“The idea for this book hit me hard and fast, and the characters came at me full-force, demanding that their stories be told.”
–Alistair Cross on writing Sleep, Savannah, Sleep
Q: Tell me about Haunted Nights LIVE and what inspired you to start this radio show? How can people listen in?
Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! came about when the show’s producer, Pam Stack, approached me via Facebook, asking if my collaborator, Tamara Thorne, and I would be interested in hosting a weekly horror-themed show. Haunted Nights LIVE! is part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network which has more than 3 million listeners worldwide…so naturally, I said y
es without hesitation.
Through Haunted Nights LIVE! I’ve met some of the most fascinating people alive today and I don’t take that for granted. Many of the guests we talk to each week are authors I grew up reading and loving, the ones who inspired me to become a writer. And I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a part of this show because it allows me to spend time with many of the writers who will be remembered hundreds of years from now.
Q: What would you say is the best thing about hosting Haunted Nights LIVE?
Meeting my heroes. Through Haunted Nights LIVE!, I’ve met folks like Laurell K. Hamilton, Andrew Neiderman (V.C. Andrews), John Saul, Charlaine Harris, Preston & Child, Kim Harrison, Christopher Rice, and The Walking Dead author, Jay Bonansinga, just to name a few. Getting to know these great writers is a pleasure beyond anything I could have imagined.
Q: So, Sleep, Savannah, Sleep is your latest novel. What inspired you to write this book? What do you want your readers to take away from reading your work?
The inspiration for Sleep, Savannah, Sleep came from no place I can identify. It was one of those ideas that struck late one night as I was trying to fall asleep. I just began wondering, “What if,” and as these things often go, I was up for the rest of the night plotting it out, and by the time the sun was rising, I had the book mapped out in its entirety–which has never happened before. Usually, plotting happens as I go along, but this time, it came to me all at once, fully-formed.
The main thing I want readers to get from my work is entertainment. I want them to enjoy spending time in the world I’ve created, with the characters I’ve come to love so much myself. My only real goal as a writer is to pull readers into the story and make them a part of it.
Q: How long did it take to finish writing, Sleep, Savannah, Sleep?
Unlike my previous works, which often take between nine and fifteen months to complete, the first draft of Sleep, Savannah, Sleep was written in just 25 days! The idea for this book hit me hard and fast, and the characters came at me full-force, demanding that their stories be told. As a result, I pulled many, many all-nighters, sometimes writing well into morning the next day. This, of course, created a strong need for serious revisions later, but it’s very first telling came out in under a month.
Q: Did you do any special research or take any literary trips to finish Sleep, Savannah, Sleep?
While I often end up doing some minor traveling for research, Sleep, Savannah, Sleep did not require me to leave my writing studio. But I did have many conversations with a massage therapist, an attorney, and someone in the cemetery business, all of whom were instrumental in helping me get my facts straight–and all of whom were incredibly generous with their time and very kind to me.
Q: Did you consider any alternate endings for Sleep, Savannah, Sleep?
No, because the ending was the first thing I knew when I began plotting out this book. For me, it couldn’t have ended in any other way–which is not to say that at certain times along the way, I didn’t wish I could change things. Sometimes, the villains grow on you and you want to absolve them of guilt…but no, there was no way Sleep, Savannah, Sleep could have taken a different turn. I think the difference with this book is that it’s a whodunit–and that requires knowing the ending from the very beginning.
“The characters know themselves–and the story–better than I, and it’s only when I set them free that the narrative comes to full life.”
Q: What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Without question, the absolute worst advice I was ever given was to never allow my characters to take full control of the story. I was told to “keep them on a tight leash,” and always “insist they do my bidding.” I have since learned otherwise. The characters know themselves–and the story–better than I, and it’s only when I set them free that the narrative comes to full life.
Q: What does your “writer’s studio” look like or where do you feel most inspired to write?
My “writer’s studio” is a tall corner desk in a bedroom surrounded by plants, my favorite framed paintings, and all the books I love the most. As for feeling inspired to write, I don’t believe in waiting for that. I don’t want to be at the mercy of such a fickle emotion as inspiration, and instead, I set writing hours and am militant about spending that time writing and I protect that time fiercely.
Q: When you’re not writing, what do you do? How do you spend your spare time?
The truth is that I really don’t have much spare time at all, but when I do, I like to go driving aimlessly, stereo blaring, the open road ahead. There are also a few shows on Netflix I enjoy watching.
Q: How do you choose names for your characters?
The very weird–but very real–truth of it is, I don’t. The characters tell me their names, and if I try to change them, the characters simply stop working for me. It’s a strange phenomenon, but until I “know” their names, the story just doesn’t work–and, apparently, it isn’t for me to decide what they should be named.
Q: In your opinion, which is the greatest book ever written and if you could choose to, would you live it out?
Violin by Anne Rice. And no, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I don’t have that much guts.
Q: Of all the characters you’ve created, which would you say is your favorite?
I will always have a particular fondness for Gretchen VanTreese, the four-foot-eleven, blonde-haired villain in my vampire novel, The Crimson Corset. She’s wicked in delicious ways and I can’t wait to get back to her.
Q: If you could turn one of your books into a movie, which would it be and who would play the leading character?
I think The Angel Alejandro would make a good movie because it would have to be pretty visually stimulating. And I’d like to see all those quirky townspeople committing their many nefarious little crimes in the flesh. But as for who would play any of them, I wouldn’t dare say. Books and movies are such different entities that I feel it’s best to leave casting to the casting directors, who have a far better idea of what they’re doing than I would.
Q: Where do you think the publishing industry will be in 5 years? What would you change if you could?
I have no idea, but I firmly believe in changing with the times, so wherever it may end up, I’ll be there.
Q: How can readers stay connected with you and stay up-to-date on what you’re working on?
The best way to stay up-to-date on my upcoming work is to join the Thorne & Cross monthly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/ckaBrr.
Stay updated on Alistair’s work by going to his website: alistaircross.com. Need something chilling? Tune in to Haunted Nights Live!