Considering the fact that Ally Carter is one of my absolute favourite authors, I'm surprised I was able to form coherent words. I'm a such a fangirl for her books! Ally Carter is super sweet and friendly though, quick to smile, and her slight Southern accent is positively endearing. I was able to shake aside most of my nervousness by the time introductions were made.
I recorded the interview and I've transcribed our interview below!
I'm so relieved you could still come to Toronto, despite all the crazy snow we had yesterday!
Where I’m from, when we get 3 inches of snow, we close down the state. Oklahoma is now closed! [laughs]
So this is the most snow you’ve seen in awhile?
I came from Phoenix, Arizona [the previous stop on the Perfect Scoundrels tour], and it was like 80 degrees when I left. I actually took a picture on the drive from the airport to the hotel ‘cause it was when the snow was still coming down and it was pretty much a white-out. So we drove past this building with a huge Canadian flag and the blowing snow, and I’m like, “We are not in Arizona anymore.” [laughs]
It was definitely not fun to shovel though…
I bet! It’s a lot of snow.
So… my sister and I both love reading your Gallagher Girls series and your Heist Society books, and how they have spies, crime, and thieves. What inspired you to write them?
Well, you know, I like the idea in general of people doing bad things for good reasons, and I think that’s a theme that both of the series have in common. I’ve always liked spy movies and spy TV shows like Alias, and I love me a good heist story. I grew up on movies like The Sting and How to Steal a Million, and all the really classic con movies and TV shows. In more recent years, shows like Leverage, and I absolutely love White Collar. I’m addicted to it! So, I think that for the most part as a writer, you write what you like. People who like zombies and vampires, write paranormal. People who like con men and thieves, write heist stories. It’s just something I’ve always been drawn to.
The Heist Society books are written in third person. Is it a personal preference over first person? I feel that with third person, you have a way of hiding the truth and different plot points you may have ended up revealing had it been first person.
Absolutely! That’s completely it. It’s more of a trick of the trade. There are a couple of different reasons. The first reason that I wrote Heist Society in third person was because I was already writing the Gallagher Girls series in first person, and I knew I would be going back and forth between the two. I was really afraid that my first person voice was just my first person voice, and I didn’t want Kat to sound like Cammie. I thought my third person voice would automatically be, by definition, a little different. And then the more I got to thinking about it, the more it really made sense, because like you said, you can’t see everything that Kat is doing. If you see behind the curtain, then you’re not going to be fooled, and really, the job of writing a heist book is that you have the con you’re running on the mark, and the con you’re running on the reader. It’s really, really important to be able to leave open that main character’s point of view so that you do have that twist, you do have that surprise at the end.
Would you rather be a Gallagher Girl, or a thief in Kat’s family?
I think that I’d probably be better at – Hmmm… I don’t know. I get this question a lot and my fear is that I give a different answer every time, and then people will cross-reference it and say, “She’s lying!” So, it’s probably just depending on what kind of mood I’m in. I probably wouldn’t be any good at either in real life because, in real life, thieves are not as nice as I portray them and being a spy is not as glamorous as I portray it to be too. Between the two, I’d probably be better off as a CIA analyst. You know, sitting in a nice office somewhere and looking at data, trying to discern trends. I think I could do that.
Maybe someone a bit more like Liz [from the Gallagher Girls series]?
Yes, I’d be more like Liz, probably. I actually have a good friend from graduate school who works for the CIA. She’s not a field operator… Well, if she is, she doesn’t tell me about it. [laughs] I think that what she does is just look at data coming through and she tries to figure out trends. And that’s important work.
How much research do you do for accuracy? In your Heist Society books, for example, you’ll be describing a particular safe with all these cool features…
That’s all made up!
And for setting, there are so many different countries. Do you research them a lot?
I do some research some for it. I tend to go back to Italy a lot, if you notice, because Italy is a country I’ve actually been to. Also, England too. But, everything can’t be set in Italy or England, so I spend a lot of time on Google Images and Google Earth. It’s really easy in this day and age, especially because I’m not writing about a real place in Austria, you know. I may be writing about a real city, but I’ll make up a street name. You want to make sure you have the vibe of the city right, and you can do a lot of that just by looking at people’s vacation photos, which are all online, crazily enough. And so, you can be all like, well, this is a city with a lot of trams or cobblestone streets and sidewalk cafes. You can really try to capture that vibe and put it in the book.
I was really happy about Perfect Scoundrels because YES, CANADA! There’s the Canadian Coast and Niagara Falls in it. And especially for the Niagara Falls scene, I felt like I was having a heart attack…
Yes! Yay! [laughs] But did I get Niagara Falls right?
I think so! In the morning at Niagara Falls, it’s usually empty, or in the winter, it’s so cold that no one wants to go outside. You just go to Tim Hortons, get a coffee, and then hold it for warmth.
Oh, I should have had a Tim Hortons cup. That would have been a nice detail. Should have done that.
Maybe next time?
Yes, maybe in the next draft!
If there’s a Tim Hortons, then we’ll all know it’s Canada.
That’s right. She’s eating a doughnut, drinking some coffee, that’s my girl.
In your Heist Society series, there’s certain code of etiquette among thieves in Kat’s world, and they have different con names like the Humpty Dumpty, but they’re just shouted out and not mentioned more. Are they actual terms?
For the most part, they’re made up. There are a few that are real, like Dog in a Bar is a real con. I think the Anastasia could have been real, but it would be a dead con.
When you make the cons up, do you have an idea of what they could entail?
Not really. I think there’s a line in the second book where they’re like, “We could run the Princess Bride” and then “But no, we could never find a six-fingered man that quickly.” That’s just a joke. Just for fun.
