Cruising at the Keyboard with Arleen Alleman

About seven years ago, Naples resident Alleman decided to fulfill a life-long dream. Since the age of fourteen, ever since reading Poe’s stories, she though it would be wonderful to work anywhere and create fanciful scenarios and characters. In high school young Arleen discovered journalism, which almost became her career path.

In college, she followed her love for science and pursued a biology degree. Then came twenty plus years as an analyst for the Government Accountability Office where she wrote on a myriad of subjects, all in the form of GAO Blue Books to the Congress. The work was akin to investigative journalism, and it taught her a great deal about research and project planning.

Alleman

Alleman

After retiring from the GAO, she explored silver jewelry manufacture and running her own boutique. She and her husband began cruising about ten years ago, and it was during a cruise around Cape Horn that she finally decided to try writing fiction.

She needed a special niche within the murder mystery genre to distinguish her work for readers and booksellers. Alleman liked the idea of setting the stories in different world locations drawing upon her first-hand knowledge of cruise ships and seaports.She began her shipboard adventure series in 2009, working on Currents Deep and Deadly. It took a year and a half to complete the book and get it published.

For her most recent title, A Current Deception, Alleman drew upon five weeks spent in Australia about eight years ago, updating her memories with research. The fictional cruise motif carried on the theme from previous books in the series, which were set in South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

This adventurous author prepares for her eventual novels by taking notes and photographs during trips, as well as by doing much additional research. Her notes and sources help her develop a story flow, which she makes graphic by creating a large white-board diagram connecting various characters with subplots. This practice gives her a feel for the whole story and keeps the various parts straight in her mind. Alleman then transfers the main elements to a document, forming an outline.

The outline is essentially a list of chapter headings, which build the story from different characters’ perspectives until she has a first draft.

This author finds that getting started with a new story is the hardest part of writing. She doesn’t like to start things over. That’s why she works so hard on the preliminaries, down to devising a possible conclusion, before she begins writing. The details change along the way, but the main premise carries through to the final product.

Like many authors, she does not enjoy the necessary marketing and advertising required to sell books today. She finds this the hardest part of the total process.

What does she enjoy? Alleman likes bringing characters to life: literally giving them bodies, purpose, relationships, hopes, and problems, so that they seem real to her. She gives a lot of thought to how freelance journalist Darcy Farthing, her main character in the series, will grow and change even if she has to leave some relationships behind.

CoverCurrentDeception

Ms. Alleman likes writing stories that have some educational value, maybe even providing readers food for thought about social issues. Of course, entertainment is her main goal. Darcy is a vehicle to express some edgy and controversial themes, which is another way to set these murder-mysteries apart from the thousands published each year.

When asked about her habits as a writer, Alleman said “I am constantly revising. I have a habit of returning to the last couple of chapters I wrote to edit them before moving on to the next. Sort of a two steps back for every one forward process. This helps me figure out the details and flow for the new chapter. I edit the final draft many times, and make changes after receiving helpful comments from several manuscript reviewers. Then the manuscript receives professional copyediting by my publisher, Xlibris.”

Alleman is an avid reader and lover of mysteries. There are hundreds of authors who probably influenced her over the past five decades. Every writer, if you are a predatory reader, teaches something about the craft. One author Alleman particularly admires is Diana Gabaldon. Gabaldon’s Outlander series greatly influenced her, although they are not mysteries per se. They are great adventures. Alleman admires the way Gabaldon weaves real historical events and geography through the stories and develops totally compelling characters, some with controversial lives.

The novelist and her husband moved here from Colorado in November 2013. They wanted a change from the mountains, and they knew that living in Florida would be handier for taking cruises. They loved Marco Island after vacationing there several years in the 1980s and often talked about living there. As it turned out, they have a home very close to the island in unincorporated Collier County.

Alleman believes that her non-fiction writing on diverse topics like endangered species, elder care, satellite systems, atomic clocks, plant biotechnology, postal operations, and government operations to name a few, helped prepare her for life as a novelist. Also, learning how to do the research, interviews, and analyses required to thoroughly learn a completely new subject every six months or so helped tremendously. She wants each book to include technical, biological, social, or scientific elements, and that characteristic of the writing is directly related to her science education and GAO career.

She is now working on a sixth Darcy Farthing novel, which takes place in Las Vegas and does not involve a cruise. It tackles the horrendous problem of teens living on the street and becoming prey for human traffickers for prostitution. There will be a seventh book set here in SW Florida, where Darcy investigates crimes involving missing Florida panthers. After that, the series may or may not come to an end.

However, she has a plan for a book that is not part of a series. It is a futuristic novel set in the western U.S. at a time when groundwater resources are completely depleted, and the disastrous impact on people, animals, and society that inevitably follows.

Keep up with Arleen Alleman by visiting http://www.arleenalleman.com.

This article appears in the September-October 2015 issue of Fort Myers Magazine. It appears on pp. 21-22. Here is electronic edition: ISSUU – September-October 2015 by Ft.Myers magazine

 For a review of A Current Deception, click here: Florida Weekly – Alleman    .

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