Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

A Conversation with Allison van Diepen, Author of Raven

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A Conversation with Allison van Diepen, Author of Raven

Allison van Diepen is a full-time high school teacher in Ottawa and writes on evenings, weekends and during summer vacations. Her first two novels are Street Pharm and Snitch. Her third novel, Raven (Simon & Schuster), is in stores on February 10.

Q: Raven is a very different book from your first two, Street Pharm and Snitch, which were edgy urban dramas. Why did you want to write urban fantasy this time around?

AVD: It was a very natural progression for me, since I’ve been interested in all things supernatural from the time I was little. When I started writing Raven, though, I hadn’t planned on it being an urban fantasy. After writing the first few chapters, I strongly felt that something was missing, and once I thought up the paranormal twist, it all clicked. I love mixing gritty realism and fantasy, and I hope my readers will like it, too.

Q: Urban fantasy is very popular right now, why do you think that is?

AVD: Urban fantasy gives the world we know a magical side. It’s escapism without having to wrap your mind around a whole new universe. It brings the supernatural closer to us and tempts us with the idea that anything is possible within our world.

Q: All of your books are aimed at young adult readers, why do you like writing for this particular audience?

AVD: I don’t know – I just do! I’m still a fairly young adult, so making my inner voice somewhat younger is easy for me. It would be far more difficult for me to write about someone older than I am, because I haven’t experienced that stage of life. My teenage years were a very compelling time in my life, and they’ve left an imprint on my psyche that’s easy to access.

Q: Are your main characters, Zin and Nicole, based on real people you know?

AVD: No, they’re not based on anyone in particular. But after having spent so much time with them, Zin and Nicole do feel like people I know, and they continue to live on in my head.... I hope you feel the same way after reading Raven.

Q: Which actors would you cast in a film adaptation of the movie?

AVD: I’d need fresh faces. I’ve never seen anyone who resembles Zin or Nicole the way I picture them. It would be better to choose unknowns than established actors. Zin, in particular, has this charisma, this raw appeal, that you don’t often see in a polished young actor. And whoever plays him has got to be able to dance – forget dance doubles!

Q: Do you listen to music when you’re writing? What kind?

AVD: Absolutely. Music helps put me in the mind-set of the scene. For Raven, I listened to a lot of dance music for the club scenes, like Timbaland and Chromeo, basically anything that made me feel like I was in a dance a club. For the romantic scenes, I listened to ballads by groups like Evanescence and One Republic.

Q: What are you reading right now?

AVD: Miss Match by Wendy Toliver. Loving it!

Q: Who are your favourite authors?

AVD: Walter Dean Myers, Ellen Hopkins and Charles de Lint are amazing.

Q: What’s your next project?

AVD: I have this great idea for another YA urban fantasy but I can’t tell you about it – I don’t want someone to steal it! (I know you wouldn’t, but maybe someone else would!) I will tell you, however, that I have two romances coming out in 2010 for Harlequin’s new teen line.

Q: Do you have any tips or tricks for aspiring writers?

AVD: Two words: discipline and determination.

I’ve known a lot of talented people who simply didn’t have the stick-to-it-ness to sit in a chair on a regular basis and write, write, write. There’s a quotation that goes, "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." (Mary Vorse) That says it all!

Besides discipline, you need determination. Many aspiring writers lose their motivation when faced with rejection. To succeed in this field, you have to have faith in yourself. Yes, it sounds clichéd, but it’s true. An aspiring writer said to me recently, “It’s hard to write when I know I could never be as good as....” and listed off her favorite authors. I think that’s the wrong attitude. You have to believe that you bring something special to your readers, something they won’t find in the pages of other writers’ books. You have to believe that you deserve your place at the table!

Visit the author's website at

Interview and images courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

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