Welcome to Smugglivus 2009 – Day 4!
Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2009, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2010.
Recent Work: Cybermage, the third and final book in the Worldweavers Trilogy, reviewed by Thea HERE.
Ladies and gents, we are proud to give you our “chat” with Alma Alexander!
The Book Smugglers: First and foremost, thanks for taking the time to “chat” with us!
Alma: Thanks for having me!
The Book Smugglers: Your Worldweavers trilogy merges magic with the mundane in the form of modern technology – computers, the internet, email, etc. What inspired you to create this unique magical world?
Alma: Magic is out there for the taking. I went to Laramie, Wyoming, in the summer of 2008 and was completely unprepared for the magic that I found – it was the first time I had seen the Milky Way spilled across the night sky as spectacularly as this for almost two decades. I cried. That was true magic, reaching out to touch me across the light years and the emptiness of space.
And as far as modern technology goes, it is FAR from mundane – remember Arthur C. Clarke’s axiom that any sufficiently advanced technology (i.e. stuff we don’t understand) is indistinguishable from magic. Cyberspace is a whole new world in itself, and I have on occasion met and made better friends – and kept them for longer – in cyberspace, in newsgroups and in web forums, than I have done in real life. Remember, these are people I may never have seen, and may never see at all. But we have shared souls online, and I know them so well. It seems at times like being friends with a bunch of ghosts made out of magic and electrons, but the cyberspace connection makes it real, and makes it true. That’s real magic, right there. That’s more than enough to be inspired.
The Book Smugglers: Your Worldweaver books also blend familiar wand and wizardry style magic with Native American animal and spirit lore – a less prominent magic system in fantasy fiction. Did you do much research about Native American cultures/the Anasazi in writing your books? Why did you decide to break from the European magical mold?
Alma: I always research, it’s what I do. Of course, there isn’t that much out there about what exactly the Anasazi – a vanished people – actually thought and believed, but enough of their descendants remain in the modern-day American Southwest that the myths and legends of the region are still remembered. And the thing is, they are a rich and a wonderful thing – I adore the character of Coyote the Trickster, layered and nuanced as he is in these stories.
And yet for some reason these are the mythologies that have always lagged behind in the fantasy arena. We have a glut of fantasies based on Norse and Celtic lore – but practically nothing at all to highlight the cultures which have existed in the Americas long before the white settlers ever got here, myths and legends just as rich and just as ancient and just as powerful as anything brought over from the Old Country but treated like Cinderella, swept away out of sight, ignored, allowed to exist under the rug of ignorance and prejudice for far too long. I do not pretend to be the spokesperson for these cultures and their stories – there are others out there far more qualified to do that – but I like to think of myself as laying down a couple of paving stones on a road down which others might follow and allow it to lead them to places I can barely begin to imagine. There’s a world of wonder out there.
The Book Smugglers: Your protagonist in the Worldweaver books happens to share one of our names – Thea. How’d you come up with this wonderful but admittedly unusual name?
Alma: Blame the literary Thea’s mother… If you take a look at the name traditions of the families in my worlds of magic, the children tend to get named alphabetically. Thea’s brothers are given names beginning with A, B, C, D, E, F… and then she comes, the seventh child, needing a name that begins with a G. So her mother, with high-falutin’ ideas and possibly delusions of grandeur, saddles the child with the name Galathea. Well, that wasn’t going to stick, was it? So Thea she became. It’s funny, but that’s the way she introduced herself to me, coming out of the air and darkness with her hand stuck out and telling me her name. “Thea. My name is Thea. Well, Galathea, actually, but I try to forget that…”
The Book Smugglers: The Worldweaver books also takes the boarding school setup, but with a unique twist – instead of an academy along the lines of Hogwarts for the magically gifted, Thea’s Wandless Academy (or as she likes to call it, “The Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent”) is for those who supposedly have NO magical abilities. What inspired you to write about these so-called magical washouts?
Alma: The simple fact that the teenage years are one of two things. EITHER you are one of the cool kids, OR you are not (and often the difference lies largely in perception – but there’s a real core in there somewhere…) I wanted to go a little way into the world of the kids who DON’T FIT – the round pegs in square holes – the ones that are disappointments to their parents often through no fault of their own.
