I’m so pleased to join author Alle C Hall’s book tour for her fabulous book “As Far As You Can Go Before You Have To Come Back”. I received a copy of her book for reviewing and I found myself riveted from start to finish. As always, all my views expressed are 100% mine . Let me start with a book summary to whet your appetite, before welcoming Alle onto the blog!
Carlie is not merely traveling. A child sexual abuse survivor, as a teen she steals ten thousand dollars from her parents and runs away to Asia. There, the Lonely Planet path of hookups, heat, alcohol, and drugs takes on a terrifying reality. Landing in Tokyo in the late 1980s, Carlie falls in with an international crew of tai chi-practicing backpackers. With their help, Carlie has the chance at a journey she didn’t plan for: one to find the self-respect ripped from her as a child and the healthy sexuality she desires.
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Audio Book AISN: B0C3NVGNS
Print Length: 267 pages
About the Author
Nominated for The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Book Award and—tis just in—winner of The PenCraft Book Award for Fiction – Adventure, Alle C. Hall’s debut literary novel, As Far as You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back was winning prizes before its publication, including the National League of American Pen Women’s Mary Kennedy Eastham Prize. Her short stories and essays appear in journals including Dale Peck’s Evergreen Review,Tupelo Quarterly,New World Writing,Litro, Creative Nonfiction, and Another Chicago. She has written for The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, and was a contributing writer at The Stranger. She is the former senior nonfiction editor at jmww journal and the former associate editor of Vestal Review. Hall lived in Asia, traveled there extensively, speaks what she calls “clunky” Japanese, and has a tai chi practice of 35 years running
Hello Alle, and a big warm welcome onto the blog! Please introduce yourself….
Hello. My name is Alle, and I am in recovery from Bulimia, compulsive overeating, alcoholism, and sex and love avoidance. (Sorry for the default; that’s the only way I’ve introduced myself for 33 years!) I live in Seattle with such a great husband that after 25 years together, his kindness and humor and moral core still amaze me, given the kind of partner I was set up for. I have two sons, both young adults. I think they are launching wonderfully.
“As Far As You Can Go Before You Have To Come Back” is your debut literary novel – and what a brilliant debut! Who or What made you decide to write a novel in the first place?
I had been freelancing as a journalist, and had started to play with short fiction, I wrote some truly awful short stories. I mean, I’ve always been able to move a sentence right along, and I have a unique was of using words. But … a novel? Never occurred to me. Then, it did. I was at work—very low-paying job that involved a great deal of filing. One afternoon, I was filing away and hating it when I was flooded with the pain of having blown it. “Why didn’t I steal money and run away? I should have …. I should have … ”
The truth being, children who are groomed from a very young age do not run away, We adapt to trauma, and so are unable to see life beyond abuse. But a child who wasn’t assaulted until she was twelve could run away. And boom: I had the story.
Your book highlighted for me how quickly childhood sexual abuse can lead to problems with sexuality as an adult and other vulnerabilities/addictions. Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to relate than you expected?
I had no idea how to write a novel, so I just sat myself down one day every weekend and wrote for about ten hours. I did that for seven years, until I had a draft that I could edit. I had no idea how hard editing would be. It took me many, many more years to come up with the novel you read.
It was far easier than I thought it would be to explain trauma-things like, “triggered” or “abreaction.” In the first draft, I did a lot of hopelessly earnest explaining. By the time the book was accepted by a publisher, society had changed (thank you, Me,Too!) to the point that much of the lingo that were not commonly known when I first wrote the book, in the 1990s,were the a la mode.
I love your writing style. I went through a range of emotions – I wanted to reach out and comfort Carlie and her siblings during the “shed” episodes, I was angry at the abusers, I sympathised and understood Carlie’s reactions to situations whilst travelling, I was annoyed at her parents for not realising the damage they were doing, I was glad when Tai chi entered her life, I was elated when she settled in Tokyo, …. phew! A rollercoaster of a novel but one that was utterly believable. Did you base your characters and situations on people you’ve met and places you’ve encountered?
Thank you for that great compliment. It’s a primary reason we writers do what we do—to bring up all those feelings in readers.
