Interview with Alana Siegel

Today, we're speaking with Alana Siegel about her series, Olivia Hart and The Gifted Program. Before we get started, let's have a look at the blurb for the first book:

The Charm is a young adult fantasy novel and book #1 in the Olivia Hart and the Gifted Program series.

Imagine what high school would be like if your ex-boyfriend fired lightning when he was angry, the sporty girl in your class had enough strength to lift a flatbed truck, and you could charm your way out of trouble.

When shy, sixteen year old, Olivia Hart, witnesses the actual rainstorm her ex-boyfriend, Max Smarr, creates in Pandora high school's cafeteria, she’s convinced she’s lost her mind. Nothing will prepare her, however, for the discovery of her own special Gift.

Olivia Hart has always been satisfied living in the shadows of her peers, and so high school doesn't get any easier when her charismatic brother goes off to college and her relationship with her edgy boyfriend comes to an end. When she comes across an antique charm, she finds out that she can compel people with her mind and hiding is no longer an option. With the help of her friends in the Gifted Program and each of their special Gifts, what happens next in this young love and coming of age story will force Olivia into the spotlight, test her friendships, and cause her to question her role in a society.

Tricia: Tell us a little about yourself.

Alana: Ten months ago I completed the level three Chartered Financial Analyst exam, and my fiance accepted a job at Apple as an iPhone Developer. We decided it was an opportune time to move from New York to San Francisco and try something new. An engagement ring, a move 3,000 miles across the country, and one adorable kitten named Zeus later, my fantasy book series was conceived!

I have self-published two books through Amazon and CreateSpace. The Charm (4.5 stars on Amazon) and The Retreat (5 stars on Amazon) are part of a young adult, fantasy series called Olivia Hart and the Gifted Program. There have been over 20,000 downloads of my books, and both have been #1 on Amazon's Science Fiction and Fantasy bestseller lists during promotional periods. I have completed the manuscript for the third book, and I am bright-eyed in a new city and hungry for more exposure.

Tricia: When did you begin writing?

Alana: Writing has always been a hobby that was maintained on long train rides in and out of Manhattan between the hours spent at my day job. I wrote The Charm by sending emails to myself on an iPad. Then, I would piece it all together over the weekends.

Now available on Amazon!
Tricia: Can you tell us about Olivia Hart and The Gifted Program?

Alana: Olivia Hart and the Gifted Program is a series about high school kids dealing with everyday teenage drama and supernatural plot twists. The main character, Olivia, is easy to identify with. She reminds the reader what it feels like to cope with the overemotional adolescent years. Nothing will prepare her, however, for the discovery that she can compel people with her mind. Imagine how different high school would be if you had the ability to charm your way out of trouble.

Tricia: How did you get the idea for the series?

Alana: Friends and family from my own life inspired the dynamic characters in the series. Many of the everyday situations are based on events in my life. For example, my ex-boyfriend brought flowers to another girl in the same class as me, just to make me jealous. (It didn't work!).

Tricia: Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

Alana: Olivia is my favorite character. She has always been satisfied living in the shadows of her peers. When she finds out that hiding is no longer an option, she is forced into the spotlight. A major part of the high school experience is dealing with the pressure of friends and defining who you are. The way Olivia approaches issues that arise and questions that need to be answered is endearing and relatable. 

My second choice might surprise readers of the series - hands down, Chelsea Steinem, because she is loyal and fearless.

Tricia: Which character was the most challenging to write?

Alana: There isn't a particular character that stood out to me, however, there was a noteworthy section in The Retreat. I am known to be an eternal optimist, and writing about Olivia's broken heart wasn't an easy feat. In the end, Olivia and I both fought for happiness. You'll have to read the whole series to find out if it was worth it!

Tricia: Which authors have inspired your writing?

Alana: For me personally, reading has always been a passion. I am an avid young adult, fantasy reader, and I escape to Hogwarts, Forks, Camp Halfblood, or District 12 for a few hours each day. I love getting lost in an adventure with characters who feel like old friends. I began writing The Charm because I had a story of my own. I wanted to extend the reading adventure and share it with others.
I enjoy reliving those universal experiences like remembering your locker combination or feeling everyone’s eyes as you walk into school or waiting for your best friend before lunch. I love all of Rick Riordan’s work, especially the stories with Percy Jackson as the main character. I devoured the Harry Potter books in one summer. I have read each Twilight book multiple times, and I forced my entire family to read The Hunger Games series with me.

Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?

Alana: I have been toying with a new idea for a series that is centered around a girl who can speak to ghosts and a government that puts people like her a special program to hone their skills and send them on missions to solve national crises - it would be like The Sixth Sense meets Ghost Whisperer meets National Treasure.

Tricia: If your book was ever made into a movie, which actors and actresses would you cast?

Alana: I've played this game before!
- Emma Stone, best known for playing Olive in Easy A and Skeeter in The Help would star as the shy girl turned seductress, Olivia Hart.
- Hunter Parrish best known for playing Silas Botwin in Weeds would be cast as Olivia’s broody and aloof crush, Justin Benz.
- Ian Somerhalder best known for playing Damon Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries would be cast as the lightning wielding ex-boyfriend, Max Smarr.
- Missy Peregrym best known for playing Haley Graham in Stick It, would be cast as the selfless and clever school athlete, Jaime Forte.
- Ashley Benson best known for playing Hanna Marin in Pretty Little Liars would be cast as the fierce and protective, Chelsea Steinem.
- Vanessa Lengies best known for playing Joanne Charis in Stick It and Sugar Motta in Glee would be cast as the trusting and bubbly best friend, Helen O’Reilly.
- Lana Parrilla best known for playing Regina in Once Upon a Time would be cast as the witty and caring Global Studies teacher, Ms. Magos.

Tricia: What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Alana: If you turn writing into a hobby instead of a job, you will find instant gratification. Enjoy the journey, and never give up.

You can learn more about Olivia Hart and the Gifted Program by visiting the following links:

Olivia Hart Facebook page
Amazon Author