I mean, we’ve all lived through it at least once, the “Oh, THEA” moment when our parents look at us with THAT LOOK in their eyes and all we want to do is crawl under a floorboard and allow everyone else to walk all over us – a bad report card, a behavioural failure, anything like that. It’s universal. It’s in everybody’s life, somewhere. And I was right in that a lot of my teen readers responded very strongly to Thea and her problems – the way in which she felt that she would never be “good enough” for her father and she couldn’t bear to see that look of disappointment in his eyes ever again. The school is a sort of release because – lo! – here are others just like her. Others who have seen that look, and who understand it. This is NOT the school for the best of the best of us; it’s a school for the rest of us — a school for people who,sometimes succeed, often fail, but live lives that are real and true and are not made up only of peaks of achievements. These are everyday failures, not epic ones, and it empowers the reader somehow to see these characters – in a “Last Ditch” school – able to rise above them, and still prosper. A bad report card or a D- in math is NOT the end of the world. The magic goes on.
The Book Smugglers: What writing projects do you have on the horizon?
Alma: Two novels are currently on the burner, one completed and with my agent, one being written as we speak – both “adult” novels, for grown-ups. But there is another YA idea which is simmering quietly in the background, and when the novel-in-progress is done it is this project that will get my attention. I won’t say too much about it right now, but if I hit what I’m aiming for… it might be FABULOUS…I can’t wait to start it, actually. And I promise I will reveal details as soon as that becomes possible!
The Book Smugglers: Who or what are some of your writing influences? Any favorite authors you’d care to share with us?
Alma:I have a library of THOUSANDS of books and they are all by favorite authors. But if I have to throw a few names out then… oh… I don’t know… Tolkien. Roger Zelazny. Ursula Le Guin. Neil Gaiman. Madeleine L’Engle. Lloyd Alexander. C.S. Lewis. Guy Gavriel Kay. Michael Moorcock.
Somebody stop me. We’ll be here all day…
The Book Smugglers: If you were stranded on a desert island, what five books would you bring with you?
Alma: Grumble, grumble, grumble. I hate that question. I want to take them ALL. Do I HAVE to pick…?
Well, all right then. “Lord of the Rings” (What? I know it’s a trilogy. But it was originally written as one book and I can take a one-book edition of it, can’t I?) Roger Zelazny’s first Amber cycle (What? I know it’s five books, but see the Tolkien comment!), Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Tigana”, Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy (Yes, I know, this is a trend…) and a book of poetry – I’d have to think about the specifics of that one for a lot longer, but SOMETHING like that.
And then I’d smuggle in others (what, you’re book smugglers, you understand…) If I had to do without food so that I could bring more books, that’s fine – I might die of starvation, but I’d die with words in my hands and in my mind. And that would be just fine.
The Book Smugglers: We Book Smugglers are faced with constant threats and criticisms from our significant others concerning the sheer volume of books we purchase and read-hence, we have resorted to ‘smuggling books’ home to escape scrutinizing eyes. Have you ever had to smuggle books?
Alma: My significant other is just as bad as I am and in our house books BREED if they are left unattended – when we got married and combined HIS and HERS books that was bad enough but we’ve been married for almost ten years now and in that decade we’ve accumulated a lot of OUR books, too. We have entire rooms in our house which are absolutely stuffed with books.
But I’ve always been a reader, and always been encouraged to be one. So no, I’ve never had to smuggle books. It has long been known in my extended family that the best presents to give me for any special occasion would be book-shaped ones. I don’t HAVE to smuggle books, they seek me out by this time, and call my name, and come to gather around me like long-lost friends. I don’t have to smuggle books – when one is as much of a book magnet as I am, they come. They come anyway.
Alma Alexander is the author of several previous novels, including WORLDWEAVERS: GIFT OF THE UNMAGE and WORLDWEAVERS: SPELLSPAM. She was born in Yugoslavia, grew up in the United Kingdom and Africa, and now lives in the state of Washington.
You can visit Alma online at her website, www.almaalexander.com.
Thank you again, Alma, for the fabulous interview. And now, for the giveaway…
Courtesy of Alma Alexander, we are giving away ONE AUTOGRAPHED copy of Cybermage to a lucky winner! The contest is open to residents of the US, Canada & UK, and will run until Saturday, December 5 at 11:59 PM (PST). In order to enter, simply leave a comment here! One entry per person please – duplicate and/or multiple entries will be disqualified. Good luck!