The Author Visits Presents Alma Alexander

Random Book Cover Random
The Were Chronicles
Alma Alexander
Paranormal Fantasy
Dark Quest Books
October, 2014
ARC

Note: The Author Visits received a copy of Random in exchange for a honest review.

Random is the first book in The Were Chronicles, a young adult paranormal fantasy series.

It’s been a while since I’ve read young adult anything. But I am really glad I had the opportunity to read Random.

The story centers around a sibling trio, Jazz, Mal and Celia Marsh. Celia’s untimely death has haunted Jazz and when she stumbles on Celia’s diaries, Jazz begins to understand a world of pain that she believes leads to Celia’s death. Mal has his own preoccupation with his sister’s death while contending with his own problems, namely his inability to turn. Jazz and Mal are Random Were with the ability to shape shift into any warm blooded creature. Unfortunately for Mal, he is considered an anomaly and the pressure to conform to the expectations of his kind takes a toll, especially when Jazz turns well before her time.

Jazz wants nothing more than to unravel the mystery behind Celia’s death. As she searches for the answers to questions that haunt her, she begins to realize that the misconceptions she had about her family and their complex dynamics were ill-founded. She learns that nothing on the surface is truly as it appears and begins to appreciate the family she once felt alienated from.

Random is also a story about roots, history and the philosophy, shedding light about the Were-kind, their existence and the hierarchy of a world that is perhaps more complex than that of the humans. The book examines the metaphysical nature of the Were-kind which in and of itself is unique and consuming.

Alma Alexander is a methodical story teller, peeling back the layers one by one, focusing on the big picture then slowly unveiling the details like a good mystery. Random is a complex emotional journey of a young girl looking to make sense of a sense-less event that impacts her life and that of her family’s. As she learns the truth behind her sister’s death, she reconciles with Celia’s demise but also finds ways to memorialize her sister by finding purpose and perhaps even conclusion. That is until a double whammy completely changes the course of the story that will undoubtedly be the center of book two.

The quality of the writing is stellar. Well composed and thoughtful, Alexander chooses to give Jazz a mature voice that I appreciated as an adult reader. What I mean by mature has to do with tonality. There is an interesting cast of characters to complement Jazz and Mal’s story and adds dimension to Jazz’s search for answers. The book has no compromising situations or unsavory language.

I enjoyed Alma Alexander’s first installment in The Were Chronicles and I look forward to reading what comes next for Jazz and Mal.

My rating: a must read. 4 stars for Amazon and Goodreads.

The Author Visits Presents Alma Alexander

Alma's Final Side Banner

Calendar of Events

Sunday, September 28: Author Introduction; Kick-off Giveaway

Monday, September 29: Interview with Alma

Tuesday, September 30: Guest Blog by Alma

Wednesday, October 1: Excerpt from Random

Thursday, October 2: Review of Random

Friday, October 3: Sneak Peek of Next Book

Saturday, October 4: Announce Winner of Giveaway


Follow Alma:

Buy Random

Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


And the winner is…

Congratulations Ewan Macdonald!


Sneak Peek of Book 2 “Wolf” in the Were Chronicles…

Coming Early 2015 

“Well… how does one become a Lycan? You can be born into it, of course, like most of the clans breed true to species and I suppose they do too. But you said there were fewer of them so that means they can’t be having that many members of the new generation. So they have to keep up numbers – so how do they do it? It used to be that you got bitten, and you changed…”

“It’s more complicated than that,” Chalky said. “You’d need to find two of them who’d be willing to take that bite, and even then they might not be all that gentle about it.”

“What do you mean, two of them?”

“That’s the way the bite thing really works,” Chalky said. “You’d need to be bitten by two wolves. The alpha pair of a pack. The male and the female. And even then, if you didn’t already have the predisposition to Turn, even if it was just a distant memory in your genes, you’d probably just die rather than become Lycan. But these days – with the laws – they’re locked away when they’re wolves, and they keep themselves to themselves – and if you tried going in there to glad hand them into giving you that courtesy bite they’re more likely to fall on you and shred you before they’ll just take that genteel nibble that you need.”

“I do have the predisposition,” I said slowly, an idea coming together in my head, an idea so huge and probably so bad that I didn’t really want to take the time to examine it too closely because I would talk myself out of it. But if it worked… if it worked… it would solve so many problems, really. My own problems – the failure to Turn for so long – maybe I could jump-start it… and then, if it worked at all, perhaps being that inside man that Chalky wanted…

But he was staring at me, with a frown etched into his forehead. “Are you seriously thinking what I think you are thinking…?”

