Frequently Asked Questions For Aspiring Writers

Publishing a book often brings up frequently asked questions either about me personally or how I write. If you are curious or are a writer yourself, these answers might help you.

How did you get published? 

Truthfully, I despised the whole process. After a lot of editing, I sent Wander to over one hundred agents and various publications and felt the life draining from me with each impersonal rejection. It was suicide for my confidence and I needed to stop looking for someone to say yes and just give myself the yes.

I ultimately decided to self-publish and that whole process was incredibly difficult since I did not know what I was doing. Many copies came to me with format errors. I owe a lot of that process to my husband with the publishing process. I just wanted to rip my hair out and scream into a pillow.

On the bright side, I learned a lot for next time. Many people are afraid of rejection and I drowned myself in it to have my dream of publishing a book come true. My advice to others like me is to stay strong. You don’t need someone else to say yes to you. You need to trust in yourself and your story.

How do you write what you consider a good character? 

Throughout writing education, teachers talk about “finding your own style.” I find it is the same way with characters.

This is a little silly, but imagine being in a crafts store. Every writer has an inner craft store with different ingredients based on their likes, dislikes, and experiences. With whatever is available, they make their characters. Some are cut out of the same cloth but then end up totally different once they endure a different narrative. Some are built out of fears, others come from what you wish you could be, and there are those that can even be inspired by a single image or word.

My style is that I love flaws. They are everything to me for my characters. Without them, I wouldn’t consider them as good or mine. Your style may be different though.

I have characters but no plot, what do?

Plots may be seen as very important but really its just the gas pedal of the story. Most readers these days are more interested in the characters than the plot itself. In that sense, it makes sense to come up with characters first. At least that is how I function.

The key to the plot is what motivates your already-made characters. Your readers need to buy into their motivation to get into the plot. Their drive is the key to this question. For example, Wander had nothing but Masu in her life. So of course his disappearance became a driving force of the plot.

How do I end my story?

I am definitely not the best writer to answer this question. Look how thick my book is!

A piece of advice I hear that I like is that the ending should feel natural. We live in a world where endings often feel unnatural, so one would hope books are more merciful. You don’t have to tie up every little thing, in fact, I’d advise you not to so that there is some exciting mystery left for the readers.

Definitely have a vague idea of an ending before you start writing. The more you write, it’s likely the ending will get more clear. That’s what happened with Wander.

How do you feel about outlines?

The closest thing I’ve done to an outline is writing a list of everything I wanted to happen in the book. Once I did that, I took every piece I wrote and put it on the order I wanted it to happen in.

That’s it, and it helped a good deal. It was quick and easy and set a path for the book. After that though, outlines were no more. I wrote the entire book from beginning to end.

Like most answers, it definitely depends on the writer.

How do you not get distracted?

I’m obsessive, and that’s the real answer. With Wander, I could write for hours and hours. I loved it and truly believed in it. Unlike what a lot of other writers say, I never had a “space” where I wrote Wander. I was all over the place with my laptop from college campuses to my living room. The idea is romantic though, I would love a secret grove to write in.

Instrumental and electronic music helps me focus a lot. Depending on the scene, I would change music to something more emotional, unsettling, or calming.

How do I stop doubting my writing?

Doubt has never gone away for me. As mentioned with the publishing question, I really did a number on myself to try to get published traditionally.

I doubt myself because life often feels like a contest. But I never let that influence my writing because the idea of success isn’t black and white. A nationally known writer may have thousands of people who read their book and then forget about it after a week. A local writer with just twenty readers may have changed someone’s entire outlook on life.

You don’t need to get rid of doubt. Doubt can even be helpful. Some writers are too confident and won’t listen to anyone and that ultimately hurts them. Just don’t let it rule your writing.

How do I promote my writing?

I’m in the midst of still figuring this piece out. I was a very annoying writer as a child and made everyone read my work. As an adult, I am the opposite because I’m scared of driving others away by being too pushy.

In terms of how I am working on this, I am trying to have an online presence (like with this blog post). I made an ad for Wander with Bookbrush, and that was fun. I use Facebook advertising to spread that ad around.

Look locally for writer meet-ups and bookstore events, which is something I still need to do.

On Writing Villains, Societies, and My Anxieties


I have an anxiety disorder. My husband would be the first to tell you that I have god-awful insomnia. I think about everything as I lay awake, from death, to the end of the world, and to something someone said that I didn’t like fifteen years ago. The strangest part of it all is, this torturous habit is something I take pride in. It built me, and it built Wander.

