Meet Alana Nelson Frost
Alana Nelson Frost, from the Alabama gulf coast, says she was shaped by her environment. She grew up on Mobile bay, among azaleas, mossy live oaks, Mardi Gras, and long, lazy sunsets. She graduated with a BA/MA from The University of Alabama, where she met her husband, Max. She taught history, civics and world geography to middle/high school students for five years, and coached track, soccer, and softball. Alana says that her time in public education was marked by highs and lows, and as time progressed she found that her laid-back teaching style and strong personality did not conform to the environment. Consequently, Alana is now in a career transition phase; she will be working at a local museum for a year, and then hopes to go back to school to pursue certification as a speech language pathologist.
In addition to writing, being active is a big part of Alana's life. She enjoys running, kayaking, lifting weights, and traveling, and likes to draw and paint, particularly extravagantly dressed historical women and dreamy landscapes.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK.
It’s a mishmash of so many genres: fantasy, sci-fi, subdued old-fashioned romance, magical realism, all underscored by some heavy political and religious themes. There is a dying planet, intellectual and sexual tension between a believer and a cynic, loads of action, the deconstruction of some fantasy tropes, and a loving homage to others. The Dimming Sun is hard to define. Future books will be simpler- probably straightforward clean, historical romances because I actually want to make money off my writing eventually! Hah.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLE FOR THIS BOOK?
Well, an apocalyptic weather phenomenon is occurring within the events of the story, and the string of syllables “The Dimming Sun” has a nice ring to it, so it fits. I struggled to come up with a title for months- my original working title was just the name of my protagonist.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK? IS IT PART OF A SERIES?
o answer the second question first: yes, this book will be a series with 3 or 4 installments. The installments will be about 100-150 pages shorter than The Dimming Sun. I’m almost finished with the sequel. As for the first question, concerning inspiration: the basic plotline for this book has been in my head since I was a 12 years old. It started from my desire to rewrite sections of The Silmarillion, and evolved from there into something entirely different, especially after I became obsessed with primitive sci-fi after reading Sylvia Engdahl’s Enchantress from the Stars. I became fascinated with the idea of ancient alien encounters- along those lines, I also enjoyed Eric Von Daniken’s “Chariots of the Gods.” His ideas must be taken with a grain of salt, but they are damn entertaining.
I wrote a short version of The Dimming Sun as a teenager, but any resemblance to the current product is pretty superficial, and I never attempted to get that project published or anything. As for other sources of inspiration: I love history, especially of that Ancient Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, so a lot of historical characters and events have loosely shaped various aspects of my plot. For instance, the Nureenian Empire from my book includes elements drawn from the societies of Rome, The Byzantines, and the ancient Levant. Paden, land of the Northmen, is Viking but with a definite Slavic flair. Neldor, the homeland of my main characters, is some weird amalgram of a Celtic realm and remote, forested Finland. The plot point with one of my secondary protagonists supposedly having hidden royal blood, and his family being decimated by egalitarian revolutionaries, is inspired by the fates of the Romanovs during the Russian Revolution, as well as the French Revolution. When writing about some of the lands my characters visit, I even thought of a medieval version of Appalachia! The main religion in Linnea, Agronianism, obviously has your typical Catholic-lite overtones common to many fantasy novels, but I also incorporated some strong Zoroastrian and evangelical elements. History is a deep well of great ideas, and often it is stranger than fiction.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR BOOK IS BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES OR THOSE OF SOMEONE YOU KNOW?
The main character has a cynicism and sense of humor somewhat similar to mine, but she isn’t an author avatar. She’s a lot more troubled & reckless, and has had more of a spoiled background. Also, she can’t be an author avatar because she comes from a completely madeup society with wildly different mores & folkways, which are brutal, patriarchal and restrictive. Maybe I tried to imagine what my grandmothers or great-grandmothers would have been like when thrust into difficult circumstances. Fallon is completely a product of my imagination, as are most of the other characters. Darren is somewhat of a weird tribute to a lot of earnest, well-meaning, yet clueless southern religious guys I hung out with growing up. Morden’s magnetism is somewhat inspired by Rasputin and his shenanigans.
