Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Interview with Grea Alexander author of Cabello: Acadea

Today it gives the Speculative Fiction Showcase great pleasure to interview Grea Alexander, whose latest book Cabello: Acadea was published in March 2021.

First, tell us about yourself. Who is Grea Alexander and where is she going?

I could give you the answer to that riddle; but then again, what fun would that be for me?  (laugh)  

I will, however, say that I’m both an angel and a devil.  Which I am and to whom, from one day, one moment to the next can be as variable as… well, insert your choice of analogy here.   

Half of what I say, even with a straight face, I say in jest and half of what I say with a laugh or a smile is anything but.   Still, in the end, I do or say whatever I feel like doing or saying at any given point in time (according to an internal code of morals, logic and behavioral standards that only I understand) and usually irregardless of consequences, expectations others have for me, societal norms or likely outcome.  

As to where I’m headed, I dare say Purgatory.   Until then, I will slowly but surely make a name for myself in this world.  As to whether that’s a good name or a bad name, that remains to be seen.

Tell us about your writing. It’s quirky, solipsistic and hard to categorize. Is it safe to say that horror is the main focus?

Interestingly enough, people say the very same things about me as a person….only using much smaller words, much bluer language and sometimes accompanied by colorful hand gestures.  (laugh)

In all honestly, I’ve been told a time or two that I have an interesting way of turning a phrase – even in the way that I speak, so I can’t help but to write in a way that is outside of the norm.  

Some people love it and other people hate it - just as some people love me and other people… eventually acquire a taste for me. (wink)

As a writer I am partial to characters who share my moral and behavioral ambiguity as well as my wickedly twisted and slightly dark sense of humor.   I tend towards characters who are as flawed as I am, who are prone as much to doing the wrong things for the right reasons as they are to doing the right things for the wrong reasons.   

It especially amuses me when I can make people care about a character their preacher would likely tie up and douse with holy water.

Is horror the main focus of my writing?  

Honestly, I don’t think about market or genre at all when I write.  Well, except for when it comes time to pick out keywords and categories for publishing.  

I just have a story I want to tell and however it comes out, it comes out.  That being said, if I were to take a tally, at this moment, I stand at 8 dark fantasy/horror titles and 6 historical fiction works.  However, 3 of historical fiction novels have fantasy elements and 2 of my dark fantasy/horror works are also historical fiction. (laugh) 

However,  I find that I enjoy writing low fantasy the most.  I love the possibility of there being magic, mythical creatures and all sorts of mischief in the real world, right under our very noses – making the impossible, possible.

Your website is Seamonkey Ink. What inspired the title and who lives there?

My own youthful weirdness inspired the title. (laugh)  

I’m extremely mischievous – a regular human Loki and I always have been.  As one can hardly engage in mischief using one’s real name (should plans go South), I and my childhood cohorts utilized a variety of code names.  One of mine was SeaMonkey.

As I’ve been a writer of various works for as long as I can remember and I long had a preference for handwriting my works, much ink was used.  Even now, when I do a reread after finishing a work, I still sometimes print out a hardcopy….using printer ink.

Hence, SeaMonkey Ink.

As to who lives there, I’d have to say the dregs of society.  All sorts of reprobates, most especially myself. (laugh)

August Farrow occasionally stays the night there (though she’s careful to avoid all direct eye contact with the rest of us and keeps both her shades drawn and all 5 of her double deadbolts locked at all times).  

She’s a photographer…ess of color who specializes in wildlife photography (though she also does some scenic) and publishes digital photobooks on the same.  She used to be active on Inaturalist and by the time she had quit in 2019, she was documented as having photographed over 16,000 individual plants, animals and insects belonging to over 2,000 species (of which over 100 happen to be rare or endangered).  

A regular Snow Black, August has an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time when it comes to wildlife. 

At the time of her Inaturalist departure she was ranked #1 in Houston, #17 in Texas and #27 in the World based on photographic sightings – being #1 in some species and having been the only person to ever photographically document certain species in some places or at certain times of year.   As a result, one of her photographs is actually a part of the permanent photographic display at one of the field stations in the Houston Arboretum.

