Friday, August 12, 2011

"I've Got Company!" Alison Armstrong - Personal Assistant to New York Times Best Selling Author Kelley Armstrong Joins me today!

Hello and welcome to “I’ve Got Company!” my Summer Guest Series. I’m thrilled to introduce, Alison Armstrong, personal assistant to New York Times Best-Selling author, Kelley Armstrong.

LF: Alison, welcome! I just want to say how happy I am that you agreed to drop by to talk about your career. I guess my first question should be when and why did you become a personal assistant?

AA: I'm happy to be here. Well, I was on mat leave and dreading the thought of going back to my 9 – 5. Kelley (who is my older sister) heard that I wasn’t happy and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I’ve been doing it for almost 5 years now and I truly couldn’t be happier.

LF: Wow, that’s great! Is it anything like what you thought, as a child, you’d do when you grew up?

AA: No. I wanted to be a pediatrics nurse. My dolls and stuffed animals were always in good hands when they had a boo-boo :)

LF: And now, Kelley’s the lucky one in those good hands of yours. Is she the only one or do you assist other authors as well?

AA: No, just Kelley.

LF: The idea of working with and for your sister seems an added bonus to me, what tasks do you manage for her?

AA: proof-reading (books, newsletters, short stories, webpages), email correspondence, monitoring Kelley’s discussion board, edit transcriptions, contest mailings, etc = anything Kelley asks of me :)

LF: Hmmm, now there’s another bonus – proof-reading Kelley’s work. Do you share an office with her, where she can just lean over and hand you the files, or are you “virtual”?

AA: Virtual. I work 100% out of my home.

LF: Working from home is great, but it can be a little challenging when “life” pulls at your sleeve. Where is your favourite, most productive place to work?

AA: In my office—which also happens to be half of my eat-in kitchen. It allows me to work and still be involved with what’s going on in the house at the same time. I love that I can work away and hear laughter and happy screeches. It doesn’t get much better than that.

LF: I can’t imagine how it could. And while you’re hard at work in your office, surrounded by the comforts of home—inquiring minds want to know—are you sipping on a cup of tea or coffee?

AA: Definitely coffee. Love my coffee in the morning.

LF: LOL! There’s no better way to start the day!

Now Alison, in your opinion, how large a part does an assistant play in an author’s writing career?

AA: I’m just a helper. Whatever Kelley needs to make her life a little easier or less hectic, I’m there.

LF: And when you’re not assisting Kelley, what do you do to unwind and relax?

AA: In my downtime you can always find me hanging out with my kids. They‘re always good for a laugh—which is a huge de-stressor for me.

LF: You're children are adorable! Well, laughter is the best medicine. I think wonderful memories are too. Do you have any unforgettable moments related to what you do?

AA: The dedication in Personal Demon. When Kelley received her copies, she handed me one and asked me to read the dedication. Needless to say I shed a few tears and I was the proudest assistant in the entire world.

LF: That’s very sweet, Alison. I’ve got a copy in my hand right now and judging by her heart-felt words regarding your unwavering support, I think Kelley might say you’re more than just a helper when it comes to her career.

Speaking of career, what’s your favourite part of what you do?

AA: I have many but one would definitely be the edit transcription part. It’s so cool to be one of the first people to “read”—it’s more of a skim at this point—one of Kelley’s books. The hard part then becomes not being able to tell anyone what’s going to happen :)

LF: I can imagine how exciting and difficult that perk would be. I won’t tempt you with chocolate for any juicy tidbits, I promise….lol! Aside from self-restraint, what tools do you feel are must-haves for assistants?

AA: Laptop and collection of your boss’s books for reference.

LF: No doubt! In your line of work, is there anything you find particularly challenging?

AA: Honestly it would have to be nasty, ignorant emails. If someone is rude and totally out of line, I get my back up and it puts me in a mood. I understand that not everyone is going to be happy with the way a series is going or a particular book has gone, but some people can get personal and that’s just not cool.

LF: In the words of the young of today – that sucks! Are there happy things that help you forget those negative moments, for example, do you plan events or launch parties?

AA: I haven’t yet. I’m actually going to my first event this October in New Orleans. It’s for the Anne Rice Vampire Ball & Undead Con. I’m totally stoked—a vampire ball in New Orleans—can’t get much better than that.

LF: I saw that on Kelley’s Appearances page. A Vampire Ball! That’s amazing! (We’ll have to talk later about what you plan to wear—I’m thinking black, red, fishnet stockings, killer shoes…oops! Okay, back to the interview…) When you’re not planning out-of-town events, what’s your work schedule like on an average day?

AA: I don’t have one. With two small ones running around—I work when I can. Usually it’s when my husband is home or late at night when everyone is asleep.

LF: The best time, when everything’s quiet. I did the same when my girls were younger. When you're close to promo time, does your schedule change?

