Friday, May 9, 2014

Feature Friday: Alexandra Duncan

Alexandra Duncan is a writer and librarian. Her first novel, Salvage, was published by Greenwillow Books in April 2014. Her short fiction has been featured in several Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy anthologies and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She loves anything that gets her hands dirty – pie-baking, leatherworking, gardening, drawing, and rolling sushi. She lives with her husband and two monstrous, furry cats in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Interview: 

A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Alexandra:
Writing seems like a solitary occupation, but you don’t have to go it alone. Join a writing circle or team up with a friend who is as serious about writing as you are so that you can give each other feedback and encouragement. Everyone who has been published experienced rejection at some point in their career. Help each other through the hard times and celebrate with each other when you succeed.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Alexandra: 
Only one? Oh no! I don’t know if I have a single favorite book, but my favorite author is Ursula LeGuin. Whenever I read her books, I become completely immersed in the different worlds she has created. They’re full of completely believable societies with their own myths and prejudices. Reading her is like taking a master class in worldbuilding.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Salvage?

Alexandra: 
Salvage grew out of a short story I wrote called “Bad Matter,” which was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2009. It featured the merchant crewe society Ava belongs to. The idea for that society came from my experience growing up in a small, rural church where women and girls had a lot of responsibilities, but there were also very strict expectations about their behavior. I wanted to use this science fictional setting to explore what it’s like to buy into a worldview where women are nominally treasured, but also restricted.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Salvage?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Alexandra: 
Probably the place where I had the most trouble was after Ava lands in Mumbai. I wrote and rewrote that half of the book over and over again. There was an early version where Ava was kidnapped at one point and a scene involving a cricket game. Some of those snags I recognized and fixed right away, but as for the others, I have my editor and my first reader friends to thank for steering me in the right direction. They didn’t explicitly tell me what to do, but they did tell me when the things I had written weren’t working.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Salvage is your favorite and why?

Alexandra: 
In some ways, you have to like your main character the most, because you’re going to be spending so much time inside her head. That said, the character that was the most fun to write was Miyole. She may be incredibly smart, but she’s still a kid and likely to do kid things like get excited over showing off her mom’s ship or start making up songs for herself. I have four younger siblings, so some of the things Miyole does are definitely inspired by the way they acted when they were little.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Alexandra: 
I started out writing short stories after college. After several of them had been published, that attracted the attention of an agent who suggested I write a novel. I had begun several novels in the past and participated in NaNoWriMo, but I had never finished any of them. Hearing that other people were interested in seeing a novel from me gave me the confidence to follow through and finish the novel that would eventually be Salvage. I ended up signing with Kate Schafer Testerman, who is a wonderful agent, and she sold Salvage to Greenwillow Books. Part of me still can’t believe all of that really happened.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Alexandra: 
I’m working on a companion novel to Salvage. It follows a teenage Miyole on her adventures in deep space.

A.L.:
How did you go about writing a novel with a female protagonist surrounded by mostly men?  Was there something in particular you sought to cover in such a set-up?

Alexandra: 
Men have the power in Ava’s world, but I think it’s important to point out that the women buy into the way their society is run, as well. You see that same dynamic in a lot of religious societies in our world and with issues like female genital mutilation. Women are not simply afraid to speak up – or not always. Sometimes they help perpetrate the same harm on girls that was perpetrated against them when they were younger. They accept that this is simply how the world works because they have never seen an alternative.

A.L.:
You're going out to sushi, what are you going to order?

Alexandra: 
I love some plain tuna or salmon maki with ginger, but my absolute favorite thing is a New York New York Roll. My favorite local sushi restaurant makes it with tuna, salmon, tobiko, a little bit of crunchy, and a sweet sauce. Basically, I am going to order all of the sushi and try to convince my friends to help me eat it.

A.L.:
What kind of leather-working do you do?  Can we see pictures?

Alexandra: 
I’m ashamed to say, I actually haven’t done a lot of leather working lately. I tend to learn things so that I can show the teens at my library how to do them, and then something else catches my attention and I learn how to do that thing, too. My most recent projects have been teaching myself how to make boba tea, folding origami cranes, and learning to shoot a handgun. (That last one is something I will not be teaching to anyone at the library.) Here is a picture of my office, with all the origami cranes I’ve made strung up above my window, though.

The Giveaway:
Alexandra will be giving away a signed copy of SALVAGE and a magnet. (US/CANADA)

Salvage:  Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Read Goodreads reviews.
Buy on Amazon.
Buy on Barnes and Noble.

How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the arrow buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter).  US/CANADA.  I will contact the winner via email.

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