BOOK TOUR INTERVIEW: Altered by Aubrey Coletti
by Aubrey Coletti
The Academy Series, Book One
When Toni, Joseph and Charlie arrive at their new boarding school, they are glad to leave their families – and respective problems – behind. Isolated as boarders, they meet a handsome senior with a personality like iced snake’s blood, teachers with a penchant for physical punishment, and four other outcasts who reveal that their being brought to the Academy wasn’t random at all. When the arrivals discover that their new school is engaged in “behavior modification” through electric shocks, isolation, restraints, and an ever-evolving set of methods to “fix” them, they declare war on their Academy. During their campaign of sabotage, they fight, hate, scorn, love, and begin to uncover the reasons why they were brought to the school. But as their war against the school escalates beyond their control, will they become the very things the Academy believes they are: dangerous, delinquent – and mad?
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m a twenty year old author, singer-songwriter-producer, dancer, and life-long Tamora Pierce fan! I love X-Men, Christina Aguilera and Emilie Autumn, and am a devout Whedonite!
2. What made you want to become a writer?
The book “Bird By Bird” by Anne Lamott did more than anything to make me not only want to write, but able to write. Before that, like so many would-be writers, I had lots of ideas and stories, but was frustrated by my inability to stick to one idea, and my dissatisfaction with my writing not being perfect on the first try. Anne Lamott was able to pinpoint how to deal with all of these problems and more – things like focusing on letting your characters propel the story and keep your engaged, shitty first drafts, accepting the severe mental breakdowns and paranoia which are part of the job – and all with incredible humor. Once I read that book, I was able to sit down and actually enjoy writing.
3. Who or what gives you inspiration?
I know writers should cite books, but for me a lot of shows and movies and comics are what gives me the drive to keep going. I re-watch Firefly, Serenity and Dollhouse while writing, and I am constantly reading and looking up the latest X-Men comics and fan fiction. But ultimately, it’s fans: I was only able to write “Altered” after I found a fan via a writing website who loves the characters and the story. For me, writing is all about creating characters and a world that others can join in and interact with. My writing is only alive to me when others can ‘see’ and love my characters too.
4. Tell us about Altered.
“Altered” is the story of seven teens who are trapped in J. Alter Academy, a boarding school inspired by various behavior modification schools, centers, and camps throughout the United States and the world where drastic, controversial methods of ‘helping’ those with behavioral, mental and emotional problems are used, such as skin shock, isolation, food deprivation, extreme restraints, etc. Most of the characters in “Altered” are suffering from mental and behavioral disorders – but they object to the extreme, draconian methods used to ‘fix’ them, and band together to fight back.
On top of this, many of them have different…abilities, as a result of their bodies attempting to combat or adapt to their disadvantages. “Altered” is basically a story of escalation, where the harder the teachers come down on the characters, the harder they fight back, and the question is whether they end up proving the school right through their behavior. At the same time, it’s about what it means to suffer and live with different kinds of mental illness and traumas, and what it takes to be whole. And, ultimately, it’s about a family: the family we build out of people we love and choose, and how that family copes and sticks together and fights to survive.
5. What’s the hardest part of being a writer?
Oh boy. I think the doubt that can hit with writers block. When you’re whistling along and everything is coming out fast and furious, you feel great: but when you hit a snag, it can feel like your whole world is crumbling, and make you doubt your story and your talent. Editing is also hard, because it’s never easy to kill your darlings, and can be so hard to see where your story needs changes when you are so close to it.
6. What do you need around you to write (special drink, lucky items, etc)?
Music, definitely music. Not always while I’m actively typing, but when wool-gathering, music really helps. Like many writers, I see the scenes like movies in my head, and finding fitting music can really help you to ‘color’ the scene and heighten the emotion as you bring it to life. Soundtracks and film scores are especially helpful, because you don’t have to worry about the words sneaking in, and it can become great background noise as you work.
7. What are some of your favorite books?
My favorite series of all time is Tamora Pierce’s “The Song of the Lioness” series. I read it when I was in elementary school, and it has remained one of the best series’ I’ve ever had the joy of discovering. The characters are so vivid and complex and subtle and real, and Pierce manages to paint them clearly in just a few pages. Each of the four books is short, yet when you reach the end of the series you feel like you’ve read an epic because of how much everyone has grown, how complex and involved the world is, and how many very serious issues she deals with in a way that is both accessible to young adults and children, and also utterly honest and unflinching. “The Trickster’s Queen” is another of her books I adore, and actually, I read it a lot while writing “Altered”!
“The Mists of Avalon” is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. It’s another book that has such realistic characters, and takes you through their whole lives, and deals with thorny issues like spirituality, love, hatred, prejudice, and fanaticism so well that when I reach the end I cry, every time. It’s just that powerful. “Bird By Bird” is important of course, and “The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls” by Emilie Autumn is incredible as well: another look into living with mental illness that takes you on a wild thrill ride.
8. Are your characters based on anyone you know?
Oh yes! All of the characters in “Altered” are based on and inspired by friends, family, etc. Some more than others: one of my best friends knows the character of Toni is largely based on her, but they are dissimilar enough that she doesn’t have to worry about suing me!
9. What, if anything, are you working on right now?
The sequel to “Altered”! I’m busy at work at it, so wish me luck!
10. Why do you love writing?
Some of us have stories and characters that build up inside of us and start banging around and making a mess of things until they are let out. They want to speak to other people, to tell other people their story, and once you let them, and find fans who get them, who can step into that world, and find it as powerful as you do? It’s the best feeling in the world.
About the Author
Aubrey is a twenty year old author, singer-songwriter, dancer and choreographer who attends Sarah Lawrence College. In love with reading since she was young, her favorite writers include Tamora Pierce, Joss Whedon, and Chris Claremont. A passionate fan of those artists and writers she enjoys, she may be found answering questions for fans on her own website any day of the week. Ms. Coletti is currently working on the sequel to “Altered.”