AA: For me, it’s no different. The busiest time for me is a year to a year and a half before the book release. That is when the transcription edits and proofing deadlines start coming in.

LF: Wow, I hadn’t realized it could take up to 18 months before a book was released. So what’s next on the agenda?

AA: Any day now I’ll be receiving the proof copy for The Calling. Can’t wait!

LF: Really?? I’m envious! Who wouldn’t want your job!! Tell me, have any of your dreams been realized as a result of your work?

AA: I can have a job that I’m truly content with. I used to be stuck in a job that made me very unhappy. It was good for bringing home a pay cheque but that’s about it. I never realized that I would be able to wake up and look forward to working. It’s a dream come true.

LF: Truly. So, what does your family think of your career?

AA: They love it. Whenever I “go” to work, it’s only a 5 – 25 step commute so they always know I’m there if they need me. It’s wonderful. Also, I’m a much more jovial person. I’m at a job that I love and it comes through in my day to day state of mind.

LF: Whenever we’ve communicated, I’ve noticed that you’re always so positive and friendly. It’s definitely a win-win situation all around. Do you hear from readers much?

AA: Yes. Many of Kelley’s readers are very generous and gracious with their thank you emails. It’s so nice to have someone take time out of their day to thank me for answering their questions or to thank me for responding back to their child’s email. It’s a special feeling to be appreciated.

I’ve also corresponded with some of Kelley’s readers over the years. It’s always nice to see a familiar name pop up.

LF: There might be some readers out there that would love to do what you do. What advice would you give to them?

AA: Just to be there for your author. Whatever they need, get it done right and on time. You are there to give your author time to write, time for business and time for family. It’s a great gig if you can get it, so make sure you do everything in your power to keep it.

LF: Great advice. I’m curious. Do you write?

AA: No, Kelley’s the one with the writing talent in our family.

LF: Do you have a talent you’d like to share with us?

AA: Not really—I am very artistically challenged—I can’t draw, write or play an instrument. I’m very good at organizing though—a bit of a fanatic actually—which drives my hubby a little crazy ;)

LF: And by the sound of it, very dedicated to your work. Are there any special projects you’re working on?

AA: If I’m done with my to-do list for the day, I’m usually working on the series bible.

LF: With so many books in Kelley’s series, that’s quite a task!
Speaking of books, I’d love to discuss what’s on your bedside table at the moment.

AA: I’m between books right now but I’m just about to jump into Melissa Marr’s, Wicked Lovely.

LF: Ooh yes, I’ve heard good things about it. It’s on my TBR list. What are your favourite kinds of books?

AA: I’m an action nut. I like fast-paced books with good/sarcastic/smart/dark humour. If I come across a book that takes two pages to describe a leaf on a street, I’m done. I just don’t have the patience, I guess :)

LF: LOL! Who’s your favourite author?

AA: Without sounding like a complete kiss a** it’s Kelley. I completely fell in love with her writing voice in Bitten.

LF: Fantastic story—I just love Elena!

AA: It was the first book that I remember ever forsaking food and sleep for.

LF: Isn’t it just amazing how some authors have the talent to do that to their readers?? Totally understandable your being a fan…millions are, me included!

With all the options available these days, do you prefer traditional, printed books or e-books?

AA: I love my Kindle. Love, love it! The only books I buy in print now are Kelley’s. I find ebooks easier to read and the convenience of always having my TBR pile with me is fantastic.

LF: A whole bookshelf in your purse has definite appeal. I gotta get me one of those!

As you know Alison, in the publishing industry books have a tagline. If you were the subject of a book, what would the 20-word tagline of your story be?

AA: Wow…that’s not easy.

LF: And unfair of me to ask you on the spot like this. Could I offer one?

AA: Please.

LF: Okay, here goes.

“Landing herself a dream job, master-organizer and personal assistant Alison Armstrong gives her author time for writing, business and family.”

AA: LOL, that about says it all!

LF: Well as much as we can squeeze into 20 words! Is there anything else you’d like to say?

AA: Only that I’d like to thank you for the opportunity and I hope I didn’t gloat about my occupation too much :)

LF: Are you kidding?? Your enthusiasm for both your work and your “boss” are a wonderful change from the norm. I’m so happy you felt comfortable to share all of this with us. I was tickled pink when you agreed to be a guest on my blog, giving us an opportunity to get to know you better.
Thanks so much for being here Alison.

AA: I’m very happy that I was able to participate in your summer guest series.

LF: Me too! I hope one day our paths cross. It would be my pleasure to treat you to a steaming cup of our favourite beverage!

Thanks to everyone who joined me today to meet the lovely Alision Armstrong!

Please join me next week when I welcome Frayne McCarthy
Actor, singer, director, musical theatre lyricist/creator, set designer, longtime friend and colleague (he represents the crossover of my two creative worlds - music and writing) as we discuss the art of writing musicals.


