Friday, July 30, 2010

Interview with Evie Alexis

I recently had the joy of participating in one of my first online interviews with Evie Alexis:

I am so happy to have a wonderful author with us today, Christine Schulze. The young lady sits down for a one-on-one at The Lit to share in a very real and in-depth manner her ideas, her triumphs and her life.


1. Tell us a little bit more about yourself, Christine.

Well, first off, thank you for having me! I am quite excited to share in this, my second interview as an author.

A little about me, I have essentially been creating books from the time I was too young to write them, probably when I was about four. My first books were comprised solely of pictures. My first “real” book was Jonny to the Rescue. I was a flower girl for a lady at church, and she asked me to make her a book for a wedding present. Thus, I made her a copy of my latest work, Jonny to the Rescue, complete with illustrations. The story itself was inspired by the “Surprise, Surprise, Puppy Surprise!” toys which those in my generation may remember. This book would later provide inspiration for my published Legends of Surprisers series, which is actually for middle readers and young adults.

In addition to writing, I also enjoy drawing, photography, singing, playing piano, and going for exploratory walks in the woods. I draw namely manga style versions of my characters, which you can check out at my blog, I also love composing and have compiled a couple soundtracks for my books, called “Stregoni Symphony”. Finally, you can always catch me on Youtube singing something or other! While shy in talking in front of others, I’ve always had quite a voice for singing. This love for music often crops up in my books, such as The Gailean Quartet, which I myself like to describe as “a musical, magical series!”

While many of my works are self-published, and I am quite proud of them, considering them of very good quality as I’ve had the opportunity to work with editors and such, I am currently taking particular pride in my first ebook release with Writers-Exchange, Golden Healer, Dark Enchantress, as well my first novel release with Old Line Publishing, Bloodmaiden, which I shall discuss in more detail below.

2. What is your book about?

Well, Bloodmaiden, my latest release and first release with Old Line Publishing, is a fantasy/romance/horror/coming-of-age sort of adventure for young adults incorporating Christian themes of courage and forgiveness. Quite a mouthful, I know! But in short, it tells the tale of a young girl who must choose whether to risk her life to defy tradition, saving not only all she loves but her entire race from future persecution, or whether to accept her fate as it is. It’s written from a first person perspective, and the beginning is written in present tense to give readers the feel that they are really there, embodying Crisilin and all her thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

Here is the book blurb to give further insight:

Zale. Gauthier. Varden. These three dynasties…They all sound like something out of an ancient, oriental myth or fairy tale. The concept of humans and dragons helping and living in harmony with one another, without fear. To me, that’s exactly what they are. A distant dream only read of, whispered secretly, quietly yearned for. For, you see, I am the new Quelda of Tynan.

These words echo the mystery, horror, and romance found within Schulze’s fantasy novel. Along with her new husband, Chalom, Crislin must choose to embrace cruel tradition, run from it, or stand against it. The young couple’s only hope is to rally the help of the three peaceful dragon dynasties of Sulaimon—but tradition is not on their side, even outside the realm of Tynan. The dragons outside Tynan’s borders have been rumored as too stubborn and proud to believe their Tynanian brothers would commit such horrors as inflicted upon the Quelda. Gaining their aid is not a likely hope. Yet, any hope at all is valued in Tynan…

If they are to stand a chance of bringing cruel tradition to a permanent end, Crislin and Chalom must brave the constant, consuming blizzards of the Ever-white. They must brave the three dynasties and the challenges awaiting there. Together, they must convince the dragon emperors to allow them access to the shrines which house the sacred Aria – protective strands of music which may be able to disperse the evil from Tynan and unite the four dynasties of Sulaimon as a whole once again. Their only aid stems from a sprite whose moods are as unstable as her magic, a young minstrel, and a mysterious fox. Despite the odds, such plans are daring, dangerous, unprecedented, but fully possible – if they can escape the Wall first.

* Also, to let you in on one of those little, author secrets, I always pictured Crislin as being very young, because she is supposed to be pure. Originally, she was to be thirteen, but I removed the age to help give readers the feel of, “Ah, this girl could be me.”

3. Where did you get your ideas for this story?

Oh, goodness. Well, as I recall, that’s sort of one of those questions of: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I say this because I remember doing a photoshoot with my bf which helped provide inspiration for writing the book, but I don’t remember if I’d started writing it yet. I do remember that the original book was focused more on the quest of finding the aria. In fact, the original book title was Quelda: Quest for Aria. Thank God I changed it. Really, it’s not an awful title, but as Bloodmaiden developed into something more serious than just a quest story, it needed a more serious, mature title.