“I think so,” I said, with a grin.

“Bad idea,” he said, shaking his head. “And just where would you go looking for the wolves that you would need to…”

I tapped him on the shoulder. “Right here.”

He actually did a very satisfying double take. “What – you want me to…”

“You said you could Turn into anything you wanted.”

“Yes, but a wolf…? Actually, technically, two wolves…? One of them female…?”

“What, you can’t do what my sister did? Just Turn into a different gender?”

Chalky paused. “Believe it or not I simply never tried,” he said. “All I ever did was change my outer skin, inside I always remained… well… me. The fundamentals didn’t change. I didn’t think about changing into a girl any more than I considered changing into a baby, or an old man. Age and gender… just seemed to be fixed.”

“Are you saying you can’t?”

“I’m saying I never tried, and I’m saying I have no idea how – and if – it will affect what I can do if I tried it.”

“You think it would hurt you?”

“I wouldn’t think so,” Chalky said carefully. “Maybe if I just made myself believe I was a she-wolf, just for a second, just for long enough for the juices to work… on you. But all that aside you’re asking me to change into something with lots of sharp teeth and to use those teeth on you…”

“If there is no other way, yes,” I said.

“I could damage you,” Chalky said. “I could, you know. Without even meaning to. A wolf’s bite is a weapon – it’s supposed to be one – I don’t know if I can…”

“It’s my choice,” I said stubbornly, all the more committed to this crazy idea. The more Chalky threw up the obvious obstacles the more determined I became, somehow.

“Like you chose the wolverine…?” Chalky asked softly.

I didn’t even know why that hurt. But it did. It stung. And I lashed out. “That wasn’t a choice,” I said savagely, “it was a prayer. And now there’s just the weasel, after all that, and if and when I eventually Turn at all that’s all I’ll ever be. Nothing more than that. Just a stupid little weasel. I know, it’s been a privilege of a sort to have been offered a choice at all – in the first place – but if I couldn’t actually land the choice and it got snatched from me like this one was – it’s no longer a choice at all. I am what I am, I was born Were, in the end I will either Turn like all my kindred and into something that I don’t even want to be.”

The rest of that sentence, unspoken, hung between us: or else I’ll just live out my days, however long my life turns out to be, as a wretched failure, a dud, the Were child who couldn’t even fulfil that part of his genetic heritage. Weak, useless, outcast.

“Look,” I finally went on, “it may not work at all, in which case nothing has been lost. If it works out badly, Chalky… well… I’ve had it with waiting, with living my life from Turn to Turn and watching everyone’s expectations crumble at every cycle, I can’t even bear the thought of it any longer. So if it ends, it might as well end like this. And if it works…” I paused to draw breath, and Chalky nodded, into the silence, just once, accepting my words.

“Are you sure?” he asked, one more time, just one more time, but his eyes were steady on mine.

“You say you remember yourself when you’re changed,” I said. “You will remember who I am. You probably will hurt me some, that’s inevitable, but I don’t believe you’ll give in to a pure murderous instinct to rip me apart. In theory it doesn’t even have to take very long. Just long enough to draw blood. Long enough to pass it into me, the change trigger, and then, after that, all we can do is wait.”

“If this works, they will come for you,” Chalky said. “They’ll find out, and they will come for you. If they know you Turned into a wolf… you, a Random who cannot have Turned into anything that he hadn’t observed and they knew you had no wolf to imprint on… they will know that it was a Lycan Turn. And they can’t afford not to bring you into the fold..”

“You get your inside man,” I said. “I swear, I will be a fount of information.”

“That is not why you are doing this,” Chalky said. “Or at least not why you should.”

“It isn’t,” I said. “But if what you said is true and they created the thing that eventually killed my sister – the thing that I gave to her myself, unknowing – then I will find out just what they did, why they did it, and how they think their accomplishment helps them… do… whatever it is you think they are trying to do…”

“What makes you think I think they’re trying to do anything specific?” Chalky said, a strange little smile playing around the corners of his mouth.

