Generous & Genuine: The Sci-fi Journey of A.L. McCarroll

Chelsea Delaney
Writers
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12 min read
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Writers
Photo of an attractive white woman. She is wearing glasses, hair is pulled back. She is smiling, wearing a black blazer, she is resting her hand on her chin. This is the title page of the article called, "Generous & Genuine: The Sci-fi Journey of A.L. McCarroll. Wrottem by Chelsea Delaney
Document with two photos. The first is of an attractive white family, in this case a white woman and white man with their daughter in the middle. The photo on bottom right is of a white man and his son, a young boy outdoors. The article text reads: A.L. McCarroll is an empowering study in what is possible when neurodivergent creatives are surrounded by people who get us. Author of the fascinating sci-fi trilogy Into the Void, she speaks with love of both her parents, and explains her mom’s role in her early desire to be an author:  “My mom, who is Dyslexic as well, raised me to have a love for reading. She provided me with as many books as I wanted and would find ways to get me audiobooks that I would listen to when I would go to bed. Every day after she was done with work we would take turns reading my books to each other. Where we lived the lights would get knocked out in bad weather. Instead of being scared, I would be excited because I knew it was time for us to read stories together.” She says her mom has always been a positive advocate for dyslexia, though McCarroll admits she had to go through her own struggles with discouragement and loss of faith in herself when she was young.
Photo of a white woman with glasses, smiling and looking at the camera. She is sitting at a desk with a notepad and writing utensils. Article text on this page two reads: Fast forward to today and both her mom and dad are still involved in helping edit her drafts. You can sense her deep appreciation for their feedback. “I get the perspective of my Mom who is Dyslexic like me and my Dad who has ADHD just like my son. They read and add their own suggestions for edits and changes….Having two other perspectives on my writing is helpful and fun as an author.” Her parents and husband’s support extend to every part of her career--even calling her to reflect when her first YouTube videos didn’t quite come across as authentic. The generosity that was shown to the young author became a clear part of her creative fabric as she grew. She talks about the inspiration for her trilogy:  “My trilogy is actually based on a homebrew D&D-esque universe I created with my husband who has been running games with me since back in 2009 when we were first dating. Our game universe is mainly sci-fi because he grew up loving Star Wars….I wanted to be able to have a way of putting down our stories so that we could enjoy them later in life when we might have forgotten some of the details. This way our characters and worlds have a way of living past us.” Like storytellers of old, she takes her responsibility to these created worlds seriously. She takes us through her writing process, both spacious and rigorous, which involves things like sketching, daydreaming, and stream-of-consciousness, even before she gets to editing. As mom to an AuDHD son, her “little ray of sunshine,” giving so much to her work isn’t always easy. Her Instagram has lots of pictures that look like she is writing in the car after work or before school pickup. However, the balancing act has taught her patience. And as we all know, patience is just one more shape generosity can take. What’s next for McCarroll? She’ll soon finish recording all of book one on her YouTube channel. About this part of her career she says: “What I’m doing now by writing my own books and recording them on my YouTube channel is fulfilling my childhood dream. That is what makes it feel so good to do. I think the child version of me would be so proud of everything I have accomplished.”  We can’t wait to see where else this journey will take her. Enjoy our interview with the talented A.L. McCarroll.
Photo of a white family two men, two women and a young boy. They are all smiling and looking at the camera. Article text reads: Chelsea Delaney (CD): What/who influenced you to become a sci-fi writer? Amanda McCarroll (AM): As a child, I grew up watching shows like Stargate and Star Trek with my mom. I feel like that helped start my interest in sci-fi as a genre. My trilogy is actually based on a homebrew D&D-esque universe I created with my husband, who has been running games with me since back in 2009 when we were first dating. Our game universe is mainly sci-fi because he grew up loving Star Wars. We also pull influence from things we are interested in at the time. I wanted to be able to have a way of putting down our stories so that we could enjoy them later in life when we might have forgotten some of the details. This way, our characters and worlds have a way of living past us. CD: Does your neurodivergence influence your writing? How so? AM: As someone who is dyslexic, I constantly come across problems with grammar and spelling, but I have found my ways around them by using programs like Microsoft Word and Grammarly to help check my writing. I also have problems with getting things mixed up, but I usually avoid those issues when I’ve had enough sleep. Sometimes, I sacrifice sleep to get writing in, so I have to balance how I feel day to day with my schedule for getting things done with my writing.
