Today the Astraldome welcomes bestselling author of the Jin Shei series, Alma Alexander.
So, same format as before, with the help of two mediums strapped to a supercomputer we are going to astrally project Alma to a place very close to your computer screen. Warning: there is an 'r' in the month so there will be ectoplasm.
Ready? Okay, Windows ESP is loading, the mediums are entering a trance like state - possibly Belgium. Now, concentrate on Alma's picture below. Will her across the astral plane. And hold that image. The astral plane is a slippery place and she may snap back.
Can you see it? Alma's spectral form? Then let the interview commence...
Q1 I hear that Jin Shei has sold over 30,000 copies in hardcover in Spain in only six months. Just how large is the Spanish branch of your family?
Someone I met at one of my many schools, back when I was fifteen or so, grew up to be a Spanish teacher - she lives in Wales and holidays in Spain regularly. Believe it or not, that is my only connection with Spain. The only thing I can say in it with any degree of conviction is "Que?" (you have to imagine the other upside down question mark, my keyboard doesn't do exotics *grin*). The success of this book in Spain was completely unlooked for, utterly confounding, and still hard to believe...
Q2. Has living in a large number of countries and travelling extensively seeped into your writing? Do you find it easier to write about outsiders and 'the other?'
That's cheating, that's two questions.
What can I say? It's two for one night on the astral plane.
Okay, part the first: I would recommend travel as a way of learning people. I make it a point to try and "mingle"; when I was living in New Zealand the opportunity arose to visit Tahiti and I grabbed it - and by the end of my ten days there I could speak a couple of dozen words in the local language, I had engaged in conversations with a local young security guard at my hotel in the only language we had in common (French) although they were peppered with lots of "how do you say" prefixes as I tried to remember the rusty schoolgirl French I'd not touched for years, and I had learned a bunch of traditions and ghost stories and tales of mystery and magic many of which WILL find their way into my writing sooner or later. I've still got my entire African life experience to write about, practically untouched. Travel is wonderful.
Part the second: oh, yes. There's nothing like coming in from outside the circle for clarity of vision of the way things are INSIDE the circle. The things that the insiders don't, will NEVER be able to, see. And will sometimes hate you, the outsider, for pointing out.
Q3. You receive a phone call from a serial killer. He asks you the same question he asked his previous victims. "You have 150 words to sell me your book. 150 words exactly. If I like what you write I'll buy the book. If I don't you die." What would your 150 words be for your new book, Gift of the Unmage?
"Thea Winthrop is a Double Seventh - seventh child of two seventh children - the most magical of the magical, the flowering of her potential eagerly awaited by her family, by her world. There's just one problem - she can't do any magic at all. Before giving up completely and sending her to the Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent, where children of a magical world who are incapable of magic are sent for a decent education while being kept out of harm's way, Thea's desperate parents whisk her back in time into the care of an Anasazi tribal elder for a last attempt at waking the dormant Double Seventh potential. What Thea learns in the shadow of the red mesas of the Southwest will make her realise that she and a handful of other misfit kids from the Last Ditch School are the only ones who can save their world from a hungry evil called simply The Nothing - and that Thea's co-called magical powerlessness is the most potent weapon of all."
How is the serial killer counting the words?
Very scarily using other people's fingers.
A glance towards the silhouetted serial killer. He's deep in thought ... and other peoples' fingers. What's he going to decide? It's ... it's a thumbs up - several thumbs up - for Alma and Thea.
Q4. In Gift for an Unmage Thea attends the Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent. Would you have liked to have gone to that school? Did you?
I didn't go to that school, no, but funnily enough a few of its teachers taught at schools I DID go to. I will (ahem) particularly draw your attention to the Mathematics teacher, Mr Siffer - and later, in the second book (coming next year) the Biology teacher, Mr Crow. (My husband recently bought me a T-shirt that says, "Careful or you'll end up in my novel". He thinks he was kidding.)
It's a nice enough school, as schools go, if it weren't for that moniker and its reputation as a dead-end place for useless misfits - but then, my books redeem the place, and how, so I guess that having gone there will come to be regarded as a plus rather than something to try and hide on your resume...
Q5. If you had the power to select any book, delete its existence from the time line, then give that concept to another writer, what would be that book and who do you think should have written it?
Oof. No fair. These days such books might well be written by my own peer group, by people I consider friends - and quite often the people who I might nominate as replacement-writers will ALSO be people I consider friends. Doing this would not be kind to either. But might I put forward the screenplay for the LOTR movies (as done by Peter Jackson et al) and suggest that they would have been better off giving the job to, well, *me*...? (okay, everyone, put the rocks down. I know the Jackson movies have LOTS of fans. I, however, don't think he did the book justice, he messed with the storyline (leaving out important stuff which WAS in the books and inserting irrelevant nonsense of his own making), and he COMPLETELY failed to get either Aragorn or the Elves. There IS a way of filming these books. I could have written that screenplay, kept the sweep and the drama of the movie and still kept true to the spirit of the book.
Thank you, Alma. The mediums power down, Peter Jackson's lawyers reach for their ouija boards and Alma's ghostly presence returns to whence it came.
Meanwhile, The Gift of the Unmage can be bought from all good bookshops including Amazon in the US and UK