“If you didn’t have ideas,” I said, “you wouldn’t have wanted an inside man…”

I had once asked him to prove that he could turn into anything he chose. And then took it back. All I had ever had was his word on it – perhaps part of the reason behind this was my own problems, was just that Chalky had shied away from rubbing my face in the simple fact that he could command at a whim, and without any rules at all, the thing that I could not (and not for lack of trying) force myself to accomplish even while doing things by the book while being completely entitled to it by virtue of my identity and genetic heritage. But now – now – he was about to prove to me without any doubt the truth of who he was. And if this didn’t work all that I would be left with in the end would be a possibly debilitating bite wound and ripped up muscles… and undisputable evidence that I had tried everything, even this, and I had failed it all. We were both wary – but at the same time I felt released, as though I had finally rolled my last dice throw and gambled everything on it. One way or another, it would end, my torment. It would be over.

It wasn’t something I was looking forward to, frankly. It wasn’t something I particularly wanted to do. But I knew – and so did Chalky, despite his own reservations – that it was probably something that I had to do.

He hesitated, for the longest time, but then he simply nodded.

I had never watched someone Turn. Oh, I saw the Before and the After – I had seen my parents go into their Turning rooms as my parents, and then later I could look in and see them there in their Were forms – but I had never stood and watched them change. Of course it stood to reason that I could never have actually observed myself do so (and I still lacked the personal experience of it actually happening to my own body, so I couldn’t even draw on that). It struck me as being almost hard to believe – but in all my days, as a Were child, as a young Were boy, this was something… I had taken for granted. It happened. I had never observed the moment of it happening.

Now, for the first time, I did.

Chalky held my eyes for the longest time, and then I saw it begin –a ripple in the air, his outline blurring, as though I was suddenly seeing him through wet glass – and then he.. kind of … melted… and the lines of his body began to change. He fell onto all fours, his head hanging down, his eyes now on the splayed-out palms of his hands which were spread out on the floor… and then the hands twisted into something narrower and longer, the fingers curling into paw pads, a dark gray pelt shimmering into existence over them. His back arched; his legs twitched, lifting his rear into the air, and when it all came down again it was different – and then he lifted up his head, and his face was gone, and in its place a long gray muzzle pointed in my direction, a pair of golden yellow eyes staring at me like twin lasers.

I knew it was coming. I was expecting it. I was waiting for it. And still my breath came ragged and short and I had to fight an instinct to turn and run. I was alone in a room with a closed and locked door… with a wolf. A wolf. A wolf who might once have been my friend, but in whose intelligent gaze I could find no trace of Chalky.

The wolf’s muzzle lifted a little, revealing long and sharp white canines – and I thought about those teeth meeting in my tender flesh, and began to question this whole thing – but of course it was way too late for that.

I wanted this. I reminded myself that I wanted this.

I tried to remember all of the things that had led me to this place. The fear and frustration of my own failures. The guilt and regret and the unhealable wound of Celia, the sister who had always loved me and had my back, whom I had only wanted to help, whom I had destroyed through ignorance and innocence. The feeling of bitter betrayal after Jazz had Turned, my younger sister, forever leaving me behind – and Turned into the crazy thing that she became. The whole cocktail, the poison of all my days, and this was the draught which, if I could only be brave enough to drain it all to the dregs, would save me… or confirm that I was beyond saving.

“Do it,” I said to the wolf, hoping that Chalky was still in there somewhere, that he was listening, that he could hear me. “Just do it. Get it over with.”

A low growl answered me. That could mean anything. I closed my eyes, and in that self-inflicted blindness I could hear the click of claws on the wooden floor as the wolf came closer. And then – pain – incandescent pain – the feeling of those canines sinking into my right calf.

I howled.

You think you can brace yourself for anything but there are things that go beyond your ability to brace for them. You can’t be braced for wolf teeth in your flesh. The stab of agony; the horror of feeling muscle tear; the sensation of warm wetness spilling down your limb as the blood comes. And then there was the second bite, weaker than the first but even more agonizingly felt as the fangs shifted in my leg – the second bite, the potentially crucial one, the one from the female – and a blackness washed over my vision, the pain almost making me pass out.

It did not matter that Chalky’s control of the whole moment was nothing short of exquisite – the bite lasted no longer than it absolutely had to, barely had the teeth closed for that second time than he was out of it, a human once again, backing away, tangling into his now blood spattered clothing which hung awry and shredded on his frame, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand and grimacing at the taste which still must have ruled his tongue. He glanced over to where I was trying to staunch the bleeding from my leg with the remains of my torn jeans, and tossed me a towel which had been draped over the back of a chair nearby.

