Born in Yugoslavia on the shores of the river Danube and educated in England, Alma Alexander is the author of the Young Adult fantasy series, the Worldweavers trilogy, published by Harper Collins. After earning her Master of Science degree in Microbiology, she decided to leave the lab and write about it instead. She has worked as a literary critic for various publications and also as an editor with an international educational publisher. In this interview, Alma talks about her fantasy series and also about various aspects of the writing and publishing process.
Thanks for being here today, Alma. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
I’m a writer. That short, simple sentence covers a vast amount of material about me – I practically knew how to read before I could properly talk, having taught myself how to do it when not much older than three, because my mother refused to read a favorite book to me yet again – so I just went off and learned to read it myself. I’ve been in love with language all my life. I kind of detoured into other waters for a while and hold an Master of Science degree in Microbiology and Molecular Biology as my highest academic qualification, but I worked in that field for only a short while before I realised I would rather write about science than practice it. So I did that for a while, segued into straight editorial work with a commercial/educational publisher, and then started to write full-time which I have now been doing for a decade. I’ve lived and worked on four continents, and certainly visited all of them except South America (I do plan to remedy that); I currently reside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest region of the United States, with my husband and two cats.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
When someone asked Ursula Le Guin what she would be if she wasn’t a writer, she answered succinctly, “Dead.” The same applies to me, really. I made no conscious decision to “be a writer” – I was mugged, hauled off into a dark alley, and presented with a stark choice – write or die. I’ve been writing since I was five years old; I wrote my first (unspeakably bad and thankfully deceased) novel when I was eleven, and my first reasonably GOOD and wholly original novel (which still exists, all 500-odd handwritten pages of it) at 15. I started winning writing awards at 12.
But perhaps that is a double-edged question. I always knew I was a writer. I realised I wanted to become an author – a writer who makes writing her sole career – when my then school brought in Lynne Reid Banks as a visiting author one rainy autumn evening, and I watched her talk about all the furies and frustrations of the writer’s life – all the rejections, the writer’s-block, the waiting, the endless revisions, the frustration, the bad reviews, did I mention the endless waiting…? – with the light of angels in her eyes and I realised that she was telling us the unvarnished truth but also that she could not live any other kind of life. And the little hairs on the back of my neck lifted in a kind of superstitious awe, and I thought to myself, “Yes. That. I want THAT.” You might say that was the moment I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.