Crys said...

Great interview, Lisa and Alison! It's very interesting hearing from Alison's side, and the ups and downs of a personal assistant. And I must say, we can't not have you on the forum! You really are indispensable. :)

Angela Addams said...

Great interview! It never really occurred to me that an author would need so much help but I guess that makes a lot of sense! Who wouldn't want more time for writing?

patrival said...

A great interview, and being able to see into the every day work life of the entourage of books
Good job to all of you

J D Waye said...

Awesome interview ladies. I would like to thank Alison for all of her hard work keeping our OWG running so smoothly, and to Kelley for creating this forum where we can meet so many talented people.

Lisa Forget said...

Thanks everyone for dropping by!

It was a pleasure to interview Alision, who's such a lovely person and generous with her time!

I agree with you JD, the dynamic sister-duo have created and maintained a wonderful place for creative people to gather and share. It's one of my favourite places to hang out!

:) Lisa

Anne Michaud said...


Such an interesting perspective Alison has on her sister's career - can I just say how alike they look!?

Great and thorough interview, Lisa! Keep them coming, please:)

Bea's Book Nook said...

Great interview Lisa!

Alison, I loved your comment about 2 pages to describe a leaf. I completely agree. :D

I enjoyed reading about what you do Alison and your relationship with Kelley
I absolutely appreciate everything that you do.

Anonymous said...

Oh this was lovely to get to know you more Alison, and yes, you do have the dream job! I'm so jelly! If I could be with my son all day everyday...well life doesn't get much better than that. I'm so happy for your success! And truly, your children are too cute, never a dull moment I'm sure. :)

Thanks for this Lisa, of all the people I've wanted to know the backstory of Alison was at the top of the list. Great interview too, fun and full of light, just like you. :)

sisterofbookfever said...

I really, really enjoyed this interview. Thank goodness for Alison and all writer's assistants everywhere. Without them the wonderful world of books and reading wouldn't be the same. I just hope that I can do the same for my sister one day too. Thank you Alison for all you do and thank you Lisa for, once again, giving us a great interview. What a fabulous idea you had to do this blog.

Lisa Forget said...

Thank you everyone, for visiting the blog and sharing such kind words. Your enthusiasm is very much appreciated.

I'm so happy to hear you all enjoyed our little "chat" and you were as interested as I in finding out more about the quiet force behind the OWG (Kelley's online writing group & forum)!

I was thrilled when Alison sent such a lovely photo. Her children are adorable and yes Anne, I agree, Alison and Kelley look very much alike. (I promise to do my best with the next two guest visits Anne...)

Tammy, you who shares so much good humour with us all, what a sweet thing to say! :)

Christine, my dear sister, you are the ying to my yang!

Alison said...

I just wanted to pop in and thank everyone for their thoughtful comments. They are truly appreciated.

This was a lot of fun for me and I'm so happy and honoured that Lisa asked me to do this with her.

Thank you Lisa :) You're the best!

Lisa Forget said...

It was a total pleasure for me, Alison. I had a blast preparing this and getting to know you better.

Two thing though, one, I think you'll have to come back to chat about the Vampire Ball and what you plan to wear! We'll all be living vicariously through you so "sharing" would be "caring"...LOL!

Two, I will treat you to that cup of coffee one day soon!

Thanks again for your time and your generous spirit!

Everyone at the OWG agrees, YOU are the best! :)

Emily Murphy said...

Very very easy and interesting read, Mom! :) I love how we can get a taste of the life of being an assistant (and sister) of a famous author! Thank you for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

Great interview. It never occured to me what an author's assistant did. So much work, but fun too.
Great blog.

Lisa Blackwood.

(I hope this comment posts. Wordpress is having kittens tonight. Sighes.)

Take three. WordPress=epic fail.

Falcata Times said...

Lovely Interview and to be honest I'm so jealous of the job. I'd love it.

Thanks Alison and Lisa, its a joy to read.

Lisa Forget said...

Emily, another career choice someone with your interests could consider...thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment

LOL Lisa! I know what you mean, Blogger has its glitches too...I appreciate your persistance and your comment.

Gareth, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I agree, Alison's job is one I'd love to do as well!

Pat Hollett said...

Another great interview this week Lisa. Just got back from weekend away, sorry I'm late to check out the blog.
I loved reading about Alison and your interview with her was down to earth and showed Alison's genuine good nature and friendly personality.
Enjoyed it all. Thanks for sharing this with us and thanks for the glimpse into your life and career Alison. You're an asset to all of us...not just Kelley! ;)

Lisa Forget said...

Thanks for stopping by Pat! I really enjoyed doing this interview with Alison and I'm glad to know you enjoyed it! :)

As you said, she is an asset to us all.