“Here, try not to bleed over everything,” he said. “Do you want an aspirin? I’ll just throw on some clean clothes, and then I think we’d better run you over to the ER. You might need stitches for that. Sorry.”

“Did it… work…?” I managed to grind out, through clenched teeth.

He had started to rummage through a closet whose innards looked like a clothes bomb had exploded inside, and half turned to look at me at that question, a semi-clean (or at the very least unbloodied) T-shirt in his hand.

“How would I know?” he asked. “Wait till the next full moon, and see. In the meantime, how are you going to explain that leg at home?”

“They don’t inspect me for holes every night,” I snarled. “Ow, ow, ow, if I had known it was going to hurt this much…”

“Dude,” Chalky said in a voice of such sweet reason that I really wanted to clock him with the nearest blunt object. “You asked a wolf to take a chunk out of you. What did you think was going to happen?”


An Excerpt from Random by Alma Alexander

Mal was in fact sitting in the middle of the room, cross-legged and wrapped in his Turning cloak, staring with smouldering eyes at the weasel which stood with its back to the wall staring back at him. Other than the staring contest, which was a sadly familiar outcome of locking Mal into the Turn room at the advent of full moon in the hope that this time it would be different, there was nothing of any interest going on inside that room – and it looked like Vivian would let him out the following morning, as she had done every Turn so far since he was thirteen years old, and he’d still be… Mal. The full moon was in up the sky; if he hadn’t Turned by now, he wouldn’t.

I had already lost interest; the outcome would likely be the same as it had been for these many Turns before now. But for Charlie, this was a train wreck he couldn’t stay away from. He was still staring into the room by the time I had turned away – from Mal and his continued failure, from the annoyed weasel in the corner – and I was actually looking at Charlie’s fascinated face when something began to impinge itself on my consciousness.

There was nothing going on inside the room.

But out here in the corridor, outside… I was starting to feel distinctly strange. Ill, even. There was something deep in the back of my throat, an odd sort of nausea, but it didn’t feel as though I wanted to throw up – it was just… there… as though I had swallowed something that I shouldn’t have and now it was stuck inside my gullet. It was making breathing difficult. My skin felt prickly and itchy and hot, like I was about to spike a fever or suddenly sprout an exotic rash; my eyes were watering and there was a tickle behind my nose not unlike those times when you desperately want to sneeze and there’s something making you want to but the sneeze just won’t come. My bones felt… oddly liquid. It isn’t an easy sensation to describe but the closest I can come is feeling like I was about to change phase, like my solid flesh wanted to melt into a puddle, or evaporate into a gas; in a fanciful moment I imagined my hair going up in literal smoke, dissolving strand by strand into a strange fog which was swirling around me. It felt odd. Weird. Strange. I had never felt anything like it before.

I realised that I had started almost panting, trying to get air into my lungs through my mouth, gasping mouthfuls of it – that my hands had closed convulsively into fists against the door – that my knees were feeling decidedly weak, and that if I did not sit down, right now, I would collapse into an undignified heap (or, perhaps, that puddle that I had already thought about turning into). And just as I realised it, so did Charlie. He turned sharply towards me, dismissing Mal’s situation and sizing up my own instantly and completely.

“Oh, no,” he said unsteadily. “Oh, no, not now. Hang on. Don’t move.” He backed away from the door, from me, until he was at the foot of the basement stairs and then, without letting his eyes leave my face for one moment, angled his head just enough to yell urgently up the stairs for his mother.

I pushed myself off the door, turning around, blinking rapidly at him, trying to figure it out.

“What’s going on…?”

“Did nobody tell you about this?” Charlie said desperately. “There’s a full moon in the sky – you’re Were-kind – work it out! There’s an empty room back there, isn’t there? Can you get there? Quickly?” He glanced up the still-emtpy stairs, but there was still no sign of Vivian. “Mom! MOM! Now!”

It was starting to percolate through to my fogged brain. “Are you telling me… I’m Turning?”

