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Interview with Alethea Kontis - March 29, 2015

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!

Interview with Alethea Kontis - March 29, 2015

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Interview with Alethea Kontis - March 29, 2015
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:

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014

On Friday and Saturday of last week I attended Book Expo America (BEA) and BookCon at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York City. I mostly go to connect with publishers and publicists that I interact with because of The Qwillery. It's a wonderful professional resource for any one in or connected to the book industry including bloggers. I generally only see some of the publicists twice a year - BEA and New York Comic Con (NYCC). I was also able to meet some publicists that I had not yet met. I had a fascinating discussion about UK vs US covers with a wonderful publicist from Quercus, which has recently been acquired by Hachette. I also picked up a few signed books and met some authors I was interested in interviewing and/or including in the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.

The BEA floor is huge and I can not even guess how many miles I walked, but I did realize that I am a wee bit out of shape (read very out of shape) and I will be starting an exercise program of some sort so that I don't need 3 days to recover from NYCC in October.

Saturday was BookCon as well as BEA. I did not know what to expect since this was the first year for BookCon and 10,000 tickets were sold. Imagine approximately10,000 additional people being let into less than 1/3 of the space for the entire BEA. It was incredibly crowded, very chaotic, hard to walk around, loud, and somewhat fun. It seemed very much like New York Comic Con. I must note that one of the exhibitors who was in the BookCon section of BEA did not show up for BookCon. I can only guess at the reason but I suspect that they did not want to be part of what became the public part of the show. In addition the BEA section of the Exhibit Hall seemed much less crowded than the day before. It was actually nice to get away from BookCon and take a break in the much more quiet BEA. However, I do not know what that means for BEA attendance while BookCon is taking place. Fewer professionals coming that day because of BookCon? Everyone was at BookCon? Your guess is as good as mine. I believe that the idea of BookCon is good one but since this was the first year there is much to be worked out. I hope that the publishers have better ways of controlling lines for some of the signings and it's all better organized than this year.

BookCon will be held on Saturday and Sunday next year, which also extends BEA by one day. Again only part of the Exhibit Hall will be open to BookCon attendees as it was this year.

Enough about that stuff. You want to see some pictures. (I'll also do another post about the books I picked up. There are not many because I only take a few books and am not interested in a haul of books that I probably won't read.)

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014
My teens and I watch Extra Virgin on the Cooking Channel. We love this show. I had no idea that Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar were going to be at BEA. I was thrilled to chat with Debi briefly and get a copy of their book, Extra Virgin. I will have to buy one that I can use though because there is no way I am going to get food on the signed copy.

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014
Alethea Kontis, Ellen Datlow and Esther Friesner
at the SWFA Booth
(Probably my favorite picture of show!)

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014
 Errick Nunnally and Jennifer Allis Provost signing at the Spencer Hill Booth

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014
Errick Nunnally with a copy of his upcoming debut Blood for the Sun
(and yes, he will be featured in the 2014 Debut Author Challenge next month).

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014
Jeaniene Frost

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014
John L. Campbell, author of the Omega Days Series

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014
Jonathan Maberry

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014
Laura Anne Gilman (and my son hiding)

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014
Michael R. Underwood showing off some of the posters at the Osprey Booth  (includes 
Angry Robot). Michael's Shield and Crocus is out on June 10th from 47North.

And last but not least:

BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014
My son (left) shaking hands with Cary Elwes (right) whose book, As You Wish
Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, is out on October 7, 2014

Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway

Please welcome Alethea Kontis to The Qwillery.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Alethea:  Ha! My writing group (The Codex Writers -- could probably answer this better than I could. What someone else sees as a quirk I no doubt find perfectly normal. I'm not that different from any other writer.

Oh, wait! Yes, I am. I don't have a cat, nor do I ever intend to own a cat. There are but a few of us out there in the genre -- Kate Elliot and Kat Richardson and I decided recently to create a club called "Les Belles Dames Speculatif Sans Chats." We will wear little black dresses and meet at the super-collider and own dogs if we want to. (It's amazing what sort of trouble Twitter can get you into.)

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Alethea:  I don't have a memory of a time when I couldn't read -- choosing a favorite writer is like choosing a favorite star in the sky. But my writing definitely has influences: Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones, Grimm and Andersen, Lloyd Alexander, Meredith Ann Pierce, Jane Yolen, Roald Dahl, Wendy & Richard Pini, and Bill name a few.

TQ:  You've quite a few horror shorts published in 2010 some scifi and some fantasy. Do you have a favorite?