Photo of a white woman wearing glasses and smiling. She is standing in front of a corkboard with a flyer that has her promotional info. Article text reads: I also have Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (or Irlen Syndrome), a type of visual dyslexia. It affects my ability to read for long periods. It can make my eyes hurt, especially when reading black letters on a white background. In Word, you can change the color of the page you are on, but remember to change it back to white before you print. I used to wear teal overlaid glasses as a child so I could read longer without getting headaches. My school would print out pages for me on teal-colored paper. When I got older and got contacts, I used overlay sheets. They now have bookmarks with an overlay panel, but the big sheets were always nicer. Even with the struggles, I have found positives to my conditions. I am a more creative person for being dyslexic, and I can turn my creativity on and off as I see fit. If I need to double down and get serious, I can, but if I want to disassociate into a daydream about my characters, I can do that just as easily. My writing process typically starts with a short outline of my idea. From there, I create events I want to happen, and once I have many of those, I sort them into chapters until I have an outline of my entire story. After I have that outline, I begin to write my first rough draft, which is a stream of consciousness process. That copy is just the seed that I will slowly grow through a process of re-reading, spell-checking, and listening to my draft over and over. Once that is finished, I print out a paper copy and physically edit and read that manuscript. By that point, it becomes a bloom so close to being done but still needing a little work. I have a wonderful, supportive, neurodiverse family who have been very helpful with my books. I usually let my parents look over my drafts. I get the perspective of my mom, who is dyslexic like me, and my dad, who has ADHD just like my son. They read and add their suggestions for edits and changes. They usually come up with their own unique things. Having two other perspectives on my writing is helpful and fun as an author. I really appreciate all the help that they give me. I then do a final run-through edit and spellcheck. Then I print a proof copy, and if it looks good, then it's ready for self-publishing through KDP. My process is very repetitive, but by the end, I get to see my story fully bloom into something beautiful.
Photo of a woman with her hair in a bun and wearing glasses, typing on a laptop computer. Article text reads: CD: You mentioned to me that you went through a lot of creative outlets before really feeling the “rightness” of writing. What is it about writing that makes it the perfect outlet for you personally? A.M.: Writing is something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was a child. My mom, who is dyslexic as well, raised me to have a love for reading. She provided me with as many books as I wanted and would find ways to get me audiobooks that I would listen to when I would go to bed. Every day after she was done with work, we would take turns reading my books to each other. Where we lived, the lights would get knocked out in bad weather. Instead of being scared, I would be excited because I knew it was time for us to read stories together. I started to build a collection of Goosebumps books, and R.L. Stine became my favorite author. As a child, I would write my own version of Goosebumps books and create my own covers for them. I would also record myself reading them onto cassette tapes. What I’m doing now by writing my own books and recording them on my YouTube channel is fulfilling my childhood dream. That is what makes it feel so good to do. I think the child version of me would be so proud of everything I have accomplished. CD: If I understand correctly, you’ve written and self-published two books in a trilogy and are working on a third. Tell us a little about the books and share with us any advice you may have for other folks looking to self-publish. AM: I’m thrilled to say that I have actually recently published book three “Checkmate.” The trilogy centralizes around an alien parasite that attaches to two different women and how they each separately deal with him and ultimately how he is dealt with in the end. If you are looking to self-publish, you can start by searching for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) University. It is where you can learn the steps to self-publish through Amazon. YouTube has some amazing authors as well who share information on the process and how to do a lot of the harder parts of formatting books.
