Absolutely. My name is Alayna-Renee Vilmont, and I’m a professional freelance writer, blogger, event planner, performer, and all-around Renaissance woman currently living in Atlanta, GA. Originally from the Northeast, I went to university in NYC. I moved here on September 12th, 2001, so you might imagine that’s a story—and it is. I’m hardly a Southern belle, and I still don’t drive a car. It’s only a matter of time before someone stages a protest against my outspoken and liberal ways, and I end up living in Kansas. 😉
2. What do you write? Do you have a specific gene?
I write poetry, short stories, and literary fiction. I’ve also been a blogger and essayist since 2000, when I discovered that sharing my life with others was a unique way to use art to connect with strangers. I actually never meant to become a writer, although it’s been a hobby since I was a child. Even now, I have doubts whether or not I’m actually a writer, or someone who simply talks a good deal and has strong opinions. 😉 I tend to focus heavily on imagery and emotion to bring situations to life, and to hopefully take the reader on a vicarious journey through the experience I’ve chosen to share. The complexity of human psychology and connection is something that intrigues me greatly. I like to use my life experience, observations, and ability to see beyond the exterior façade most people present to the world in order to create a framework to explore universal themes. Using the written word as a way to explore and understand human nature is fascinating to me, and is part of what compels those who love books to keep reading. I like to think that’s what I bring to the table.
3. What are you working on now?
At the end of 2012, I published an anthology of poetry entitled “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse”. It’s a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story that explores the concept of “intrigue”, and the different ways human beings relate to one another, from friendships to romantic relationships to one-night stands to outright disdain or apathy. I chose Ophelia as the legendary character to tie these stories together, because she’s not only been the muse for so many artists through history, she’s quite misunderstood. What’s valued about Ophelia is her pliability, her innocence, her existence in a world where empowerment was not an option. She’s not only a young girl with a controlling father and a crazy love interest, she’s continually being told she’s valued only for her femininity and innocence. The value of her compliance with a patriarchal society that viewed virginity as the greatest asset a woman had to offer is beaten into her so repeatedly that she’s led to feel she’s better off dead or in a nunnery than corrupted by sexual desire or the awakening of her own mind. She’s viewed as the ultimate feminine muse because she never becomes an empowered woman; she sacrifices her life to avoid doing so.
In today’s society, both women and men are so conflicted about sexuality and gender roles, and there’s an endless amount of judging going on because nobody understands “how people are supposed to be”. If Ophelia were a teenager in our society today, I think she’d have a different story, but her role in it wouldn’t necessarily be any more clear or empowering. That idea is what transformed a collection of personal poems about intrigue, infatuation, love, hate, and finding out who you are into a story with a thread that weaves everything together.
I’m currently working on a collection of flash fiction and poetry called “Sophisticated Nothing”. It explores the sense of disconnection and alienation that so many, especially those in my generation, are feeling as a result of the hyper-connected, plugged-in world we’ve created. The more we move forward, the more elements of genuine human connection and meaningful relationships we leave behind. People become disposable, and anything you need to know about anyone or anything should ideally fit in 140 character blocks. We’ve made a painful sacrifice along the way to create the more advanced, fast-paced, competitive world we now take for granted.
4. When did you start writing?
I published my first poem when I was seven, in a literary journal that thought I was much older. I was always highly creative, though. I’d make up songs and stories, and create plays that the kids in my neighborhood would act out.
When I was in 7th grade, I took the SAT and scored highly enough that I could study at this program called CTY (Center For Talented Youth). It was designed to teach younger kids college-level skills, and I think that’s where I really learned how to write. I also learned it wasn’t something everyone knew how to do.
Ironically, writing was never a focus of my life. I started performing in musical theatre at a pretty early age, and then later branched out to study opera. My degree is in musical theatre, and I stopped performing simply because I moved to a city where there wasn’t much in terms of a local professional scene. I minored in creative writing, but it’s always been a hobby for me. Over the past two years, I’ve started to work full-time as a freelance writer and participate in the local artistic and literary scene in Atlanta (my current adopted home.)
5. Where do you usually write?
I typically write on my bed, on my laptop. My prime hours of creativity are between 12 AM-4 AM, so it’s safe to say I’m a night owl. I find, being an extrovert, my mind calms down significantly when I realize the rest of the world has gone to sleep.
