Feb 4, 2010

Guest Author: Alma Alexander

First of all-apologies to Alma for this terrible delay. This interview was supposed to be posted two weeks ago. It really seems as if some of the magic from Almas books has worked on my computer and made it obey to me for more than three minutes. And today's interview is completely woven with magic.

Alma A. Hromic, now known as Alma Alexander, was born in Novi Sad, a neighboring country of mine. She has lived in Africa, received education in Great Britain and South Africa, graduated from the University of Cape Town with an MD in Microbiology, lived and worked in New Zealand. Today she lives in northwestern United States as full time writer.

How would you describe your books to someone who has never heard of the "Worldweavers" series?

Well, a bunch of reviewers have called it the American Harry Potter (although it didn't quite stick - and nor would I want it to, really, because I'd rather they were their own thing than a carbon copy of something else no matter how great or successful that something else might be...) But what I've got is a magical coming-of-age story which has deep American roots, growing out of Native American mythology and lore and inhabited by characters from that particular cultural mythos, characters like Grandmother Spider and Coyote the Trickster (who, by the way, was the most fun I"ve ever had with a character in ANY story...) and then branching out into that most modern of mythologies, the cyberworld. This is a story that arcs across the ages, and knits its world and its characters into a continuum of time and place - the world as was, is, will be, and might be...

In the third book, Cybermage,  Nikola Tesla appears as the character of The New Wizard of the West. How did he find his way into a YA fantasy series?

How does someone called "The New Wizard of the West" NOT find his way into a fantasy story? I'm only surprised it took this long... Tesla was an amazing character to work with and I really hope I provided him
with a persona and a personality which will cause those who otherwise know little of him to find out more - because he is worth knowing. One aspect of Tesla's inclusion in the book - his beloved pigeons - had a
somewhat odd extrusion into our own world - there's a bird feeder out back on the deck of my house, and we've NEVER had pigeons come there before I started working on these books. But I started working on
them, and particularly around the time when there were first hints of Tesla's involvement in "Spellspam" ... we suddenly had pigeons. A FLOCK of them. And they *stuck around*. We had to chase them away -n
because a whole flock of pigeons eats a LOT and we couldn't afford to take all of them on. I finally stepped out on the deck, after the books were well and truly done, and yelled out at the sky, "OKAY,
Tesla, TAKE THEM BACK NOW!!!" Please believe me when I tell you... that the next day... they were gone. They haven't been seen since.

"The Secrets of Jin-Shei" is set in medieval China. What inspired you to take this journey in time and space?

That book literally mugged me. Nothing about it was a conscious decision - the story simply came, unstoppable, like a brand new river was being born, gushing from the ground in a powerful spray of water
and flowing out in a flood tide taking out everything that stood in its path. The only thing I knew at the very beginning, though, was that it wanted to be Oriental, Asian, although not specifically Chinese. That came when a friend sent me, completely at random, an article about "nu-shu", the women's language of ancient China, once taught from mother to daughter at the mother's knee.. but now the last woman who had learned this language in this organic kind of way was in her late nineties, and dying. And "Jin Shei"... happened.

How many books have you written so far? Do you have a personal favorite?

Bibliography at http://www.almaalexander.com/biblio.php - I've written ten books so far, of which one was a collection of short stories and one was an autobiographical memoir. The rest were all full length novels, and for the last ten years or so that's been my full-time job. Writing novels. Which one's my favourite...? Ah, now that would be telling. You don't ask a mother which of her children she prefers to all the rest. My favourite novel tends to be the one I'm currently working on - because that's the one that is freshest, most exciting.
The others, once written, are just... THERE, for me to love them all, with equal love. They are all so different, after all. It would be hard to compare them directly.

What or who is your source of inspiration?

Every good writer I read inspires me.

What is the best thing to do when you get writer's block?

I usually have several projects going at once. It would be extremely rare to get blocked on ALL of them, at once. So if I get blocked on one, I leave it to stew for a bit and go and work on something else. Usually by the time I get back to the original recalcitrant piece it's managed to resolve itself in my head....

What was the most difficult thing you encountered on your road to publication?

Would you believe the WAITING?!? I am the world's least patient person, and publishing is very much a question of "hurry up and wait". You submit something, and you wait to hear whether it made the grade.
You hear that it made the grade, and you wait for the edits. You get the edits and you wait for the galleys. You get the galleys and you wait for publication. You achieve publication and you wait for the
responses, both critical (reviews) and from readers. You get that, and by this stage you're probably already deep into the next thing you're writing and the cycle is soon to start again. Oh, and somewhere in the
middle of all this... you wait to get paid. Often quite a long time.
Waiting wears on my nerves. A lot. I am a worrier, and I fret, and the longer a silence stretches the more awful scenarios I can piece together about the next thing that is due to happen. Sometimes it's enough to keep me awake at night.

What would you advise to us aspiring writers?

Read. Write. Rinse and repeat. And remember, you NEVER stop learning. I know I still am, ten years after going full-time. And don't be afraid to stretch into territory that might scare you a little, or
make you uncomfortable. You might make a hash of it the first time you try but that's how you grow...

What are you currently working on (if it's not a secret)?

Two new novels with my agent at the moment. One of them is the start of a new area of interest - historical fantasy based on the history of Middle East and Eastern Europe. More about that when I've got news on
it - watch my website for details...

Who are the authors you admire?

Heaps of them. I was a child of Europe and when young I read Astrid Lindgren, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Sigrid Undsett - and also Pearl Buck, Howard Spring, John Galsworthy, Evelyn Waugh, Rebecca West, Louisa May Alcott. I fell into fantasy and science fiction, later, and discovered Arthur C Clarke, Roger Zelazny, J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis, Susan Cooper, Mary Stewart, Ursula Le Guin, Guy Gavriel Kay, Neil Gaiman.

But I also read Desanka Maksimovic, Ivo Andric, Dobrica Cosic, Mesa
Selimovic, and other writers who sprang from the same cultural roots
as myself.

I love language. I deeply revere those who use it well. I admire them ALL. Every word that has ever touched some part of me and made me laugh or cry has been a treasured inspiration, somewhere, sometime.
And I know that there is still a lot of reading left to do...

Thank you very much for this interview!

Thanks for having me!

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