In a very, very loose way, I based characters on people that I knew: my therapist, a dear friend, two lemons of guys that I met traveling. But the moment you take a set of basic characteristics—perhaps a way of speaking or long, lovely hair or a worldview—and you put them into a character, and then put that character into a situation, that character changes from the person you know IRL. And every page on which that character appears adds to that change, until you forget the person you might have started with and you have a real character, with a backstory and a specific motivation and a reason for being in the book besides his/her/their relationship with the main character.
It never fails to amaze me, how characters just walk into the story. When Carlie first arrives in Tokyo, she ends up living in this big, old Japanese house that is based on one living situation I was lucky enough to find in Tokyo. My landlady and I got on like a house on fire, and so I put her gentle warrior self into to novel. Then I remembered a story a friend told me, a really beautiful and sad yet uplifting story, and I gave that to the landlady. So then she’s embedded. She glided into a couple more scenes. She’s one of my favorite characters.
Congratulations on your numerous awards and literary nominations for this novel -well deserved 😊 What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to write novels that cover controversial topics?
Thank you again for the congrats. To writers who want to write controversial topics, I would say three things. The first: just write. Don’t let anyone dissuade you from your vision. If someone cannot be supportive, they become someone you talk about something else; the Mets or whatever.
Secondly: don’t worry about sales trends. It can take years to find an agent and/or publisher, and once you sign a deal, it can take up to two years for your book to publish.
Lastly: let go of trying to control the readers’ experience with your book. Write the book you wish had been around when you were going through whatever circumstances lead you to want to write about the topic.
Growing up, have you always hoped to have a career as a writer or did you have other aspirations?
I thought I was passionate about several careers, but I didn’t have it within me to pursue them because of the trauma effect on my sense of self. I was frozen in a way that made me come across as spoiled and unpleasant, as an employee. I got fired quite a bit, or not hired back when my contract ended.
Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres do you tend to go for? Book or kindle (ebook)?
Oh, my gosh. Book! I am particularly drawn to stories by women of color. I resonate most with fiction, but as long as the story (rather than data or research) is predominate, I’ll happily read nonfiction. I wish I were better about reading poetry. Seems to me the poets have the most to say.
Growing up, I was a bookworm. And I did a literature degree. But once I started writing, I had no time to luxuriate in books. It seems to me that of all the categories—family, friends, work, and fun with discretionary time—we get maybe two out of threeat any given time. I think it is possible to have everything; just not all at once.
Is “As Far as You Can Go Before You Have To Come Back” available to purchase worldwide?
It’s in all the countries that Amazon sells in. If you want a store to stock it, or just order it for you, all you have to do is ask. I’d love that!
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I work at home, so I wake up, get out of my sleeping pajama, get into my sweats, and old t-shirt, and call it an outfit. When I’m putting on the dog, I go for Asian jackets with the button down the front over black slacks. I do like a sequined top. I have a dress cut like your classic little black with cap sleeves that is completely covered with sequins. It must weight twenty pounds.
Do not show me a pantsuit. I love Hilary, but she did us no favors in that respect..
Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?
I can’t buy clothes online. I have broad shoulders and—we’re all adults, here—big boobs, so things can hang weirdly. IRL, I like
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
So funny that you ask that. I have been eating Keto since June and I’ve lost 30 pounds that I very much needed to lose! Twenty more to go! But I am at the point where I desperately need to buy two- to three sizes smaller. I really want some stylin’ pants that hide a tummy but fit nicely across the tushie. Even when I was very heavy, I had nice buns, hun.
Boots or Shoes?
Sadly, shoes. I love a good boot, but the way boots are made, they prevent the ankle from moving freely. The constriction causes my legs to move awkwardly where they insert into my pelvis, and my lower back or neck risks going out of alignment. If I simply must wear boots, or any shoe a millimeter higher than a flat, I schedule a chiropractor appointment for the following morning.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Substack newsletter https://allechall.substack.com
My site: https://allehall.wordpress.com
BOOK TOUR DATES
Thanks so much for joining me on the blog Alle, for the preview copy of your book and for inviting me onto your book tour! It’s been a blast.
The photos of the books, and the shoes were published with kind permission of Alle C Hall. The header and Pinterest photos are by Linda Hobden.