Alli Sinclair: from ballet to book

Alli Sinclair is a multi award-winning author who spent her early adult years travelling the globe, intent on becoming an Indiana Jones in heels. She scaled mountains in Nepal, Argentina, and Peru, rafted the Ganges, and rode a camel in the Sahara. Argentina and Peru became her home for a few years and when she wasn’t working as a mountain or tour guide, Alli could be found in the dance halls dancing the tango, salsa, merengue, and samba. All of these adventures made for fun storytelling and this is when she discovered her love of writing. Alli’s stories capture the romance and thrill of exploring new destinations and cultures that also take readers on a journey of discovery. Alli was voted as Favourite New Romance Author 2014 by the Australian Romance Readers Association and Luna Tango was voted  2014 Book of the Yearby Ausrom Today Readers Choice Awards. in 2016 Alli was voted Best Established Author in the Ausrom Today Readers Choice Awards. If you’d like to get in touch with Alli, please use the contact form, or via Facebook or Twitter or you can check out Goodreads.

Monique: Your novel Beneath the Parisian Skies has just been released. For those who haven’t been fortunate enough to read it yet, can you tell us a little more?

Alli: Beneath the Parisian Skies follows the journey of two women—one in present-day Paris, one in Bohemian Paris in 1917. They struggle with family issues, romantic love, grief and must decide if fulfilling their long-held dream is worth the high cost. Aside from both women being dancers, there is a mysterious tie that binds them that’s not revealed until late in the story.

Monique: Beneath the Parisian Skies explores two women’s movements through grief and how it impacts their choices and sense of self. Where did this curiosity to explore the notion of sense of self come from?

Alli: Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by journeys – both physical and internal. Having learnt so much about who I am through my own travels, I naturally found myself writing about characters on their own journey towards understanding themselves and others. Travel can challenge our beliefs about the word around us and also ourselves, it can put us in uncomfortable situations that push us to the limit, make us take stock of who we are and who we want to be, and can give us experiences and memories we can draw upon in the future. Not everyone has the opportunity to travel and I hope through my books, people can enjoy the journey and learn something about themselves as well.

Monique: What sort of feedback have you had for Beneath the Parisian Skies so far?

Alli: It’s been fantastic, thankfully! Ha! I’ve had great feedback from people who have been to Paris and said they’ve loved revisiting this gorgeous city, and other readers who haven’t been there yet have enjoyed being transported into a new-to-them world. Readers tend to enjoy the dual storylines as it gives them a taste of present-day and Bohemian Paris and they love how the timelines eventually come together in a surprising way.

Monique: Tell us about the research you did for the Beneath the Parisian Skies. Where did you start? What was your process? What are some of the interesting things you learnt?

Alli: When I decided to set a story in Paris, I started researching significant moments in history to do with dance. I discovered the Ballets Russes and as soon as I found out artists such as Picasso and Matisse and designer Coco Chanel designed costumes and sets for the ballets, I was hooked. The ballet company had controversial choreography that pushed boundaries and caused riots that resulted in members of the company being arrested, it was hard to resist exploring this amazing dance company.  Then I discovered that the National Gallery of Australia has one of the largest collections of beautifully restored Ballets Russes costumes in the world, I knew I had to write this story. And the more I researched, the more I found Australian connections—the Australian Ballet is a descendant of the Boronvansky Ballet that was started by a couple of ex-Ballets Russes dancers who moved to Melbourne.

Monique: Beneath the Parisian Skies has both historical and contemporary narratives – how hard is it to weave the two stories together?

Alli: I actually find it quite easy! In fact, I find writing singular timelines way more difficult. Strange, I know. Perhaps it’s because I love puzzles so much and writing two timelines is a bit like a moving puzzle. It’s a challenge, but one I love and feels so right for me.

Monique: When you write, do you put much of yourself in your characters?

Alli: The first manuscript I wrote (which will never see the light of day) was definitely autobiographical. I think it’s only natural when starting out as a writer to draw on experiences you know and it’s hard not to include elements of yourself in the story. Most writers I know have said something similar. As we grow as writers, we become more adept at creating brand new characters that are not like us, and so the similarities to the writer become less.  

Monique: What have you learnt from the experience of writing and publishing a novel?

Alli: I’ve learnt that no two books are ever the same in terms of how they are written. Sometimes the ideas come easy but the characters feel like strangers in the first draft, or vice versa. But in the end, the story comes together and the buzz of seeing it in bookstores never gets old.