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH WENT INTO WRITING YOUR BOOK?
Eh, it was pretty casual. I read about history and religion from various time periods, mostly concerning Europe, Central Asia & the Levant, but I do that sort of thing in my spare time anyway. I usually have dozens of tabs up on my computer at any given time. It was more like the information I absorbed through my rather time-wasting hobbies gradually shaped my writing choices.
WHAT CRITERIA DID YOU USE WHEN SELECTING THE COVER FOR YOUR BOOK?
I simply browsed images that reflected the title.
WAS THERE A MESSAGE IN YOUR BOOK THAT YOU WERE TRYING TO CONVEY?
Sure, but the main point of The Dimming Sun is to tell a good story with a fast pace. If there is a primary message, it is this: history is cyclical and more complex than we can ever imagine, and individuals are swept up by its tides in unexpected ways. A possible secondary message: when things fall apart, people are more suggestible & apt to believe anything. There is a thin line between perception and reality during periods of great change.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT YOUR BOOK?
Looking back, I would probably shorten it by about 50-100 pages. It’s a quick read, but shortening it would make it more marketable. The sequel will be shorter.
IF YOUR BOOK WOULD BE MADE INTO A FILM, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY THE LEADS?
Great question. I’m 29 so I’m not that familiar with the actors who would be the appropriate ages to play my characters, but I’ll try my best. Arithel: Florence Pugh with her hair dyed dark. She doesn’t really have the facial features I imagine but she’s the only young female actress I know of with the gravitas necessary to play the role. Odeya Rush has more of the right “look” and might also do a good job. Fallon: Logan Lerman or Timothee Chalamet. Darren: KJ Apa w/ dyed golden hair. Glorun: Elle Fanning is what I imagined writing her, but the character is quite a bit younger so someone who resembles Elle but is still a teenager? Morden: Rami Malek would do a good job.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU BEGIN WRITING?
I began writing as a teenager, mainly due to boredom and the fact that I had a lot of crazy ideas in my head that I had to get on paper. Also, I was obsessed with history and the idea of leaving a legacy for the future. As a child, I scrawled my name, age and favorite hobbies (swimming & softball at the time)on random pieces of furniture and on the baseboards of my old house. I loved the idea that archaeologists would “discover” these writings one day. What better way to make your mark & achieve some sense of immortality, than to leave your thoughts in print for (roughly) all time?
WHEN DID YOU FIRST CONSIDER YOURSELF A WRITER?
Age 13-14, when I wrote my first “novel.” It will never be published because it was basically fan-fiction, but the plot had vague similarities to The Dimming Sun. I also wrote a lot of angsty YA-type short stories as a teenager. One was a twisted fairy-tale version of Sleeping Beauty set in modern times with high schoolers, with the “Maleficent” figure as the misunderstood protagonist. Done in the mid-2000s, years before this trend became popular, might I add!
DESCRIBE YOUR WRITING STYLE.
I don’t know what you mean by “style”....the way my book reads, or the way I plan my book? I’ll address both questions. How my writing reads: to the point, with an emphasis on characterization and dialogue. What about the process? I write an outline by hand, sometimes parsing that out into individual scenes/conversations, then I trasfer the outlines to Word or google docs and get to business. I write a draft, read it in full, and edit for many weeks.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST LESSON YOU HAD TO LEARN AS A WRITER?
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS A WRITER?
Marketing- finding the right niche for my book. The Dimming Sun is clearly fantasy/sci-fi, but beyond that, who will enjoy it most, and what sub-elements of the book are dominant? While writing it, I perceived it as a romance/adventure that would appeal most to younger female YA readers. Yet so far I’ve gotten more positive, detailed feedback from men and older audiences. Many readers have remarked on the supernatural, religious and political themes underlying the text. Some of these themes were conscious, but the extent they are emphasized was not. I suppose I just think about government, morality and history a lot, and that bleeds through into my writing. I’m honestly not sure how to categorize and market my book. The only thing I know for certain is that there is a lot of action.
NOT INCLUDING FAMILY, WHO SUPPORTED YOUR EFFORTS TO BECOME A PUBLISHED AUTHOR?
