I am delighted to welcome Alma Alexander to the conversation.
Alma A. Hromic (who now writes as Alma Alexander) was born in 1963 inNovi Sad,Yugoslavia, on the shores of the riverDanube. Her father’s employment with international aid agencies meant that the family spent twenty years living in various countries inAfrica, including Zambia,Swaziland, and South Africa.
Educated in the United Kingdom and South Africa, Alma graduated from the University ofCape Town with an MSc in Microbiology in 1987. She quickly left the lab in order to write about it instead, and spent several years running a scientific journal for the Allergy Society of South Africa before she moved to New Zealand in 1994. She also worked as a literary critic for several publications in South Africa and England.
In New Zealand, she obtained an editorial position with an international educational publisher, where she worked for several years. Alma is the author of several books. Her works have been published in multiple languages and are best sellers around the world. In addition, Alma is a prolific writer of essays, poetry, book reviews and even travel articles.
Q & A
From where do you draw inspiration?
From living every day. From reading. From being passionate about things and ideas and people, enough so to want to tell their stories – to NEED to tell their stories. From the earth and from the sky, from water and mountain and wood and stone. From a wolf. From an eagle. From a newborn fawn. From people I love, and from people who love me – and also from people who might hate me simply for being who or what I am. From all that surrounds me and shapes me and makes me into the woman that I have grown up to be.
What is the hardest thing about your creative process?
Truthfully, rewriting and polishing. The thing I love about writing and being a writer is *telling the story*. The post-production tweaks and twiddles, although I accept their necessity, are tough – because they inherently mess with the shape of the original story in my head and thus change it and sometimes I fight against that change with a primal instinct even while my conscious mind insists that it needs to happen. For that reason the editing and rewriting processes in my writing arc are the most procrastination-prone bits of it – because I find myself shying away from it all and doing almost ANYTHING else instead. My house is at its absolute cleanest when I have a big edit sitting on my desk waiting for my attention.
Do you work every day, or only when inspiration/opportunity strike?
Every day, if I can. But “work” doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down and just typing. That’s mechanics. Work can mean delving deep into dozens of books for research, or simply taking a long solitary walk in order to untangle a plot knot in my head. Writers are always writing, even when they aren’t physically stringing words together on a blank page. It’s part of our lives.
How do you feel about the current art market/art climate?
Confused (as I think a lot of people are) and often frightened. Frankly, the apparent itch of the publishing industry to transform itself into Hollywood and publish ONLY sure-fire blockbusters and absolutely nothing else appals me – in literature there is a longer time frame that is in play, and there used to be a period in which a writer was given the time and opportunity to actually BUILD an audience before being yanked off the shelves and remaindered after three weeks unless the book hits the New York Bestseller lists. That isn’t the case any longer. Your one shot is your one shot, and if you don’t break out you’re doomed. That’s why there is such a proliferation of smaller presses and indies and even self-publishing – people who write need room for their readers to BREATHE, and that is becoming harder and harder to get with the traditional publishers – but on the other hand, it is the trad guys, the BIG houses, who are the only ones who still pay “Advances” on books, in amounts that someone can live on (even if it’s just ramen noodles and cat food) until such time as a book flies. Advances of $5000 or less, often MUCH less, which is what smaller and more cash-strapped publishers offer for a novel-length work, can be absolutely meaningless in today’s world especially since publicity and marketing seem to have fallen to the authors to manage (and pay for) rather than being taken up by a publisher of ANY stripe. Do the math and you’ll see that tiny advances don’t go very far at all. And many places now offer advance-free deals with higher royalites – once again, something that depends on the sales of the book, which depend on publicity/marketing (which you have pay for up-front). It’s no wonder so many writers are neurotic these days, juggling all these uncertainties on a daily basis.
If you could change one thing about the art world today, what would it be?
I’d find a legitimate way for the creators of art to actually make a legitimate living from it. As someone famous whose name now escapes me once said, “In America a writer can make a fortune – but he can’t make a living”. There are countries in South America which offer their writers a social pension in their old age if they’ve produced a certian number of works which have contributed to the cultural and intellectual life of their country – and I think that is not in itself a bad idea. Taking a LITTLE bit of care of its artists is the only way a society can actually (in the long-term) keep them.
Talk a little bit about your current project and why you decide to embark on it.
I’ve several on the go at any given time. My newest novels are “Midnight at Spanish Gardens” and the US release of the otherwise internationally published “Embers of Heaven” – but these are two very different books (both available as e-books (on Smashwords and on Kindle) and the former is currently, and the latter soon-to-be, available as paperback editions, too). I am currently at work finishing my YA series, and after that there are several things on the burner. I am also doing the ebooks of the Alexander Triads, themed mini-collections of three short stories per book – currently five are available, with number six coming imminently and three more on the way. These are showcases for the range and spread of my shorter work – and they’d probably be good places to dip an experimental metaphorical toe into my oeuvre…
How does being a woman impact your work?
I see the world through a woman’s eyes, through a female perspective. And I then tell the stories that I see, through that lens. I think it is an important point of view, and one worthy of a reader’s attention, despite the fact that so few books reviewed in the more august publications are by women writers.
If you had the opportunity to address a group of young girls, what would you say to inspire them?
Don’t be afraid to dream – yes, you too can have adventures and they are just magical, just as vivid, just as valid as any ever embarked on by the OTHER half of the human race. You too can conquer mountains and dive into the deeps, or face monsters and win. You are strong. Believe in yourselves, and the world can’t help believing right along with you.
To learn more about Alma, visit her website at www.AlmaAlexander.com