“Dammit – get into that room – I can’t handle – where is my mother? Go on, back away – into the room – at least I can close the door and then we can deal…”

There was, in fact, a room behind me, a room that had been set aside specifically for this moment, for me – but it had not been prepared. Not yet. And it seemed as though it was too late for any of that. Way too late for that. That liquid sensation that I felt building up in my bones suddenly turned into an exquisitely sharp agony, as though I were pulling my own body apart and trying to reknit it back into a shape in which it didn’t belong – which, come to think of it, was precisely what was going on. I tried to obey Charlie’s instructions, I did – I took a precarious step in that direction, and my feet failed me completely. I sat bonelessly on the basement floor, feeling the cold stab into my from the concrete, and then I couldn’t seem to move at all any more.

“But it’s… I’m… my thirteenth…” I was finding it very difficult to speak, to form words with my lips, with my tongue.

I was Turning. I was Turning, and I was still two months shy of my thirteenth birthday. And nothing had been prepared.

I whimpered and closed my eyes at last, allowing myself to fold into a little heap of misery on the floor.

I was a Random. Random Were-folk Turned into their primary form if no outside stimulus had been presented to change that, such as another warm-blooded creature waiting to steal their form.

But I had yet to Turn for the first time. I had no primary form. Nothing to fall back on. In fact… whatever I Turned into right now, at this instant, that would remain my primary form for ever more barring outside influences. I had thought about this, had planned to present myself with an animal of my choice come my thirteenth birthday, to control this Random thing as best I could – but there was nothing, nothing – unless someone simply assumed that Mal was not going to Turn again and barge into his room and steal his weasel – but I didn’t want to be a weasel – and anyway what if he needed the thing – and did it count that I had actually been watching the weasel through the glass insert in the door just before this started happening? But was the weasel the last thing that I had seen? What if some mouse had scuttled right in front of me as I had turned away from the door – we were punctillious about pest control in this house, for obvious reasons, but it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that the occasional mouse did find its way down here – would I really be stuck with being a mouse – but no, I hadn’t seen, hadn’t recognised, hadn’t registered – did that count…?

And then the pain became so incandescent that I actually screamed – and then it was all gone, as though it had never been. Wiped away. Wiped clean.

I sat there, my hands over my eyes, panting….

…wait…

…my hands over my eyes…

…so I hadn’t Turned after all?

What was going on here?

I took my hands away from my face and then several things suddenly crowded into my attention.

One, the hands that my eyes lighted on as they came away from my face were not my hands. I should know, okay? I’d been living with my hands for nearly thirteen years and had been observing them on a daily basis, and these weren’t it. They were Somebody Else’s Hands.

Two, Charlie’s face wore an expression that was a cross between open-mouthed astonishment and a wide-eyed fascination.

Three, more or less the same expression graced the face of his mother – Vivian had come racing down the basement stairs in response to the urgency in her son’s voice, but she had obviously been too late to prevent…

Something had happened. Something. Something was dufferent, but subtly different.

“What…” I began, and then shut my mouth abruptly. The voice was not my own, either. It was a voice that had a high note, but which then broke into a lower register halfway through that single word I had tried to utter, like a teenaged boy whose voice was in the middle of breaking.

“Oh, my giddy aunt,” Charlie said, his own voice very faint. “Jazz?”

I examined my hand. It was more… robust than I was used to. Slightly bigger. The fingers were longer, flatter, the nails almost spatulate. The hand emerged from a wrist that seemed to be far too angular to belong to me, as if the very bones were knit differently.

I lifted that hand, and touched my face.

I did not recognise anything that my new fingertips trailed across. The nose was the wrong shape. My lower lip was fuller than I remembered it. My teeth felt different under my tongue. My hair…

It was shorter. Much shorter. And not curly any more, like mine. Short, and it felt straight.

More like Charlie’s hair than my own.

“There will,” Vivian said, her voice shaking ever so slightly, “be hell to pay over this. Charlie, what were you thinking?”

“It wasn’t my fault!” Charlie said sharply. “How was I to know that…”

I tried not to think the wrongness of my voice – and chose to whisper, instead, thinking that whispering at least would sound a little more like I thought I should sound. “What’s going on?”

Vivian gave a helpless shrug. “Honey… you Turned. But it isn’t…”

I put out a hand, tried to struggle to my feet – which hurt, as if they had been stuffed into shoes two sizes too small. My clothes felt strange on me, tight in all the wrong places, constraining… and then, finally, something clicked.

The funny voice. The bigger-boned hands. My hair. The sense of a different breadth of shoulder and of hip. The… oddness about my body.

