Interview: Angelique Archer
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Name: Angelique Archer
Latest Release: The Good, the Dead, and the Lawless: The Undoing
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Thriller/Horror
Angelique Archer lives in the Washington, D.C. area and works in law enforcement. She started writing at the age of eleven, fascinated by the alternate universe in the original Star Wars trilogy. After studying and working abroad for several years and obtaining her Master’s degree, she decided to write about one of her decade-long passions–zombies. When she isn’t working or writing, Angelique enjoys traveling the world and learning new languages to add to the four in her repertoire. She is always up for a new adventure and loves dancing to anything with a good beat, horseback riding, spending time with loved ones, collecting unique survival tools… and of course, all things zombie.
Hello, Ms. Archer! We are so happy to have you on Our Write Side today.
- How long have you been writing? I started writing when I was 11 years-old. I had always been fascinated by the alternate universe in the “Star Wars” movies (particularly the storylines of Darth Vader and Boba Fett), so I began writing my own fan fiction then. Whenever I’d tell my mom what I was working on, she thought it was cute, that I’d eventually produce a book that was maybe a dozen pages. As it turns out, each book totaled over 600 pages and included some very creative illustrations. She was pretty shocked, and that’s when it finally sank in that writing was my calling. I wrote George Lucas, of course, but I think he thought I was too young to be taken seriously. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll pick back up with Star Wars and write to Disney!
- What kind(s) of writing do you do? I’ve dabbled in a few genres—science fiction, historical romance, horror—over the years, but The Undoing was the first one I published. Right now, I’m pretty fixated on apocalyptic thrillers with a healthy dose of horror thrown into the mix. I am presently working on a trilogy, and The Undoing is book one. Book two should be out late spring, and then I’m taking a break before starting book three and jumping into a totally different genre for a standalone I hope to have ready by the fall.
- Why did you choose that particular field or genre? I’m obsessed with survival scenarios. There’s something so primal about it, learning how to survive without all of the comforts we’re used to these days. At home, I have a decked out bug-out bag, MREs, a M&P Shield handgun, a machete, a crossbow pistol, a fancy array of knives… the whole works. I’m sure you can tell that I believe in being prepared! Additionally, I’ve been fixated on zombies since I saw the remake of “Dawn of the Dead.” I’m also hooked on The Walking Dead graphic novels and the TV show, and after reading World War Z, gobbled up as many apocalypse-themed books as I could. My Kindle is literally drowning in them!
- What inspires you? A random act of kindness, a peaceful walk outside in nature, learning to appreciate my blessings, a powerful message at church… these things inspire me to be a more compassionate, grateful, positive person. In so doing, I end up seeking not only to be a better member of my small community, but of the world at large. All of these things reset the clock, so to speak. Life gets hectic, and where I live in D.C., it’s a constant struggle to remain balanced. Writing helps with that. It’s a creative outlet that provides an escape from reality. I remember watching the movie “Little Women,” the one with Winona Ryder, and the female lead, Jo, is writing late into the night, her mind alive with stories. She was so passionate and invested in it. I wanted to be like that. If you read my books, you’ll see that I’ve thrown in little nuggets here and there that reflect those inspirations.
- Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing, etc. come from? As a kid, I had an old antique desk. I still have it to this day, but even then I appreciated putting words on paper, mixing them together to make them beautiful. Sometimes I’ll write a sentence in my book, and it’s so vivid and lovely. And when you are able to breathe life into a character, someone created out of nothing, someone people can connect to and discuss, that is really a wonderful feeling.
- How do you find or make time to write? That’s a great question! It’s actually pretty challenging sometimes. I work full-time in the federal law enforcement sector, and by the time I get home after a long D.C. commute, I’m pretty exhausted. Even though it can be tough to sit down and churn out a couple thousand words or so when all you want to do is watch Netflix in your pajamas, once you get started, writing can also be very therapeutic. You’re transported to this other place and time that you invented, and you’re standing in a scene with the characters watching things transpire first-hand. Before you know it, you’re wholly invested in what they’re doing, you’ve tuned out everything else, and even though you’re taking the wheel, you’re also not in control at all. When you have solid characters, their dialogue and actions speak to you. The only thing you care about then is getting it down on paper while the scene unfolds in your mind. Suddenly, you look at the clock, and it’s 2 a.m. That’s when you know you have something good going.
- Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process. I’d say my first draft is always spurred by intuition. You get this random idea to add to the plot, and your gut tells you it would really deepen the story or provide a pivotal character arc. I try to vividly picture a scene and then build the details from there. During the editing process, I go in and make sure the situations work out logically. For The Undoing, I probably read through all 100,000 plus words four or five times to get it right. I have had some wonderful beta readers, too, and that’s key because they’ll call you out on something if it doesn’t make sense. My brother is one of them. He’s a stickler for realism, and he can zoom in on a scenario that wouldn’t quite work if it was a real-life situation.
- How did you get to be where you are in your life today? My family has been so encouraging and uplifting throughout my life, and it’s a blessing to have that love and support. I always had a roof over my head and food to eat, but my mom, a single parent, worked two jobs to make ends meet, so there were times when money was tight. If I wanted something, I had to work extra hard for it. I was a straight-A student. I put myself through undergrad and my Master’s. I’m proud of that. I’ve been able to travel the world by studying and working abroad, living for extended periods of time in France, Italy, England, China, and Venezuela. For years, I had always wanted to publish a book. My Master’s thesis was published in 2012, but I wanted to produce something that was completely my own, and I set a goal for myself that I’d do it before I was 30. Ultimately, if you say you’re going to do something, you do it. You honor your word. I try to carry that with me whether it’s personally or professionally. At the end of the day, if you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen. Publishing my book has been a dream come true. I’ve had the most incredible adventures and experiences, and if I died tomorrow, I’d feel that I had lived a good life.
- What projects are you working on at the moment? I’m working on the second book in my post-apocalypse trilogy. Once I finish book two, I’ll take a bit of a hiatus from it and work on a new novel I’ve wanted to delve into for a while.
- What process did you go through to get your work published? I’m a member of a few different writing groups for authors, and I’ve met some very helpful ladies there! I spoke to author friends of mine who were either self-published, traditionally published, or hybrid authors. There are certainly benefits to all of them, but you have to do your research. I figured that writing the book would be the hard part, but compared to everything else, that was easy. It’s what comes after you write it—the painstakingly detailed, repetitive editing; marketing your book so that it reaches more than just your family and friends and can be purchased on a global scale; learning the ropes about royalties and daily sales; figuring out how to advertise to targeted audiences—that’s the tough part! I would be open to becoming a hybrid author, but for now, by being an indie publisher, I get to control all aspects of my work and reap the benefits.
- What is the hardest part of writing for you? Finding the time to write! No matter where I am, I’m always yearning to work on my books. My daily routine typically involves a full day of work in the office, an hour-long commute home, a work-out, cooking dinner, and then getting ready to do it all over again. If I’m lucky, I’ll throw in hanging out with the boyfriend and friends. It’s a red-letter day when I can squeeze in my writing a couple times a week. The majority of it gets done on the weekend. I go to a French café for the day and write my heart out! When I’m home, I tend to get distracted, and it’s harder to get work done. I’m always like, “Oh, I should do some laundry!” “I’d like to binge watch this series!” “My cat wants to play hide-and-seek? Yes!” (Because how many cats play hide and seek??) I don’t have a lot of free time, so I kind of have to take myself out of my own environment and go somewhere I won’t be distracted. I know I was meant to be a writer because when I do get some writing in, I’m the happiest girl on the planet.
