Alicia Thompson chatted with RC1 about her new novel With Love, from Cold World (which comes out tomorrow!), and the writing and publishing approaches that led to its release. Thank you so much for joining us, Alicia!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your books, including your upcoming novel, With Love, from Cold World?
A little about myself: I live in Florida with my husband and two kids and a cat we mostly agree is the best cat in the world until she snatches a sausage off the counter that was part of our dinner. I love music, especially Paramore, Tegan and Sara, all my nostalgic faves and the bands that should be nostalgic but which I’ve only recently gotten into and decided to go hard in the paint for thirty years after their prime.
A little about With Love, from Cold World: My latest romance is the story of two people who work together at Cold World, a fake winter attraction in sunny Orlando, Florida. Lauren is the shy, uptight bookkeeper, and Asa is a playful, goofy jack-of-all-trades. They’re rivals in this little contest their boss creates to try to get ideas to revitalize Cold World, and at first sparks fly because the friction between them but eventually sparks fly because of the friction between them if you get what I’m saying. They’ve both been through a lot and find a soft place to land in each other and I’m very tender for them.
What did your journey to publishing look like?
The long answer is, well . . . long! But the shorter answer is basically that I first started submitting romance novels to Harlequin when I was in high school. I really wanted to write one of the Harlequin Presents novels I’d always borrow from my mom’s stash. Then I switched to writing YA in college, mostly because I was reading a lot of Sarah Dessen and Meg Cabot at the time, and I got a YA novel published in 2009. Insert a montage of a few more published books, then rejection after rejection after rejection, then I left my agent, then I started querying new stuff, rejection after rejection after rejection, wait so close, nope another rejection, until I wrote Love in the Time of Serial Killers to try to enter it into a mentorship contest. More rejections from that contest! But one of the mentors, Rachel Lynn Solomon (I am OBSESSED with her and her books, for real), reached out to me and put me in touch with her agent, and that was how I ended up selling Love in the Time of Serial Killers and ending up here to talk to you about my next book.
Do you have any advice for upcoming authors currently trying to get their first book published?
Writing is a very iterative process. From drafting to revising to querying, you kinda feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over. And sometimes it can be frustrating when you don’t feel like you’re getting any different results. (What’s that definition of insanity again?) But every part of that process is important, and you are getting different results each time even if it’s hard to see in the moment. You’re growing as a writer, you’re building a community, you’re putting yourself out there and increasing the chances that someone will click with your work and say, Yes, this is what I’ve been waiting for! You hear this a lot, but it truly does only take one yes.
And you shouldn’t self-reject before you even give yourself a chance to get there. You have to figure out what makes you keep going, what helps you to enjoy the process, and then lean into that. For me, that’s finding ways to have fun with what I’m writing (what pop culture reference can I work into this scene? How can I play with this trope? That kind of thing), finding other friends who are in the same place that I am with their writing where we can read each other’s work and cheer each other on, reading great books and reminding myself why I want to do this in the first place.
Do you have a writing routine? If so, what does it look like?
I’ve had a day job the whole time while I was writing these romances, so I always had to find ways to fit my writing around that. I would try to block out a couple hours at night where I was supposed to be ass-in-chair, fingers-on-keyboard, actively working. I would always plan to catch up and do even more writing on the weekend, but one thing I’ve learned about myself is that I just won’t. I have weekday mode and weekend mode and it is hard to get myself motivated on the weekends. So most of my writing has been done Monday through Friday, 9:00pm through 11:00pm, sitting either on the couch in the living room (not ideal) or at my desk in my bedroom.
How does your life in Florida influence the settings of your books? Will you ever include the infamous Florida Man in one of your books?
I really love Florida, despite the state’s politicians’ best efforts to make me feel otherwise. I think it’s a really weird, interesting, vibrant place, and so many people I love are here. I love writing about Florida for that reason – and because I think it’s a state that often gets misunderstood by people who have maybe only experienced it as a tourist. “Florida Man,” for example, is arguably just a product of the poor mental healthcare in this country as a whole and this particular state’s robust public records laws that make all of our weirdness very easy to find. I’d reference that part if it fit into a future book for sure.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment as an author so far?
“Greatest” feels so big! I’m going to cheat and just say a funny little accomplishment that happened for me recently that I hadn’t even known to have my list of goals. One of my best friends has a pretty distinctive first name, and I got a DM from a reader that was like, “I know this sounds strange, but I read your acknowledgments and I see from your bio that you’re from Florida, and I think I went to high school with your friend?” And sure as shit, they did! It was a delightful moment of serendipity and I never would’ve thought my book could have the reach to even do that.
I also have been asked to blurb a lot of books in the last year – basically where you read a book early and then, if you like it, you provide a pithy little quote they can put on the cover or inside or wherever that says, “I loved this book!” (Only, you try to make your blurb more specific than that.) I’m always deeply honored to be asked, and I’ve read a lot of amazing books that way. When I see my name under a quote on someone else’s book cover it gives me such a thrill.
Can you provide links to any websites or social channels you’d like readers to follow?