Alethea:  I made a list the other day -- I published ELEVEN short stories in 2010. That's half the number of stories I've published in my entire life. The mind boggles. And once again, there are too many favorites.

"Sweetheart Come" is up at the top of the list because it's the type of story I started writing when I was a teen -- told stories in the tradition of Grimm and Anderson, this one a legend that includes old magic and music and poetry and love conquering all. I wish all my stories came out as perfectly as this one did. The saga of its publication is amazing too: I was asked to be in an anthology called Up Jumped the Devil, with stories based on the songs of Nick Cave. My little sister chose the song. The third time I listened to it, the story just told itself to me. John Skipp loved "Sweetheart Come" so much he stole it away and got permission from the publisher to release it this year in his Werewolves and Shapeshifters anthology. I'm the coveted last spot in the book, right next to Neil Gaiman. In every way, this story is a dream come true.

"The God of Last Moments" is a favorite because it's such a painfully personal story, and those that strike closest to the writer's own heart often resonate the longest with the reader. "Life's a Beach" is a favorite because I got to work with my 13-year-old fairy goddaughter Ariell (who makes a great writing partner). She wrote all the gory scenes (I'm not good at gore). "Pocket Full of Posey" is my favorite because it reminds me of my 15-year high school reunion. "Blue and Gray & Black & Green" is my favorite because I had to do a lot of digging before finding any sort of information on Green Bottom plantation in West Virginia. Once I did, the ghost story just made sense...and I never thought I'd write anything involving the Civil War. "The Way of the Restless" is my favorite because it's about Elvis and Soap Operas in fun is that? And "The Unicorn Tree" is my favorite because I am Katie, and I am one of the cadre determined to bring unicorns back.

TQ:  AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First was published in 2006 with the sequel AlphaOops!: H is for Halloween published earlier this year. Why books for children? Is there a further sequel in the works?

Alethea:   Luc Reid, founder of the Codex Writers Group, always called me Backwards Girl for how I (intentionally or not) go about doing things. My dream in life has always been to publish young adult novels and win the Newbury (and now the Norton!) Award, because those were the books I always loved. Ellen Raskin, Lois Lenski, Astrid Lindgren -- these are the authors I checked out of my library. These authors helped me decide what kind of person I wanted to be. Imagine if *I* could be one of those authors!

So what did I do? I wrote a cute little story about the alphabet fighting, gave it to a friend, and accidentally got published in the toughest area of publishing to break into: picture books. Then I went and edited a critically acclaimed anthology--to benefit the children of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, to get my name known in the SF world, and to impress a boy. On the heels of that, one of my best friends asked me to write a encyclopedic companion to her well-known paranormal romance series. How could I say no? Meanwhile, a small press asked me to gather up a bunch of my blog essays, and in a fit of inspiration I sat down for a few hours and hammered out another story about the alphabet fighting...only this time on Halloween. At which point it occurred to me that I should probably get an agent.

Here it is now, six years after that first contract. I've been reviewed in the New York Times, and been a bestseller there, too. I'm no dummy -- I've stumbled into some amazing opportunities, and I've jumped at every one. But only now, FINALLY, I have sold my very first young adult novel to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It's called SUNDAY, and will be released in 2012. I don't know if it will win all those fabulous awards or not (a girl can dream), but I'm finally where I've been trying to get all along. It's been a long, windy road here...but an amazing adventure. And, yes, more than just a little bit backwards.

As for another AlphaOops book...I can neither confirm or deny the existence of such an item. But if we all cross our fingers and clap for fairies, I might have some good news to share soon!

TQ:  Is there any genre or genres in which you would like to write?

Alethea:  I wish I could write mysteries, but the concept totally eludes me. I love watching Bones and Lie to Me and CSI; I love reading JT Ellison and Agatha Christie and Barbara Michaels and thinking, how do they DO that? How do they withhold all that information and dole it out in tiny little pieces until the big reveal at the end? What do their outlines look like? It must be like drawing mazes. I am amazed and awed every time.

TQ:  If you could dine with 3 people from history, who would they be?

Alethea:  Number One would be my grandfather -- my father's father -- Soterios Kontis. I never had the good fortune to meet him. He was a Greek pirate during the Nazi occupation in WWII, he was instrumental in the assassination of Che Guevara, and I imagine he told some great stories about his travels around the world. Plus, the dinner would be amazing. We Greeks love our food.

