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Author Tales: Alma Alexander

Alma Alexander is the author for this Thursday's Author Tales. Alma is the author of the Worldweavers Trilogy: Unmage, Spellspam and Cybermage. Cybermage was released February 10, 2009!

Before we begin can you tell us a little bit about the Worldweavers Trilogy.

Thea Winthrop introduced herself to me at a panel on YA fantasy back at World Fantasy Convention in 2002.

I had wandered into that panel more or less serendipitously - I had at the time time plans to write YA novels but the panel had Charles de Lint on it,whose work I love, and also the doyenne of YA books, Jane Yolen. And it ispurely Jane Yolen's faault that Thea came to be - because a panel on YA literature back in 2002 naturally gravitated back to the Harry Potterphenomenon, at that time Harry Potter *WAS* YA literature to a huge extent, it really was the elephant in that room - and someone from the audience brought the panel back to Potterworld within less than ten minutes into the panel. And Jane's response was that she had issues with some of the ways that the Harry Potter books treated girls.

Enter Thea, who wanted her own adventure. She was as different from Harry as she could be - she was a girl, she came from a large and tumbling family as opposed to being a tragic orphan brought up by awful relatives, and ifHarry was the Boy Who Lived Thea was the Girl Who Couldn't. She was potentially the most magical of magical beings - she was the seventh childof two seventh children, a Double Seventh, a great prize, planned for andawaited and growing up under everyone's close scrutiny so as not to miss the flowering of her talents, whatever they might turn out to be. They turnout to be... nothing at all, and the world's most magical being appears incapable of doing any magic. At all. Not a whisper of it.

Until she gets sent back, in complete desperation, to an Anasazi shaman teacher a long long time ago. She meets up with figures from Native American myth and legend, and then, after, finds true friends when she returns from the past (still apparently magic-less) to attend the Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent, as the school where those who cannot do magic in Thea's world are sent - a sort of anti-Hogwarts, a placewhere magic is not only absent but actively banned because it might pose a real danger to some of the students who happen to be allergic to it. But itis here that Thea finds out her true potential, and her own brand ofmagic... is like nothing her world has ever seen before. In fact, her own world considered it impossible right until the moment Thea the Double Seventh child touched something thought to be thoroughly impervious tomagic, a computer, and made it do things that nobody in her world had believed it possible.

These three books are Thea's story - how she finds herself while avoiding the mysterious and malevoloent Alphiri, a race of Elves with the souls of Star Trek's Ferengi who believe that everything has a price and that Thea herself is for sale; how she learns the meaning of both friendship and betrayal in her relationships with her friends from school, the bureaucratic mages from the Federal Bureau of Magic, and finally with thegreat Wizard of the West himself, Nikola Tesla. It's a story of choice andits consequences, and change, and courage, and growing up - of how one apparently given-up-on teenager can still find enough within herself toc hange the very foundations of her world.

If you could posses any supernatural talent what would it be?

Healing - the power to heal both physical wounds and those to the spirit. Healing rifts that lead to wars. Healing hot hurtful words that cause people pain. Healing attitudes that make people feel dismissed ordenigrated or demonized. Healing the many broken things that lie between human beings, and making them whole again.

Which characters in your novels do you find yourself relating to the most and why?

Oddly enough, in the Worldweaver series aside from Thea herself it was theless-than-obvious characters who drew me and with whom I had the most fundancing. One of them was Coyote the trickster, who was an immense amount of fun to write. Another was Tesla himself, who holds so many mysteries in his real-life existence and whose solitary genius and lonely existence made me respond with sympathy and affection and allowed me to create a truly extraordinary meld of the of real and the imagined in my portrayal of his dramatic life and his tragedy. In other books... ever since I dabbled my toes in the waters of the cyberworld my internet handle has been Anghara, the name of the title character of my high-fantasy duology "The HiddenQueen" and "Changer of Days". That character, by virtue of that identification, became very much me.

But I leave pieces of my soul in all the characters who inhabit the pages of my novel. They are all my beloved children, and I love them.

Out of all of your novels which was your favorite to write?

The answer to that is usually, the one I just finished. My novels are all very different from one another and they all had their own gifts to bringto me. I would find it almost impossible to choose a single one from out of amongst them. And I'm not even taking into account the ones still to bewritten, as yet untold stories which are just waiting their turn to hatch from their chrysalis into their own particular form of butterfly. This is an existence that is always and consistently full of the joy of enchantment and discovery.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

I'd single out two people.