I also write when I travel. I’ve written poems in airports and bus stations, made journal entries in Starbucks, and composed thoughts that would later become prose on pages ripped out of a hotel phone book. My favourite, though, is remembering me sitting in a cemetery in NYC, writing a love letter. I’m such an emo chick at heart, no matter how old I get. ;P
6. Why did you choose to start writing, who or what influenced you?
What prompted me to start writing? I think it’s the fact that I became a blogger, and one that gained a little bit more notoriety than I really deserved, around 2000. I never imagined anyone would care what I’d written before I learned that strangers were, in fact, interested in my life and my experiences. I was dating someone who was very influential in getting the idea of “blogging” to go mainstream. It never occurred to me that I had too much talent as a writer or that others would care to read my work. It still surprises me when I realise I have loyal readers.
The biggest influence on me as a writer was reading the work of a writer named Elizabeth Wurtzel when I was in my early 20s. She seemed like an older and slightly more disturbed version of me, and I both admired her willingness to show her wounds to the world and related to what she had to say. I had always been so guarded about my imperfections, and gone through my life believing that if other people saw how confused and screwed up I really was, they’d hate me. My greatest struggle was always trying to be perfect, to be liked, to win approval, to do enough to prove that the world should love me. Yet, the real Alayna was someone who was creative, rebellious, flirtatious, energetic, and willing to take chances that weren’t considered “normal” or “polite” by many. Reading Elizabeth Wurtzel, and later Anais Nin, made me realize it was OK to be me and not apologise for it. It also made me comfortable sharing myself with the world in a way that makes others feel uncomfortable. I still struggle with perfectionism and my heart cracking every time someone dislikes me, but I now know I still don’t care enough to engage in a lifetime of inauthenticity and fear.
I think Elizabeth Wurtzel and “Prozac Nation” paved the way for flawed, quirky, realistic female artists like Lena Dunham to show the reality of what young people go through trying to become someone and something in today’s society. She certainly inspired me in that way.
7. Did you self publish or go with a publisher and why?
I went the self-publishing route, for a number of reasons. First, there’s not a huge market for poetry, and an unknown poet getting an anthology published by a major publisher isn’t likely. Secondly, I was simply impatient. I wanted to cross “publish a book” off of my bucket list as a gift to myself for my birthday.
I financed the project via Kickstarter, did a first printing, and held a book launch party here in Atlanta. Since then, I’ve met so many awesome indie writers networking both online and in real life. It’s inspiring. I still don’t understand why anyone who doesn’t know me would bother to read what I write. Many people who *do* know me are bored to tears by all my thoughts and feelings. 😛
8. What do you do when you are not writing?
In addition to my creative pursuits, I write for a living, doing advertising copy, PR, and SEO work. It often feels like I’m always writing. Of course I’m not, and when I’m not, I run an active social group here in Atlanta. I love meeting people and having new adventures.
I also love music, reality television, theatre, sending letters and having telephone marathons with friends, and I read a great deal. Twice a week, I play in a bar trivia league with my boyfriend and some of our friends. We’re pretty decent, a majority of the time. I live with my 12-year-old Lab/Beagle mix, and always love to unwind with martinis, great company, and better conversation. I also enjoy traveling, although I don’t have the opportunity to do it as much as I once did.
9. How do we find out more about you and about your book?
My book, “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse”, is a poetic journey that is based around the idea of intrigue, infatuation, unrequited love, sexual awakening, rejection, and the struggle for personal identity all forming the reality of who a person ultimately becomes throughout life. It is available in paperback form via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Ophelias-Wayward-Muse-Alayna-Renee-Vilmont/dp/1478218886. I’ve chosen not to do a Kindle version, but I also have the .pdf available for a nominal fee at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/princessalayna
If you’re interested in following the adventures of a modern-day wayward muse, I have a website called Jaded Elegance (Uninhibited Adventures Of A Chic Web Geek). It lives at http://www.jadedelegance.net. I’ve recently launched a feature where I have a guest post, author interview, or book review each Sunday, and it has proven to be quite popular. I also have an active community of friends on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/princessalayna, and am part of the Goodreads world, where you can visit me at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6862252.Alayna_Renee_Vilmont.
Thank you so kindly for taking the time to get to know me! It’s been a pleasure, and I hope some of your friends and readers may very well become new friends of mine!:)