As for the ideas of the story itself, one inspiration I am sure I drew from is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, my favorite video game. Ever since then, I’ve been writing stories about quests combining music, magic, and a host of unique, quirky characters. Hence, the searching for great fairies and magical, healing aria. The game has also provided inspiration for such books as The Legends of Surprisers series, The Gailean Quartet, and The Legend of Loz and Zephyr’s Islands.

I also took inspiration from, as ever, wonderful people I know. All of the fairies are named after editors or cover artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Pan is named after friend Crysania, while Brydon stems from a friend whom I had a brief crush on—especially for his beautiful guitar, which really is black with red roses. And of course, Chalom is inspired by my own personal Chalom. I was quite glad too to develop something different with dragons. Not usually a fan of dragon books myself, I wanted to create my own unique spin on dragons, which I believe I’ve accomplished in Bloodmaiden.

4. Who has been a great source of inspiration in your writing life?

Honestly, what inspires me most for my books is people, so I’m glad you asked! The Gailean Quartet, for example, was inspired largely by Gail Fleming, a favorite college professor of mine who quickly became like a second mother when I was going through hard times. Most of the time she didn’t even know, but attending her Music Appreciation and then Choir classes provided rays of light on dark days. Thus, through her, my favorite series, one where magic and music uniquely intertwine, was born.

Friends also provide great inspiration. Aaron, a best friend whom I was unrequitedly in love with for seven years or so, has featured as a main character in many books, such as Aaryn in Golden Healer, Dark Enchantress, Aaron from The Hero Chronicles, and Phillip from The Legends of Surprisers series. Then there’s Sarah, another best friend who is always a great source of story ideas, especially in the humor department, and who also features in many books as many different characters. In fact, there’s even one book, The Mass, in which she “meets” herself, as Anna, Chryselda, and another character. I copy this in Elantra: Song of Tears, Lady of the Dawn, in which Crispin meets Adrian who speaks of his wicked brother Jonathan; all three are inspired by another best friend of mine!

Even random people I only meet once have inspired inspiration though. Once, at college, I met this very nice girl named Autumn. I only met with her a couple of times, but I really liked her—and her name—and thus, “Autumn Falls”, a favorite tale found in The Chronicles of the Mira, came to be.

Now, in terms of authors, some of my main inspirations are Tolkien, Rowling, and Diana Wynne Jones. You can often tell this from my writing too; I’ve had British editors tell me my writing is too American for them, while one of my American editors was confused when I kept using the word “towards” which is apparently British (“toward” being the American version). Lol, who knew?

But I mainly say I draw inspiration from these authors because of my quirkiness. I know I am quirky and that this translates into my writing, but I don’t always realize how much unless others point it out to me, because it just comes so naturally. I am a person who is very comfortable with herself; I write what I write and do what I do without question, unless I think I’m doing something wrong. I am just myself; I write what I like and hope others will like it too. So when a friend of mine tries to tell me it’s strange that I introduce Panganiban from Bloodmaiden by having her surf on a giant snowflake, I simply think how I never thought that could be considered weird; for me, it’s fantasy, and anything goes.

Actually, a friend of mine who has already written a wonderful review for Bloodmaiden here on Goodreads is considering writing a second called “Schulze and the Techni-colored Dream Fairy” just to compare my writing to other quirky authors of my kind.

I like being different though. I appreciate books like Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle because of its freshness, its uniqueness. So, sometimes I try to emulate such uniqueness in my own writing as well.

5. Give us some insight to your road to publication. How did it come about?

My, my, what a long and arduous journey, especially for a journey that’s just begun! Well, my first actual acceptance was from Tate Publishing when I was around eighteen or nineteen. I was so excited—especially as they accepted The Prism of Ashlei, first in The Gailean Quartet, my favorite series! Then, I found out they wanted close to fourteen grand to publish the book. I tell you what, I really wanted to do it…but to do so would be to say that my work wasn’t good enough to be published else-where; why should I forfeit to dishonest publishers who didn’t even say on their site what an exorbitant amount of money they wanted just to have the honor of publishing my book?

