A British-American citizen of Italian heritage, Alexia is an editor, teacher and writing consultant. After studying psychology then educational technology at Cambridge, she moved to New York to work on a Tony-award-winning Broadway show before completing a PhD and teaching qualification. In between, she worked as a West End script-critic, box-office manager for a music festival and executive editor of a human rights journal. Alexia has always wanted a Dragon; luckily, she has her very own rib in a pot …
Yesterday Alexia talked about What is the purpose of YA fiction? What should and shouldn’t it do – and how? today (because she’s that awesome) Alexia is back for to answer the Quickfire Round.
If you look closely you might notice The Bone Dragon gracing us… *chuffed*
Before we start let’s talk a little about The Bone Dragon, now shortlisted for the 2014 Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize! If you don’t know about it by now you must be a brand new visitor (welcome, thanks for coming) because I LOVE THIS BOOK. It was my Book of the Year 2013 and if you haven’t read it yet, please do. It’s so beautiful.
Now then, let’s get started on the *drumroll*
If you could have one magical power, what would it be?
I would say the power to SMITE, but that is what a Dragon is for and I don’t want to imply that I’m at all willing to do without mine. Instead, how about a nice bit of telepathic suggestion? Just think of what you could discover if you could fool people into believing you were someone else – endless documentary access! – not to mention being able to get people who commit nasty crimes to ‘fess up. Or implanting comfort and confidence directly into the heads of people who’re unhappy. I’d also quite like being able to transfigure myself. My Fairy Goddaughter is already convinced I am magical, but it would be supercool to turn up with working wings at least once.
Best thing about being a writer?
When it’s going well, everything. But possibly the best bit of all is when you realise that through your words you’ve put the same thoughts and feelings and images into someone else’s head: the closest we ever get to not being alone in there. But the bit where characters suddenly become real, separate people, living in your head, is pretty amazing too.
And the worst?
When it’s going badly, everything. It’s a toss up between realising that something that is wonderful is your imagination just cannot be put into words, and just not being able to work out what’s wrong/missing. That grating feeling of knowing it’s just not quite right.
What should never be done in the presence of a Dragon?
We might be here for a while, folks…
…In summary: behave as a Dragon would wish if you to. Or else.
Can you recommend a book to read?
Just *one*? Um… Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams for writers. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society/Geek Girl for a dark, wet day. Diana Wynne Jones (start with Howl’s Moving Castle, Deep Secret or Charmed Life) for cold nights curled up with a cat. The Secret Garden/River Boy by Tim Bowler for grieving. Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey for a fantastic plot. Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers for gloriously inventive prose. Persuasion by Jane Austen for how a writer develops. Anne Tyler for people and relationships (start with Celestial Navigation). Hilary Mantel for how people are politics. Margaret Atwood Alias Grace for how all truth, beyond simple facts, is fiction.
Most surreal moment since you sold The Bone Dragon?
Being invited to the Hay and Edinburgh Book Festivals before the book was released. Literally left me speechless. But I still have a very odd start every morning when I go into my study and see My Book on the shelf. Weird and very, very wonderful.
When no one is watching do you dance?
Often. Mostly badly. But with great enjoyment. To be fair, I do the same when people are watching. Life’s too short not to be happy every chance you get.
Favourite dish? (can we have the recipe)
Oooooo, good question! I *love* food. As with books, I just can’t pick! Possible my version of my grandmother’s sugo (Italian for sauce, usually implying a meat sauce).
Do you rearrange displays in bookstores?
No. Is this a thing? I quite often stoke any copies of my book I see on shelves, though. Is that OK instead?
What is the question you wish they’d ask, but never do?
Good question! Maybe ‘So how *does* it all fit together?’ – but it would only be fun to answer if everyone present had read the book. Another good one would be ‘So does Evie have PTSD?’ Or (assuming people have read the book) ‘Which golden rules of narrative did you break and why?’
The Bone Dragon is now out in paperback!
Everyone at school thinks that Evie broke her ribs in a car crash … Evie doesn’t talk about why she was adopted and why she really needed an operation. Because some things should never be said.
Now, she is safe and even has a souvenir from hospital – a piece of rib bone, which she carves into a dragon. And it comes to life at night in Dragon-dreams, helping Evie to heal, giving her strength.
But some things cannot be fixed. Some things are too terrible to be forgiven. Sometimes, vengeance must be taken and it seems the Dragon is the one to take it, while Evie looks on.
This sensitive and extraordinary first novel announces a new literary talent set to join the likes of Meg Rosoff, John Boyne and Siobhan Dowd.
You can see me review HERE