Sunday, September 23, 2007

Interview with Tasha Alexander


I hinted at this interview several months ago, but between Tasha and I and our crazy lives, it got put off until now. But keep reading. It was worth the wait!


Tasha Alexander is the author of two Victorian mysteries, And Only To Deceive and A Poisoned Season. I loved these books--absolutely adored them, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. If you're into historicals, mysteries, light romance, suspense, you name it--these books have got it all. And she's writing more of them! She's also written the recently released sequel to the motion picture Elizabeth, entitled Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Read on for the interview...


1. How do you set about crafting your mysteries? Do you work forwards, backwards, chronologically, chaotically?

I start with characters and let figuring out who they are point me in the direction of their stories. When I first began And Only to Deceive, I had an idea of my protagonist in my head. I knew I wanted to set the book in the late Victorian period, and I knew I wanted her to have a certain degree of independence. To be independent, she couldn't be married--but I didn't want her living with her parents. So I decided she was widowed. But I also wanted her to be relatively young--so I had to figure out how and why she lost her husband. Just beginning to ask these sorts of questions set the plot in motion for me.

2. What sorts of research do you do for your books?

Because I write historicals I'm incredibly dependent on research. My husband is a professor at Vanderbilt University, so I force him to check out of the library there heaps and heaps of books for me. I turn to the internet for some things, but prefer books. As well as looking up details of daily life, geography, train schedules, etcetera, I also like to read fiction from the time about which I'm writing. Victorian popular novels are a lot racier than I'd expected--I was quite surprised!

The book I'm working on now is set in Constantinople, and I'm in the early stages of planning a research trip to Turkey. If all goes as planned, this could be a very excellent thing....

3. How many Emily books would you like to write?

I will keep writing them as long as readers want. The challenge with a series is to keep the books fresh and different without completely removing the familiar from them. There's a measure of comfort from reading a series---it's like sitting down with old friends; familiarity is important. I'm trying to satisfy that with my characters--letting them grow from book to book, but maintaining their primary traits. By putting them in different locations, I'm hoping to keep things from getting stale. The third book in the series, A Fatal Waltz, is set in Vienna and I think readers will fall in love with the city as much as I have.

4. What is your favorite promotional technique, and what what type of promotion do you think is most effective?

I love getting to meet booksellers: whether at a trade show, a traditional booksigning, or just by dropping by stores and signing stock. There's nothing better than getting to know the people who sell your books.

5. Do you have a favorite craft book? A favorite author?

Ann Lamotte's Bird by Bird is my absolute favorite; it makes me laugh. Especially the chapter about the publication process. As for authors, for historical mysteries, Elizabeth Peters and Anne Perry can't be beat. I also love William Boyd, David Mitchell, Pauline Gedge, David Lodge, Nabuib Mahfouz, Arthur Phillips, Haruki Murakami, Carol Shields, Lionel Shriver, Daniel Handler, Jeanette Winterson....the list gets too long really fast.

Some great things I've read lately: Dirty Martini by J.A. Konrath, if you like being scared and somehow laughing at the same time. Dr. Haggard's Disease by Patrick McGrath, a fantastic story told by an unreliable narrator. Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins, which was mesmerizing. Catching Genius by Kristy Kiernan, a stunning debut about two sisters coming together after years being estranged. Every Crooked Pot by Renee Rosen, a coming of age story that will tug at you. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran, an absolutely fabulous novel about the Egyptian queen -- and the best historical I've read in a long time!

6. Do you have any advice for the unpubbed striving for publication?

Read, read, read and write, write, write!

Reading is the best way to learn the craft--you instinctually pick up on what works and what doesn't when you're making your way through books. But no matter how much you read -- or study, or plan, or outline -- you will never, ever get published if you don't write. Try to do it every day. And when you finish one book and it's on submission -- whether you're querying agents or waiting to hear back from publishers -- start your next project. The more you write, the better you'll get.

10 comments:

liz fenwick said...

Great interview. Thanks :-)

Christine d'Abo said...

Fantasic interview. I'm ashamed to admit I haven't heard of Tasha, but I'll be looking her up now. I haven't read a good historical mystery in a long time. :)

Tasha Alexander said...

Alyssa, thanks so much for the fabulous interview! It warms my heart to hear that you like the books...

: )

Samara Leigh said...

Thank you for this terrific interview and introducing me to Tasha Alexander. I can't wait to read both books.

~Virginia~ said...

I love getting referrals for new authors...and I'll definitely be looking into Tasha.

In other book news, your book arrived in my mailbox on Saturday! Unfortunately, it's going to take me a while to plow through my stack of to-be-read books, but I'll get to it! I promise! :)

Vicki said...

Loved the interview. I haven't read any of the books...yet, but they are now on my list to pick up when I hit the BnN this weekend. :)

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Thanks so much for taking a chance on me, Virginia! I hope you enjoy it, but let me know...

Erica Ridley said...

Thanks Alyssa and Tasha! Great interview!

Catherine Avril Morris said...

Wow, very cool! I've never heard of this writer, but I'll check her out now. Great interview.

Eileen said...

I adored Tasha's first book and now I've got to run out and get the second.