Chat with Alexandra Sirowy (The Telling), Exclusive Excerpt, Plus Giveaway!
Today we're excited to chat with Alexandra Sirowy, Author of The Telling!!
Below you'll find more about Alexandra, her book, plus a giveaway!
What surprised you most while writing your latest book?
I started writing THE TELLING a few weeks after my first book, THE CREEPING, sold to my publisher. And despite the similarity of their titles, my first novel wasn’t a series, so I needed to start from scratch. I think of those first stages of drafting as casting a line out from your brain and seeing what sticks when you reel it back in. I was staying on a small island in the Puget Sound, at the time. Sailboats cut through the indigo waters, bonfires dotted beaches, and there was a postcard-perfect town. I couldn’t help but wonder, what lies beneath this glittering façade? A fictive island as eerie as it was alluring, as privileged as feral, took root in my head. The kind of place where the impossible seems possible. This island was the starting point for THE TELLING. The villains came next.
Now, there were villains in THE CREEPING, and I enjoyed writing them and making them complicated, but the villains in THE TELLING gave me such pleasure. It isn’t a spoiler to say there’s more than one villain in this book – you’d be hard pressed to find a book where there aren’t multiple characters guilty in some small way. I reveled in being inside their heads, in borrowing their darkness, and being able to hang it back up at the end of the day. Thinking so much about developing nuanced villains also helped me to write a more complex protagonist – Lana, a hero who has faults, spunk, courage, and grit.
If you could live in any fantasy world, which one would it be?
I’d want there to be political intrigue and a revolution making secret moves in the shadows. I’d love for the dress to be formal as I haven’t had frequent enough cause to be in gowns, and please let there be sword play (mine, I am not interested in being a damsel in distress), modern plumbing, and vampires, because as hard as I try, I can’t shake loving them. If this world exists, I want the book rec pronto.
Do you have a mantra that gets you through the drafting phase?
Don’t force it. I like to think of myself as a conduit for the story that needs telling during the drafting phase. By thinking of it in those terms, I don’t beat myself up if drafting is slower than a sloth in ice skates. Sometimes the well of creativity you’re drawing from just can’t be reached on a given day.
What is your favorite hobby when you're not writing?
I am a wanderlust junkie. When I’m not writing, you can find me planning my next trip or in a remote corner of an ancient city, sitting at a sidewalk café, drinking a café con leche. Traveling is the way I hit refresh in between projects. Soaking up the texture of foreign cities jump starts my brain. I got the idea for THE TELLING while I was visiting an island in the Puget Sound in Washington. I’ve just started working on a fantasy heavily influenced by time I spent in Turkey. My most recent trip, to Budapest, has inspired a project that I’m completely giddy about. To me there’s nothing as exhilarating and thought provoking as learning a new cuisine, listening to the cadence of a foreign language, or people watching in a marketplace or bazaar.
Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Although there’s clearly one protagonist, Lana, in THE TELLING, the ensemble of secondary characters is vital to the story. THE TELLING is very much about love and friendship and how far these characters will go to protect each other. I set out to make Carolynn, Willa, Becca, Josh, Rusty, and Duncan as fully realized as possibly. Each is distinct, but it was Carolynn who I spent the most time developing.
I love writing complicated girls and women. Still better, writing girls and women who are conventionally “unlikable” because I love challenging the norms in which we judge girls versus boys. I encounter comments often about girls not being liked because they’re mean or bristly. While kindness is certainly important in anyone, I’m of the mind that courage, loyalty, humor, intelligence, empathy, and determination are traditionally undervalued by society in girls. I think that the emphasis is too often placed on a girl being nice or “likable” – far more than it is focused on for boys. While writing Carolynn, I was aware that some would judge her harshly, but I hoped that some would see through her hard shell and snarky comments to the immense bravery and loyalty inside. It’s always a challenge writing characters you know to their very marrow, understanding that some will judge them unfavorably.
Do you enjoy writing to music? If so, do you have a go-to playlist?
I relay on music for atmosphere a lot. I don’t have a one-size-fits-all playlist, though. Instead, during the drafting phase of each project, I put together a playlist that fits. Usually I listen to music for the first few minutes each time I sit down to write; then I’ll turn it off once I feel in it. One of my favorite ways to use music is for characters to have their own songs or short playlists – songs with lyrics and beats that convey their personalities and that I can imagine them listening to.
What's a book that you've read recently that you would recommend to your readers?
If you’re looking for a briskly paced thriller or like the podcast Serial, I’d recommend Kara Thomas’s THE DARKEST CORNERS. And if you haven’t listened to the Serial podcast, I absolutely recommend season one.
If you like your girl protagonists complicated and fierce, I’m in the middle of AND I DARKEN and it’s blowing my mind.
Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
There are aspects of both that I love. I crave those too rare times in drafting where the words fly through you like the story exists somewhere outside of you and you’re reaching up and capturing it to put down on paper. It’s during drafting that I lose track of the hours. I don’t plot before diving in, though, there is some part of my brain that comes alive while drafting that I’m not conscious of but that manages to navigate through the plot, laying clues and layering characters and themes. It’s responsible for the kind of details I notice on the third or fourth draft where I’m like, amazing, did I do that on purpose?
