Interview: Ally Matthews, YA Romance author, OFFSETTING PENALTIES

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

My mom. She stayed home with us when we were little, and she was always reading. My parents also made sure there were plenty of books in the house for us to explore and read.

What kind(s) of writing do you do?

Strictly fiction. I write YA romance and also historical romance under a different pen name.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

Trying to balance the conflict between Izzy and Garret so it was realistic, but wouldn’t make readers dislike either of the characters. I hope I succeeded.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

These two characters were a dream to write. This is going to sound weird, but there were times when they were dictating their dialogue to me so quickly that I could barely type fast enough to keep up.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I consider my writing a full-time job, but also work twenty hours per week as a reading and writing tutor at the local community college. I frequently try to remind myself that I’m a full-time writer to keep me on track with my deadlines. I have mixed results.

What are some day jobs that you have held?  If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

I worked as the librarian at a small, pre-K to 8th grade Montessori school, and being surrounded by books and kids all day was a dream come true. I was tasked with reading the middle grade and YA books to make sure they fit with the Montessori pedagogy, and during that process, I came to the realization that I could write a book. So I did. That first book was a mess structurally, but the second book I wrote was published.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m working on a proposal for two sequels to Offsetting Penalties, and I’m writing a YA speculative fiction romance.

What do your plans for future projects include?

I have so many things I want to write, but there just isn’t enough time in the day. I’m planning to write a YA book based on a Russian fairy tale, and I also have plans for a YA horror romance set inside the Hermitage Museum (I studied a lot of Russian history and culture in college and have visited Russia three times).

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

Madeliene L’Engle. She wrote in many different genres, and for children, teens, and adults. My favorite book when I was a teenager was A Ring of Endless Light. As an adult, I find myself delving into her Crosswicks Journals over and over again to bask in her skill and wisdom.

John Green has also inspired me. He never shies away from difficult subjects or awkward situations in his books, and he’s been very forthcoming about his struggles with anxiety and OCD.

The book I’m working on now has a protagonist that suffers from social anxiety disorder. I wanted to write this book because there are so many children and teens battling with both big and small mental health issues today, and I have more than one family member who suffers from depression. Though I started writing my book before I knew anything about Turtles All the Way Down, I was excited to read this book and be able to study how a master storyteller handles the difficult subject of mental illness.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

I would choose relatively unknown actors because I wouldn’t be able to picture my characters as someone really famous. I think Australian actress Maia Mitchell would make a great Izzy, and she even has some dance experience. For Garret, I like Leo Howard, who was in the movies Logan and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. He also gets bonus points for being an animal lover and volunteering at shelters.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

It depends on the story, but I usually choose character names based on how they sound. Since I primarily write romance, I like to make sure the names of the hero and heroine sound good together. If I get stuck and just can’t come up with the right name, I peruse baby name websites until I find one I like.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

Forgive me. I did my best.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

The ability to heal.

What literary character is most like you?

Vicky Austin from Madeliene L’Engle’s Austin Family series.

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?

Austria. Since the first time I saw The Sound of Music as a small child, I’ve wanted to go there.

If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

I’m debating between Russian, so I can scare my kids into listening to me, or British, so I can speak like all of Jane Austen’s swoon-worthy heroes.

Aboutthebook

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About Offsetting Penalties:

Isabelle Oster has dreamed of being a prima ballerina her entire life, so when the only male dancer backs out of the fall production, she’s devastated. Without a partner, she has no hope of earning a spot with the prestigious Ballet Americana company. Until hot jock Garret practicing stretches in one of the studios gives Izzy an idea, and she whips out her phone. But does she really want this badly enough to resort to blackmail?

All-state tight end Garret Mitchell will do anything to get a college football scholarship. Even taking ballet, which surprisingly isn’t so bad, because it means he gets to be up close and personal with the gorgeous Goth girl Izzy while learning moves to increase his flexibility. But Izzy needs him to perform with her for the Ballet Americana spot, and he draws the line at getting on stage. Especially wearing tights.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a bit of blackmail, a lot of sarcasm, and an ending guaranteed to melt your heart.

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About Ally Mathews:

Ally lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with three kids, four dogs, two cats, a rabbit, and assorted reptiles. Oh, and her husband. She likes to curse in Russian because very few people know what she’s saying, and spends most of what would be her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She has many stories in her head waiting for the opportunity to escape onto paper. 

When she’s not writing, you can find her reading or binge watching Psych, Scream, Younger, and superhero movies. She loves to cook but hates to clean up afterwards, and strongly believes that Disney World is truly magical. You can find Ally on her website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, though she makes no claims of using any of them properly.

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