My interview in The Observator
A few weeks ago, I was approached by the editor of The Observator (a local Romanian newspaper) for an author interview. Through my mom, they'd heard of my publications and thought it would be a good opportunity to showcase me to the Romanian community. Below is a simplified English version of the article :)
NOTE: The interview is now live and published on their site:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your Romanian connection. Why do you write under a pseudonym?
I was born in Romania in 1992. When I was only 11, my parents moved to Canada. We lived for a bit in Montreal, then moved to Toronto, and I ended up in Ottawa for University and stayed here. Though I never lived under Communism in Romania, my parents did, and growing up I still remember my father telling me not to speak “too loud” for fear of neighbours hearing my political opinions. This approach of his would continue even in Canada, and I think seeing him, specifically, with the wounds of that time period, I learned to grow up wary. Writing under a pseudonym protects me and my family, and gives me the freedom to be two people at once. In private, I can be Iulia, daughter, mom to two dogs, wife, hard worker. And in public, I get to be Alexa, the intrepid author who’s not afraid to speak her mind, jump into controversial conversations and lend a helping hand to fellow authors. What would you say sparked your writing? Why do you love writing?
Moving to Canada was hard for my young self. In Romania, I learned English but had only started to learn French. Since we landed in Montreal, this meant I was at a disadvantage. So while I poured over books to learn the language, and fed my thirst of knowledge, I also started envisioning worlds of my own. It was really the move to Toronto that sparked my writing. On top of my strong European accent when speaking, coming from a French province into an English one means you’re stuck in the middle. You’re either too French for someone, or too English. Faced with this new type of discrimination, I retreated into myself and aside from the good friends I grew up with in high school, my focus went to my books. That’s when I started my first series for young adults, The Sage’s Legacy, and by the time I was halfway through high school I had finished two manuscripts. Writing was/is what makes me the happiest. With each stroke of the pen (or keyboard!) the reality around me falls into a faint echo, replaced by the beauty of the world I create. The conflicts and obstacles in my novels are surmountable, whereas in real life, that’s not always the case. The control and the ability to lose myself in writing is what really makes it appealing to me,
Do you have a favourite place to write, or do you give free reign to your thoughts wherever when the mood strikes?
I could honestly write anywhere, as long as the inspiration is there. I’ve written at work on short breaks and lunches, in class while listening to a professor give their lecture, in the park while walking my dogs… I think even at a restaurant once! All I need is pen, paper (napkin, flyer, you name it) and I’m gone. My husband jokes that I forget everything else around when my characters start “talking” to me, and I suppose that’s true. I love writing by water, be it on a beach or by a cottage near the lake… Nothing puts me at ease more than the quietude. If I could have a boat, it would be perfect!
But you work, and you’ve gone to school. How do you find the time to write?
Yes, I can’t say that I get bored that’s for sure. One of the things I find the hardest to understand is someone speaking of a passion yet finishing with “I don’t have the time”. That has never been my issue. When I worked 40hrs while in university full time, I found an hour in the middle of the night to write. When I was in class, I would take my notes and jotted all over my notebooks in the margins were ideas for a chapter, or a character, etc. Now that I’m out of university and juggling a job as well as a family life, I take every free moment for myself and use it to write. It’s how I was able to put out 4 novels last year, and finish my series on Avalon this year plus start a new one. Perseverance, and a lot of sacrifice, is the name of the game. Did you always know you were going to be an author? And would you say living in Canada helped your pursue your writing career or hindered it?
I didn’t always know… To be honest, towards the end of my high school, I went through a phase where I stopped writing. My mom was always there for me to encourage me, but I can’t say the same for the rest of my family. And sometimes, going through hard times means taking time off what makes you happy and focusing on yourself, to make yourself happy. That’s what I did when I went to university, and it was only after I dealt with some things and met my husband that I reconnected with my love of writing. His support and my mom’s were instrumental in me deciding to go back to writing and making a career out of this.
And despite what I mentioned above, the discrimination and hardships, I think living in Canada helped me pursue my career. I never would have known of the variety of ways you can get published if I’d been in Romania, and the events in my life in Canada are what sparked my love for writing. So yes, there is definitely a silver lining there, something much easier to see now as an adult than as a child going through it. What’s your writing process like – how long does it take you to write a book, edit it, etc.? Do you incorporate your Romanian heritage?
