Ann Lilly Jose has been scribbling on pieces of paper since she was a kid and started writing seriously at the age of thirteen. A firm believer of the liberating power of words, she hopes to tell stories that can be the light at the end of somebody’s long, dark tunnel. When not writing, she can be found learning about random things, obsessing over twilights and the moon, and consuming unhealthy amounts of coffee.
Outlander: When did you start writing?
Ann Lilly Jose: I started writing seriously at the age of thirteen and drafted a novella overnight at fourteen, but I’ve only recently discovered my style and niche, so I would like to call myself an amateur.
O: Is there a writer that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin writing or someone whose work inspires you today?
A: I’ve always relied on AuthorTube for inspiration. Shaelin Bishop and Rachel Lachmansingh are the ones who have impacted my journey the most. Their tips and personal writing experiences have taught me valuable lessons about the craft and the process, and I still look up to them for inspiration and strength. Their works are some of my all-time favorites, too.
O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why?
A: Raw, because I try to portray emotions and settings in their most raw and authentic form instead of glamorizing them. Uncanny, because most of my recent pieces deal with uncomfortable topics and explore strange relationships and settings. Experimentative, because I’ve been trying to experiment with language, form, and style.
O: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
A: I am a discovery writer, so my favorite part is when it all starts making sense. That moment when the story seems to have purpose and starts flowing freely, when it unfurls and reveals details about the characters and the setting, when the story seems to write itself.
O: How has the pandemic changed your workflow?
A: I saw the pandemic as an opportunity to write more, but a writer’s block hit and it’s still hanging over my head. I’ve produced very little in terms of quantity, but it has been a wonderful process. My attempts at writing amidst the pandemic helped me discover my style and experiment with prose.
O: What is the best compliment you’ve received on your writing?
A: A lot of people have told me that my pieces are easy to read through and that they do not feel the need to stop or take breaks. This, for me, is a huge compliment, and probably the biggest I’ve received.
O: Out of all the characters you’ve created, who is your most favorite? Why?
A: So far, it has to be Norah. She’s the protagonist of my short story Twinepathy. It’s mostly because she’s an unhinged narrator. She has freaky dreams, has a complex worldview, and floats on the surface of things, merely existing. Got to love a character like that!
O: Do you ever reread your old works? How do you feel about them?
A: I cringe at the language and style of my old writing, but being in writer’s block, I’m fascinated by my younger self. I used to be able to write thousands of words a day and come up with several story ideas a month, some of which were really good. I even intend on developing a few old ideas into short stories or novellas.
O: How has joining the writing community transformed your writing process?
A: It has been miraculous. Being a non-native English writer, I often do not feel a sense of belonging in my real-life peer groups. But the online writing community always felt like home, particularly Tumblr. I only recently started a Tumblr blog, but it’s changed the way I look at the writing craft and process. I feel like I belong somewhere and that is wonderful.
O: Are there any themes in writing that you would like to explore in the future?
A: I would love to start writing adult literary fiction someday. It sounds like such an intense genre and the possibilities of it are so exciting. I’ll wait patiently for the day I can finally lay my hands on it.
O: Could you share with us a few sentences or a paragraph that you are particularly fond of?
A: Renee and I are in the midst of a forest, a full moon shining translucently through the dark clouds. My teeth chatter in the cold, breath-catching mist, turning exhaled air into short-lived frost. We’re roasting marshmallows over a little fire, the crackle of twigs burning blended with the music playing from my phone, her dancing to it, swaying from side to side. Observing that she’s too close to the fire, I get up, asking her to move away, but she doesn’t.
She’s dancing to the music as flames turn her into ashes.
O: If you could give new writers some advice from what you’ve learned, what would it be?
A: One, do what you want to do. Writing is a form of art and it is supposed to be for you before it is for anyone else. Be selfish and write what you want to write. If you want to, write books just for yourself to read. Two, do not let anyone pressure you into publishing. It’s your choice, and not being published doesn’t make you any less of a writer. Three, do not let the number of words you produce be the measure of your worth. Do not prioritize content over your mental health and well-being. Four, be there for other writers. Connect with them, read their work, and support them. Do not hesitate to reach out for help if you need it. Five, be inclusive with your writing. If you do not know about a community, learn. Make sure that you promote equality and justice. Finally, don’t give up. There will be hard days. There will be days when you want to give up on writing, but know that those days come and go. Hang in there a little longer and the wait will be worth it.
O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for?
A: I am currently working on a literary fiction novella that deals with themes like childhood, religion, trauma, purity, and sin. The plan is to draft it during Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I’ve also recently launched a literary magazine called Eclipse Zine, so I’ll probably be occupied with that too!
Thank you so much to Ann for sitting down to chat with us about all things writing! If you want to stay updated with Ann’s latest literary adventures, check out her website (www.annlillyjose.tumblr.com) and Instagram (@annlillyjose).