I looked down, and gave an inelegant yelp.

I had Turned, all right. But not into an animal. The weasel in Mal’s room had not been the last thing I saw at the crucial moment. Neither had that mythical mouse I had been briefly worried about.

The last warm-blooded creature I had set eyes on as I started to Turn… had been…

Had been Charlie.

I had Turned… into a boy.


Guest Blog by Alma Alexander

The Light of Story…

The books of the Were Chronicles might be the most ambitious thing I have ever attempted, and that includes highly complex novels like “Secrets of Jin Shei” where I had to keep track of eight full-time protagonists and what their particular stories were doing at any given time and how they all fit together. But that was *one book*, and these…? Well, let me start at the beginning.

The Were Chronicles were born as a short story.

There was this anthology with a were-critter theme, and I hit upon this wonderful idea which I had never seen anywhere before – my shiny new idea! Mine! – and decided to write a short story about a Random Were. A were-creature that followed all the rules of the classic trope… except one. They weren’t nailed into an animal form. In fact, whatever the last warm-blooded creature was that they laid eyes on at the point of their turn… it was THAT creature which they turned into. Anything. A monkey. A rat. A parrot. A seal. A whale, if they weren’t careful. Things could get out of control very quickly.

I started out with a comical premise. My young protagonist’s parents were Randoms – they would turn into their default form, the primary form, if no other warm blooded target presented itself, and in their primary forms her father was a were-tom-cat and her mother (an unfortunate farmyard accident…) was a were-chicken. And yeah, it was hilarious. I could have a lot of fun with this. And I was.

Right until the moment I realized two things.

One was that I was hitting five thousand words (which was the length of a respectable anthologizable short story) and I hadn’t properly said HELLO yet. This world was bigger, much bigger, than I had anticipated.

The other thing was that I was no longer laughing. This would be a story with a few comic touches here and there… but it was darker than I had thought. And richer. And deeper. And it wanted to tackle painful ideas.

So it wanted to be a novel. I shrugged and reformulated in my head – this had happened to me before, short stories taking the bit between their metaphorical teeth and bolting for the hills, and I was familiar with the sensation. But it was worse than I thought.

It did not want to be one novel. It wanted to be three novels. And each of the three novels would be riding the same main story arc but from a different (a VERY different) point of view, re-informing the story anew every time. It was a deeply complex set-up, far more ambitious than anything I had ever attempted before.

But it wasn’t just this, either. This was just the shape and form of it, which was difficult enough, complicated enough, to give me pause, but still and all, it was just the form. The substance of the story… was a vast and deep and angry ocean which I had not expected there at all.

This book wanted to be about important things. It wanted to be about discrimination, about how it would feel to be considered “inferior”, to be controlled, to be legislated into helplessness because others feared you and hated what you were. It wanted to tackle the issues of bullying – because you were “different”, because you were “not-us”, you were “other”. A theme, this last, that would be all too painfully familiar to young readers (did I mention these books demanded to be YA?) who might be growing up in a neighborhood racially different to them, who might be disabled in some way, who might be of a frowned-upon and despised sexual orientation.

These were books that would begin to explain, from the inside, the pain of being Jewish, of being Black, of being gay, of being… different. These were books that would look that dragon in its fiery eye, and face it down. These were books that were far more important than any fiction that I had ever tackled before.

More than that, these books marked a return to an earlier incarnation of myself – the Author as Scientist. I began to work out in reasonably intricate detail the genetic background and heritage of the Were-kind – and this was unexpectedly delightful. So far as I know, such an exploration of Were BIOLOGY as opposed to just surface MYTHOLOGY had never been done before.

I have been a full-time writer for fifteen years now, more, and yet I found myself in brand new territory with these books, on paths I had not walked before. I am grateful beyond words to discover that such new vistas are still open to me, and I very much look forward to welcoming you into this world – one of the most detailed, most lovingly crafted, most treasured worlds that I have ever built. I hope it brings you vision, beauty, perhaps catharsis, peace, enlightenment, understanding. And underlying all of that I hope that the story itself, the characters who inhabit it (who are some of my best, ever), the world in which it is set, all bring you the kind of pure reading enjoyment that makes you sorry, when you close the book, that it is finished.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing these stories, they stretched me and they gave me wings; I hand them over to you now, the readers, a candle to take with you into the dark. May the light of story– so small, so fragile, so powerful – keep you safe in the shadows of the world.


