Ali Land Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Ali Land
Photo: Laura Lewis

Ali Land

An interview with Ali Land

Ali Land discusses her debut novel, Good Me Bad Me, and explores how her work as a mental health nurse influenced her writing.

What motivated you to enter the mental health field?

I wanted to become a mental health nurse because I wanted to know about people, the way their minds work, and the 'why's' that result from individuals' experiences and, most importantly, I wanted to help. I specialized in children's mental health because it felt like the right fit for me. Being able to use stories and play and the therapeutic conversations I was able to have with the adolescents will never leave me.

How did those experiences lend themselves to writing Good Me Bad Me?

It was actually one conversation in particular that formed the basis of Good Me Bad Me. I was working with a teenage girl when she disclosed to me that her mother had been involved in the serious harm of young children and she no longer wanted to live because she was afraid of turning into her. The notion of living with a parental legacy of evil haunted me. The burden this girl, and other children I looked after, carried, was so apparent. Was this girl right? Can the apple ever fall far from the tree? How much choice do we have about who we become? I let those questions marinate for over eight years and when I couldn't hold them in any longer, the first draft of Good Me Bad Me was born. It tore out of me in five months.

How do you respond to readers who might struggle with such a dark subject matter?

First and foremost, this book is a thriller and I wanted to take readers on a psychological journey into the mind of a girl whose mother did horrible acts. I didn't want to include any gratuitous details and I don't dwell on what Milly's mother did because I wanted to motivate readers to join in on a conversation about youth mental health, nature/nurture, foster care, social media, bullying and many other issues. I worked exceptionally hard on Milly's voice, trying to create a powerful, immersive experience that sweeps up the reader and carries them through the book and ensures that the story is Milly's. I actually only name the mother once in the whole book but most people miss it because their focus is on Milly, as it should be. I believe powerful messages can be conveyed through fiction, oftentimes in equally powerful ways as nonfiction.

What sort of emotional challenges did you face in writing this book? Bringing Milly to life was a privilege but it definitely came at a cost. (I barely slept during the writing of my first draft.) Milly's voice was a powerful force to channel and required me to delve into the darkest parts of my imagination and spend prolonged periods of time in isolation. Initially, I found it hard to talk about the book without crying. I worried I might further isolate children like Milly by using the medium of a thriller to push the nature/nurture debate. I strived really hard to write Good Me Bad Me in a way that ensures it's thrilling enough so readers have to keep turning the pages, but moving enough so they want to discuss it afterwards.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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