Saturday, May 25, 2013

#AuthorInterview A visit with Alexandra Sellers FIRE IN THE WIND

1.Hi Alexandra Sellers, tell us a bit about your latest book.  
Hi and thank you for inviting me here. FIRE IN THE WIND is one of my earliest books, revised and now available for the first time in eBook: a white-hot revenge story. It's a particularly memorable book for me because of the way Jake Conrad, its hero, entered my life. He just appeared one day, this powerful energy in front of my desk demanding that I tell his story NOW. I hope he's going to be similarly powerful in demanding that you read it!

2. What is the most exciting adventure you've been on?  
Well, you know, I think the most exciting adventure anyone can be on is to fall in love. It has certainly been mine. (The second most exciting was writing a book.)

3. Did you incorporate it into a story? 
I've incorporated it into every story I've written.

4. Who was your most difficult character? 
Jake Conrad in FIRE IN THE WIND was demanding and autocratic, but he wasn't actually difficult so long as I just obeyed him. Johnny Winterhawk, on the other hand, the hero of SEASON OF STORM, was deeply difficult. I didn't understand him and, foolishly, I was afraid to let him have his head. Preparing SEASON OF STORM for ebook release (it's next up), I've realized what mistakes I made with Johnny and now am doing big revisions, because he's still there, waiting to be heard.  

5. You don’t have to tell us, but who in your life did you pattern him/her after? 
I don't think I've ever patterned any major character in my books after a person in my life.  Characters come from some world of their own. Sometimes, like Jake Conrad, they power in from that other world with huge energy.  Other times they may be summoned up by some passing resemblance to a this-world person or by some idea or incident, and slowly take shape. But they are always who they are.  I've heard sculptors say that the shape is in the marble and the artist's task is to find it.  I feel like that about story and character—it pre-exists. My job is to write my way to it.

6. What kind of books do you like to read?   
Stella Cameron, Caitlin Crewe and Sharon Kendrick are always a great read. So's Richard Harris. Sophie Kinsella and John Grisham are two writers with the enviable power to make a 7 hour plane journey compact into one hour.  I've just totally gagged and laughed over Tahir Shah's EYE SPY. I've also recently read and loved THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY and THE HUNDRED-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT OF THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED. Jane Austen is the writer I've re-read most.

I guess the short answer to that was, 'I like a lot of different fiction'!

And non-fiction?

I really, really enjoyed Tom Watson's DIAL M FOR MURDOCH. Jon Ronson is always fascinating. Rupert Sheldrake's THE SCIENCE DELUSION is next on my list.

7. If you could go back and change the ending to any novel you’d like, which would it be and what would be the change?

What a great question! MANSFIELD PARK! I've never liked the idea of Fanny and Edmund turning into a couple of Victorian prigs in a few years, as I think they surely will if married to each other.  I don't get the feeling that they are going to have much of a sex life, for sure, and isn't that the first step towards believing no one else should? And I don't like the way Mary Crawford is just abandoned to her fate.  None of what happens is her fault, but she suffers as much as any of the guilty. I think Mary had a hard childhood with her uncle—harder than is explicitly stated in the text, although it is certainly shadowed in—and she deserved a break. Edmund was the right husband for her.  And I imagine that Fanny disliked Henry Crawford in part because she was physically attracted to him and that disturbed her. If she was not on some level attracted to him, she surely could never have considered the thought of their marriage with anything like pleasure—but with the excuse of what she could do for her sister, she does start to imagine it.

With a writer as brilliantly talented as Jane Austen, how do you think this happened?

I think Jane Austen got seduced by her own characters--that she allowed the Crawfords to be much more engaging people than her original plot idea called for, but then, sadly, forced them to follow her plotline against their wishes.  The strongest evidence I see for this is that Henry Crawford does not appear in person in the latter part of the book, (and even Mary appears only in a reported scene). That, I like to think, is because Henry simply would not have run off with Maria and so he refused to do it on camera, as it were.  It's also a curious fact that, while we do see Henry's proposal to Fanny, we don't actually see Edmund's—which perhaps points to where the author's own real interest lay. And she explicitly states that both alternative marriages were real possibilities, which is really quite extraordinary: I feel that was the 'meant' story breaking through the author's resistance.

Why do you think she resisted what you call the 'meant' story?

I have the feeling that Jane Austen had a horror of repeating herself, and thought that to let Henry have Fanny would mean a kind of repeat of Pride and Prejudice.  I wish she had trusted her characters more, because I don't think it would have been a repeat.  She and Henry together would have forged something very fresh and different.

Thanks for that question, I've been wanting to get it off my chest for a while! And thanks again for having me on your blog.

Well, thank you for the interesting perspective on Jane Austen. Sometimes when we're too concerned about audience reception of our characters or plot lines we end up not being quite true to them. I'm sure Ms. Austen was much more constrained by what is acceptable and not acceptable in her time period than we are these days! Thanks for visiting. I really enjoyed your interview.

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