Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mini-Interview With Maria Alexander

In continuing my series of mini-interviews with fellow authors, today's focus is on Maria Alexander. Maria and I share room in the anthology Mutation Nation, where her horror story, "Nickelback Ned," is collected. You can also find this story in her collection, By the Pricking. We actually met at a book signing for Mutation Nation. She is a quick-witted, enthusiastic, sparkling personality.

She is also a wonderful poet and screenwriter.

Her first novel, Mr. Wicker, was just released in September from Raw Dog Screaming Press.

Here are her answers to my questions.

Maria Alexander

1. Why do you write what you do?

Writing is like possession. I let a story ride me like the loa until the spirit is done with me. But why did a particular story take over my life? And why did it have such deep emotional resonance that I can't let go of it? I can't say. I suppose darker stories inhabit me because I am pretty spooky in general. Do I sometimes make choices about projects? Of course. But when Papa Ghede wants to get hitched, that cigar smoke is the sweetest perfume on earth. I can't resist it. Mr. Wicker was born from a specific incident in my life that was quite bizarre yet powerful — so powerful, in fact, that I've carried it with me all these years. But I'm not telling that origin story in interviews or on my blog. Rather, there's a puzzle at the end of the book trailer:

If you solve it, you will embark on a journey that reveals the story as you go.

2. How does your writing process work?

Normally, an idea strikes and I can't stop thinking about it. If I'm in the middle of another project, I finish that project before moving onto the new idea. (Often, the new idea needs time to "bake," anyway.) Soon, the skeleton of the story lies before me, including and especially the ending. There's usually something cathartic about that ending, which I think is why it's so important for me to write the story (getting back to the first question). I start with 3 x 5 cards if it's a book — which it is almost always these days — and I look for structure first. Are my opening, midpoint and climax in place? I used to be a screenwriter, so I'm very conscious about structure. I usually have a firm idea about my main character, but the others are more fluid. I start writing, trusting that, even if I initially don't like what I put on the page, I'll eventually come up with something much better.

3. What are you working on now?

I just finished writing Snowed, a YA novel in a dark trilogy. I'm currently researching and outlining the second book, Inversion, as well as querying agents. The first book has gotten such a wildly enthusiastic response from my beta readers — almost all teenagers and their mothers who couldn't put it down — that I feel confident it'll soon find its way into readers' hands.

4. How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I cannot for my life come up with a story about zombies, werewolves, vampires, witches or any other popular trope. I suspect that, if I could write about zombies in particular, I would have had a much bigger career by now. I've thought about this quite a bit, but it's just not in my creative DNA. I do have one published vampire story ("Veil of Skin"), but the original version had no real vampires at all. For years, I couldn't sell the story until I turned this one character into a real vampire rather than a person in a costume. I have written about ghosts, but most of those tales are based on my real-life personal experiences, of which I've had many; that might be different from most authors who write ghost stories.

For me, I tend either to twist existing myths or come up with my own creatures and mythologies. If there is a trope that I've embraced at all, it's the psychopomp. An example of that is "The Dark River of His Flesh," a story that first appeared in Paradox: The Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction. Set at the dawn of Queen Victoria's reign, it's about a man grief-stricken by the suicide of his illicit lover. One night, a mysterious link boy leads him to an absinthe bar that magically changes location every time he visits. The absinthe drinks allow him to see his dead lover, but they're also leading him somewhere increasingly hellish with each visit.

So, that's how my stories might be different. I just hope people enjoy them. Thanks, Wendy!


Maria Alexander is a produced screenwriter, games writer, acclaimed short story writer, virtual world designer, award-winning copywriter, interactive theatre designer and Bram Stoker Award-nominated poet. Her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, is now available from Raw Dog Screaming Press. Library Journal gave it a Starred Review. Publishers Weekly calls it "...(a) splendid, bittersweet ode to the ghosts of childhood."

When she's not wielding a katana at her shinkendo dojo, she's being outrageously spooky or writing Doctor Who filk. She lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats and a purse called Trog.


Thank you to Maria for doing this interview!

Next week I will interview the poet David C. Kopaska-Merkel.

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