Ania Ahlborn is an author, who was born in Ciechanow Poland. Ania Ahlborn has always been drawn to the darker, mysterious, and sometimes morbid sides of life. Her earliest childhood memory is of crawling through a hole in the chain link fence that separated her family home from the large wooded cemetery. Apparently, she’d spend hours among the headstones, breaking up bouquets of silk flowers so that everyone had their equal share. Ania Ahlborn’s first novel, Seed, was self-published. It clawed its way up the Amazon charts to the number one horror spot, earning her a multi-book deal and a key to the kingdom of the macabre. Less than five years later, her work has been lauded by the likes of Publishers Weekly, New York Daily News, and the New York Times. Please enjoy my interview with Ania Ahlborn.
How do you describe your occupation?
I’m lucky enough to be able to call myself a professional author. I write horror and thrillers. Hopefully, this will last forever.
Talk us through a typical day for you…
My day almost always starts out with a three-mile walk with the dog, whether I like it or not. Sometimes he makes me take an umbrella. Sometimes it’s so cold, I have to wear pants under my pants. (Note: I live in South Carolina, so I might be a tad bit of a lightweight when it comes to cold weather.) Once that’s done, I spend most of my workday writing whatever work in progress I have going, or editing a previously completed manuscript if that’s on the menu. On good days, I have time for a nap. On bad days, I stare at a blinking cursor for eight hours and wallow in self-pity.
What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?
I’m slowly making my way through Four Past Midnight by Stephen King. Honestly, I just grabbed it at a friends-of-the-library book sale. It was two bucks. I couldn’t resist.
Can you remember the first book you read by yourself?
I’m sure there were books before this, but the first book that comes to mind is Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. I do remember reading something about a possessed killer doll as well—an adult book, definitely not for kids. It gave me a proper scare, which I simultaneously appreciated and regretted.
Are you a page folder or a bookmarker?
Definitely a bookmarker.
When did you fall in love with reading?
I’m a bit of an anomaly because English is my second language, not my first. When I moved to the United States, I didn’t speak a word of English, nor could I read it. The TV was my tutor and best friend for a long, long time. I only started to really enjoy reading when I was around nine or ten, but because of my late start, I’ve always had a soft spot for film as well.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
My cousin and I used to make little magazines as kids. She’d draw the pictures and I’d write the articles, though I doubt that counts. Beyond that, my first official story was an embarrassing tween nightmare of a thing; a tale of prepubescent unrequited love.
I’m going to cheat on this one and say On Writing by Stephen King, twice. Honestly, I can’t think of another book that has influenced me or spoken to me so clearly more than this one. As weird as it sounds, the first time I read On Writing, I cried a few times. Maybe I was just overly hormonal, but the way King writes this memoiresque book on craft spoke so clearly to me, I felt like he’d written it just for me. Only later did I discover that Stephen doesn’t even know I exist. Unrequited love, indeed.
Can you talk us through your writing process, from the first spark of an idea, to having your first completed draft?
Getting the idea is the hardest part, and it typically happens in an instant. You never know when it’ll come to you, so waiting for it to happen is torture. But when it does, the first thing I do is jot down the idea in a single sentence (this is harder than it sounds). Once I do that, I start looking at who is in the story and what the story is more thoroughly about. I use all of that exposition to come up with a rough synopsis, and use that synopsis as an outline to help me through the process. Once you’ve got that, all that’s left is to put your head down and work. And then there’s trying to ignore that nagging voice—this is a stupid idea; it’s not good enough. You know the one.
For someone starting out in your career, which three books would you make required reading and why?
On Writing by Stephen King for the reason I stated above. The 90-day Novel by Alan Watt, because Watt has a fantastic approach on how to get the first draft out of your head at lightning speed. And if you’re into the dark stuff like I am, Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons by Serita Deborah Stevens. That book is not only handy when trying to figure out how to off the main character, but it makes for some fascinating reading.
If you could invite 5 authors (dead or alive) to a dinner party – who would they be and why?
Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Stephen King, and Jean Shepherd. The first four don’t need much of an explanation. As a horror author myself, I’d love nothing more than to pick those brains. Jean Shepherd is the odd-man out. I’m admittedly a Christmas Story freak, and I’ve read Shepherd’s In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, as well as the printed Christmas Story collection; I just find Shepherd’s ability to turn a phrase fascinating. If I was able to have dinner with him, I’d probably just sit there and let him talk.
What was the last book you purchased, and why did you buy it?
Actually, I think it was Four Past Midnight by Stephen King. It was that friends-of-the-library sale. I mean, who can resist cheap, used books? Not me.
What is your favourite thing about reading?
It’s a nice break from reality, even if most of the stuff I read is grim and spooky.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
I just recently read The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta, which I loved. The Leftovers is one of my favourite TV series, so I was both excited and hesitant to read it. Thankfully, I wasn’t let down.
Maybe Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I mean, that would be weird, right? What would have happened if there was a girl on that island? You think they would have slaughtered me rather than Piggy, or would I have reigned supreme? (Let’s just assume the latter.)
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your audience, and don’t listen to the self-doubt that will inevitably try to eat you alive.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
I think it may have been Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, if I’m being honest. I read that book when I was pretty young, maybe thirteen years old. It was a sophisticated book for my age, a challenging read for sure. I remember being fascinated by Rice’s ability to evoke images with words. Her prose are so rich and luxurious, just like her characters. It taught me that, as an author, you can transport a reader to any time or place. Not an easy feat, to be sure, but it can be done. And then there was Lestat…who was dreamy.
Which book sat on your shelf are you most excited about reading next and why?
I’ve got a bunch of them. Lies She Told by Cate Holahan. Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker. A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena. The list goes on, and it gets longer every month, especially since sometimes, you just want to reread an old favourite.