I think that’s what really adds to the experience when you’re reading. Just the thought of wondering, “What is the Princess Bride?” for instance.
Yes, it really does. And I think it goes back to me being a fan of heist movies, and one of my favourites is Ocean’s Eleven.
I love that movie!
One of my favourite lines in Ocean’s Eleven is at the very beginning, when they meet Elliot Gould’s character and he says, “I owe you from the thing with the guy in the place” and they’re like, “That was our pleasure. I’d never been to Belize.” And I spent a whole lot of time after that wondering what happened in Belize, and so that was one of the things I wanted to incorporate in the book, the fact that these characters have history. I mean, the monkey seemed perfectly trained at the time. We don’t know what happened with the monkey, but you want to know. You know that old adage of leave them always wanting more? And yes, hopefully people would want to read a prequel about the time with the monkey, but I’m happy with them making up their own versions of it too. So I think that’s part of writing real characters, that they have a history. [changes voice] “Yes, I’m still mad at you about Venezuela.” “Don’t bring up Venezuela.” You know? And then there was that great line in The Avengers movie where she [Black Widow] is like, “It’s just like Budapest.” and he [Hawkeye] says, “You and I have very different memories of Budapest.” [laughs]
I remember that! And then all of us were wondering, “What went on in Budapest?”
Yes, we had to know!
What would you say is the best tool any thief or Gallagher Girl should have in their arsenal?
A good memory. They definitely have to be smart. I think there’s a line in one of the Gallagher Girls books about your mind being the only weapon you’re guaranteed to have on a daily basis. And I actually got that out of a spy training manual. That is a real spy kind of thing.
Oh, I didn’t know there were spy training manuals!
There are lots!
And then, of course, in Out of Sight, Out of Time, Cammie’s mind is very on the edge. It’s a very important theme in that book.
Yes, it is.
So, in Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals, Kat and her crew often rely on Hale’s unlimited resources. How does the dynamic change in Perfect Scoundrels now that they have to kick it old-school?
Yes, they have to kick it old-school, and that was one of the things I really wanted to do. And it’s sort of the genesis of the book. I get this, well, not really criticism, but people say that it’s easy to fly around the world when you got a boyfriend with a private jet, and I thought, well, what would happen if you didn’t have a boyfriend with a private jet? And so I really wanted to know what would happen if you took that away, and it was one of the things I really wanted to play with.
And is it challenging to make it more intense and really up the stakes in each novel?
It is challenging because, just writing a series in general, you want the reader to always have the same experience, but you don’t want them to feel like they keep reading the same book. It’s not all, “Well, they’re going to do this and then they’re going to do that and then about page 170, this is going to happen.” No, you don’t really know what is going to happen, but yet you feel something similar. It’s kind of like vacationing in different countries, but having the same vacation experience. So it’s a really challenging aspect of writing a series.
And my sister will totally kill me if I don’t ask, but is Perfect Scoundrels going to be the last Heist Society book? Or are there going to be more after this?
Well, I don’t have any more Heist Society novels under contract, but I would very much like to continue writing them.
And can you share any details about the last Gallagher Girl novel? Or any progress on a title for it, at least?
I wish [referring to difficulty of naming the book]! I think readers are going to be satisfied with the ending. It won’t necessarily be the ending they think is coming, but I think in the end, hopefully… Well, they may not even be happy, but they will be satisfied. I’m aiming more for satisfied than happy.
This kind of makes me nervous to hear, but also very excited!
Yes, hopefully it will be like, “I did not see that coming! That was not like my fan fiction version ending of this book, but I feel good.” That’s what I’m going for.
Cammie and her friends have to face the Circle! It’s all so exciting.
Yes, you want to walk away from this character knowing that they are going to be okay.
That’s good. I feel a sense of reassurance.
Yeah, I think I personally need to feel like Cammie is going to be okay. [adds ominously] Or dead.
In your Double Crossed novella, you combine the two worlds with Hale and Macey having to work together. Was it fun working on that story?
So much fun! It’s the most fun I probably had last year, just because I’ve been writing series’ for so long. It’s been a long time since I’ve introduced these characters for the first time. You know, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Macey through somebody else’s eyes who doesn’t know her. And so, to get to do that for both of them was like Christmas. It was super fun.
It definitely was fun. I mean, we already know Hale, but Macey doesn’t anything about him, and vice versa. She has these totally different notions about about his personality, and what he’s like. They both discover there’s so much more going on. And then, in the end, Kat is handed a card for the Gallagher Academy! Just the thought of it occurring was really cool.
Right, exactly! And I’ve gotten that question a lot. Will Kat go? I think Kat is like a wild animal at this point. Going to Gallagher Academy would be like putting her in a cage.
Or like going back to Colgan, maybe?
Yeah, it would be better than Colgan, for sure.
Definitely! More fun.
But, I mean, I could see her doing that if something tragic happened, because I think a lot of what drove her to Colgan was still dealing with the aftermath of her Mom’s death and all these things. If something happened to Hale, or Bobby, or Uncle Eddie, I could see her making that change. But right now, she’s got a pretty good thing going.
And would you consider writing any more crossovers?
Yeah, I would! I had so much fun writing it, but who knows what the future will hold.
Thanks so much to Ally Carter for so patiently answering all my questions! And thanks so much to Hachette Book Group Canada for the chance to sit down with Ally and chat with her.
If you missed it before, you can read my recap of Ally Carter's Toronto book signing!
If you're still interested in learning more about Ally Carter and both the Heist Society and Gallagher Girls series', I'd recommend checking out these two Q&As from my blogger friends who also met up with the author before the event. They asked some really awesome questions!