Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Author Spotlight: J. Aleksandr Wootton

Author Spotlight:

J. Aleksandr Wootton

Here's an author, whose book, 'Her Unwelcome Inheritance,' we'll be reviewing in the near future!

Get to know author J. Aleksandr Wootton:

1. What inspired you to write your first book?

Wanting my favorite stories not to end, and wanting my favorite characters to go on having adventures. When I was a boy, writing became a way of playing make-believe on paper. I used to get depressed and mope around all day whenever I finished reading a good book. Now that I'm older, and have read a great deal more, I have begun to believe that there is really only one story; and that we are, all of us, engaged in telling it.

2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I am deeply convinced that we humans have not outgrown Faerie or fairytales.

From time to time societies experience hubristic fits of scientific or religious enlightenment, during which people come to believe that they can safely ignore, scorn, or abandon “simple” folk wisdom – only to discover on down the road that they really ought to have spent a few minutes sitting at the feet of the old woman or the uneducated man. It turns out they knew something valuable about life after all.

When we ignore fairytales, we find ourselves living inside them: not as heroes, but as byword-characters – chumps whose mistakes serve as warnings to those who come after us.

Some months ago I wrote an essay titled “On the Supposed Unsuitability of Fairytales for Children,” criticizing the notion that children should be sheltered from fairytales. (You can google the title if you want to read it.) From answering your question I can see I'm going to have to write a followup – on the supposed unsuitability of fairytales for adults!

3. What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing Her Unwelcome Inheritance to life?

I had two main difficulties. One was writing a contemporary story that still had that charming fairytale feel. The other was keeping the proper balance of ideas and action. A modern girl like Petra, whose aunt tells her that Faerie is real just before she goes off to college, is not going to simply accept that as true – even if she's wistfully wished it were for most of her life.

4. Was there a character inspired by a real person? And if so, who?

About halfway through the book, my pseudonym enters the story as a character. I hadn't intended for that to happen – J. Aleksandr Wootton was just a pen name smithed from hammered-together literary references – but then he began to take on a personality and a life of his own. Shortly after that I realized the story I was outlining for the Fayborn series needed a character that matched his description.

In a way, Jack Wootton is my imaginative alter-ego – how I might have turned out if I'd gone on in academia and remained a lonely bachelor. He allows me to speak more directly in my own book than I would be able to otherwise. But like any fictional character, his life is radically different from mine and he thinks in ways – even says and does things – that I could not, or would not.

5. What do you think happened to the characters after the book?

Oh, I know quite a bit about what happens to them! But since the book is part of a series, it would be spoilers to say anything more. I can't even say that “they lived happily ever after,” because some of them definitely don't.

I won't say which, so don't ask ;)

6. If applicable, how many books are there in the series?
One at the time of this interview, with its sequel (The Eighth Square) coming out shortly. The third book, A First or Final Mischief, should be released sometime in 2014.

7. What are your current projects? Are you able to share any with us?
Besides polishing The Eighth Square and getting it ready for publication, I've put together a poetry collection, Forgetting, which will come out later this fall.

I have a couple of other nonfiction projects underway as well, and of course there's my infrequently updated blog,

The best way to keep up with my writing is to sign up for my emailing list at my author website, I only send out a handful of emails a year, so you don't have to worry that I'll flood your inbox.

8. What books have most influenced your life?
My mother grew up in South Africa and attended a British-style boarding school there, so I was introduced to English children's classics early on – Beatrix Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Edith Blyton's Famous Five series, The Wind in the Willows, Robin Hood. Moving on from there to Lloyd Alexander, Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, J.R.R. Tolkien, Homer's Odyssey, Les Miserables, Stephen Lawhead, and (eventually) everything else C.S. Lewis ever wrote, was only natural.

I'm afraid I wasted a lot of time on Star Wars novels in middle and early high school; Timothy Zahn, Aaron Allston, Michael Stackpole, and A.C. Crispin are author stand-outs there.

Recently, T.S. Eliot, G.K. Chesterton, Ursula K. Le Guin, Thomas Lynch, Peter S. Beagle, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, and graphics novels like Alan Moore's V for Vendetta and Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, have found much-deserved places on my shelf of favorites.

And I continue to be astonished by the Bible. As a literary work assembled over thousands of years from many different cultures, its most recent additions nearly twenty centuries old, its degree of relevance to my everyday life is unmatched by all other books I've read so far. A book like that gets your attention; you go back to it again and again.

9. When and why did you begin writing?
When I was 8, I naively thought that there weren't enough good books in the world, books that told the kind of stories I wanted to read – and I naively thought that I could write such a book.

Of course I was wrong on both counts, but I've been writing ever since.

10. Do you have any advice for other indie authors?
Plenty. Follow my blog for the whole scoop – I'll be posting a handbook for other indie authors based on my digital self-publishing adventures in another month or three.

11. Do you have anything specific you would like share with your readers?
A big thank-you for all the positive feedback so far! I can't wait to hear what you think of the next one :)

Only a few more weeks to go until The Eighth Square is published! See you then.

Jack Wootton

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