Last Saturday, I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to interview the amazing Ally Carter when she came to visit Toronto. If you know me, you know that I am a vocal fan of both of her series, the Gallagher Girls and Heist Society. Naturally, I trekked out in the snow to meet her and talk about the fabulous characters and plots that have kept me up all night reading. Transcription time!
Warning: SPOILERS for Gallagher Girls 5, Out of Sight, Out of Time, and Perfect Scoundrels!
Angel: I loved Perfect Scoundrels–
Ally Carter : Thank you so much!
A: I read it in an hour.
AC: You’re a fast reader.
A: I couldn’t put it down, I said I was going to eat lunch, didn’t eat anything, just read it and Hale! Which I’m sure you’re getting a lot. I’ve been asked by friends of mine to please put more Hale–
AC: More Hale, fewer shirts.
A: Or in the shower.
AC: Wet Hale.
A: I’ve also been asked–you don’t have to answer this question, she just wanted you to know she wanted to ask it–I have a friend named Jen who wanted to ask, “Who does Hale think about in the shower?”
AC: Ohhh. Yeah, probably not gonna answer that one. *laughs* Probably because I don’t want to think about that one.
A: It’s a good segue, I guess, to my first question: What is your favourite reader reaction so far?
AC: To Perfect Scoundrels?
A: To anything.
AC: Anything? I think–I think my favourite would be a reader reaction that we’ve had to Perfect Scoundrels, which somebody said “It was everything I didn’t know I wanted.” Which I think is a good compliment because in this age of, you know, fandom and fanfiction and all of these things, you know people have very clear ideas of what they think Book 3 is going to be about and a lot of readers go into it with you know “it’s page 42, this and this and this would have.” So it’s really nice to do a thing that surprises readers and pleases readers.
A: It did. I was definitely enjoying the whole “boyfriend” thing that was going on.
AC: *laughs* “The Boyfriend Thing!” Now, did you think Uncle Eddie was dead?
A: No. I didn’t want to talk about it with people because I might get swayed one way or–you know? So I said I’d wait and see what happens. “I don’t think he’s dead though.”
AC: Oh no no, he’s not. When he and Uncle Charlie show up on the train, there. It was Charlie on the edge of the cliff.
A: Yeah, I was just like oh goodness gracious. We’re good now.
AC: I’ve been surprised at how many people fell for it, cause I thought nobody would fall for it, and people have. And they have actually–had about a 20-page period there where they thought he was gone, and I was pleased! That was the goal. I didn’t actually think it would work.
A: No, yeah, that’s definitely something I wanted to bring up–you brought up fanfiction, and a couple of months ago, a friend of mine was saying “Hey, you like that one series right, the one with the girl with the sunglasses?” “Yeah? Why?” “I just found like, really good fanfiction for it.” And I was kind of iffy about it, because it’s fairly new to write fanfiction for YA books in general that aren’t like “Harry Potter” or the really really big ones, so when I read it, it was actually really good, and it was mostly speculation about Book 3. Like little drabbles about what Kat and Hale might have been up to in the meantime. But yeah, just letting you know that fanfiction for your books is excellent!
AC: That’s nice! I can’t read it of course, but it’s nice to know that people are enjoying it.
A: And it’s like “I thought I was the only one who loved these books!”
AC: Isn’t that fun, when you find out you’re not alone?
AC: You know, there are certain things I’ve known have been coming for a long time. For example, the closing scene. I’ve pretty much known what that was going to be for several years now. But the things, the specific steps that lead up to that closing scene, I’m still trying to figure out. I like to play with things up until the very last minute. But I did plan out a few things–and some things have just worked out. For example, the line that we hearken back–in book five–that we hearken back to in book one that you’re like “oh crud, that’s what set this whole thing in motion”, when I wrote that line, I didn’t know that that was going to be important. That was just a line that stuck with me, and I was like “Hmm, I wonder if I can use that later on, and sure enough, everything just kind of fell into place, which I’ve been very fortunate in that way.
A: So it all does work out?
AC: It all does work out. Amazingly. I don’t know how, but it kind of does. A little angel on your shoulder saying “oh yeah, put that in. You’re gonna need that later.”
A: Yeah, so have there been any kind of scary moments where you’re like “oh, this is not going to work maybe?”
AC: No, constantly. I live in a constant state of panic of “what have I done?” But I believe–one of my favourite TV shows is The Vampire Diaries, and that show does a really good job of basically writing themselves off a cliff. And they trust that they will–another ledge will appear, or that they’ll learn to fly somehow, but they just go, full-force. They don’t hold anything back. And I try to do that as well. Just go for it, and you’ll figure it out. And so far it’s all worked out. And I think if you don’t scare yourself, and not giving yourself an out–like if you give yourself an obvious out, number one: the reader is probably going to see it. And number two: you’re probably going to take it. And so not giving yourself an obvious out is a great way to push yourself and push your story and push your readers.
