Monday, February 22, 2016

Interview with author Alexandra Engellmann

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m just a typical fangirl who doesn’t want to grow up. Unlike many authors who say they have always wanted to be writers, I never planned any of this. I did read a lot when I was in school, but then teenage interests got in the way, and my dreams were all about music. Thanks to it, I began learning English when I was twelve, and this is why when at 18 I got an idea for a book about American characters, I didn’t kill it on the spot. My interest for books rekindled, and the more I read, the more my own story developed. It also made me start drawing again, something I haven’t done since I was a child, and now, these two passions are very important to me. I also still play guitar, find a lot of inspiration in movies and TV series with a good plot, and try to get out of the house more often. I don’t think there’s another twenty-four-year-old person in the city who can spend a month without leaving the house, but I’m always busy working on something. I’m a workaholic and a perfectionist, and I’ve made my peace with it.

Q ~ If you could have coffee (or tea) with any author who would it be and what would you ask them? And what would you have?
Only tea for me. Coffee is the Devil’s drink.

It may sound strange coming from a writer, but I’m not particularly interested in any author. I think writing is individual, and there’s no reason to pry. Each of us does it in their own way, and I’m more interested in stories and the things they can teach me.

But if I had to choose one, it would be Jane Austen, and I would ask her what it was like to be a female author back then and participate in this quiet cultural revolution. Even though I was raised on the works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, I don’t admire them in the same way as I admire Jane Austen.

Q ~ How do you think people perceive authors?
I can’t say that I think about it very much, but it seems, there’s a great deal of romanticizing. Writing is perceived as something magical, based on sheer talent, and being a full-time writer as a simple, happy, peaceful job. But in truth, nothing had me more frustrated, nothing made me learn patience, persistence, and hard work, like writing (and I’ve worked in many fields since I was 15). A good writer has no less discipline than a good athlete, and no less wit than a chess champion.

Q ~ How do you feel about self-publishing?
I feel like it’s the only way for writers like me, who need full control over their stories and want to figure out their own way. However, it’s not for those who are not ready to dedicate all their time to it and learn all about it. If you simply want to write, and marketing is not something you’re interested in, then you’ll have to give away some of your author’s freedom and sign with a publishing house.

Q ~ What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” - Marianne Williamson

I first heard it in Coach Carter, and it’s the only quote I know that points out such a serious, deep, and important matter.

Q ~ What is your favourite genre to read? To write?
Fantasy. It simply presents so many more possibilities for unusual character development than realistic stories. I prefer character-driven stories, and the world-building on itself isn’t important to me. Still, I plan to write in different genres, including thriller, adventure, and drama.

Q ~ Are there any new (or new to you) Authors that have grasped your interest recently and why?
The last one was Patrick Rothfuss. Although I was somewhat annoyed with his second book, his style is still the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I haven’t had a level-up like that for a long time, and I look forward to the next author who will turn my vision upside down.

The other reason why his books grasped my interest was the number of scenes that caused genuine conflicted feelings, and how he wasn’t afraid of making his character suffer. Books where everything works itself out might have been nice to read when I was younger, but now, I want stories to be unpredictable, messy, and tragic. Just like in real life.

Q ~ How did you begin writing? Was there a single catalyst or a series of events?
Just an idea. It always started with an idea, and I had a few before Sky Ghosts. I was looking for something to dedicate myself to for as long as I can remember. The bigger the idea grew in my head, the stronger was my need to write it down so I could get it out. Eventually, I began to want to see it as a finished product, how it would read as a whole. Then, to share it with others. It was a series of simple needs like that that kept me motivated, and the characters that had me interested.

Q ~ Do you have any writing rituals that you follow? What is your go-to snack while writing?
No snacks, as it’s too distracting. When I write, I completely zone out. I don’t have any particular rituals, but I do need to know that I have a few hours ahead, that no one will bother me, that I’m well and comfortable, and the next part of the story is either well-developed in my imagination, or exciting enough to make it up on the spot, knowing how it should end.

Q ~ Do you prefer to write in a small town or big city setting? Why?
I prefer to write alone in a dark room behind a soundproof door, where only my cat is allowed, so the setting doesn’t really matter) However, I’ve always been a small city girl, and the peace it gives me is a big part of me and my mindset. It was actually during the period of me trying to move to a big city when I realized that I was on a wrong track, and the only thing I wanted to do was write my stories and hopefully, not work a mind-numbing day job. I do work outside occasionally, when I go to write by the lake or in a park or a small quiet café, and I don’t think it would be possible in a big city. There’s a great deal of comfort living in a city where one knows another if not directly, then through a common friend. I hope to move to an even smaller city by the sea coast not far away from my hometown.

Q ~ Can you tell us a little bit about your latest release and what inspired you to write it?
My latest release was a short novella about two of my characters, Sky Ghosts: Marco. The readers’ love for Marco and his friendship with Pain was the main inspiration behind it. The other reason was my desire to unveil more about my characters’ past, and later, I’ve come up with two more great ideas for side stories that will come out in between the three big books. They will probably have a simpler storyline, but it will be more about character development than plot. They will make the big trilogy that much more meaningful, and give it more depth. Besides, starting with Sky Ghosts: Marco, the side stories will have more clues to the main storyline, planted there for the most interested of readers.

Q ~ What is your favourite part or scene in Sky Ghosts: All For One?
The beginning, when the boys arrive at the place and see this secret world for the first time. It will always be my favourite part in any fantasy book – getting to know the characters and their world, and how magical it seems. Too bad, there’s no way to re-read a book or re-watch a movie with the same excitement and wonderment.