Solstice Publishing did a wonderful job editing my book and helping some overly-academic sections of the text flow better. Some of my high school English teachers encouraged me to explore my writing talents, and said I had a knack for writing entertaining poems and short stories. Lastly, in a roundabout way- my childhood friends and a few cousins supported my efforts- because they played along with my very elaborate and sometimes domineering fantasy plots, involving homemade movies, romping around the woods, and yes, lots of lots of Barbie dolls.
WHO WAS YOUR FIRST PUBLISHER AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THEM?
Well, so far my first publisher is my only publisher: Solstice Publishing. What did I learn? Edit, edit, edit- shorter sentences are not worse sentences. They usually create a more seamless, enjoyable experience for the reader.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR NEW WRITERS?
Keep pushing and working at it even if it seems like your project will take forever. When encountering writer’s block, just start jotting anything that pops into your head, you’ll be able to polish it later. Lastly, get a beta reader to assess what your book’s strengths are, and then in the rewriting stage make small adjustments to enhance those strengths.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE WRITERS?
Robin McKinley, Svlvia Engdahl, Lloyd Alexander, Naomi Novik, Anne Rice, Margaret Mitchell, Helen Rappaport, Phillippa Gregory, GRR Martin, Tamora Pierce, & JRR Tolkien of course.
WHAT ARE YOU READING NOW?
The Race to Save the Romanovs, by Helen Rappaport.
WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
Sentimental scenes of struggle against the elements/society in movies usually get to me. It’s more of a eye moistening thing than actual crying though. I’m not much of a crier. I occasionally get panic attacks because I have a somatoform disorder, and that is the only thing that truly reduces me to genuine leaky tears (aside from funerals).
IF YOU COULD MEET ANYONE WHO EVER LIVED, PAST OR PRESENT, WHO WOULD THAT BE?
Catherine the Great or Cleopatra
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOWS AND MOVIES? Tv shows: The Last Kingdom, Game of Thrones (at least pre-finale), Big Bang Theory, Rome, Ozark, and the Russian historical series Ekaterina (about Catherine the Great), Victoria. Movies: Gone with the Wind, Apocalypto, Braveheart, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Cold Mountain, Eyes Wide Shut, The Witch, Last of the Mohicans, Interview with the Vampire, Gladiator, Sweet Land, Far and Away, Edge of Tomorrow, Amadeus...yeah I watch a lot of tv.
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC TOUCHES YOUR SOUL? Symphonic Metal (particularly Nightwish), Enya, Celtic folk music in general, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, 70s era Genesis, Jimmy Hendrix.
WHAT DO YOU WANT WRITTEN ON YOUR HEADSTONE?
Not sure, I prefer not to think about death as it gives me terrible anxiety.
DO YOU HAVE A BLOG OR WEBSITE READERS CAN VISIT FOR UPDATES, EVENTS AND SPECIAL OFFERS?
They can visit my twitter @LanaNeilsen and they can visit my blog…..however, I haven’t updated it in forever, but I plan to rectify that soon: https://lananielsenauthor.wordpress.com/
Ash has blotted the sun for months.
Despair and violence have taken root across the continent of Linnea. People are searching for answers- some have turned to ancient superstitions, others to the seductive teachings of strange new cults. However, 20-year-old Arithel isn’t too concerned - she carves out a comfortable but lonely existence as a tax collector’s scribe, trying to forget the reckless decisions that led to a self-imposed exile from her village. One bleak afternoon, she accepts both a gift and a bribe, and is swept into a whirlwind of misadventure, beginning with an unspeakable tragedy befalling her pious younger sister.
Arithel blames herself for her sister’s fate, and her childhood friend Fallon proposes a deal- he will help with her quest for vengeance, provided she helps him with an errand orchestrated by a mysterious, charismatic healer who dwells thousands of miles away, in the frozen Northlands. Arithel accepts Fallon’s conditions, but as they travel she becomes increasingly troubled by the extent of his devotion to his employer. The journey she and Fallon undertake tests the depth of their friendship; they encounter otherworldly perils, new companions, and shadows from their own past. The choices they make could destroy- or restore- an empire.