Number Two would be Roald Dahl. He's one of the authors I regret never writing a fan letter to while he was alive. (You should always write fan letters to your favorite authors!) He strikes me as an amazing sort of man who also stumbled into a lot of amazing opportunities...but all the while keeping that dark, childish sensibility. I imagine we'd get on famously.

Number Three would have to be a British Queen -- if I have all of history to choose from, perhaps Victoria. Or QE I. My Nana taught my sister and me when we were very young how to take our tea and how to eat eggs with the queen. She would be delighted if I had the chance to put her teachings to practical use.

TQ: What's next?

Alethea:  This month I'm sending off a YA horror novel to my agent, I'm writing a story for another anthology, and then it's NaNoWriMo! *happy dance* I know exactly what sort of trouble I want to get into this time. I call it YA Suburban Fantasy.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery today.

About Alethea's Books and Stories

Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
H gets top billing — but a stubborn B has something scary to say — as the inside-out alphabet gives a howl-arious Halloween performance.

Ack! It’s time for the show, and A isn’t ready. But then again, Halloween can only start with one letter, no matter how the A-B-Cs normally go! The misbehaving alphabet is back, and there’s no telling who will take the stage next. Z for zombie? P for pirate? Will X think of something good in time? Neon-bright, comically detailed illustrations show a cacophony of costumed letters, each with a mind and personality all its own. Along the bottom, tiny pumpkins arrange the players in proper order, making this alphabet story letter-perfect for Halloween.

Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
It's backwards! It's inside out! It's every letter for itself! This laugh-out-loud romp is not your average alphabet book!

Z is tired of always having to be last when the alphabet family lines up. He is demanding fair and equal treatment! The letters (more or less) agree to go backwards, but it's not long before P has some ideas of his own. And so does H, for that matter. In fact, it seems as if almost every letter has a different opinion about how the alphabet should be arranged. It's chaos! It's pandemonium! And it's definitely not as easy as A-B-C! Filled with visually humorous details, Bob Kolar's colorful illustrations are the perfect foil for Alethea Kontis's snappy story about the comic confusion that comes when the letters of the alphabet, like a class of unruly children, step out of order and show that each one has a mind of its own.

Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
Consider this handbook your education. Hunter 101. And don't go thinking you got off easy just because there's not a pop quiz at the end. This is the good stuff. The real deal. In here you'll find out all there is to know about being a Dark-Hunter.

Now for the disclaimer: This book is mutable. It goes with the wind. It changes more often than the mind of a sixteen-year-old Gemini with a closet full of clothes and a date in an hour. Don't be surprised if you open it up for the thirty-five thousandth time and find something old, something new, something borrowed or. . .well you get the point.

Curl up in a comfy chair with some millennium-old scotch and feast upon the informative banquet I have prepared for your enjoyment.

Welcome to your new life.

---From the Dark-Hunter Companion

2010 Short Stories by Alethea:

Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
Dark Futures: Takes Stories of Dystopian SF
(September 2010)

“Black Hole Sun” (w/Kelli Dunlap)

Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within

(September 2010)

"Sweetheart Come"

Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
(October 2010)

 “Blue & Gray and Black & Green”

Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
(August 2010)

“Life’s a Beach” (w/Ariell Branson)


Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
Zero Gravity
(July 2010)

"The Unicorn Tree"
Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
(Summer 2010)

“Diary of a Ghost’s Mistress”

Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
(May 2010)

“The God of Last Moments”


2020 Visions
(November 2010)
“Pocket Full of Posey”

Shroud Magazine Issue #10
(Halloween 2010 Special Issue)
“Red Lantern"

For a full listing of Alethea's short stories, please visit her website here.

About Alethea

Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway
Alethea Kontis is the New York Times bestselling author of the AlphaOops series of picture books and Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter Companion. Her debut young adult novel, Sunday, will be released in 2012 by HMH. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. She can be found online narrating short fiction for Apex Magazine, reviewing books for Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, or blathering on at her own website: Alethea currently lives in Northern Virginia with her Fairy Godfamily and a teddy bear named Charlie.

Alethea's Links:

Facebook: Alethea Kontis

The Giveaway


What: AlphaOops!: H is for Halloween

How: Leave a comment telling The Qwillery your favorite candy to get for Halloween . If you don't tell The Qwillery about your favorite candy your entry will not be counted!

You can receive additional entries by:

1) Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2) Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3) Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who & When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Wednesday, November 03, 2010.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*
Interview with Alethea Kontis - March 29, 2015BEA 2014 / BookCon 2014Interview with Alethea Kontis & Giveaway

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