"And above all watch with glittering eyes the world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." - Roald Dahl

16 January 2014

Author Spotlight : Anya Allyn - Author of the Dollhouse Series

BOOK REVIEW: DOLLHOUSE - Anya Allyn (Dollhouse Series, Book #1)
 I’d like to start off by saying something like, “If you like this book or this movie, then you’ll really enjoy Dollhouse by Anya Allyn.” I’d like to – but I can’t. Not because it’s not as good as any book or movie out there, but simply because it’s not easily comparable.

Dollhouse by Anya Allyn, for me, is a different breed of book. It’s dark. It’s gothic. There are certainly elements of horror in there. It’s a mish-mash that works really well, I think.

While searching in the young adult section on my Kindle app, I stumbled across this little gem by accident. Well, not by accident really. I was in that particular section and the book cover caught my attention. Yes, yes, I know. Never judge a book by its cover. All that glitters is not gold. And I have been caught out on numerous occasions, but I have to say that this time, it worked out pretty well.

If dark, supernatural YA novels are what you’re into, then Dollhouse is certainly for you. In an Australian town, girls have gone missing over the years within the surrounding mountains, never to be found again. When Aisha Dumaj goes missing in this very area, her boyfriend Ethan and friends, Cassie and Lacey, go looking for her. What they find is nothing short of a horror story.

I loved the premise of this book and was kept engaged throughout. I found it to be full of suspense, making me eager to read more. I finished the book in about a night-and-a-half, and when I did, I was somewhat disappointed that it ended as a cliff hanger, but excited that there was more to come. The characters and their dialogue were typical yet believable and the romantic undercurrents and subtle love triangle were dealt with skilfully.

In Dollhouse, Cassie, Ethan, Lacey and Aisha’s strengths are tested, their friendships are tried and in this new world of extremely weird characters where they find themselves trapped, they have to fight against delirium, starvation, clowns, dolls and death.

Allyn’s writing is beautiful and descriptive and I felt her words drawing me into this surreal and sometimes terrifying world that she has created on every page.

At times the storyline felt confusing, but I think that this illustrated how the characters felt in the situations they found themselves in. I can honestly say that there were moments in this book where I was truly scared. And I loved it!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Dollhouse. I am so happy to have stumbled upon this author and I am looking forward to reading Paper Dolls, Book #2 soon.

1. I love the premise of this book. Where did you get your idea for the Dollhouse series?
 Thank you :). I had the first threads of an idea when I went away to the place that the book is set in - Barrington Tops (in Australia). The eerie beauty of places there such as Ladies Well had me thinking ghostly thoughts. Weirdly, even a photo of me there came out ghostly….

2. Do you enjoy writing in this genre?
Yes, definitely! It's not something I've tackled before. I've always been more into sci fi. I didn't realise I was writing horror until the end of the book, because it doesn't have any gore in it. Then I realised my book had all the hallmarks of the Gothic genre. So the Dollhouse series is Gothic horror -definitely not one of the popular genres to choose to write in!

3. You’re fast! These books are coming out at lightning speed. Did you write continuously or did you take a break in between writing
each book?

I'd like to think I'm fast, but I'm glacially-slow compared to others I know who are writing and putting out books within a month! It takes me around four months to a complete draft and then more weeks for editing. I don't take breaks because I'm unable to do so - even if I'm
not writing, some story or other is busily writing itself in my head!

4. How much do you generally write in a day?
Anywhere from 400 to 4000 words. It's rare that I write nothing at all.

5. Clowns are not my favourite things in the world, so there were a few scenes which terrified me. Were you able to sleep at night while writing these books?
Clowns used to terrify me too! And dolls… And being trapped underground… I wrote about all the things that used to scare me silly when I was a kid. I used to have to put the dolls in a wardrobe at night so they couldn't 'watch me sleep'. I think, with this book, I must have been
exorcising my childhood demons. The writing of it did at some points get under my skin - especially those late-night writing sessions. I wondered if I was making this book too damned scary and if I should lighten it up (I didn't).

6. When can we expect book four?
Book 4 is around half the way there - more if you go by word length, but editing can take longer than the writing, so I'll say half! I'm not sure when I'll have it finished but it will take me another couple of months at the very least.

7. What are your writing plans once this series is complete?
I'm not sure which way I'll head after this. I absolutely do want to write the prequel to Dollhouse, which will be set in the 14th century  - it keeps writing itself in my head as I'm writing Book 4 (which is very distracting!). I also have the idea for a Gothic romance/thriller - which would be fun to write. And then I have a YA dystopian that I've already written and I love the story, so I might release that one. I'm just not sure which way I want to go yet!

8. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I'm both, but good at neither. Writing four books in a series has told me a lot about how my mind works - my mind is a scary, jumbled place lol!  There are lots of crisscrossing story lines running from Dollhouse 1 to the end of Dollhouse 4 ( some pantsed and some plotted), but they're strangely all wrapping up neatly, so there may be some method underneath the madness yet….
9. You’re a busy mom. How do you manage to write and be mother to four boys?

The two eldest are grown and big enough to look after themselves! The two youngest are eleven and seven - I write while they are at school. Last year, I homeschooled the youngest for the last months of the year, and I wrote every night from 9pm until 1am. It's not easy, but the
great thing is that it's a job you don't need to leave home to do, which leaves more time for your family.

Carmen’s TOP TEN: (with a nod to Amanda Patterson's 17 Questions)
1. If you could choose to be any character in a book, who would you be and why?
Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. Boarding school where there is magic and adventure every day would be extremely cool!

2. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
Charlotte's Web. I read it when I was very young and it became a favourite that I read many times.

3. What can’t you leave home without?
It can't be my phone, shoes or wallet, because I often go off walking without those! I'd have to say, I can't leave home without a good reason, because it cuts into my valuable writing time!

4. What book that you’ve written is your favourite?
The one I'm currently writing always seems to be my favourite!

5. Other than your own books, what are your top 3 books?
Oh, my own aren't amongst my top books - not even close! I'd say 1984, Pride and Prejudice and Lord of the Rings.
6. What is your favourite place in the world?

The ocean, wherever in the world it is.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Be bold. Write what is in the deepest part of you and forget what anyone else is writing or doing.

8. What is your most treasured possession?
A key ring belonging to my mother, who is no longer with us. I have pieces of her jewellery, but the key ring was something she used almost every day, and it reminds me of her and of home.

9. What do you do in your spare time?
Bushwalking and reading. Am also an avid movie-watcher.

10. Describe your perfect day.
With family, outside in spring weather, with some yummy food.

*This book review and interview was done with Anya Allyn in July 2013 and was first blogged on Carmen Botman's Weebly site*

The Dollhouse Series: Dollhouse, Paper Dolls, Marionette and Music Box are all available as Kindle e-books.

Find Anya Allyn at:
Website: www.anyaallyn.com
Twitter: Anya_Allyn
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnyaAllyn

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