Well, not long after, a true God-send. I get an acceptance from Writers-Exchange E-publishing for Golden Healer, Dark Enchantress. It was a surreal moment—especially as I didn’t even remember submitting to them at first! But then I remembered sending the book for them because Sandy Cummins, the publisher, mentioned accepting both Christian, young adult, and vampire stories—it was a perfect fit! Thus began my ebook career.

I still wanted to see at least some of my favorite works in print though. The usual string of rejections came, and then one day, I discovered Createspace, a self-publishing website. After debating a little while, I decided to self-publish The Hero Chronicles, sort of for fun, but also with hopes to make some sales. Then, in honor of my favorite teacher, I published The Gailean Quartet as a retirement present. Finally, because I was having so much fun designing cover art, interior files, and such, I added The Legends of Surprisers series to the collection. My hope now is that I might either still publish them traditionally someday or else that people will like my traditionally published books enough to buy them. though, to tell the truth, to date, I have sold more of these books in ebook format than any other, including whole series, so people must not necessarily mind if a book is self-published these days! I do pride myself in them; having the opportunity to work with Laura Shinn, Rebecca Vickery, and other great editors prepared me to do the work necessary to create good-quality self-published works.

Well, in between all this, I made some small publications in magazines and ezines like Calliope and Kalkion, and I continue to search out these fun little opportunities. I joined Rebecca Vickery’s Victory Tales Press which publishes romance anthologies. Rebecca was kind enough to edit and publish Bloodmaiden: A Fantasy Anthology for me, which contains short story excerpts from Bloodmaiden and other books of mine.

Finally, one day I’m browsing online for story contests and such when I come across another true God-send. I found a site listing publishers’ information, but it was one of those sites where they want you to pay for the info. Excepting one of the publishers on the page—Old Line Publishing. After checking them out, I sent in Bloodmaiden and was very soon signing my first contract!

The first leg is down—finding a publisher. I hope and pray it’s all uphill from here—it may be a rocky climb, but I can handle that, just have to keep strong and trust God to seek me through. My next goal is getting the word out and getting people to invest in Bloodmaiden and Golden Healer, though I’m exploring a few other publishing ventures as well, including a young adult personalized novel with Books by You—but that’s another adventure to be told for another time.

6. What are some other projects you are working on?

Oh, goodness! If you’d asked this several years ago, I’d have a running list; I was always starting new books. Good thing is, I’ve finished them all by now. I am, however, working on a new project with a friend of mine called You, Fairie, I. It’s one of those “which-way” books in which the reader gets to be the character and make decisions that affect the outcome of the story. It won’t be one of the cheesy versions though. It will be very deep; while the choices are few, they will be vital, having major impact on how the story turns out. Also, the world of Fairie is comprised of four realms and twelve main races, so you can imagine how intricate things can get before the end! My vision for this book is it should be like playing a video game in book form; there will be side-stories, little subquests, and if you don’t play wisely, it might be game over for you and your kingdom!

7. Share something unique about yourself with your readers if you please.

Goodness. I’ve been brainstorming this one for a couple days now. I thought of plenty of quirks: I like to name inanimate objects, I used to have crushes on cartoon characters like Darkwing Duck and James from Pokemon, I’ve never eaten a taco, I’m allergic to milk and sugar…

But I’ve been trying to think of something really unique and interesting. For some reason, this one stumped me, so I decided just to talk about the uniqueness of my books and the work I center around them. Because I suppose maybe someone will find it unique that at age twenty-two, I’ve completed over twenty-eight books and published a good deal of them. Or that I compose instrumental soundtracks for my books, as well as supplying all of my own coverart, promotional items, etc. Or that I’ve managed to create this vast collection, all the books of which connect in some way, shape, or form.

Yes, I suppose what I really take pride in is the uniqueness of my stories. I aim to never do the same thing twice. I believe you can have too much of a good thing, so now, especially as I’ve written so much, when starting a new project I take time to step back and think: Have I done something too much like this before?

So, dear readers, the answer to this question really lies with you. Do you find my stories interconnecting and yet unique at the same time? Hopefully, time will tell.

8. Where would you like to see yourself five years from now?

Honestly, I would like to be as renowned as J. K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers, and I don’t say that because I desire fame, fortune, or riches. It is because I have always believed God has a purpose for my writing. I am meant to share my stories with all the world, and that’s what I intend to do—God-willing. I write what I love, never trying to write to a certain market or audience. And yet, in writing what I love, I hope that five years down the line, millions of readers will be loving it too.

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