Since her Inaturalist departure, August has added more species still; and, in spite of Covid, she’s managed to roam the U.S. wilds a bit and thus has even more books yet to publish.

Elizabeth Jake, an authoress of color who specializes in children’s books, drops by every other Sunday in a vain effort to save our souls.

Others live there as well.  However, due to their questionable legal status, they can not be publicly named.

SeaMonkey Ink:  It's where I

Ok, so it's a seedy, faux physical address store front where I get my mail.

Your latest book, Cabello: Acadea came out in March 2021. An excerpt from the blurb reads: “The griffiness Acadea had spent millennia hunting down her Echoes: the 1,000 shards into which she had been fractured as punishment for siding with the Fallen against God.” What links the cosmic and supernatural themes and characters of your stories with the world in which they play out?

As I said earlier, I am a big fan of low fantasy – of magic and mysticism in the everyday world. 

The genesis of the curse under which the characters in both the Miael and Cabello series exist is the War in Heaven, Lucifer’s Rebellion.  

In the version of reality in which these books are set, there was a second attempt to overthrow heaven by Lucifer and his ilk -  only this time they had help in the form of the great and powerful mythic beasts of the earth, those who hated man’s greed and treachery, who suffered under the yoke of man’s existence and felt forsaken by God.   Among these beasts is Acadea: a young, female griffin who ignored the warnings of her elders, saved a human boy and was later repaid by the young king with betrayal and genocide.

As punishment for Acadea’s role in the 2nd attempt to destroy humanity, she loses one of the last of her kind and her only remaining ally to the Lake of Fire and shatters into 1,000 pieces – both literally and figuratively.  Not only does she break mentally and emotionally, but she quite literally becomes her own worst enemy (as the shards are housed by humanoid hosts or Echoes - all of whom don’t understand their true nature and who fight tooth and nail to keep the only thing keeping them alive, Acadea’s shards).

Of course, the fact that the demon who roped Acadea into the entire affair has come back to reassert his control only complicates things (as does the return of her unrepentant, hedonistic mate, who was himself cursed for his part in the whole affair).

It also doesn’t help that Acadea’s lost most of her powers and has been imprisoned in humanoid form – forced to live among the very beings she hates and sought to destroy.  Or, that her unpredictable, newly reminted ex takes great pleasure in pushing Acadea’s buttons.

All around, it’s great, dark, campy fun. (laugh)

You say of the Cabello series: “It’s…the story of a survivor of child abuse and how she transitions from victim to independence and ultimately to heroine. It takes place in 2012.” Who is the survivor and how does she escape? What forces come to her aid?

The survivor is Mineau December, who decides of her own accord to leave the situation.  However, as she’s planning her escape, she’s found out, attacked and left for dead.

The force that comes to her aid is Cabello – her much loved Maine Coon, a pet she believes at the time to have been murdered by her abuser. Only Mineau’s Maine Coon is not really a cat.  He is one of the Accursed and much more unpredictable and dangerous than anything Mineau can possibly dare imagine.

You are careful to emphasise that these are not children’s books. Why is that important and how do you imagine your readers?

I’m very protective of children and believe that children should stay children for as long as possible.  I also believe that there are certain subjects and themes that it is a parent’s place to introduce their children to when they feel they and their children are ready.

My books contain very dark topics and very adult, sometimes complex themes.

I imagine my readers drunk and/or high and naked – though not necessarily in that order.

You describe your series Miael as a supernatural horror story that includes the theme of racism. The blurb says: "The deliciously creepy, decidedly twisted and delectably eerie tale of a cursed Phoenix & his dubious influence upon a cursed Seraph." Who are Jessica, Zahzarene and Miael and how do their lives intertwine with the past and present as they leave a trail of destruction? And what part does the theme of racism play in this supernatural epic?

The 1st book of the Miael series is set in 1963 in the Ozarks.  Racial tensions are high and Jessica, the female protagonist of the Miael series, is mixed race – half black via her father and half white via her mother.