My insomnia and anxiety are what gave birth to villains in Wander. There are three types. We have the big bad, Aura, a benevolent leader to her people and a mind-controlling monster to outsiders. Then there are characters like Chant, who are more like forces of nature and they do not see morality as we do. Lastly, there is society itself because of course society is a villain to someone like me with anxiety issues.

Let’s start with what Aura is all about. To most readers, she is the obvious villain of the book. Her powers are mind-control and healing. To me, that combination is an utter nightmare and that is why the main villain has those abilities. As for the reason that that combination scares me, it is a very old and primal feeling I have had since I was a kid. It’s this idea of vulnerability that I can’t stand.

I took Tai-Chi in college. We would meditate and our teacher would tell us to empty our minds. However, the idea of emptying my mind was something I just can’t handle. I wanted to think. I wanted to be present. I wanted to disobey.  But why? It doesn’t harm me. However, I do not know the answer. This is also why I never take naps unless I am with people I completely trust and feel utterly exhausted. When others that I don’t know nap in front of me, I feel disgusted.

That is just how I work. It may sound insane, but it’s real and it’s me and it is what created Aura. She does not use mind-control to turn people into evil killing machines. She empties their minds, puts them to sleep, and in a way. . . “heals” them of all their troubles. To those she controls, it is not painful or uncomfortable. Its the opposite, and that is terrifying to me.

Aura’s non-magical ability is her political power. It was obvious for her character from the get-go, as my relationship with politics has been pretty active from a very young age. To be quite honest, there has never been a political leader that I have liked. There is just tolerable to utterly intolerable. As you can imagine, this viewpoint has made me very cynical and has not helped with my anxiety. So, of course, the main villain is a person in power. More than that, she is the leader of a nation who only thinks of “us versus them” and that think the only way to not be oppressed by others is to be the oppressor.

That’s enough about Aura though. One of the less prominent villains, but still a very important one, is Chant. Is she evil, mind-controlled, or just doing what is natural to her as an elemental?

There is not really a right answer. However, the elementals are tied into one of my biggest anxieties as a young person: climate change. Notice that they are not exactly water, earth, fire, and air. They are disasters: fire, earthquakes, storms, and sea. They are not characters out of Avatar: The Last Airbender. They are the most inhuman characters in the book. Excluding the shapeshifters who joined their societies, they do not have a sense of good and bad. To them, there are no such things as destruction, only change.

An important thing to note is that the fox guardian never seeks revenge on Chant, but on Aura. This was very purposeful. The guardian did not curse the fire that burned it, but the one who sent it. Politics, the environment, and human rights are all tied together and are a part of what inspired Wander.  The guardian may seem an animal and mythical being, but its morality is close to my own in that is blames those in power for the destruction of its home.

Lastly among the villains of Wander is society itself. This one is really obvious, as many books are rather critical about society as a whole. Wander is ignorant of societal issues such as war, racism, classism, and sexism. Due to that, she gets taken advantage of throughout nearly the whole book. Society does not care about her motivation or goal because it is too individualistic. Who is Masu? Who cares?

This is the more difficult villain to write about because it’s so all-encompassing. I think there were a couple of sentences in the Moonflower Ball chapter that describes the anxiety I have long felt that I put in Wander.

“Then all the lullabies drank at once. What made
them decide to drink all at once, Wander had no clue.
All she knew was that the brides wanted her to lose.
They were like everyone else in this world, curious,
cruel, and together.”


Thanks for reading! Feel free to email me any questions at

The Birth of Awei

For me, places are just as important as characters. When I presented on creative writing in Bolivia for Partners of the Americas, I created an activity for everyone in the room to describe their home town if their home town was a fictional character. Would it be a man, woman, child, or animal? What were its likes and dislikes? So on and so forth. It was a fascinating experiment, as most people created similar characters based on their shared experience of the place. It was a wonderful realization of how we communicate and feel. Places can be people and people can be places.

I knew early on that I wanted the book’s pacing to be based on where the story psychically took place. Every chapter would be the next location.  I have traveled a lot in my life, and that may have influenced this kind of idea. I liked the idea that you could flip to a map and see yourself travel along with the character. Organizing the chapters according to place would make that easy. The book is not just a character’s name, but an action. To “wander” is to explore, and that had to be a focus.

My inspiration was a bit quirky. I was inspired by a video game series, “Dragon Age.” Video games have a way of world-building that no other medium has, a way where you can actually collect books and letters within that world and read them. So you do not only experience the story within the game, but you can read literature from within that world. This includes letters, plays, historical records, fiction, and so much more that can shape the fictional world you are already in.

Writers are starting to tackle this in their own way by writing books within their fictional worlds that are published separately. Not all of us have time for that though. So instead I wanted to include just a small quote at the beginning of every chapter, taken from literature within Awei. I loved the idea because it gave a sense of a grander view of the environments. After all, Wander will see the world in very specific ways, but what has already been said about these ancient forests and upscale palaces? It’s those small details that give the places so much more life.