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about the process that went behind the cover artwork for this novel?
The first cover was pretty simple, and since I didn’t have any experience at digital painting back then, I had to stick with a character’s face and black-and-white gamma. Later, I realized how many issues that cover had, and I knew I needed something more interesting. I knew I had to paint a character in full height and more detail, so I started researching different ideas on Pinterest. I quickly settled on the idea of a winged warrior, but I didn’t want the wings to be realistic, as my characters don’t have them and neither do they have anything to do with angels. I found a few pictures with different postures that I liked and tried painting one of them. I didn’t have any good reference pictures for the detailed figure though, so I struggled for a while, and then struggled some more with drawing ethereal, bloody wings. It was my first detailed, hyper-realistic artwork in color, and it took 3 weeks while working a day job and drawing at night; and 60 hours of work overall, but I love it. When you don’t really know what you want, and you’re too big on detail to settle for something that’s not quite how you imagined it, making it yourself is the only way.

Q ~ What is your process for choosing character names?
Most of my characters are named after my favourite musicians, actors, movie characters, or my friends. I do use random names, but only if they appear on their own together with the image of the character, like with Peter and Jerry. I couldn’t explain it, but I couldn’t give them any other name. The secondary characters that are only mentioned briefly usually have a temporary name while I work on the book, and later, I still change it to something that has a special meaning to me. Cooper is a perfect example: he was named after Cooper in Interstellar right after I watched the movie and fell in love with the story and atmosphere. I just can’t let a name that has no meaning for me to be in my books.

I’m planning to share the full list of all names and their history on my Patreon page, together with a list of interesting facts about Sky Ghosts.

Q ~ What characters did you find yourself especially drawn to and why?
If I had to pick someone that’s different from the others, it would be Skull. They are all important to me, but he’s the only one who stands out. Maybe because he’s the one who has that quiet, introverted part of me that’s too closed off from the world to fully understand it. It’s a mystery to me, honestly. But I like how he was made up on the spot as a secondary character, and later, developed into someone completely different, all on his own. It’s him and Doc that could become the inspiration for a 7th book of the Sky Ghosts series, but that will depend on the readers’ demand.

Q ~ What are you working on next?
At the moment, I’m working on the next big book, Sky Ghosts #2, which has been living in my head for two years now. I’ve saved over 70 scenes for it, and more for the other three books in the series, and currently, I’m expanding the outline to fit in the new ideas that I come up with as I write. It will take months, but I would never sacrifice the quality and depth of my work for faster releases, and I look forward to sharing it with my readers. It will be a lot more complex than the first book, which was basically created when I was 18. The whole series is like a huge, many-layered puzzle now, and I can’t wait to see who will figure it all out first.

Q ~ Do you have any conferences/book signings/events coming up?
Unfortunately, no. Self-publishing as you know it only exists in Europe and America, and I’m here in Russia, so no live events for me. I did try a few online author events, but I found out it’s all about authors, not readers, and I’m not interested in that.

Q ~ If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?
Believe in your story. If it has a place in your heart, if you can’t let it go and keep thinking about it day and night, then it’s worth telling. You don’t have to know how it ends, or even begins. At least, give it a thought, and then decide whether it’s worth your time or not. But don’t give up just because you don’t have a clear picture.

About the author:
Alexandra Engellmann never planned to become a writer. When at 18 years old she got an idea for a book, she was working as a tech support supervisor for a big dating site. Five years later, the book became all she could think about, and she left her day job, scarred for life.

Her first book has since turned into a series in the young adult urban fantasy genre, and the two books of her Sky Ghosts series are now available at Amazon. Alexandra works as a freelance artist, creating book covers for fellow authors, which can be found on her website: Her free time she spends writing, tweeting way too much, nerding out on movies, and occasionally riding her mountain bike. 

Read more about Alexandra and support her on Patreon
Connect with her on Twitter: @engellmann
Feel free to contact her via email if you'd like to become an ARC reader or simply want to chat:

About Sky Ghosts: All For One

"The Avengers meet Shadowhunters!"

Unseen in their black gear against the night sky, there are Sky Ghosts - gifted warriors who have been hiding among humans for centuries. They are bodyguards of the highest caliber and protectors of their cities at night, when they hunt those who choose the dark side, Sky Beasts.
Jane and Pain from the New York Ghosts Headquarters don't think twice about beheading a Beast or two. One night, they save two young men from their enemies' blades and find themselves in the middle of a war. As they put their lives at stake to save their wards, the main mystery remains unsolved: why would the Beasts hunt two ordinary human boys?

Spellbinding and violent, Alexandra Engellmann's Sky Ghosts series is exactly what Urban fantasy fans are looking for - a blend of action, humor, mystery, and a unique magic system.

Book Links
my review

About Sky Ghosts: Marco

It was hate at first sight. She broke chairs on his head, and in return he broke her bones.

When Marco joined the New York Sky Ghosts Headquarters, he expected trouble. What he didn't expect was a girl half his size that would turn his life into hell. They spilled too much of each other's blood for any hope for reconciliation. How did it happen that they ended up spilling blood for each other on a daily basis?

Sky Ghosts: Marco is the second book in the Sky Ghosts series, a young adult urban fantasy adventure for the fans of sword fighting, martial arts, and supernatural powers. If you liked Sky Ghosts: All for One, this short story is a must-read before the next part of the trilogy.

Book Links
my review

No comments:

Post a Comment