One is my grandfather, who was a published poet and who instilled a love ofthe written word in me very early and very thoroughly. I knew from before I could physically hold a pen or understand the concept of "writing" that I wanted to tell stories. So it was Grandpa who opened my young mind to the concept that I wanted to write.

The second is a writer called Lynne Reid Banks, who once, when I was fifteen years old, came to visit my school. She talked to us of the writer's life, and told us the unvarnished truth about it - she spoke about the frustrations, the pain, the endless waiting, the rejections, the mockery, the failure of others to understand, the blood and the sweat and the tears, and yet she spoke of all of that with the light of angels in here yes and it was very clear to me that this was a life that she would not trade for all the tea in China. ANd something in me sat up and said, "That. I want THAT."

I had always known I wanted to write. That was the moment I knew I wanted to BE A WRITER. To live the life. To live the dream.

What is your typical writing day like?

The simple answer to that is, I don't HAVE a typical writing day. I can spend the day at my keyboard, or I can spend it in my favourite comfy armchair reading a research book, or I can spend it going for a long walkto unsnarl a tangled scene in my mind before I return to the computer to write it all down. Things happen as and when they need to. The only issue that rules actual timing is if there's a deadline hanging over my head, adate by which I have to deliver something to someone in particular, and in that case I will knuckle down and write like a fury so as to meet my commitments. But I don't think my days ever repeat themselves in a manner sufficient to call them "typical".

What is your favorite part of writing fantasy?

The way I can create my own world, and then invite other people to visitit, and have them believe that they had been to a real place when they're back home again. The creation of worlds - and the characters who inhabitthem - is a heady elixir, and I've always been addicted to it... but it's the sharing of that world that is an even greater joy, the way that I can open doors and let others in and then share in their own reactions when they interact with the things that I have made. The building of another person's belief in a world rooted in your own imagination has been a gift beyond price.

Who are some of your favorite YA authors?

Well, I've already mentioned two who write for YA audiences - Charles deLint and Jane Yolen. Others who have written for those audiences include Ursula le Guin, Neil Gaiman, Guy Gavriel Kay... but you will also noticethat many of these writers also write for "grown-up" audiences, and Iconsider it a given that books written for YA audiences are also books that can be enjoyed by discerning fully-adult readers, and also that manyso-called YA readers are more than capable of finding enjoyment in books ostensibly written for people older than themselves. My favourite YA authors are first and foremost good writers, good storytellers, and that is sometimes my only real criterion for anything. A reader will find their ownlevel, and I would personally encourage YA readers to read widely and read a lot.

But if they were to want names who are rooted in the YA shelves in their local shops, well, all of the ones I mentioned above and then they can add Tamora Pierce, Holly Black, Tiffany Trent, Brenda Cooper, Toby Bishop, Jim Hines, Patricia McKillip, and many many MANY others...

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Do two things, and do them often, and do them A LOT.

First, *read*. Read everything, because it is by reading that you learn the craft of writing by osmosis, as it were - it comes out of the books and into your hands and from there into your heart and your mind. And once you've made a head start in that endeavour, *write*. And honestly, it doesn't matter if it sucks at the beginning. First of all, you're learning, and you're allowed to make mistakes while you are doing that - it's the best way to learn something, really it is. And even if you're some way down the road and you still think your story sucks - that's okay too, because that is what first drafts are for. They're for you to get the story down, to nail it to the page. The real work comes with draft #2 and draft #3 and those that come after that, when you take that first raw story and you polish it up to a bright shine. And the way to learn to do that...? Well...*read*. Read some more. And then write some more. There are no short cuts, but eventually you will come to the point where you realise that yes, youa ctually DO know what you are doing. You will never know everything - butt hat's part of the fun of it. I know that I am still learning my craft ,myself, and that I will continue to do so as long as I practise it.

What are forthcoming projects are you working on?

Always new ideas on the back burner. There is another historical fantasy waiting its turn. There are possibly one or more further adventures of Thea Winthrop to be told. There is a science fiction novel with an intriguing premise. There's a fantasy trilogy which I'm currently fixing a proposalfor. In the meantime, there is a urban fantasy novel currently being toyed with, while all the others queue up awaiting their moment in the sun.

Nothing specific I want to mention by name - but watch this space. There are more stories coming down the road.

Come visit me at my websites

Things will be revealed there as they happen...

Thanks Alma for that wonderful interview!!

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Author Tales: Alma Alexander + space