Please welcome Alethea Kontis to The Qwillery. “Blue & Grey and Black & Green” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.
This is the tenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!
I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Alethea: My approach to short stories and novels is very much the same: "Put your butt in the chair and write, Princess." The challenge is that short stories pay far less than novels, so now I write fewer of them. That's literally the long and short of it.
Plotters and Pantsers are such misnomers: I've only ever known of two authors at either end of this spectrum (SF author David Drake, whose outlines are sometimes 30,000 words long...vs. Fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, who would never tell people about what she was working on because the act of telling the story immediately ruined her love for the project.) The rest of us all fall in between.
Me? I know where I'm going. Like a road trip from Florida to Seattle. I know I want to stop at Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and the Giant Ball of Twine. Otherwise, I allow the adventure to unfold as I live it. I HATE writing synopses. I have found that they make me fall out of love with the story...much like DWJ. So it is doubtful that I will ever sell a novel to a publisher on a pitch. A shame...but there you have it.
TQ: I noticed in your bio that you copyedit. How does this affect (or not) your own writing process?
Whenever I have a copyediting job, I drop everything else. I put my copyeditor hat on and that is all I do until I finish the project.
Whenever I sit down to write, I have to tell myself that "it's okay to write crap." What I write is often NOT crap--I write slowly, and cleanly (some due to being a copyeditor and some due to starting in poetry), but I still have to remind myself of this every time I sit down. Every. Time.
I know that whatever I write will never be as bad as some of the books I copyedited for the vanity press I worked for back in early 2000. (I still want to needlepoint "The money clock-runneth over" onto a pillow someday.)
TQ: Describe “Blue & Gray and Black & Green”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.
Alethea: "Blue & Gray and Black & Green" is a ghost vs. ghost story, best told to children around a campfire in the woods of West Virginia.
TQ: Tell us something about “Blue & Gray and Black & Green” that will not give away the story.
Alethea: I believe in Stone Memory. I think if a place is home to more than one family throughout the years, that the stones will remember them all....and possibly even fight to keep those memories intact.
TQ: What was your inspiration for “Blue & Gray and Black & Green”?
Alethea: I was originally commissioned to write this story for an anthology about Haunted Places in West Virginia. I know very little about West Virginia and even less about the Civil War. Moreover, I was assigned to write about the General Jenkins House. A cursory search on the intarwebs got me only a repeated (and brief) account from Ghost Hunters who had visited the house...and a notice that the house itself had been closed indefinitely for repairs by the Army Corps of Engineers.
So I dug deeper. I was redirected to a site called The Archaeology Channel, where there just so happened to be a half-hour video lesson called "The Ghosts of Green Bottom." By the end, I not only knew about General Jenkins and his family, but about the several generations of previous owners before that, dating all the way back to the original Native American tribe that lived in that area.
The house came alive for me--Green Bottom herself--made rich from the history of the land she was built on and the eccentric souls who had lived within her walls. My story would not be about a ghost haunting some mortal in the real world; it would be about Green Bottom, and how she has protected centuries' worth of her own spirits from whoever--or whatever--might have tried to take them from her.
TQ: Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?
Alethea: There was this one place, at my horrid ex-fiance's mother's house in Newcastle, England. The ex was horrid but his mother was lovely, as was her husband (the ex's stepfather) who, in his retirement, did things like climb mountains and grow things. There was a stone wall beside their house, and through the archway I found the most amazing garden. I walked among the flowers and plants, barefoot in the thick grass. Standing there on the top of that hill, with the wind in my hair, I had a moment of complete serenity. It occurred to me that this was the most beautiful place I had ever been to on the planet. It was as if I could feel the soul of the place...and it could feel mine in return.
And then the ex called me inside and ordered me to wipe my feet off so I didn't get grass stains on his mother's white carpet.
TQ: Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Blue & Gray and Black & Green”.
Alethea: "Happiness does not want to stay in a place that is dark and lonely, so part of Daniel's job was to keep things from being dark and lonely."
TQ: In which genre or genres does “Blue & Gray and Black & Green” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?
Alethea: Um... Campfire tales? Ghost stories? Children's horror? Genre classifications have become much like Starbucks orders these days. Readers search through a loquacious menu looking for something they feel like, and no description is really going to be perfect for the story or its consumer.
TQ: What's next?
Alethea: "Princess Alethea's Fairy Tale Rants" is about to go on hiatus until after Dragon Con, giving me more time to write--a move that makes me both sad and happy. This year I will be publishing Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome (another illustrated collaboration with Janet K. Lee), and then the rest of the Woodcutter series starting with Trixter. After that, I plan on putting out a trilogy of short contemporary romance novels set in a small beach town in central Florida...but that might not be for a few years at this point. Either way, I'm very excited about all of my projects!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
About Alethea Kontis
New York Times bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a fairy godmother, and a geek. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, and ranting about fairy tales on YouTube.
Her published works include: The Wonderland Alphabet (with Janet K. Lee), Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome (with Janet K. Lee), the AlphaOops series (with Bob Kolar), the Woodcutter Sisters fairy tale series, and The Dark-Hunter Companion (with Sherrilyn Kenyon). Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in a myriad of anthologies and magazines.
Her YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2012 and the Garden State Teen Book Award i 2015. Enchanted was nominated for the Audie Award in 2013, and was selected for World Book Night in 2014. Both Enchanted and its sequel, Hero, were nominated for the Andre Norton Award.
Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea currently lives and writes in Florida, on the Space Coast. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.You can find Princess Alethea online at: www.aletheakontis.com.