her everything.
Markus Fenn has always known his purpose: to farm the land his father left behind and to care for his aging mother and younger siblings. Unlike his best friend, Holland, he’s content with his lot in life.
But when a sinister plot rocks the country of Griskol, Holland finds herself in the middle of the chaos, and Markus’ familiar, rural life is upended in the midst of it. Griskol may have been right about magic all along.
In this epic tale of love and loss, accompanied by mermaids, fae, and dragons, will Holland find where she truly belongs? Or will she open her heart enough to realize her home has been with her the whole time?
SP: What has most helped you on your writing journey? You’ve made an A to Z publishing guide for writers, how did that come about?
I think what’s helped me the most is that, yes, I want to produce a good product and I want to put my best foot forward, but realistically, I am my toughest critic. Of course there will be rough critics out there, difficult reviews, but it’s important to understand that everyone has an opinion. And if those opinions are different from mine, that’s okay. I don’t like every book I read either. It’s part of life and the writing journey. That perspective has helped. I don’t write to please everyone.
I created my publishing resource guide because when I first started the publishing aspect of my writing journey, I was so lost. I had no idea where to go. I remember reaching out to a few people and some were more willing to help than others, which is to be expected, but it had me thinking; I really want to help other people navigate this. I fell in love with the whole publishing process, and I really enjoy researching, so thus, A to Z: A Writer’s Guide to Publishing was born—a PDF guide to help new authors navigate the publishing process (emphasis on self-publishing) with resources to find editors, cover designers, pros & cons for different publishing platforms, etc. So many people helped me when I started out and I want to give back to the community. It’s been such a joy to work with other authors. I love self-publishing and helping others on the journey!
SP: What’s something unexpected that came from stepping out and self-publishing? How has it changed you?
I think I’ve grown more confident as a storyteller. Not to worry so much. I struggled with anxiety for a long time but the creative process is healing. I am not a huge fan of talking on the phone, but I offer Zoom calls for people who are struggling with publishing. This has taken me a little out of my comfort zone, seeing as I’m interacting with new people face to face, but I really love it. I think talking things out is super helpful and I’m a visual learner, so I wanted to offer that to others. It’s really exciting to see people turn the corner from dreams to reality, and it’s a joy to partake in a small portion of their journey.
SP: What are some of your favorite quotes from your books?
“Never underestimate the power of small things; I find their unassuming ability can do more damage than a full-fledged sword.” ― The Earth-Treader
“Sometimes we don’t understand why hard things happen to us, but we have to trust that it’s for a greater reason. That good can still come out of it even when it hurts.” ― Endlewood
“A heart didn’t need fortified walls made out of fear. No. It needed love, and love had the power to do what fear could not. Restore. Forgive. Mend.” ― Endlewood
SP: Any writing tips you’d like to share?
I think my best advice is to just keep writing. Even if it’s bad or it doesn’t make sense, eventually, it will get there. As my friend Jordan said, writing is a lot like exercising a muscle, and it takes practice to get the results you want. Also, try not to throw things away. You never know when you’ll be able to utilize some of your old writings for new stories.
You can find Alissa on IG at @authoralissajzavalianos and on her website.
A few fun questions about Alissa:
Last book you read? Yours is the Night by Amanda Dykes
Current dream vacation spot? New Zealand and anywhere in Europe
Current favorite movie? Gladiator or Singing in the Rain
Favorite childhood book? Ella Enchanted