Book 2 begins in 1975 – not long after the civil rights movement and book 3 in the 1980s.  Both Books 2 and 3 include Simone – a half black, half Jewish woman who lived in war-torn Europe during World War II. 

Being a mixed-race person of color born in 1975 in Texas, who went to a mostly white school filled with racial tension, who lived for a time in a Klan-friendly neighborhood, who hitchhiked through a Sundown town in 1995 and is a lover of history, there was no way I could write this series, set during that time, and not tap into the legacy of what those times were like for people like us.  Of, sadly, what things are still like for people of color at times.

While I wouldn’t say the racism elements are a constant, they are there, just under the surface, waiting to rear their ugly heads.  Sometimes it’s overt and other times, it’s subtle.  Kind of like in real life.

As for Zahzarene and Miael – they were also involved in the 2nd attempt to overthrow Heaven and are thusly cursed.   If you want to know how they are connected to Jessica, you’ll just have to read the books. (laugh)

In the past you’ve said your favourite fictional character is the Byronic hero. Who is the Byronic hero and why does he continue to fascinate us?

I actually became thoroughly acquainted with the Byronic hero archetype when I was a teenager.  

My English teacher told me that I reminded him of a Byronic Hero.    So, of course, that made me immediately go off to research Byronic Heroes.   

The Byron in Byronic Hero comes from the man who wrote the only poem I ever bothered to memorize any part of: “She Walks in Beauty” and who many point to as the first true example of this character type.  (10 points if you said Lord Byron).   

Byronic characters tend to go against the grain of societal norms, are highly intelligent/witty,  passionate,  internally tortured, impulsive, dark in their humor and larger than life.  They are most often very attractive, fashionable and charismatic yet possess a fatal flaw or character trait that ultimately becomes their undoing.

Like Lord Byron, I write this type of character a lot because, well, I am this type of character and thus I know it best.  

I would say the appeal of this type of character likely lies in their personal freedom.    Byronic types do and say things that most people wouldn’t dare.  They take chances, live life with a reckless abandon and experience things with great intensity.

How do you feel about the social media/marketing thing that has been sold to emerging and established writers since Amazon started its self-publishing gig?

I think social media can work as a marketing tool for some.  I just don’t think that I’m a part of that group. (laugh)

For social media to work as a marketing tool, one has to be quite social by nature, patient and strategic.

Personally, I’m too private, too impatient and too spontaneous a person to make such work for me.    Though I’ve tried it in the past and been quite popular, in the end, it proved much too contrary to my nature for me to stick with it.

Thank God for ads!

What draws you to write about mythical creatures, angels and demons? How do they interest you and why?

As I said earlier, I love the idea of fantastical beings and events in the mist of the mundane.

Just as I don’t set out to write any particular genre when I decide to write a novel, I didn’t actually start out writing any of my fantasy series (with the exception of The Pack) with any particular mythological creatures, angels or demons in mind.   

For instance, in the original short story version of M that I wrote back in high school, M was a human, a serial killer, and Jessica his wife.  Zazi only became a character/seraph and M a phoenix at some point during the actual writing process.   Likewise, Cabello became what he became in the same way.

While I will have a general idea for a book and may even create a bible for the book and/or an outline to ensure I hit the main points I want to hit, the writing process for me is extremely fluid.  It’s like my characters are real living beings with their own thoughts, personalities and behavioral traits.  I let them lead me  where they want to go as the story is written.  

Sometimes, I end up somewhere completely different than even I assumed I would.

You mention that Miael: The Couturier has been the #1 Bestselling and only free title on Amazon France in English Dark Fantasy for almost a year running. Tell us more!

And it still is to this day. (laugh)

I actually find it all pretty amusing to be honest.  

To begin with, Miael: The Couturier was only written because one of my readers found out about a short story open call for a romance anthology set and put me up to it.  

As soon as I read the specs (including the requirement for happily ever after when I’m a happy? maybe for now type of gal), I was pretty sure I would not be selected.   Still, as I hadn’t done a short story for forever, I said:  “What the hay?”

