Interview With Alina Adams
I don't know about you, but I sure love a good mystery. One of my all time favourite movies is "Clue", I think Jessica Fletcher is the living end, I lovingly watch "Murdoch Mysteries" on CBC and not long ago, I stumbled upon a 1986 Agatha Christie TV movie on YouTube called "Dead Man's Folly" that starred none other than the FABULOUS Jean Stapleton. You know, "Oh Arrrrrchie!"... Edith Bunker! As an aside, in the movie her character is a LOT like Edith so you totally need to watch Edith Bunker, P.I. After watching this Poirot gem, I got to thinking about mystery novels and my mind turned to Alina Adams, a New York Times Bestseller who has written some fantastic murder mysteries centered around the figure skating world. How unique and fabulous is that? This New York City resident is not only the author of "Murder On Ice", "On Thin Ice", "Axel Of Evil", "Death Drop" and "Skate Crime", she has also written a host of romance novels, a biography of Sarah Hughes, worked in television for four different soap operas and also had her hand in broadcast work for figure skating as well. Seeing as I do a little writing myself, I am always fascinated to speak with other writers and speaking with Alina was just a pleasure. I think you'll find this interview to DIE for:
Q: You are a New York Times Bestseller and have writing over twenty books including both fiction and non-fiction books about figure skating. What first gave you for writing fiction (in particularly mysteries) centered around figure skating?
A: Basically, I had written a couple of romance novels and I was pitching a romance based in the figure skating world to my editor. She didn't think it would be a great fit originally but did know another editor looking for someone to write a biography of Sarah Hughes. The editor called me and I did the book on Sarah which came out a couple of months before she won the 2002 Olympics. When she won and the book did really well, the editor suggested that I do a figure skating mystery novel. The publisher did very specific series of mystery novels, for instance mysteries based on candle making and scrapbooking so this fit with what they published. I wrote her a proposal for a book that took place in Russia during a skating competition but after reading the proposal, she asked for something based in the U.S. She was still going back and forth with the proposals I sent. Literally, after months of us brainstorming and going back and forth during the 2002 Olympics there was the whole pairs scandal and I sent her a single line: "someone murders the judge that gives the gold medal to the Russians over the Americans" and she replied "yes". All proposals that went back and forth (five in total) ended up eventually turning into novels.
Q: What have been the unique challenges of bringing figure skating to paper?
A: The most difficult thing is that you can be the most brilliant writer (which I'm not) but it's almost impossible to describe a visual like skating. It's actually why I like doing the enhanced E-books. I partnered with Ice Theatre Of New York on them and they gave me full access to their video library and I was able to put the visual with the skating and give readers a different experience. You didn't just have to read about the routine, you actually got to see it. I actually had to work it backward and then go find a video that suited to the program I was describing, which wasn't always easy. In one case, I had a pair where one of them was black and the other white and serendipitously I was able to find a video in their library that worked.
Q: Skating fans can be a VERY tough crowd to market writing to. How do you deal with that challenge?
A: As you said with skating fans, it's going to be impossible to please everyone, because everyone has their own personal narrative of how skating works and how the story should go. At the beginning of every fictional book you read it says something like "any resemblance to characters dead or living is purely coincidental". There's obviously a little fun of basing characters on people that are in the public eye but fiction is fiction and you have to have a sense of humor when it comes to all that. Someone of Dick Button's stature was able to take the books with great humor and some skating fans didn't see it that way. When it comes to non-skating fans, they also have their own narrative, and a lot of that comes from what's being sold in the media and also in cliches. With skating on television broadcasts, it's a storyline. It's not scripted but there's as much narrative going on in TV coverage as you'd find in a book. One of the things I tried to do in writing these books was to turn that narrative on its end because when you write mysteries you WANT to fool people.
Q: I'm dying to ask this because I'm a writer myself. Is there a cure, in your opinion, for writer's block?
A: Honestly, I say this and it sounds trite but when you write for a living, the cure is needing to pay your bills. If I have something due, I literally tell myself to write one line, then the one after that and then the one after that. The more you do it, you find that you do come up with tricks and sometimes they are shortcuts but you end up putting some words down on a page. There's a quote to the effect of "it's much easier to edit a bad page than a blank page." You know those days when you feel you're in the zone and then there are those other days when it's like pulling teeth? If you go back six months and read the writing both of those kinds of days, there's really no difference.
Q: You actually worked for some time with the soap operas Loving, As The World Turns, Guiding Light, Another World and as a researcher for the Daytime Emmy Awards. While I don't watch any soap operas now, I will admit that growing up watching General Hospital with my mother was a bit of a guilty pleasure. What were the best parts of working in television?
A: The best parts of working in TV AND in skating are that they both move very, very quickly. You have to have your stuff together but when it's done, it's done. With soap operas you have to produce an episode a day and in skating, when you're done you move on to the next show. Both are perfectly suited for adrenaline junkies. I can say though that my tenth draft might not be any better than anyone's elses tenth draft of something but my first will be. Looking at skating broadcasts, there's that live element though. First you have the skater's program in front of you but maybe you have a Christopher Bowman who is changing their choreography or a different podium outcome than you were expecting.,. that kind of thing. In television, you have to be able to think very fast and that's the kind of work I love.
Q: What are you working on currently?
A: (laughing) In an attempt to torpedo my career, self destruct... I basically had this crazy idea. I am literally writing my next novel live on the web at http://alinaadams.com/live. You can literally watch me type, edit, erase and change the novel as I go and I explain why with notes. When I was a teenager, I wished I could learn by standing over a professional writer's shoulder. Thirty years ago there was no way you could do that. I created this website so people can virtually stand over my shoulder. You can learn from your mistakes or you can learn from MY mistakes! For instance, I cut two chapters (live) and explained that to people and made the edits in the chapters after. It's all about pulling back the curtain on the mysterious process of writing a novel.
Q: What's one thing about you most people don't know?
A: I'm pretty open. If I'm willing to 'write naked' by writing and editing a novel live, I don't have much to hide. There is this fun fact though: I was born in the former USSR and speak fluent Russian, which is how I first got into televised skating work.
Q: Who are your three favourite skaters of all time and why?
A: Number one has to be Dick Button. What he has brought to the sport - the innovation alone - and then what he did as an announcer and when he created all of the professional championships... No one will ever come close to that. You can't have a list without him being on the top of it. Robin Cousins as well... I worked with him on the StarSkates shows a while back. Whether he was doing "Satan Takes A Holiday" or a tap dance routine or "Phantom Of The Opera", he was always just wonderful. Thirdly, Brian Boitano. I can appreciate the technical perfection. It's really like watching a master craftsman when he skates.
Q: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot or Jessica Fletcher... who's the best detective?
A: My husband and I just started watching the Benedict Humberbatch version of Sherlock Holmes. The two actors are amazing but I shouldn't be able to figure things out before Sherlock Holmes. If we are talking about the book, definitely Sherlock Holmes. On Murder She Wrote, all you had to do was see who the biggest guest star was and you knew your killer.
All five enhanced ebook versions of the Figure Skating Mystery books are available as one and priced very reasonably on both Amazon and Barnes And Noble (cheaper than buying each one separately). In addition, the individual titles are free to borrow for Amazon Prime members. You can also buy them individually through Chapters as well. Do yourself a favor and give them a read! If you enjoyed this interview with Alina Adams, be sure to "like" this blog on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard. This Facebook page not only presents all of the site's blog entries and interviews, but also features great skating videos and daily skating news you won't want to miss. You can also follow along and talk skating with me on the Twitter at http://twitter.com/SkateGuardBlog.