NTMI: Hello everyone! I'm here this evening with almost certainly the most popular contributor to the Neopian Times, the multi-talented Al_the_chia. Good evening, Al!
Al_the_chia: Good evening! Nice to meet you!
NTMI: The honor is ours, I'm sure. :-) For our first question, I'd like to ask you how did you find Neopets?
Al_the_chia: Well, it was a long time ago. I don't quite remember exactly, but I believe it was on a link at a website somewhere. I created the account oogabooga1316 and got off to a great start, but unfortunately, I got hacked, and that account is now, well, dead...
NTMI: So you came back as Al_the_chia?
Al_the_chia: Yep. I'm certain that if I had not been fortunate enough to discover chias, it would be Al_the_quiggle...
NTMI: The world trembles! So why chias?
Al_the_chia: Well, at first, they were just eggs with feet and hair. But when I looked at them closely, I realized that they were actually a lot more. They were the only neopets at the time that had a 'rivalry' with another pet (lupes), and I also thought they were different from all the dragons and doggy-type pets, and therefore more worthwhile to own. And I also figured they were 'cuter' as well.
NTMI: And then we have one particular chia... Al_the_Chia .... why Al?
Al_the_chia: Well, my full first name is Alexander. So, I wanted to created an account with my nickname, Al. Of course, that was too short and plain, and something like Al333333 seemed ugly. I hated adding numbers, and I always wanted an original sounding name for my pets. (If you look at oogabooga1316, I had some pretty wild names for those quiggles). So, I had to add something to make it sound good. Since I was planning to own a chia, it all came together... Al_the_chia! After that, I created Al_the_chia the chia in my image... A short, nerdy little chia with thick glasses and a thirst for knowledge. I would have painted him a different color, like purple, but I was a little tight on funds at the time, so he remained blue... As he still is today.
NTMI: And by now a color change would be a major life changing event :-) So what sort of things do you like best on Neopets?
Al_the_chia: Definitely the Neopian Times. Ever since I discovered it, I loved the articles and stories that came out weekly, and, after reading my first issue, I decided I would get in, no matter what. I would spend hours trying to create good characters and plots so I could get in, but I never seemed to get lucky, until I worked with Al, of course. I also love the chance games, like Wheel of Excitement and Poogle Racing. I've lost more money than I'd like to say at the Scratchcard Kiosk...
NTMI: Been there, done that, had the blue quiggle toy to prove it (till the Pant Devil stole it).. so what does an average day in Neopia consist of for you?
Al_the_chia: Well, first off, I feed my pets and check my shop till. Then, I go to the chatrooms or the messageboard on my guild (Cougar Canyon) and talk for a while. After that, I go crazy and spend at least half my neopoints on the Scratchcard Kiosk (curse my addiction) or some other game, and somehow, also manage to win it back. Then, I like to chat again until my sister kicks me off. That's when I start writing my stories. After that, I go to bed. I'm a late Neopian, once I stayed up till 6 AM trying to finish a story. It's funny, but I almost never get writer's block.
Al_the_chia: But when I do, it always seems to last for a week...
NTMI: And speaking of your writing, you are one of the few contributors to the Times to have had all four types published (Short Story, Article, Series, Comic) so this next question is of particular interest: What do you like writing best, and why?
Al_the_chia: Well, at first I was goaded by the lupe/chia debate. I wanted to make peace, so I wrote an article, A Letter to Lupes. I got so many neomails from lupe and chia owners that hated me and loved me that I decided I would write some stories instead. I loved writing about Al so much that even after the lupe/chia commotion died down, I continued. But probably, my favorite part of writing these stories are the different lupes, who are all based off of friends and family. Hollypaw is my sister in disguise (not to be mean or anything).
NTMI: How did you get the idea of using [name]paw for Lupe names?
Al_the_chia: The first lupe character I ever created was Hollypaw, as she was a Christmas Lupe. Somehow, it stuck to me, and I created Goldpaw. It sort of became a pattern, and I decided I would try to find as many name combinations as possible with 'Paw' behind it. The names Big Dippaw and Little Dippaw are actually jokes towards The Big Dipper and the Little Dipper constellations. Paypaw goes both ways. He craves pay, and he is a poet who writes on pay-per! Get it? Heh heh heh...Anyways, I wanted a Paw name for every kind of color that lupes could come in. I have yet to write about a few more colors, such as Faerie and Split, and that nifty new Island lupe.
NTMI: Yes, the news in today is that all Stone Pets (including Stone Lupes) will become Mystery Island Pets... ironic, considering one of your first stories was about a pack of Lupes on Mystery Island!
NTMI: So how do you get your story ideas?
Al_the_chia: Cartoons, reality, and caffeine. I kind of blend them all together to create the feel of my stories. I also read a lot of good books, such as the Redwall Series, which gave me the idea for Pinkbeard the Pirate and the islander lupes.
