Today I'm thrilled to welcome to the blog the first of my #PitchWars picks, Alexandra Alessandri! Her YA Multicultural Magical Realism THROUGH THE WALLED CITY, immediately grabbed my attention with her rich imagery and outstanding story architecture. And wait until you meet her yummy L.I., Gianluca! I've been having a blast helping Alexandra get her manuscript nice and shiny for the agent round next month. Here's a little about the author and her book baby!
Tell us a little about your writer's journey so far:
Though I’ve written most of my life, and as an undergrad I swore I was going to be a poet, my real writing journey began when my father died in 2008. His death opened a box of emotions I wasn’t sure how to deal with, and writing became the natural outlet for them. I moved from writing about my father to writing fiction when one dream left me with a vivid scene and a set of characters that nagged me until I wrote down their story. That became my first novel-length project, which I completed while taking UCLA’s Writers’ Extension courses for a Certificate in Creative Writing. I joined SCBWI, found a critique group, wrote another story and found an amazing community of writers through Twitter.
It’s been a journey replete with passion and (im)patience, camaraderie and commitment. Every story fills me with excitement. Each part of the process, no matter how tedious, reminds me of how magical the act of creating is. And while the journey has been a lesson in patience, I couldn’t imagine not going through it.
Okay, let's hear your Twitter Pitch! (140 characters or less.)
Mica's trip to Colombia comes w/side of magic: slipping through Cartagena's past. Now her family depends on her deciphering Time's message.
What inspired you to write this book? How is it a book only you could write?
I knew I wanted to write a story set in Cartagena. My family is Colombian, but I’d never been to Cartagena. It had always been one of those mythical places I wanted to visit. So I started researching this city many of my family had visited. I stumbled on a line in an article that said something akin to: being in Cartagena is like walking through the streets of the past and present. That was the spark. Imagine a story where you could “literally” walk through past and present. Not time travel in the science-fiction sense, but a softer time slipping, in the fashion of magical realism. This was a no brainer. My Master’s thesis was on the use of magical realism in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of my literary heroes (and he’s a fellow Colombian!)
Why is this a book that only I could write? Mica is a second-generation Colombian-American, like I am. She struggles with what it means to be both, belonging in neither. In my trips to Colombia as a kid, I was always flaunted as the gringita. Here in the US, I was Hispanic. It’s a conundrum. Which am I? This is part of what Mica struggles with. She feels American, but a part of her yearns for bits of her parents’ Colombia.
What's your favorite thing about writing?
Seeing the characters come to life, witnessing the story unfold. It’s magical. Maybe I’m romanticizing it, but each time I start a manuscript, I’m in awe at how something comes from nothing. How an idea, a concept, or a character becomes this living, breathing story. I find that mind-blowing.
What's your least favorite thing?
Editing (not revision—that part I love) because no matter how many times I read the ms, I still miss something stupid!
Now it's time to brag a little--What do you love most about your book?
I absolutely, positively love the setting, both past and present. It’s lush and gorgeous and magical and romantic.
Okay, now a little about you. (And yes, I stole these questions from In the Actor's Studio with James Lipton.)
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
It’s not quite a word, but rather the misuse of a word: when people write “should/could/would of” instead of “should’ve/could’ve/would’ve.”
What turns you on?
Compassion and kindness.
What turns you off?
What sound or noise do you love?
Birds chirping in the morning hours. It reminds me of waking up in the finca (farm) in Colombia, surrounded by mountains.
What sound or noise do you hate?
Nails on chalkboard!
What profession, other than your own, would you most like to attempt?
An actress for a Disney Channel show. Or a cast member at Disney.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear G-d say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Finally, what's the one question you've always wanted to answer in an interview? (And of course, you have to answer it!)
Tell us something interesting about yourself:
My great uncle Bernardo Arias Trujillo was a novelist in Colombia. I like to say that writing is in my blood. J
About the Author
Alexandra Alessandri is a proud Colombian-American living in South Florida with her husband and son. She received her BA and MA degrees in English Literature from Florida International University and a certificate in fiction from UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. During the day, she teaches English composition, literature and creative writing at Broward College. At night, on the weekends or any chance she gets, she writes speculative fiction for young adults. She’s a member of SCBWI and AWP.
When she’s not home with her family or at work, you can usually find her at Starbucks, sipping on a Caramel Macchiato and writing, revising, or grading. And you can usually hear of her staying up, like she did as a child, reading or writing until her eyes can no longer stay open.