May 21, 2013
By , Staten Island, NY
How did you get started on the road to writing? Did you always want to become a writer?

No I don’t think I always thought, “Oh, I’m dying to be a writer.” I always wanted to be an actress and write my own plays. I was always a good writer, and I think sometimes when you’re really good at something you take it for granted. I was trying so hard to do other things, and it took me a long time to realize “Duh! I should be a writer!” I was writing things that were getting published in magazines, I just figured everyone could do it, but we have a gift.

What events from your childhood in Kentucky were inspiration for the book? Were you ever the new girl at school?

The setting is exactly my hometown. The characters are different, but I grew up on a farm just like Ricki Jo. I wasn’t ever the new girl, but there was a small Catholic school in our town, and it was really fascinating to me when these 5 kids from the Catholic school suddenly were there on the first day of freshman year. We all knew everyone from kindergarten, and we found it weird that we’d never seen them before. So they were inspiration for Ricki Jo’s character.

3. Changing yourself to fit in is a major theme in The Queen of Kentucky. What do you think about changing yourself in order to feel accepted?

Well let’s be honest, I think that we all know the “church answer,” like the right answer, which is that you should never change for someone else, even though we all do it to fit in. For example, I go to author events and I talk to other authors and feel like I need to read their books so I have something in common. It’s not to change myself, but so that I have more tools to fit in. So I think Ricki Jo took it too far, but I don’t think she’s wrong. Change is a good thing when you’re doing it for yourself, and change is always a bad thing if it’s for someone else.

What advice do you have for aspiring teen writers?

Write. That’s the best advice I have. I have a friend who is a writer and she’s kept journals since freshman year. I tried to do journaling over the years, but it’s not something I go to naturally. And you never want writing to be a chore, you want it to be fun. But the problem is that you have to practice your craft. So I think that if don’t enjoy journaling, then blogging is a great idea. There are a lot of recourses you have that we didn’t. You can Google things like writing contests and talk to authors online, unlike me, sitting on a farm in Kentucky. I never thought I could write as a career. So my advice is to write and have a peer group that you trust (not just your mom, who will say it’s good). No one’s writing is perfect the first time. If you can’t take criticism, you won’t succeed in the business.

What do you hope readers will learn from your novel?

I hope students will realize what I said about change. Change isn’t bad in itself, but the reason behind the change is what can hurt you. I think its good to remember that your lives right now are important. You don’t have to write about something that is older. Whatever your living in this moment is important.

What is your writing process?
. I always outline when I'm working on a lengthy piece. I think it's important to know where you're going. Of course, just like on a road trip, you can change your mind along the way. You can take a different route than originally planned, but it's important to have a map.

2. Has your experience as an actress helped your writing? If so, how?
People have always said that I write with "voice." I guess that my experiences as an actress help tune me in with the way characters speak, with their dialogue, and with narration as well. I love reading aloud from my book and when I write, I almost feel as though the characters write themselves.

3. Are you working on or planning any new novels?
I am working on another YA novel right now, although I haven't sold it yet. It will be commercial rural fiction again, though, so get ready!

4. How did it feel to get your book published? What kind of unique
experiences did it bring you?
Being published has been a dream come true. I always say that it is the greatest accomplishment of my life. To think that you can walk into a library or go online and have a copy of my book in your hands that says, "By Alecia Whitaker" along the spin

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