Alma Alexander On The Urban Fantasy Genre + Handling Revision Fatigue

alma alexander-photoName: Alma Alexander
Author’s Website , Facebook
Hometown: The place I was born? That was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, as it were…
Currently Based In: Pacific Northwest, USA
Education: MSc (molecular Biology) – but barely used it before turning
to writing as a career…
Briefly: more than 1000 book reviews – on three continents, plus cyberspace – over the last two and a half decades; numerous short stories, appearing in magazines and anthologies such as Dark Faith II: Invocations; over the last fifteen years – twelve of those writing full-time – I have published nine novels and one non-fiction book. Four new novels in the works over the next couple of years. And more to come.
Favorite Read: I don’t have one. I love reading, and I don’t play favorites. Last book I read and enjoyed: Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Book I am currently looking forward to reading: Hild by Nicola Griffith.
Pet Peeves: Willful ignorance. Cruelty. Bureaucracy. People who don’t know the difference between “its” and “it’s” and won’t be bothered to learn.
If You Weren’t In the Book Industry, You’d Be…Dead.
What You Have Lined Up Next: New YA series coming out soon, starting with book #1, Random, in May 2014…

Were you an avid reader as a kid?

Oooo, hell yeah. I blew through my library’s “kids” section long before they stopped considering me as a
kid. My parents got me an adult card, after that. I haven’t stopped reading since I taught myself how, at age 4.

What do you like most about writing fantasy?

Flying in strange skies which I myself have wrought over a world that I have created. It’s intoxicating.

What advice do you have for those who want to write in the urban fantasy genre?

Live life first. There is no substitute for experience. And by that I don’t mean go join a gang or get mugged or anything unpleasant – no sense in stepping in front of buses if you don’t have to. But you can’t write grit without having an idea about what life is all about – and you can’t do that until you’ve actually breathed that
air yourself at least a little bit. Live. Learn. Write.

What do you least like about being an author?

Waiting. When God was giving out patience I must have been stuck in a different line somewhere. I didn’t receive much of that virtue. And I hate waiting.

The name ‘Alma’ means ‘soul’ in Spanish. Do you feel affected by this name at all. Like, everything you create has to have some substance to it?

Heh. I only found out about that fairly late in life, so no, it wasn’t “formative”. But it’s kind of nice to know.

How were you inspired to create a book about the concept of Jin-Shei?

Well…jin-shei is an idea, a bond, a chosen sisterhood. And that came from jin-ashu, the women’s language, which was itself inspired by nushu, the real-life secret women’s language which existed in China before becoming extinct as a living language when the last woman who learned it the traditional organic way died at the age of 96 a handful of years ago. Nushu – and all that it means and implies – is a fascinating subject. If you’ve read the jin-shei books, Secrets of Jin Shei and Embers of Heaven, and haven’t read about nushu yet, it’s an amazing (true) story…go research it and read up…

alma alexander-book cover

You’re actually of noble birth? A duchess!

A long time ago, back in medieval times, an ancestor of mine distinguished himself in a battle and was rewarded with a dukedom. The medieval duchy is of course long vanished – but I am a lineal descendant of that line – and I am thus a “real” Duchess. Yes, there is a coat of arms, and everything. I have it off the old books, copied from vellum.

Speaking of names, do you have a special way of naming your characters?

Nope. My characters tend to be annoying that way. They step out of the woodwork having named themselves. They already know who they are….

Is Anghara Anghara Kir Hama the heroine of the Changer of Days books, a combination of people that you’ve known?

No. If anyone at all, she is partly my own self. The rest of her… is her, and nobody else. She was her own creation.

What do you attribute your success as an author to?

Pig-headed stubbornness and refusing to take an absolute no for an answer, ever, just keeping on trying even in the face of what seemed to be impossible odds. That is the thin line between those who make it and those who don’t – there comes a point at which it is simply easier to give up altogether. But I haven’t reached that point yet. I still believe.

Any advice on how to handle revision fatigue?

AAaaargh. I wish I had an answer to that one. I suffer from the syndrome myself and with every book I hit a point of thinking that this entire thing is simply terrible and what’s the point anyway…but then you soldier through it, gritting your teeth if you have to, and usually at the far end you re-read a piece of rewritten or edited work and you know what…? It shines. it really does shine. And it’s worth it after all.

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