Interview with Alma

Alma Alexander is nothing short of unique. Her life story could would make for an interesting read. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with Alma and getting to know her and I hope you enjoy my interview with the author.

Veena: Welcome, Alma! Thank you for stopping by The Author Visits.

Alma: Hello, Veena! Thank you for having me.

Veena: So tell me Alma, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Alma: I was born one. I didn’t “know” I wanted to be one. I have always written. If you want the answer to when did I know I wanted to be an AUTHOR, that is to say, a published career-writer, the answer might be the same, up to a point – except that I do know one point at which I consciously “chose” this.

That moment occurred when I was fifteen years old, at my English boarding school, where they had invited a writer by the name of Lynne Reid Banks to come and address our class. And she came, one gloomy British evening with the lights guttering in the gloaming outside, and we sat in the school library and listened to her speak. And she told us the truth. She didn’t varnish the life she led with the glamour and the wondrousness of it all. She gave us the underbelly, too – the waiting, the desperation, the rejections, the blood and the sweat and the tears. And yet she spoke of it all with the light of angels in her eyes and it was clear to me that she loved it, loved it all, fiercely, and would not trade it for anything. And the fifteen-year-old me sat up and said, “THAT. I want that. No more and no less than that. That’s what I want to be.”

And that, Dear Reader, I became.

Veena: And who or what inspires you to write?

Alma: I write because I need to. You might say that the stories that clamour to be told “inspire” me to write. That’s really the long and the short of it. I’ll always write, because I cannot conceive of existing in a world where that sentence is not true.

Veena: What are you reading now? 

Alma: The last book read was “What The Bee Knows” by PL Travers – a little bit about that on the group blog that I contribute to regularly, at http://storytellersunplugged.com/almaalexander/2014/05/30/listening-to-bees/

Veena: Which character in a book would you enjoy having drinks and dinner with?

Alma: None of my own, to be sure, because they’d probably try to poison me – I don’t treat my characters kindly at all… I’d love to share a rowdy dinner party with the entire royal family of Amber (if I could sit next to Corwin), or perhaps I could visit the Wales of Llewellyn’s era, as portrayed by Sharon Penman, and share Llewellyn’s table (one assumes these invitations mean one can speak a shared language, although my current knowledge of 13th century Welsh is pretty much nil…), or maybe I could have tea with Merlyn from “The Once and Future King”…?

Veena: If you could be any character in a book, who would you be and why?

Alma: This kind of thing always stymies me because… I don’t want to be a character in a book… I’m already ME. I actually went for a promenade in front of my book case, which holds many favourites, and looked at the spines with this question in mind and the truest answer I can give is quite literally none of them. I’ve always looked on books more as windows than as mirrors, I’ve never sought images which might sufficiently resemble “me” for them to be possible alternate identities for myself and I’ve treated those characters who were too far away from such an image as characters in their own right and not someone I wanted to change into becoming. I’ve never sought to “emulate” anybody. In Real Life ™ there are people I might actually admire and look up to but I would never want to “become” them – and the same holds for fictional people. I treat all of them – real people and constructs of other writers’ imaginations – as their own thing. They might be despicable or they might be admirable but they have never been, to me, anything I would want to BE. I’m content to read about them, and get to know them that way.

If you want to push the envelope a little, I’m ALREADY a slew of characters – because of all the ones who inhabit my own head. I can’t help that, they’re the children of my mind. But even them I release and let go once I’ve done telling their stories. I’ve never wanted to wholesale-subsume my own consciousness into any one of theirs. I understand them, deeply, from within – and some of them I love desperately – but that’s as far as it goes. When we are done with one another we become different entities again, their spirit splits from mine, and we might be seen as old friends who will get together for a drink every so often to reminisce about old shared times. But I don’t want to be them. Any more than any of them would ever be content to be merely me.

Veena: Who is your favorite author?

Alma: I have legions. They include, but are not limited to, Tolkien, Roger Zelazny, Ursula Le Guin, Howard Spring, Sharon Penman, Ivo Andric, Spider Robinson, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Oscar Wilde, Guy Gavriel Kay, and oh SO MANY OTHERS. I don’t HAVE a “favourite” author. I have writers whom I love, and whose stories I love. And sometimes that author is one whose name I have never heard before and whose work I had never read until this moment, when I am holding this new and strange book in my hands – and in that moment, THEY are my favourite author.

