Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?
I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life where I haven’t told stories. Even when I was a kid on the playground, my mom used to catch me telling strangers all about myself in vivid, usually fictional detail (they’d often compliment my mom on what an ‘exciting life’ their young daughter had lived, and she’d whisk me away with all possible haste before they figured out they’d been duped by a 5-year-old). So even though it took me until adulthood to take writing seriously as a profession, I’ve always had it in my blood.
But the real change came right at the end of college. I’d studied pre-med with the intention to become a doctor and write novels on the side (with all that free time, right?). I had everything in place, had taken all the right exams, and even scored a sweet internship at Mass General Hospital. While there, however, I began to have honest conversations with the doctors I worked with. They kept saying, “if you can think of anything else to do with your life, do that first.”
Obviously I could.
So I did.
Now, I’ve been writing professionally for seven years, with 18.5 finished novels, 10 published, and many, many more to go!
Describe your desk / writing space.
I work in the top floor of our little suburban house, which means I get to overlook a beautiful nature preserve in front of us. Whenever I’m stuck, I like to gaze out at the trees and river and, if I’m lucky, some adorable dogs playing in the park. My writing space is an L-shaped corner desk, with one branch dedicated to my day-job and the other cluttered with outlines, timelines, notebooks for the ideas I’m working on, notebooks for random and/or future ideas, a calculator (because why not?), and gum. I’m an absolute gum addict and go through one of those supersize containers about once a week. I also always have some kind of beverage handy. In the morning it’s my French Press of coffee. Later on, it’s water with lime, tea, or seltzer. Very occasionally I’ll allow myself a diet soda.
I don’t have a lot of knickknacks, since clutter tends to stress me out more than inspire me. The only non-work item on my desk is a picture of my dad skiing. It’s such a graceful and happy snapshot of life and it always inspires me that even though things are hard, they can be fun too.
Do you have a writing routine or do you write when inspired?
Even though I love being a writer and adore my growing pile of finished novels, I sort of low-key hate the actual act of writing. Which is why, if I waited for inspiration, I would probably never actually get any writing done.
When I’m in the drafting stage of a manuscript, I set myself a word count or chapter goal and then do my best to hit it. Because I’m an overachiever, my goals are usually out of reach, so I almost never do. Which gives me more motivation to try harder the next day!
I try to write 3-4 hours every weekday, leaving room for my day job, dog walks, and general life chores. If the weekend is quiet, I’ll get some writing done then too, but I try to keep a good work/life balance and leave my free time free. Never easy when you work from home, as so many people have learned this past year!
What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?
In my most recent release (Severed), the absolute hardest scene for me to write, and one I procrastinated for days, was the plot twist at the end. Obviously I won’t spoil it here, but it’s a dramatic multi-chapter character-driven sequence with about five different points of view and a million things going on. I think I’d built it up in my head so much that I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to execute this epic, awesome vision. However, upon finally braving the page and reading it during edits, I feel like I got pretty close. J
As far as my favorite scenes to write, I love writing action. When things are going so fast that my fingers can’t keep up with the words and the characters are making desperate snap-decisions, I can feel my heartrate picking up with the excitement. Fight scenes, chase scenes, any time the story has real momentum, I love that. It can be amazing too, to see what my brain comes up with in those moments. It’s almost like I’m improvising as much as the heroes!
What inspired your book/series?
Hooded was inspired because I went through a phase where couldn’t get enough of fairy tale retellings. Cinder, Uprooted, Spinning Silver, Ella Enchanted, Zel, etc. I loved how an author could play with expectation and nod at the original myth while doing entirely their own thing. Hooded actually went through three full rewrites, each time finessing and reworking the concept of a “dark fantasy Little Red Riding Hood.” Funnily enough, the end product has diverged so much from the original fairy tale that I’d be impressed if anyone recognizes the nods that remain! They’re there, but the series very much became its own beast. And now, moving into Bladed, I couldn’t be more excited to see what that turns into.
If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?
I would give up to and maybe including my soul to go to Hogwarts. Ever since I first read the Harry Potter Series, I’ve been waiting for my letter. I can almost convince myself that it’s actually a graduate school and my invite will be showing up any day now.
But in the real world, I would love to go back to Edinburgh. I studied aboard there my junior year of college and I’ve never fallen so in love with a city in my life. It’s a bucket-list dream of mine to live there again.
How do you come up with the title to your books?
