Monday, November 21, 2016

GETTING SNOWED IN AT THE MADHOUSE WITH MARIA ALEXANDER

Hello my bloody little snow bunnies,

The first snowfall of the year has fallen in Pittsburgh, and as such, I thought that it would be the perfect time to sit down and have a chat with my lovely friend, Maria Alexander, about her debut YA novel, SNOWED, recently released from Raw Dog Screaming Press.

So grab a blanket, sneak some whiskey in your coffee, and bundle up, because it's about to get cold in the madhouse, and when the heat goes off in the asylum, there's no saying what people will do to stay warm.

With frostbite,
Stephanie M. Wytovich
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Guest Interview: Maria Alexander
via Stephanie M. Wytovich

WYTOVICH: Hi, Maria! It’s looks like it’s winter over in your world now, and I’m super excited to jump into your most recent publication, especially as someone who is already a fan of your work. Can you tell us a little bit about SNOWED? What inspired you to write a young adult novel this time around?

ALEXANDER: In late 2012, I was inspired to turn my highly successful flash fiction piece, “Coming Home,” into a novel. The protagonist needed to be a teen because teens are at that age where they can see adulthood on the horizon but they’re still clinging to fairy tales. For various reasons, that seemed to be the perfect balance for Snowed. But as I wrote the story, and then the sequel, Inversion, it became quite clear that I’d found my voice in YA. Parents and teen readers alike told me that my writing was very realistic, very exciting. I could already tell something huge had shifted for me. I think you’ll see what I mean when you read it. It’s definitely my best work to date by far.

WYTOVICH: Which character do you feel like that you have the strongest connection to and why?

ALEXANDER: Definitely Charity Jones. When she walked into my daydreams, I just loved her. She’s not perfect, but she’s strong and smart in ways I wish I’d been when I was her age. Her parents are very different than mine were, and I think that makes all the difference.

WYTOVICH: Regarding your writing process, what do you find was the biggest challenge with this project? What was the most enjoyable?

ALEXANDER: Honestly, this book and its sequel have both been the greatest joy I’ve ever had writing. The biggest challenge was actually the physical act of writing. My hands were disabled as I wrote the first draft, which meant I used Dragon NaturallySpeaking to complete the manuscript. It wasn’t the first time I’d been disabled, nor was it the first time I’d used Dragon, but I was still scared that I’d never be able to type again – or do many other things, for that matter.

WYTOVICH: How would you describe your writing style to those who are new to your work? Did you feel a noticeable change in your voice or style with writing a YA novel? Or was it just a shift in content and language? 

ALEXANDER: I’ve always described my writing style as prose poetry, but everything changed when I started writing YA. Literally. Charity reads the way a teenager speaks, and that’s totally unlike anything I’ve written before. Since she’s a very smart girl, I give her some leeway to come up with interesting phrases, but I stayed faithful to her, which is why I think she appeals so strongly to teens of all genders. The definition of YA is one teen telling another his or her story. I wrote from a young teen’s point of view in “Though Thy Lips Are Pale,” but that protagonist is NOT talking to another teen. There’s a profound difference. In YA, you’re telling a story that appeals to teen interests and concerns, which can be alien to adults. While adults will remember what it was like to be a teen and embrace the story, you need to stay true to your core audience.

WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the YA genre? Where did you find yourself pulling inspiration from? Any favorite books/authors that you found yourself faithfully picking up?

 
ALEXANDER: Phillip Pullman is probably my biggest influence, although JK Rowling and Nancy Holder follow closely on his heels. After I wrote Snowed, I started watching MTV’s Teen Wolf. I was thrilled to see how much Snowed felt like Teen Wolf, which is crazy popular with teens. Snowed isn’t horror per se, but it’s really dark and the friendships are as close-knit and intimate as those in the show. I think there’s huge crossover potential in the audiences.

In a weird way, Twilight was probably the biggest influence because I was trying to create something totally unlike it. As a result, I wound up breaking almost every “rule” in the YA genre. I didn’t realize how many rules I’d broken until I started following the “Brooding YA Hero” account on Twitter. I was talking to Miri, one of my teen beta readers, about it when I said, “I broke a lot of rules in Snowed, huh?” She replied, “Yeah, but it’s awesome!” And, man, you should have seen the enthusiasm from my teen readers. I’ve put up some of their “blurbs” on my website.

WYTOVICH: What do you hope that readers gain from this book?

ALEXANDER: Their money’s worth. And a thirst for the next two.

WYTOVICH: Did I hear rumors of a sequel?

ALEXANDER: Hells yeah. Inversion is almost done. It’s an even bigger rollercoaster ride, if that’s possible. And after that will be the conclusion, Ashes of Angels. I already know the broad strokes of that tale. The world I’m creating is certainly big enough for spinoffs and short stories. I’m looking forward to it all.


Author Bio:

Maria Alexander is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Mr. Wicker. She’s been publishing short stories and poetry since 1999. When she’s not slinging a katana in her Shinkendo dojo, she’s being outrageously spooky or writing Doctor Who filk. She lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats, a Jewish Christmas caroler, and a purse called Trog.

Short Pitch:

Teen engineering prodigy, Charity Jones, is a skeptic who learns she should not only believe in certain Christmas myths, but she should be afraid of them.

BUY THE BOOK HERE.