New York Times bestselling author, Alethea Kontis, is a talented writer with an amazingly diverse portfolio of work. She co-authored Sherrilyn Kenyon’s The Dark-Hunter Companion, wrote the YA fairy tale Enchanted, penned the AlphaOops children’s books, and the recently released The Wonderland Alphabet (“rated E for Everyone”), as well as numerous other shorter pieces. She’s also a monthly book reviewer for Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. (And she takes unbelievably adorable author pics!) When I was putting together my 2012 Spring Into Summer Romance Book Blast, she graciously agreed to an interview.
Alethea Kontis on Alphabet Stories, Fairy Tale Characters, and Doing Good Deeds
You’ve worked on a number of different projects. Children’s books, a young adult novel, short stories, essays and poems. You’ve edited an anthology and wrote a non-fiction companion guide to one of the most popular urban fantasy series around.
Which of your projects was the most challenging? The most rewarding? Do you prefer writing in one form over another?
Oh, no…this is like picking favorite children! I prefer different forms at different times, which is why it’s SO GREAT that I’ve been able to publish a little bit of everything. Every project I work on is excessively rewarding, for different reasons.
Editing ELEMENTAL was challenging because it was one of the first major projects I ever did, and I was very apprehensive about asking Arthur C. Clarke to sign a contract, asking Kevin J. Anderson if I could publish a Dune story for free, and asking William C. Dietz if he could please kill a few more people. (In his story.) ELEMENTAL was an amazing experience for me as a young writer.
Publishing the ENCHANTED series has been an amazing experience as well, because these novels are what I’ve been working toward my whole life. My father read books to me every night when I was a baby–I was reading them myself by the age of three. I loved nursery rhymes fairy tales. All of them, preferably unexpurgated. It’s such an honor to be able to mix and mash and make them all mine.
THE WONDERLAND ALPHABET is special too, because 1.) I get to work with my dear friend Janet K. Lee, 2.) I get to play in Wonderland, 3.) I get to write silly poetry like Ogden Nash, Shel Silverstein, and Gelett Burgess, and 4.) It’s for babies! It’s for kids! It’s for adults! It’s for everyone!
Your two earlier children’s books were AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First and AlphaOops! H is for Halloween, which were both fantastic and utterly fun to read. I loved how you gave each letter of the alphabet its own personality. My daughters and I read them together and came up with a few questions:
How many times fast can you say the alphabet in the “Day Z Went First” order?
I can’t do it at all. I thought about learning it, but the Alphabet Players keep messing it up. I can sing the Alphabet Song backwards, though, no problem.
What was it like working with illustrator Bob Kolar?
Strangely enough, I didn’t work with him at all. Everything we did had to go through Candlewick first, so we never actually interacted with each other. The publisher didn’t even give me his email address until the first book was published…at which point I wrote him a HUGE fan letter.
When is AlphaOops! C is for Christmas coming out?
Your guess is as good as mine! Publishing is weird. If you’re a fan and would like to ask the publisher yourself, email: email@example.com.
Do you think “A” is an over Achiever? 🙂
I think A would be an overachiever if she could, but she doesn’t usually have much time to prepare. Z is a major bossypants, though, and V has some serious Anger Management issues.
You edited the anthology Elemental, which was published in 2006 to help raise money for the survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It collected the new and never-before-published works of a number of distinguished science fiction and fantasy authors, including short stories by Jacqueline Carey, Larry Niven, Brian Herbert, and an introduction by Arthur C. Clarke.
What was it like to work with such an august group of writers? How is the order of stories for anthologies established? Do the editors decide? Were the stories arranged so that the collection as a whole allows the reader to take an emotional journey?
There were technically three editors for ELEMENTAL: Me, Steve Savile, and David Hartwell at Tor. Steve came up with the idea. I landed the publisher, communicated with the authors, collected & delivered contracts, edited stories & wrote all the intros. David was the one who chose the final Table of Contents lineup. (Irene Gallo gave us our amazing Michael Whelan cover.)
“Meeting” (some I still haven’t met in person) and communicating with all these amazing authors definitely changed my life. I forged some amazing friendships I would never have imagined I’d have, friendships that saved my life at times. I have a contract with Arthur C. Clarke’s signature on it. My very first book signing was at Forbidden Planet in London with Stel Pavlou and Michael Marshall Smith. How many sci-fi geek girls can say that?
Enchanted is a young adult fantasy novel about Sunday Woodcutter, a heroine who was born on the Sabbath Day and is “blithe and bonny and good and gay” or as Sunday puts it “doomed to a happy life.”
When did you come up with the idea to base a protagonist on a day of the week?
It all started with a fairy tale short story contest in the Codex Writers Group. Someone mentioned the “Monday’s Child is Fair of Face” poem. A Sabbath Day Child myself, I’ve always had issues with that one, so I decided to write those into the story.
Does Sunday carry an ax? Has she ever chopped down a tree?
I imagine not. Sunday is very small in stature and just doesn’t have the brute strength like her giantess sister Saturday. Mama has enough chores to be done around the Woodcutter household without giving another child up to the Wood.
Have you ever kissed a frog?
Probably. I don’t remember. What I do remember is that I once tried doing what the princess in the original “Frog Prince” fairy tale did. It scarred me for life. <shiver>
So I gotta also ask…
What movie are you most looking forward to this summer and why?
I was looking forward to The Avengers–seen it and loved it. Now I’m looking forward to Snow White & the Huntsman, which I can’t see until I’m done with book tour! <Grumble>
What do you like to do when you’re not writing or doing book related stuff?
Watch TV with my Fairy Goddaughters. Go to the beach. Read. Snuggle with my Fairy Godboyfriend. NOT BE ONLINE.
I read somewhere that you make the best baklava. Who taught you how to bake? Ever considered a AlphaOops! children’s cookbook? “B” seems like he’d be great to work with! 😉
My mother and father are both fabulous cooks. I was never allowed to have an Easy Bake Oven — we had a REAL oven! If I wanted to bake, I could use that! (This is a pic of me in the kitchen at 4 or 5).
If Candlewick wanted me to do an AlphaOops Cookbook, that would BE TOTALLY AWESOME. How much fun would we have?!?
Alethea, thanks so much for such an awesome interview! Best wishes and happy writing!
So readers and writers, what about you? Do you love alphabet stories? How about fairy tales? What day of the week were you born on? Have you kissed any frogs lately? Have a terrific weekend, everyone. I hope you’re able to spend some time reading! 😀