It’s the latter stages of revising that I love the most, when the draft emerges as this magical tapestry. After that revising becomes about honing details or putting flesh on the bones of the story and making your characters truly live.
It was June 8, half past eleven. Ben’s and my movie night had been interrupted. We’d eaten lobster tacos and I drank two beers, which was two more beers than I’d ever had before. Then a pissy Maggie arrived.
She and Ben started fighting—a blustery, name-calling argument. He’d broken up with her five days earlier. She wasn’t supposed to show up at our house anymore. She had to accept they were over. For good. Although I didn’t pick up on it as it played out, it was suspicious that she had a friend drop her off, only to demand a ride home. No, she wouldn’t let Ben call her a car when he offered. No, she wouldn’t sleep off her buzz in the downstairs guest room.
I’d given Ben a sleepy and inebriated frown as we stood in the hallway while she used the bathroom. “Please.” He bent nearer, the light in his eyes diminishing until his forehead touched mine. He was all I could see. “I don’t want to be alone with her. Come. Save me.”
The three of us braced ourselves against the early summer breeze as we filed along the path to where Ben’s SUV waited in our driveway. I was pouting, letting my flip-flops spray pebbles at Maggie’s heels. She scowled at me before she climbed into the front passenger seat—without even bothering to call shotgun. I sat in the back, pulled my knees to my chest, leaned against the window. “Turn the heater on,” I whined. I stuck my earbuds in and was listening to the kind of angry, screeching punk I don’t even like just to tune her out. And here’s the second worst thing I’ve ever done.
I fell asleep, and I couldn’t tell the police what happened next.
Two hours later my ears buzzed with the sharp, stuttered ding of car doors left ajar as the police tried to make sense of the blood splatter in the interior. The engine had been left running. My earbuds dangled out of the rear door, where I’d thrown them after yanking my cell free to dial 911. Each time the breeze picked up they swung, grating against the road. I’d never use them again.
The wind hissed through the pines behind Maggie and me. The police had set up perimeter lights; they stretched our shadows and threw them back at sharp angles. Mine was trying to detach from my feet; it wanted to run and hide. A police officer, his finger on the trigger of a camera, blinded me in intervals. The light flashed in my peripheral vision as a second officer captured the splatter on Maggie’s face, arms, and torso. Ben’s blood had gotten in my mouth; it was all I could taste as we waited for the detective Gant PD had called in from Seattle to direct the investigation.
Detective Sweeny started a mile down the highway, with another group of officers examining the crime scene where Maggie and I had left Ben to his attacker. Sweeny was small and wiry, cutting through the blockish male cops in uniform. She sized us up with close-set eyes as she approached. Unlike every other officer, her gaze stayed steady, ticking over the details of us like Willa absorbing a study guide before an exam. Sweeny didn’t flinch away from all that blood. We’ll be okay now, I thought.
Sweeny introduced herself. She was a homicide detective. Then she held up her hand when my expression went runny and frantic and added, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The detective part is why I’m here.” She asked me if I’d been able to reach my parents. They were in Seattle overnight and their phones were off, and she seemed concerned when I told her there was no one else to call. Ben hadn’t been found; the police were searching; the coast guard had been mobilized.
I wanted to help them look. Sweeny put her firm grip on my shoulder. “The best way for you to help is to tell me exactly what transpired. Leave nothing out.”
Only Maggie knew the first half. She could lie and I wouldn’t be able to contradict her. We were a couple of miles before the narrow bridge that connects Gant Island with the Olympic Peninsula. It was the only route to take Maggie to where she lived, off the island. Maggie told the police that Ben and she were arguing. The car slowed. Maggie looked up to see why. To the right there were rocky bluffs that plunged to the island’s heaving waters. To the left there was a dark, meadowy slope that ran until a distant wall of pines.
“A man appeared in the middle of the highway,” Maggie whispered.
“Where did he appear from?” Sweeny asked. “The trees aren’t close to the road. Was he hiding behind something?”
“No. He wasn’t there and then he was. He appeared,” Maggie insisted, her voice rising.
Meet The Telling!
A chilling new novel about a girl who must delve into her past if she wants to live long enough to have a future when a series of murders that are eerily similar to the dark stories her brother used to tell start happening in her hometown.
By: Alexandra Sirowy
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Three winners will receive a signed copy of The Telling (US & Canada only).
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*
From the bio I see that you studied International Relations with a focus on the Middle East. I studied Middle Eastern archaeology. Have you managed to visit anywhere in the Middle East and is there anywhere in that area you would like to see?
Loved the creeping and really hope to win the telling, but I screwed up the one entry and ddn't get to put my address in and accidently hit return. Now it won't let me go back. ?
Did you know exactly where to start this novel (the point in time in this character's life) or did you have to rewrite the beginning?