Being as I’m a pretty dark, twisted and angsty writer, I didn’t want to mislead readers of the anthology into thinking my books were all sunshine and rainbows when they are, in fact, anything but.  So, instead of pouring saccharine all over my work, I went against the grain and stuck with my true literary aesthetic.

Of course, as predicted, I had to reset my nose (as a result of the door slamming shut in my face).  However, as I actually really liked my entry, I decided to use it otherwise.  I mean I had put the time and energy into it.  So, why not, right?

I released Miael: Cout for free as a sample of my writing and to hopefully encourage sales. 

Turns out, people in France downloaded it and thus, I became the #1 Bestselling and only title in English Dark Fantasy in Amazon France (and have been for a year and running).

Viva la France! (laugh)

In fact, my little engine that could has actually remained in the Top 100 Free in multiple categories in several countries since its release back in November 2020.   

You describe The Pack: Addison as a werewolf horror fantasy fable. What is unique about this story and Addison herself? How do you approach the werewolf/shapeshifter trope?

Actually, though it’s called The Pack: Addison, Addison is more a secondary female protagonist - bred and trained solely for the purpose of driving a wedge between the two main protagonists.  

The main female protagonist is actually Bristol, a mixed race (half black and half white) noblewoman who is obviously of color.  The main male protagonist, Talon James, her ex-husband, is of the same ethnic background (though he quite actively uses his ability to pass for white to his benefit).

Bristol and Talon are in a twistedly romantic relationship that somehow endures - despite both of them being guilty of doing things to sabotage it.  Though they are very much in love, they continue to do really rather horrid things to one another, especially in their fight to determine the fate of the last living descendant of their line, Addison.    

Let’s talk about the Amarna series. You describe this as an “Alternative History based on a lot of true history about the Hittite King Mursili II and a quest to return King Tut's line to the Egyptian throne.” What happens in your version and who were the historical Hittites? 

In the Amarna Trilogy, a hidden heir to King’s Tut throne is discovered.  Bound by a prophecy that links the fate of Hattusa to the fate of Egypt, the supernaturally-gifted Hittite Prince, Mursili II, becomes obsessed with returning the Amarna line to the throne of Egypt.  

Unfortunately, for Mursili and his allies, the gods aren’t always on his side and fate doesn’t always agree with his plans.

The major Hittite figures in this story include Mursili II (the boy prince who unexpectantly finds himself upon the Hittite throne), his 1st wife Gaššulawiya (who he loves desperately but who is greedy for power of her own),  his brother Arnuwanda II (who ruled prior to Mursili) and his brother Sarri-Kusuh (who is largely associated with stabilizing Syria).  

Of course we can not forget Mal-Nikal, the dowager queen and head priestess at the time, who deserves her very own sentence. (laugh)  

Last but not least we have the Hittite gods:  the Sun Goddess Arinna and Storm god Telipinu who, though they are Mursili’s patron gods, cause as much death, pain and destruction in Mursili and his allies’ lives as the goddess Sausga, Mal-Nikal’s goddess of choice (in the series) who decides Mursili needs to be taken down a peg or two.

The events depicted in the story are ridiculously true to history.  All I really did was add some interesting fictional characters, thoughts, motivations, magic and dialogue to the events that actually occurred.  Aside from their interactions with the fictional characters, 95% of what the historical figures are depicted as having done, is what they really are believed to have done or were written in historical record as having done.

At the end of each of the novels in the trilogy (and in the compilation) I actually detail what was true and what isn’t in each.   Truth is often stranger than fiction.

You’ve said recently that you are "The Most Famous Author That Pretty Much No One Has Ever Heard Of". What does that mean to you?

I’ve actually said that for a while now. (laugh)   

I say it every time some unexpected accomplishment befalls me or I achieve something I didn’t expect to achieve.   

For instance, I have recently been nominated for and added to a list of Women Notable in Horror by WikiProject Women in Red.  The goal of this project is to advocate for the creation of Wikipedia pages that highlight women who have made notable contributions to the horror genre.   I am currently #65 out of 82 female authors on the list (though I have zero idea of who advocated for me to be included).