Chaotic is the word. If you saw one of my manuscripts in its rough stages, you wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. Half of it written in a notebook, a quarter on napkins and other papers and the remaining quarter on my tablet. No coherence to the chapters from the outside, since I write each scene as it comes to me. More often than not, I start writing my stories in the middle, continue to the end, then return back to the beginning. Depending on the novel, I’ll spend about a month on a rough draft, then go through edits. I have a professional editor and cover designer that I go to, then I get my manuscript back and work on making all the changes myself. It’s a strenuous process, but the satisfaction when I write “The End” and put that last period, nothing quite compares to it. As for my Romanian heritage, I think it shows in anything from the way my characters tackle their obstacles to the phrasing I use sometimes.
I joke that as much as I grew up near mountains with folklore, writing about werewolves and vampires wasn’t my go-to idea. Rather, I started with a retelling of King Arthur’s story (of all things!) that follows its most obscure character, the Lady of the Lake. My Avalon Chronicles series was my debut published work, followed by my young adult series I wrote when in high school. At first read, neither really have anything that screams “Romanian writer!”, but I’ve been told the personality shows through, especially in my female characters. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Get-rich-quick money schemes. You wouldn’t believe how many so-called “publishing companies” exist in North America that promise you’ll get published, take your money, and do absolutely nothing that you can’t do yourself. The best weapon is knowledge, so for any aspiring writers out there, the best thing I can say is: do your research. And ask yourself if you’re willing to spend money on something that you can do yourself, with a lot of hard work? Do you try to be more original or deliver to readers what they want? What are your series like?
I can’t write a recipe. What I mean is, most books out there in a specific genre follow a “recipe”. For romance, it’s always a boy-meets-girl story, and they either hate/like each other, followed by a relationship, followed by a big misunderstanding, and ending with a happily ever after. Most fantasy/scifi novels now seem to use the Hunger Games and Divergent recipes – hero/heroine loses someone dear to themselves and rebels against the governing authority.
For myself, all my series fall into at least two categories. That’s the problem with being unique, is that you don’t quite fit in a box. So my Avalon Chronicles series, it’s a mix of fantasy but also paranormal romance. My young adult series, it’s a teenager-type book but also filled with fantasy and paranormal elements. And my latest wolf series, well, that’s nothing like any werewolf story you fell across!
Tell us more about this latest series, the one on Transylvanian werewolves.
It’s called Moonlight Rogues, and the first book is out now, First to Fall in both ebook and paperback formats. Now, for starters, I rebelled against writing werewolf books. The main reason is because they’ve become so popular yet predictable, and I wanted to write something unique. Even once I wrote this, I told my cover designer I specifically wanted a model that was “dressed and not cheesy” so when she came up with the cover, I was blown away.
Anyway, when I finally gave in to my inspiration and worked on the first chapter, what I got was not an alpha werewolf, but a Romanian varcolac. Then his entire pack expanded to include werewolves from various folklores, including Brazilian, Celtic and Italian. Needless to say, the book does have a romantic element. But above all that, we follow the story of Dominic Kosta, a werewolf who’s given up everything for some peace and quiet in the middle of nowhere. Yet just when he thinks he’s found the girl to spend the rest of his life with, his family from overseas comes tumbling in, destroying everything in its wake.
There are very strong folkloric elements in this, including the idea of the Romanian varcolac, the Greek vrykolakas creature, and even an appearance by our good fairy, Ileana Cozanzeana.
As with most of my series, this one has evolved and will now have at least four books to follow each main werewolf, as more and more folkloric elements are introduced. Critics for now seem to be generous, accepting my new take on the paranormal romance of werewolves and enjoying the ride.
What else can readers expect from you in the future? And should they wish to reach out to you, how can they do so?
More books, for starters! Even as I’m working on these stories, more seem to be gathering in my mind, and I have no doubt I’ll end up with a few more series down the line. I’m really excited about my new novel for this fall 2018, Blazing in a Storm of Ashes. It follows the story of a phoenix, of all things, who has to go on a quest through the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, accompanied by a demon and an angel that are her guardians. It’s a story full of action and fun, and I only hope I can do Romania justice in descriptions! Of course, I’ll also be releasing my second werewolf novel, Second to Surrender by the end of the year, so that’ll be a load of fun.
As for reaching me, that’s easy ! Type Alexa Whitewolf in Google, and you’ll be led to most of my social media sites. I also have a website at www.alexawhitewolf.com where my books can be sampled and purchased.