NTMI: I noticed that one of your stories was a parody of Shakespeare, which made me wonder if school classes played any part in the input side of things?
Al_the_chia: Ah! I created that one when we were doing a unit on Shakespeare. The teacher made us read 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' I just kept on wondering how the heck this man kept on creating rhymes so easily. I learned a lot of valuable things about writing short stories and creating characters in that class.
NTMI: Rhymes were one thing that always threw me off my stride, too. So after you get a story idea, how long does it take to write it?
Al_the_chia: It depends. If I'm really inspired and hyped up on eight Pepsi products, I could create a story in just one or two hours. However, I have a huge pile of unfinished stories sitting in my computer, waiting to be completed. I usually finish them within a week or two, but once I discovered a story I started a year ago in there, still incomplete. It was actually the first story about Stenchpaw, and I ended up fine-tuning it and sending it in.
NTMI: So what would be the best piece of advice you would give to anyone who wants to become a Neopian Times contributor?
Al_the_chia: Persistence pays off. If at first you don't succeed, try try again. Keep on improving your stories, and try to be as original as possible (I'm sickened by the amount of identical adoption stories in every issue). Try different things: If you aren't a good story-writer, try a comic. Bad with drawing? Try an article. And the most important thing of all that must be done with every story is to add humor. Even the most serious and sad stories wouldn't work out without a spark of comic relief (unless you're writing about an adoption story, which was mentioned earlier above).
NTMI: Yes, the danger of taking a story too seriously is of taking yourself too seriously... speaking of Neopian Times articles, what do you usually like to look for first when a new edition comes out (after your own entries, of course!)
Al_the_chia: The comics! They are the only thing on the Times that requires both the skill of drawing and the skill of writing. Plus, they're really cool, especially Mousequeen's. :-)
NTMI: And they're quick to read, which is another big plus, isn't it!
Al_the_chia: Yep!! Heh heh heh!!
NTMI: What sort of feedback do you get from other players?
Al_the_chia: Mostly good, but I've had a couple of bad ones. When I started, it was from chia haters. They were so horrible I nearly left my account and created a new one with safer pets. And then, after I had gotten a good number in, there were people who were just trying to make me stop writing because they thought I was hogging the spotlight and that their articles weren't getting in because of me. The main thing I noticed about most of those people is that they were the worst spellers and most horrible abusers of abbreviations in the world...I offer improvement suggestions, but then they just think I'm trying to act better than them, and it usually ends with one blocking the other. I think there was an account called al_the_chia_isa_dork, and there is a pet somewhere named al_the_dead_chia.
Al_the_chia: But I must assure you that MOST are positive.
NTMI: The price of fame! So is that the worst of it, or are there other things about being a (famous) contributor to the Times that you don't like more?
Al_the_chia: I wouldn't say I'm famous, I'd just say I'm incredibly lucky to get into the Times all those times. But 'Fame' has its positives as well. People often suggest great ideas for stories, and I have a lot of neofriends. Some people even sent me rare items and bought stuff from my shops just to get my attention. Of course, sometimes there are TOO many people trying to get my attention. Several people have offered to become mates with my pets (eeew) and I have received gallons of Battledome challenges.
NTMI: You have definitely published quite a bit- but what about outside of the Neopian Times? Have you gotten other entries on the Neopets site?
Al_the_chia: No, not really.
NTMI: How about non-neopets works, anything else on the web that we should know about?
Al_the_chia: No...I'm a devoted Neopian Times Writer... For now.
NTMI: What about in the future- any sort of future goals for your writing and drawing?
Al_the_chia: Well, I plan to write and draw cartoons when I'm older. I'd love to own an animation studio someday. Other than that, I'd like to write a book of short stories that DON'T include a virtual pet getting attacked by bizarre creatures.
NTMI: (laughs) I can sympathize! Oh, one more thing that you might find interesting. I looked up one of the detractors you mentioned, and the girl in question has managed to be on Neopets eleven months without a single trophy, and with a guild that has the huge total of seven members. Go figure. Anyhow...
Al_the_chia: Heh heh heh heh...
NTMI: That's basically all of the questions I had, was there anything else you wanted to tell us about?
Al_the_chia: Well... I guess there's nothing much I can tell you other than....PIFFLE!! A friend told me that Piffling had a definition. I was intrigued when he told me it meant crushing bugs.
NTMI: Amazing... etymology meets entomology :-)
Al_the_chia: Meets Lupology.
NTMI: Exactly hehehe... Thanks so much for your time, and we'll look forward to your future works!
Al_the_chia: Thank you for the interview!
Would you like to read all of Al_the_chia's work? Just click here to check him out in our database!