As for creating specific places like the Emerald Wilds and Sollast, all have a unique birth story. Tying them all together is a love of imperfection. I do not ever want to write about paradise. If I do, there has to at least be a dark and horrible secret anyway. It takes my belief that people are like places and places are like people. People are immensely imperfect, and so must be places. They need to be uncomfortable, haunted, or dangerous. If not the place itself, then the people who are a part of the place whether it be their ignorance, bigotry, or violence. If one thinks a place is perfect, then I would say they do not know everything about it.

So Awei is a land filled with imperfections. The Emerald Wilds are dangerous, Dem hates outsiders, Heathcliff’s people are mostly cruel to Wander, the Moonflower Palace is beautiful but not accessible to those who are born a certain way, Sollast is pro-slavery of wind-borns, and the Western Isles are wrought with extreme climate conditions. No place or person that is right enough to deserve authority and yet authority still exists because that is how worlds often work.

In terms of naming places, a lot were utterly random and in the moment like Fort Ben, Dem, the Crescent Rest, and the Western Isles. Few had actual thought behind them. The Emerald Wilds and Winged Graves were actually inspired by places in the game franchise “Dragon Age” where they have two places called “The Emerald Graves” and “The Korcari Wilds.”  For Sollast, I kept thinking of a “city of lost souls” so I just dumbed down “soul” and “lost” and put them together.

For Awei itself, I just considered the word “Away.” After all, it is a work of fantasy. Fantasy is about escapism. Reading is escapism. In many ways, my writing is escapism. So I just kept thinking “Away” and that evolved into Awei. Awei’s map was made by my best friend Vin, which was very special. He has been listening to my stories since elementary school and I always wanted him to have some part if I was ever to publish my own book.

So that’s all I have to say about Awei for now. Thank you Wanderers and feel free to email me at if you have questions.

Creating Wander (The Character) *Spoilers*

The main character of my first book, Wander, changed a ton since she was first thought up.

Just to show the surface value of the change, to the left, I posted a doodle similar to those I drew in early high school of her and her mysterious little companion. They certainly have come a  long way if you compare this doodle to the amazing cover that artist Jaka Prawira drew for the book.

The characters I am most attached to are the ones that are loosely based off of dreams I have had (these would include Wander, Under, and Masu.) While some are people I have met in the dream (Masu), there are those that were more based off of the feelings the dream(s) gave me (Wander and Under.)

Wander was a character first inspired by loneliness. Everything about her design was to push others away, from her cloak that hid her identity to a sword for fighting. The fox was there, but it more omen-like than a creature of companionship. I did not yet know why but I felt that in a way, it too was a piece of the Wander character to push others away.

Being an angsty teenager when I first thought up of Wander, she was actually similar to a self-insert character at first. I liked to imagine her as a being to place myself in in order to cope with my feelings. However, all this changed when I literally set her on fire. I gave her a tangible reason to wear the cloak, and an identity and set her very far apart from me.

I thought of wind-borns. They are people who come into the world with no family or way to survive on their own. I decided Wander would be wind-born and that dictated her entire personality to be unique. She was a product of her situation and environment. Like most kids, she had a natural curiosity and a lot of love to give but the world was cruel to her. Still, that did not make her utterly hardened either. I wanted to keep her soft since that was a part of her that was so endearing to me, but I wanted to give her an edge as well.

An interesting tidbit is that when I first laid eyes on the cover I thought to myself, “That’s not Wander,” because in my mind she was beautiful and sweet. Then I realized, that meant the cover was perfect.  Wander does not see herself when she looks in the mirror either. That’s why she covers herself. It also brought to mind that there are no burned women in media. Only men. Female characters are too much built for the male gaze, and Wander will definitely not stand among those. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people see her on the cover and think she’s a man. It’s a fun play on expectations since Wander looks one way on the outside but is a scared little girl on the inside.

Through guardians and magic, I also found a way to literally make the fox a part of her. I always felt like it was a part of her. It did really excite me too, because I dislike animal companions that exist just to be cute. I wanted to take that trope and drive it into oblivion by making the twist where the fox is a complex plot machine. Even better, that it could be seen as a possible villain character by some readers. I love nature, but I like to romanticize the scary as well as the beautiful in it. One of the most scary things about it is that in reality, we are destroying ourselves by destroying it. The fox is a symbol of that through it’s mindless revenge. It also shows that nature is a part of you, for better or worse, as seen as it’s relationship with Wander. I wanted to make it symbolic of nature without sounding preachy, because way too much media does that.