A: And the characters.
AC: And the characters, absolutely.
A: Cause like, I’m a creative writing major, so most of my questions tend to be mostly about the writing process in general, so I guess for Heist Society, is it the same way? Just pushing them off?
AC: Just pushing them off a cliff, that’s–I go back to…Have you ever seen the movie Gattaca?
AC: You know how he and his brother would race into the ocean, and there’s that great scene at the end where he says “You know how I always win? It’s because I never save anything for the swim back.” And I think that is probably the writing mantra I go back to more than anything else: don’t save anything for the swim back. So if you’ve got five different ideas of things that could be good, and you think “oh well, this would be a really good time to use that, but oh, I might need that for the next book, I better save it,” don’t save it. Use it, and trust something else will appear later on. And don’t save it for the next book, because there might not be a next book.
A: Because it’ll develop as it goes, right? Things will be added to the story and give you more to work with.
A: So I guess for–in the Heist Society series, it can get really dizzying where I’ve had to reread the books sometimes as I’m going because otherwise, I’m just going “how did they–?”
AC: A lot of things happen at the same time.
A: Yeah, a lot of things happen at the same time. And they’ve got all those terms for the different styles of heists–how did you come up with those?
AC: I just make them up. And I don’t even really try, they just come out. And a lot of them are childhood sayings, like the Jack and Jill and–
A: The Anastasia.
AC: The Anastasia–I don’t know that they actually–that was a real thing that happened, of course, so that’s where that came from.
A: I had Anastasia songs stuck in my head the day I read it, so when I saw “Anastasia,” I was like “are you for real? Is Ally Carter psychic?”
AC: I’m in your head!
A: Should I be scared?
AC: You should be very afraid. Be very very afraid.
AC: Oh, all the time. You know, I was really surprised in this book by how Hale reacted to everything. Because you know, he was Mr. Cool Facade, Mr. I-Have-Everything-Together and it was very very fun to go into this perfectly raveled man, and pull that string and see it all fall apart. And basically all of Kat’s family surprised me.
A: Oh, I love them.
AC: Because you just know like, Uncle Felix running through naked–didn’t know that was going to happen until it did.
A: I love the friendships. They’re not just family, they’re friends.
AC: And you know, they’re a family of choice. With the exception of Gabrielle and Eddie and Kat, you know none of them are related by blood and so this is the family that they made for themselves. And I like that that family can be closer that Hale’s blood family.
A: Because for a lot of people, it’s that way.
AC: It’s that way.
A: And I guess I’ll wrap up really quickly: favourite scenes for each of the four main characters: Cammie, Kat, Hale and Zach?
AC: Favourite scenes…
A: For each of them.
AC: For Cammie–and this would be a big spoiler–the scene at the end of Book Five, when she’s on the roof. And I did not know that scene was coming until it came. And when I wrote it, I was like ooh, cause basically you know, I needed to get Dr. Steve out of there. He really doesn’t need Cammie anymore, what if he had Cammie kill herself? And I wrote it thinking, oh my editor’s going to make me take this out, it’s too dark, I can’t really have my main character try to commit suicide, they’re not gonna go for that, and they totally went for it. Um, favourite Zach scene…
A: The towel?
AC: *laughs* I like the scene again at the end of GG5, when she asks him “Where did you go when you went looking for me?” And he says “Crazy. I went crazy.”
A: Oh my god–I had to put the book down and just had to go “Wait a second. Wait a second.” That goes straight to your heart! I remember my friends telling me later on like “did you see that line?” That was such a good line.
AC: And for Kat, I love the scene in Uncommon Criminals, where she’s talking to Maggie. Like, where has this woman been? She was supposed to be at the table but she wasn’t. And she’s kind of like “I needed a female role model, where have you been?” It’s like Kat looking at future!Kat. And basically, I loved Maggie. And Hale? What is my favourite Hale scene? I really like the scene where he comes and gets her in the first book. I think you get a–that’s a good introduction to him. It’s like “I only own a little cell phone company, it’s not that big a deal.”
A: Thank you again for letting me interview you!
AC: It was my pleasure, thank you so much!
Curious about the Gallagher Girls? Eager to try a little Heist? Don’t forget to add those books to your Goodreads, and be sure to follow Ally @OfficiallyAlly and check out her website for more info on the upcoming books in these series! And do stop by the blog later this afternoon–my review of Perfect Scoundrels will be up as well!