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.
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?
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