- What do you enjoy most about writing? There is so much I could say that I love about writing. It’s a passion, something that can rouse you from your sleep in the middle of the night, breathless with anticipation to get pen to paper because you’ve just had a break-through with a scene or a character. How many jobs can boast being able to do that? Something I continuously marvel at is the ability to breathe life into characters that were created from nothing. When my readers write me about them, it’s so neat to actually talk about them as if they’re real people and go back and forth saying, “That’s definitely something so-and-so would do.” I love building characters who are really awesome and tough, but also flawed to the point that they make devastating mistakes. And I think the most rewarding aspect of writing is when you get your book in hard copy for the first time, and you hold it in your hands, feel its weight, flip through the pages and say, “Yeah, I did that. Those words are mine.” It’s an incredible moment. I cried that day for sure.
- What is the biggest thing people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn’t true? It isn’t just about the zombies. Sure, there are zombies in The Undoing. Zombies are fantastic. If you don’t know that, you’re missing out. The Undoing is more of a story of survival, of what happens when lawlessness takes over, what people are willing to do or not do to survive. The zombies help speed things along, and they’re always a threat, but they aren’t nearly as menacing as the monsters people can mutate into when they know that the law isn’t there to keep them in check. It makes you wonder what kind of person you’d become.
- What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that they should? I have gotten some feedback from readers who were upset that certain characters behaved one way or another or were killed off. I think it’s really great that readers get so invested in characters that they can talk about them in that way. And I can relate to that—I’ve even cried a few times while reading books where my favorite character perishes. You feel like you lost someone you knew personally. So I understand. Then again, in the apocalypse, there is no law. People lie, steal, rape, murder… It’s horrific, but I also think it’s accurate. If you’re looking for a feel-good, nobody dies book, reading about the apocalypse probably isn’t for you. Everyone loves a happy ending to a book, myself included, and who knows? Maybe there will be one at the end of the trilogy. But The Undoing is riddled with tragedy and heartbreak, and I won’t apologize for it because that’s what I felt was realistic for the setting.
- For those interested in exploring the subject/theme of your work, where should they start? They should check out The Undoing!
- What are some ways in which you promote your writing? Do you find that these add or detract from your writing time? Promoting takes a lot of time, time I would of course rather use for writing! Putting together a book is definitely the easier part. Editing, publishing, marketing… that’s the hard part. Some of the ways I do this is through targeted advertising, and I’m trying to be much more active in different groups to learn the ropes from veteran authors. I even went to Walker Stalker Con in Philadelphia and promoted The Undoing which was fantastic because while I was there, I met the Comic Book Men and Jon Bernthal from “The Walking Dead!” When I have a couple more books out, going to conventions will be a more common occurrence. Being a writer is certainly a second job, but I love it.
- Who are some of your favorite authors? What impact have they had on your writing? Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, is my absolute favorite. Her characters were so beautiful. You could really sense the love between them, feel their pain when they suffered. Even after all of these years, the emotions I felt reading it have stayed with me. I think Caroline Keene, author of the Nancy Drew mysteries, greatly impacted my writing, as well. I loved her mysteries, the way Nancy Drew was able to piece together different parts of a crime to figure out the identity of the perpetrator. She ended her chapters with cliffhangers, and I see myself doing that as I go from chapter to chapter in my writing. It’s a fun way to turn the page because the reader is eagerly anticipating what comes next. More recently, authors Rhiannon Frater and Emily Goodwin wrote excellent zombie trilogies, ones that I couldn’t put down, and over the years, both of them have been very helpful and kind as I navigate the writing world.
- What makes your writing stand out from the crowd? I think I’m really good at bringing characters to life. I also try to come up with unique situations for them. I want my readers to feel as though they’re right there by the character, or better yet, in the character’s shoes. The Undoing begs the question: what would you do to survive? How far would you be willing to go?
- What are you currently reading? I’m currently re-reading Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle. It is a period piece, which I love, with a twist on what happened to the Donner Party all those years ago. Morbid, yes. Fascinating, most definitely!
- What do you think is the future of reading/writing? I hope the good old pen and paper and hard copy printed books never go out of style! And I think there’s really no limit you can go with your writing. You dream it, you can create it.
Thank you for allowing Our Write Side to interview you.