I love to READ. Anyone who writes a good story is a favourite author.

Veena: Where in the world would you most like to visit?

Alma: I am oh so not the “tourist” type. The places I would like to experience are the wilds of Patagonia, and Tierra del Fuego (because a place called the Land of Fire really sets my imagination going); Antarctica; a return to Alaska where I was once but too briefly and would love a chance to explore more fully; the Serengeti, once more, before it’s completely gone; the Himalayas; and, if we’re talking more along the “hubs of civilization” kinds of places, the cities in Europe and Russia which I haven’t yet seen – places like Prague, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Reykjavik…

Veena: What is your must have tech gadget?

Alma: Computer with word-processing software or app. Because I cannot live without one.

Veena: What’s on your night-stand?

Alma: Let’s see. A clock. A phone. A tiny pewter picture frame with a photo of my beloved and now long gone grandmother, who has always been my guardian angel and even now watches over me when I sleep. A tiny flashlight. A chapstick (because sometimes in the middle of the night I just want one. Doesn’t everybody?) A small figurine of a fawn. An even tinier little figure of a rabbit, bright scarlet, a nod to my Chinese zodiac sign. A little box that someone gave me a long time ago with a half dozen minute little stick-figure mannikins made of pipe cleaners or something similar with an accompanying postage-stamp sized sheet of instructions – because these are Guatemalan worry dolls and what you do is you pick one of the little manikin dolls just before you go to bed and you tell it a problem and then you put it back in the box and it’s supposed to work on the problem while you are sleeping (I can’t say I’ve seen it work ALL THE TIME, but at least once… maybe twice… well, often enough that I find myself DOING this even while wondering if I’ve quietly lost it somewhere along the line. But it’s a tiny bit of voodoo-like magic and I kind of love it that I have access to it. So I play the game.)

 If you expected a book, you’d be disappointed. I seldom read in bed, only when I’m confined to one because I am sick or something. I can happily stay up reading until all hours, but that’s exactly what it is – I will STAY UP AND READ, and when I’m ready to go to bed and SLEEP, I’ll put the book away and go to bed. I don’t find reading in bed comfortable, and it certainly (if the book is any good at all) doesn’t put me to sleep – if anything, the contrary, and my mind will be racing with the story and the plot bunnies if I tried. Besides, I can never leave a book without reading “to the end of the chapter”, or “I’ll just finish this”. If I had a book by my bed I would never sleep at all. So there isn’t one in my bedroom.

Veena: And finally, what’s your favorite junk-food?  

Alma: That depends on what you consider to be “junk food”. I like me a good burger and fries, if that qualifies.

I also eat things like chocolate raisins by the double handful. I can eat a box of cherries at a sitting. I don’t really like savory stuff so no pretzels or anything like that – but donuts? Yeah, I’ll take those. The GOOD kind. And ice cream. Aw, what the heck, I might as well come out with it. The answer is “anything with chocolate in it”. Dark chocolate, mind. The good kind. The older I get the less enamoured I am of the very sweet milk chocolate I used to like as a kid.

Thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed my chat with Alma!


Book Information

Alma's Book

Book Title: Random

Author: Alma Alexander

Series: The Were Chronicles

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Dark Quest Books

Release Date: October, 2014

Buy Random

Blurb: “My name is Jazz Marsh.

I am a Random Were, which means I am a Were of no fixed form – like all Random Were, my family can become any warm-blooded creature which is the last thing they see before they Turn. For me, when my time came, that meant… trouble.

I was quite young when I lost my older sister, Celia, and my family never spoke about her. It was only when I found the secret diaries that she had left behind that I began to discover the truth behind her life and her death.

I never understood what drove my moody and dangerous older brother until I began to get an inkling about his part in Celia’s death… and until, driven to the edge of patience and understanding, he finally had to face his own Turn problems… and disastrously took matters into his own hands.

One thing is clear.

Everything I thought I knew about Were-kind was wrong.”


About Alma

Alma Pic

“Alma Alexander’s life so far has prepared her very well for her chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown small planes, swum with dolphins, touched two-thousand-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon. She is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination.

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7 Comments

  1. What a fascinating and fun interview. I can’t wait to read this book, and omg, what a gorgeous cover!

  2. […] Disclosure: a version of this essay first appeared here […]

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