I discovered very early on that the publishing industry is full of amazing people who love the written word just as much as I do. The friendships I have made with readers, other writers, agents and editors are so very dear to me and I am so grateful to be involved in such a supportive and #creative industry. Click To Tweet

Monique: What are some of the challenges writers face today?

Alli: Procrastination tends to be a tool in most writers’ toolboxes and social media is the perfect way to get distracted rather than spend the time we should nutting out a problem with our manuscript. Also, promoting our own work is something a lot of writers struggle with (I definitely have a hard time with it!) because writers tend to prefer hiding behind our screens and immersing ourselves in the worlds we create. Getting out in front of people, whether its online or in person, can be a challenge for many writers but we need to do it as it helps people discover who we are and what books we write. The exception for me is meeting readers – that makes changing out of the yoga pants into something decent totally worthwhile! I love meeting readers!

Monique: What do you do when you’re having doubts about your writing? What happens when you get stuck?

Alli: I’m very fortunate because I have some amazing writing friends who are more than happy to brainstorm with me (and of course I help them as well). Having friends who are writers helps because they know all the feelings of inadequacy, imposter-syndrome, self-doubt, elation and joy that we go through (it’s a constant roller coaster) and talking with people who “get it” helps immensely and makes me realise that all these feelings are just part of the journey and we need to weather the hard times to get to Feel Good Peak.

Monique: What’s your typical writing day like?

Alli: I have primary school age kids so a lot of my writing time is broken. After getting the little cherubs off to school (and having asked them to put their shoes on at least six times), I settle in for the day, check emails, limit my time on social media and get to work. I finish before school pick up and if I’m on deadline or on a roll, I’ll take my laptop with me to any after school activities the kids have. After dinner and their bedtime then I may continue working or watch a TV show (in the name of research) with hubby. I try to keep weekends free if possible but in a writer’s world that doesn’t always happen!

Monique: What’s the biggest myth about being a writer?

Alli: That we earn millions of dollars, lie in bed and write all day and drink champagne. That’s why we write fiction – because it isn’t real life! Click To Tweet

Monique: When you write, what is your biggest weakness?

Alli: Self-doubt. I’ve had some great discussions with writers who are household names and even they have moments when the horrible self-doubt monster sits on their shoulder and whispers in their ear. My biggest weakness is getting sucked into that monster of self-doubt and letting it cloud my creativity. Luckily I have friends and family who are so very good at helping me flick that self-doubt monster off my shoulder!

Monique: What do you think about the phrase ‘write what you know’?

Alli: For someone starting out writing fiction, there’s a lot to be said for this phrase. There’s so much to learn so if you first write something you know then that’s one less thing to stress about. However, I think once you’ve got that first manuscript under the belt then the doors can be flung open to write about anything. If you’re passionate about it, then write it. I’m a researcher by nature and I’m interested in history and often include historical facts in my stories. It’s impossible to transport myself back to Bohemian Paris but I can certainly research until my heart is content and let my imagination take flight. Plus, if we only ever write about what we know, then space operas, historical stories, and werewolves… Click To Tweet

Monique: Which book are you reading now?

Alli: I’m currently reading The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George. Nina is a German writer who did really well with The Little Paris Bookshop and this is her follow up book. I’m especially excited to be reading Nina’s book as I’ll be meeting her in Germany in October and I’ve been lucky enough to have Nina write an amazing cover quote for the German edition of Under the Spanish Stars (out in German in September).

Monique: Which “must-read” book have you not yet read?

Alli: Argh! There are so many! I’ve been hearing a lot about Shantaram these past few weeks. It’s a book that’s been around for what seems like forever but I’ve had four separate conversations with people in the last two weeks about this book. I’m thinking this is a huge sign I should read it!

2 thoughts on “Alli Sinclair: from ballet to book

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview, Monique and Alli. 🙂 Having read the book, and having met Alli in person at Stories on Stage last month, I was happy to find out a bit more about her writing process and the story behind the story of Beneath the Parisian Skies. Thank you!
    PS For the record, my book club was divided about the merits of Shantaram…

  2. Hmmm, ballet and Paris! What an irresistible combination! I’ve been a fan of the Ballet Russes and that fascinating period in history for ages. Reading blogs is clearly very bad for my TBR pile, but thank you for introducing me to this fascinating author!

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