Photo of a white woman with glasses and hair in a ponytail in a tender moment with her son, a white young boy. Article text reads: CD: I know there are a lot of ND creatives out there that are also parents to neurodivergent children. I’m curious, and I think our readers might be as well: how do you make time for your writing? (i.e., I can barely take care of one neurodivergent person most days ((me)) and my creative pursuits). AM: I have one child, my son Marcus, who is 8 years old, nonverbal, and ADHD. He can be challenging in many ways, but he is also my little ray of sunshine. He gives the best hugs, kisses, and chin presses. He loves the alphabet and robots. He makes every day so much fun, and I always put him first. Some days, if one or both of us has had a hard day, I’ll be too tired at night to do much, but most days I squeeze in my writing at night after he is in bed or if I have time after work before I pick him up from school. That means I sometimes lose rest or get behind on some household chores but nothing worth doing ever comes easy. CD: Tell us a little bit about your YouTube channel--why you started it, how’s it going, and any surprises or lessons you’ve learned while using it as a marketing tool. AM: Like I said earlier, I used to record my own stories I would write as a child and I’ve always felt like for some people like myself listening to a story is easier than reading the words on paper. I love audiobooks and have a large collection of them on Audible. At night I like to put on Harry Potter and let Jim Dale's narration lull me to sleep. Also, this way my story gets out to a broader range of people. When I first started recording, I found that I had a lot of anxiety about putting myself out there so much. I have generalized anxiety and for me, a big part of it is social anxiety. I’ve always been a shy person and have had my own fears of being judged by others. My husband and family could tell I wasn’t being authentic in some of my first videos, but over time I was able to become more relaxed and less fearful. I found out that people are generally nice and most don’t care and in a way that has been very liberating.
Photo of a young boy playing with blocks in an educational setting. He is white with short hair and is wearing a blue shirt. He is reaching upwards playing with a tower of blocks. Article text reads:  I’ve become more confident over time and I’ll soon have all of book one available to be listened to for free on my YouTube channel under the name “Author A L McCarroll.” So far I haven’t had many views, but I hope in time people will find it and enjoy it as much as I enjoy making it. CD: It looks like you do some of your own artwork for inspiration and then find illustrators for some of the work you don’t have the skillset for. Talk to us a little about the visual part of your writing process, especially if you have any advice on how to find a cover artist/illustrator/etc. AM: I have always had a very detailed imagination. I can visualize things so deeply that I can sometimes get lost in my own thoughts. Once I get my story ideas and characters set, I can daydream scenes, actions, or conversations my characters might have. When I draw, I try my best, but the world is filled with so many amazing artists with better, more honed skills than mine. When I want something closer to what I picture in my mind's eye, I like to look up #commission on Instagram and find an artist that has a style that I enjoy seeing. Then, I hire them through Instagram messages to make the art for me. I enjoy having those pieces to put on the wall above my desk. Those pieces inspire me to keep working on my stories. There are many talented illustrators who will work with you to help make what you imagine; all you need to do is seek them out. All the artists I’ve dealt with have been very nice people.
Photo of a family of a man, woman, and their son walking away from the camera towards an open field. Article text reads: CD: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers about your writing career, neurodivergence, or just life in general? AM: I was talking to my husband recently about how we are both very happy to be in our 30’s and the reason behind that is that we both feel as though we are being our truest selves without holding back. We’ve gone into our 30s with more patience, less anxiety, and fear. It has taken time and age to develop patience not just with others but with myself. That newfound patience is what it took for me to finally be able to fully take the plunge into self-publishing my books, something I wasn’t able to do as a child or young adult. As a child, even though my mom has always been a positive advocate for dyslexia, I let myself get discouraged by my condition to the point of not having faith in my abilities as a child. The fear of failure held me back for a very long time. Growing up my mom always told me “You can do anything you put your mind to.” Well, I actually put my mind to it and I stuck it through. Now, I am a proud dyslexic author of a sci-fi trilogy. I’d say if you can try to be patient with yourself and let go of the fears of what others think. Allow yourself to do what makes you the happiest. If that means having an adorable collection of Squishmallows like I do then go for it! If it means watching all kinds of cartoon shows as a full-grown adult like I do, then more power to you! If you are not hurting anyone in the process go for what brings you joy even if society would judge you for it. You might be as surprised as I am that people generally don’t care what you are into as much as you might think. Most are not brave enough to say it to your face, but if they do then PHOOEY on them! Just pick yourself up and keep doing you. Keep being your best, most fulfilled version of yourself, and know that there are others like me who will think you are awesome just as you are!

Follow Amanda on Instagram and check out her website here.

Watch the exciting moment Amanda opens the proof copy for The Pawn!