Friday, October 21, 2011

Indie October Author Interview and Giveaway: Alexandra Ares

Today I'm happy to introduce you to Alexandra Ares, author of Dream Junkies, My Life on Craigslist, and The Other Girl. Check the end of the post and you'll have a chance to win ebook versions of all three of the books!

1. All of your books are so different from each other. How did you come up with the ideas for the
books? Is it hard to switch up the way you write?

I love the process of exploring a new style and theme each time I take on a novel, and by the time I
finish it, I’m ready to move to something entirely new. I’m not a workshop writer, and this may explain
my shape shifter style. I’ve never been to a writing workshop, because in Europe, where I was born,
people don’t go to workshops for writing a novel. Most European writers are not workshop authors.
Not that I have anything against writing workshops, I think they’re great, but many people end up
writing in a very similar style, following the same rules. It often turns out like competent ‘factory’
writing, and I recognize it from the first page.

Before I write anything new, I am deliberating in my mind for a few months not only over the story, but also the style, mood, and what am I trying to say about human experience that could be relevant today. In Dream Junkies it was the demise of the American dream and how hard it’s been for New Yorkers after 9/11; we’ve all lived the perpetual recession. In My Life on Craigslist, it was about moving the social experience from real life to the Internet, about all the people hit by the recent financial meltdown who had to make do with nothing, and about the rampant promiscuity facilitated by the Internet. In The Other Girl is about the tension between generations and the double standard women still experience, years after the feminist revolution, when older men are still socially accepted to date and marry much younger women, unlike older women who still have a total different bill of “rights.” Once I decide on the theme and the story, I try to make each novel as entertaining, readable, simple, and thought provoking as possible. And I try to reach a fine balance between what people expect (for the respective genre) and what people don’t expect.

To answer your question more directly, in my stories there is a blend of invention and things that
happened to me or people I know. My first novel, Dream Junkies, like most first novels, was quite
autobiographic. Style wise, I remember that at the time I was a big fan of the Sex and The City series,
and I was wondering how come the characters in that series were so lovable but unidimensional -- they
had fun, talked about guys and dating and shoes, but they didn’t have that extra feeling and thought
and opinion and struggle that real people experience. So I’ve tried to write a novel that blended the
Sex and the City cool and light feel with something more authentic. With my second novel, My life on
Craigslist I wanted to write something that everyone could relate to, and describe how social interaction has largely moved from real life to the Internet; how lonely most single girls in New York are if they scratch the Internet as their main window to the world. Most singles that I know in Manhattan go on several dates a week, people picked up from various dating sites, which gives them the illusion of having a social life, but most are uprooted, isolated, and don’t belong to a real community. Besides, Craigslist is a fascinating jungle of people tags - to quote a user - such as “narcissistic personality disorder, egomaniacs, adulterers, cheaters, liars, users, selfish, delusional, midlife crisis, bald, potbelly, bad teeth, unibrow, runt, stalkers, dominant, arrogant, child of divorce, bullying, abuse, nymphomaniacs, ghetto trash, white trash, eurotrash.” So for a writer, this landscape is utterly fascinating! In The Other Girl, I felt guilty for writing a novel as commercial and with such a wide popular appeal as My Life on Craigslist and I wanted to write something literary pure, disregarding all commercial conventions, yet simple and honest.

2. What's the best thing about being an Indie writer?

Freedom. You are not pigeonholed to write in any way decided by an agent or editor, so you can grow
freely. Most agents and editors want to fit you into a selling standard and turn you into a cash machine.
A famous New York agent once told me that the only way I can make it as a writer is if I’ll write a
vampire book. And I thought, gee, who needs another vampire book? You see, if I was born in Romania I am supposed to be an expert at vampires! I think it’s unfair that Indie writers still don’t enjoy the same prestige and trust that indie filmmakers enjoy for example; major newspapers and magazines don’t review indie books, most prestigious books awards, unlike the Cannes film festival, don’t accept indie books, and it doesn’t make any sense. A good book should be a good book regardless of its label.

3. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Try to read as much as possible, go to the core of ‘you’ when you write, believe in yourself when others don’t, and remember that each writer has her or his own luck. Dan Brown wrote 4 books before he landed a publishing deal with a mainstream house, while other authors go to a workshop, like young
Anne North, and find an agent just by showing the first pages of un unfinished novel. Writing a book is
the easy part, the rest is like speed dating on arid Mars, the query letters to agents, pitching the editors,
and all the marketing without a budget. You need to be lucky. In this tough business, try to remember
that Yates sold only 200 self-published books before he died and only got bad reviews. So my last advice is to write and publish (or self-publish) the best book you can, and don’t wait for anyone to anoint you. If it happens, great, but stay detached.

4. Do you have a favorite out of your books? Why?

Dream Junkies is my favorite book because it was the first one I wrote, so it’s pretty much the first love
for me. But my novels are like my children, so I love them all.

5. What three books would you bring with you to a deserted island?

Something new (that I haven’t read), something old, and something spiritual. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a Chinese classic historical novel of 1700 pages that I really look forward to reading after watching the fascinating TV series in Europe; Rumi, the poetry collection translated by Coleman Barks, and the I Ching oracle, most likely the classic Wilhelm translation, which I consult every day.


One lucky A Bookish Affair follower will have a chance to win ebook copies of all three of Alexandra Ares' books!

- You must be 13 and over
-  Open internationally!
- You must be a follower of A Bookish Affair
- Giveaway ends October 28

Just fill out the form below:


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