That’s such an interesting question! Unfortunately, I don’t think I have a great answer for this. Tittles feel almost cosmic to me, like these giant puzzle pieces that slot into place one day and then just fit. I really hate to be working on something that doesn’t have a title, so it’s one of my earliest brainstorming stages to come up with one. Most of the time I’ll have a bunch of ideas bouncing around in my head for a few days, running through options on jogs or while cleaning, and then boom, something will click. Maybe it’s putting words together that I hadn’t tried before (like with The Star Siren). Or it’s using something story-specific but also dramatic and evocative (like Hooded or Vagabonds). Once it’s there, it’s very hard for me to shift. It feels a little like naming a child!
Who is your favorite character from your book and would you get along?
My favorite character would definitely have to be Iara, the pirate queen in Hooded and Severed. It’s funny because she was supposed to be a side-character in the background of the first book, plot-relevant but not destined to stick around. But when Iara showed up on the page, she swept me away with her magnetism and swagger. In classic Iara fashion, she refused to be shunted to the role of sidekick and therefore ended up playing a much larger role in Severed than I’d originally intended. She also got her own spin-off short story (All Hail the Pirate Queen) which is available free to my newsletter subscribers, and will be pivotal in the final book, Bladed.
Furthermore, just for you all on here, I’ll share that she might also be getting her own trilogy very soon. Stay posted if you want to hear more!
What are you working on next?
My next great challenge is the final book in the Furix Rising series, Bladed. That one’s going to be huge for me because not only am I closing out my first series ever, I’m also trying to pull together the threads of at least a dozen subplots, not to mention keep my world-building consistent and give all my characters satisfying arcs. I keep telling my husband that it’ll be a miracle if I pull it off, but hey, miracles happen.
After that, I want to finish my Scottstown Heroes small-town superheroes series (which starts with Vagabonds, which you can read for free). There are 3 more books and 2 more novellas in that world I want to write. I also have Iara’s spin-off that’s been percolating in my brain, along with a young adult sci-fi trilogy, a fantasy western, and tons more.
I won’t be short on work anytime soon!
What authors or books have influenced your writing?
Oh goodness, where to start? I grew up on Harry Potter, obviously, along with Artemis Fowl, Pendragon, and Lord of the Rings. In my adult writing life, I’ve been extremely inspired by the Illuminae Files, which I find to be one of the best examples of pure entertainment that I’ve read in recent memory. Also the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown, which has an amazing trilogy arc. I love general fiction and have recently been way into Taylor Jenkins Reid, especially Daisy Jones and the Six and Malibu Rising. Although if I’m honest, the book that’s influenced my writing more than any other is John Truby’s Anatomy of Story, which is basically my writing bible.
What is your favorite meal?
Sushi! I could eat sushi every day from now until the end of time and never get tired of it. With the amount of soy sauce I use I’d probably pickle myself, but it would be a glorious way to die.
Coffee or tea? Wine or beer?
I’m a weirdo and like black coffee at room temperature so I can taste all the flavors, especially when I blend some cacao nibs in with the beans. It’s delicious!
And since I’m married to someone whose family owns a winery, I’m legally obligated to say wine. But I do enjoy a good sour when he’s not looking.
Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate, Contrarian, Relentless
Thank you for inviting me!
Bio: A. A. Woods is a Boston-based Hispanic author of science fiction and fantasy. After a childhood in Montana and a few exciting years in Costa Rica, her family finally settled in the northeast to escape the sun. There, she went to the University of Vermont for a degree in Molecular Genetics, which has been useful for terrifying the hypochondriacs in her life. She’s traveled to over 20 countries, been struck by lightning, and worked in a morgue, which could explain a lot. When not writing, she can usually be found trying to exhaust the new family dog.
In a land of myths and monsters, 17-year-old Carlette is a slave. Her power of enhabitation, the ability to control animals, makes her useful to the island’s colonial rulers. Convinced she’s on the right side, she spends her life doing their bidding, awaiting the day she gets to leave it all behind and fulfill her purpose in their war across the sea.
But when an escaped spy forces her to leave the safety of the road, Carlette is plunged into the wilderness with a handsome enemy by her side, rebels at her back, and only her wits to guide her. Among the giant trees of the magical forest, Carlette will begin to realize her world is much more complicated than she’s been led to believe.
Will she learn to see through the lies she was raised on? Will she have the courage to choose heart over duty?
And will she do it fast enough to save everyone she loves?
For fans of Princess Mononoke and Six of Crows, this dark fantasy is Little Red Riding Hood as you’ve never seen it before.