It started as a New Year’s resolution.
New Orleans native and University of New Orleans graduate Alys Arden never thought her debut novel, “The Casquette Girls,” would become an Amazon bestseller, have over 1 million online reads or earn her comparisons to Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite.
After 10 years in the advertising industry, working insane hours and flying all around the world, Arden decided she needed a new creative outlet. She turned to writing, swearing she’d begin on the New Year.
Three years later a thick advance copy of her book, “The Casquette Girls,” landed on her doorstep.
It wasn’t always easy to find the necessary initiative to get words on the page.
“I took a workshop with Gotham Writer in New York online to keep me going,” Arden said over coffee at Café Rose Nicaud, her purple lipstick matching her purple hair.
A circular amulet bounced against her solar plexus.
“And when that ended I thought I would need something to keep me disciplined. ... In the workshop you had to turn something in every week. My schedule was crazy, so I joined an online writing website called Wattpad.”
Websites such as these two are becoming a self-publishing litmus test for writers, providing them with encouragement and constructive criticism.
“I finished part one and it felt like such an accomplishment for me that I felt like I could just put it on the shelf,” she said.
“Then a few people online said, ‘When are you going to post the next chapter?’ And that was enough to keep going.”
“The Casquette Girls” treads the well-worn trail of the vampire novel. But while the current trend is to make vampires sympathetic, a la “Twilight” or “The Vampire Chronicles,” Arden has decidedly let the monsters remain monsters, with the potential to rock the story’s characters and the city they live in.
The book is set after a hurricane, known only as “The Storm,” destroys much of New Orleans.
The heroine, Adele Le Moyne, must navigate a city filled with loss and myths to uncover the mysterious deaths that now plague the city.
“I loved it,” said Marita Crandle, owner of Boutique du Vampyre in the French Quarter, who has almost a whole shelf filled with hardcover and paperback copies of the novel. “And I love the fact that it’s based on a true story here. … Reading something that has fiction wrapped around some mystery is amazing.”
Now Arden is working on the sequel to her novel, as well as a novella, which takes place in 18th-century Bermuda.
“I’m really excited,” she said.
Alys Arden will be on an Undead Con panel at the Marriott at the Convention Center with other paranormal authors Sunday, Nov. 2 at 10:30 a.m.