Alanna (rhymes with Hannah) was born and raised in Nottingham, England. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Classics and a Master’s in International Relations, and currently lives, works, and salsa dances in Barcelona.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
The title comes from a quote by James Russell Lowell: “The question of common sense is always—what is it good for? A question that would abolish the rose and be answered triumphantly by the cabbage.” I actually have no idea what the original context of the quote was, or what was intended by it, but it struck a chord with me, and (my interpretation of it, at least) really fits with my protagonist and what she’s struggling with. We’re always looking for productivity and utility, and the danger with that kind of focus is that we miss out on the simple beauties of life—the roses.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I don’t remember a time before I wanted to write. I think when I was very young I just loved stories, and was fascinated by storytelling. As I grew older and read more widely, I became interested in the use of language as the medium to tell stories, as well as the stories themselves. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor was one of the first books that really captured me with its writing style, and I think it was influential in developing my own voice.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
My favourite moment was a (very kind) review I received on Goodreads from someone I don’t know. To me, that’s the utter magic of writing—that we can communicate not just stories but also emotions across time and space, to people I would never cross paths with in “real life.” There have been books that have had a profound impact on me, and the idea that something I wrote could do the same for someone else is honestly mind-boggling to me.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
If the book was going to have a “message,” it would be something along the lines of “go easy on yourself.” I know I often feel the pressure to be constantly productive and achieving things and doing something “worthwhile” with my time, and I suppose the message of this book is to stop and smell the roses sometimes. Your life can have meaning and beauty without having to be “that girl” all the time.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I’m currently working on a book that retells a saga of Ancient Greek mythology, from the point of view of its female characters, in a world without any gods or magic. I find women in Greek mythology often (or only) do things because a god makes them, and I thought it would be a nice idea to see how the story would have played out if they’d had more agency. It covers Pasiphae (mother of the Minotaur), her sister Circe (lover of Odysseus), their niece Medea (of the Golden Fleece), and two of Phaedra’s daughters, Ariadne (who escaped with Theseus) and Phaedra (who fell in love with her stepson). I wanted them all to be distinct characters with their own motivations, so it reads more like a collection of five shorter stories.