Besides the fox and her curiosity, a major factor in Wander’s driving force is Masu. He was a character in my head that existed in a separate part of my mind from her. But when I put the two together, they hit it off. Masu was mature but also had little knowledge about himself and the world, so he was like a big-brother figure. I knew they were meant to be in the same story once I put the two together.

That’s about all I have to say about Wander’s creation.

If you have any questions or want me to write about something specific, email me at


Behind the Scenes: How I Started Writing In General

Early on, I did not always want to write books or create worlds. Instead I loved to pretend I was in them. To make a decent world, you would have to recognize your own. I didn’t want that. I wanted to play. I wanted to be a student at Hogwarts or a fellow rabbit in Watership Down. So as a little girl, I wanted to be an actor. I could shapeshift for a living.

In middle school though, I changed my mind. I discovered fanfiction. Yes yes, laugh. It’s not like your first thought will be to the famous fanfictions like Paradise Lost or Dante’s Inferno. Fanfiction today is far less Biblical. However, it was my gateway and I am not ashamed to admit it.

I was lucky enough to gain a loyal following with my online fanfic writing. The writing was absolutely horrendous compared to my writing today, but people loved it none-the-less. As much as I would like to tell my readers that I did not care what people thought of my writing back then, that would be a lie. Like any young teenager, I needed validation and I got it through fanfic writing. That community is part of what made me the far more confident writer that I am today.

Of course classes helped. Though, admittedly, I was never much of a reader. I know, that is possibly the worst piece of information for a writer to say. I just would get far too distracted in a page that was not my own. Maybe I am just selfish and need the worlds to be mine.

Speaking of selfish, I did not join creative writing groups. I did not like being among other creative writers. Some of them I admired, but I was too needlessly competitive.

By my later teen years, I really wanted to write a book. However, I had dozens of ideas. By early college, I wrote an entire book and now it’s in a closet or under a bed somewhere because I decided I was not ready and it was going nowhere. What drove me insane was that I was young and I knew that it probably will not be until I am on my deathbed that I am at my peak in writing form. It’s the opposite of being an athlete in terms of when your peak is. So I was afraid of publishing too young and looking like a fool. Like I said before, I was never much of a reader, and that alone severely debilitated me in comparison to other young writers. I was stubborn too, I wanted to succeed but I wanted to do it in my own Allison way.

By the end of college, I started writing what would become Wander. I was an English major, so I convinced myself that I finally had the minimum amount of tools required to confidently move forward in publishing my own book. (Professors, if you are reading, I want to thank you for making me read so much).

In short, that’s how I began writing in general. The main focus should be on the fanfiction though. That’s really what did it for me and I am happy to talk about it more. Based off my own experience, I think it’s a gateway to give youth a love of writing and story-telling.

When I taught some creative writing courses in Cochabamba, Bolivia, I mentioned this idea to teachers. One raised her hand and mentioned hating fanfiction because it was stealing ideas from stories already made. To that, I told her it’s fine as long as you are not making money off of it. Even then, there are works today that started off as fanfiction such as 50 Shades of Grey (never read it, never plan to) that are popular and changed enough to become their own story. Besides, fanfiction worked as a crutch for my younger self. It was never meant to be permanent. It was a way to experiment while also getting public attention.

And I did get positive public attention. Fanart, fanfiction based off mine, and fanmail. This was on Quizilla too, a website that is now non-existent so all that is now gone except for some memorabilia I printed out. The constant positive feedback was addicting. By the way, this was all about 13 years ago.

The strangest thing? My most recent contact with a fan of my fanfiction was in 2017. They somehow remembered my fanfiction and found it again on a website I will not name (you are not reading it!). They wrote a message that they remembered it from 13 years ago and went looking for it again. This was jaw-dropping for me, who was trying to get Wander published at the time. It made me wonder if the height of my writing career was writing casual fanfiction as a preteen for other preteens. Will Wander get as much attention? For my own sanity, I will not delve too deep into that paranoia.

Another big reason for why I write is that the ideas already exist in my head anyway. But that deserves a blog post of it’s own.

So that’s it! If you have any questions about my story, feel free to email me at

Welcome to Awei’s blog!

Allison Stalberg here!

Here I will write behind the scenes information about characters, Awei, and the writing process. Maybe I will even write some about myself! This will be incredibly informal since I am personally a very goofy woman while my book is written with a lot of serious emotion.

I am also happy to answer some questions with a blog post so feel free to contact me if you want me to write about a certain topic through the contact part of this website or via Awei’s Facebook page.

Also do not worry, I will tag *spoilers* if any post I make include them. Thanks for visiting!