I have titles that have been and remain on the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller Free charts in various categories and in numerous countries (including my #1 English Dark Fantasy in France) pretty much since publication.  I also have others that are likewise in and out of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller Paid lists for their categories.   

Considering the behemoth that Amazon is in the ebook world and that there are tens of millions of publications on Amazon…

My ebooks are actually/have been available in over 600 libraries including in markets like Los Angeles, Atlanta, etc. and mention of my Amarna books have been added to Wikipedia articles for Mursili II and Arnuwanda II (right alongside authors like Janet Morris and Chie Shinohara).

I have extremely successful authors who do/have followed my writing career.  

For instance, I have a glowing review on Goodreads for Amarna from Roy Huff (author of Everville). Iain Rob Wright (the horror behemoth) was among the more than 10,000 people that used to follow me during my brief 2 year stint on Twitter and was very active in retweeting me.  

Michael J. Sullivan (the fantasy goliath) and Sandra Brown (romance and historical fiction mega bestseller) are my “friends” on Goodreads.  On Goodreads a Follower is someone who sees everything you update but you don’t see what they are doing while a Friend designation means that you both see everything the other is doing on the platform.   So yes, I am in their notification feeds.

Are we all kicking it high style in the VIP lounge during the after party?  No.  However, it’s still quite amusing that such extremely high-profile authors have taken such a visible interest in my writing career.

Hell, I’ve even been publicly targeted by racists on my Goodreads blog and, as we all well know, nothing says you’re on your way to the top for public figures of color quite like being singled out by racists.

Last but not least, I have very dedicated readers who have a lot of love for and faith in my work – to the point that they are out working and advocating on my behalf.  

Typically, the above things tend to only happen to very popular and famous authors of the USA Today/New York Times bestseller variety.  Therefore, it tickles the living hell out of me that they happen to me – a poor little Indie Authoress.  

Hence, I’m the most famous author that pretty much no one has ever heard of.

What writers have you loved and what are you reading now, if anything?

My favorite authors are Stephen King, V.C. Andrews (the real, original V.C. Andrews not her posthumous ghostwriter), Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, George Orwell and the cabal of persons or person-in-alias known as William Shakespeare.

As to books that are not my own and in the works, the most recent work I have read is Animal Farm by George Orwell.  

These days I tend more towards the classics and non-fiction than anything else.

The Pack: Addison Sample Chapters

What are you working on and what can your readers expect in future?

Currently, I am finishing up the dark, angsty historical romance my historical fiction/romance fans have been waiting for ages:  Sedition: XianRebellion and its spin off series, Sedition, are my only works that have absolutely no fantasy elements in them.

Afterwards, I intend to knock out the next two books in The Pack werewolf shifter series:   Bristol and Devinforge.  

Beyond that, I intend more of the same: deep, angsty, dark fantasy/horror and historical fiction stories focused on protagonists of color and strong, female characters who aren't just damsels in distress being swept along as minor participants in their own lives.

I also plan to continue to be me.  As difficult as it has been being a female author of color who openly admits to being both female and of color and who writes in the genres that I write in about characters of color, if I can inspire even one ethnic and/or female child to venture into doing the same, it will all have been worth it.



About Grea Alexander:

Grea (pronounced Gray) Alexander is a female writer of African American, Native American and French descent who does not write her profiles in the 3rd person.
Born and raised in Houston, TX, I have successfully wormed my way across many a border and have, in effect, managed to infect all that I survey with my particular brand of grea-ness. My books are very character-driven with a focus on flawed, dynamic, culturally-diverse characters and strong, smart female protagonists. ---- Also, please note: I do not write children's books. My books are for adults. My books contain adult themes, adult situations, sexual situations, cursing, intoxication and violence. Some books have more than others. Some characters engage more than others. If you find such offensive, you might not want to read my work. Then again, you just might feel naughty and want to read them anyway. (wink)

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