I’ve been published by traditional mainstream publishers like HarperCollins, small publishers like Crossroad Press, through collectives like Book View Café, and I have self-published. My books can be found in hardcover, paperbacks, e-books, and audiobooks.
Publishers and booksellers often are somewhat baffled on how to look at my novels. I am a nightmare to classify. I’ve written high/epic fantasy; historical fantasy; contemporary fantasy; paranormal; mainstream; humor; science fiction; short stories and novels; adult and YA. My stuff takes bits from genres and combines them into different genres until the heads of agents and editors spin like those on confused owls.
I never write the same book twice, but I don’t know why. I am a literary chameleon and I find myself changing even as I strive to do justice to whatever story is settling into my mind to be told. I can be funny or lyrical, I can be razor-focused on a technical detail or diffuse-focused on a particular kind of light suffusing the world at dawn.
All of this means that the books I write have something ineffably ME stamped on them, but it is impossible for anybody to say “if you liked book A by Alma Alexander you will ALSO like book B because they are similar”. No – you might like books A and B because they are Alma Alexander books and a certain sense of the author permeates them, as it inevitably must – but don’t look for elements of book A in book B. If they are there, they have been transmuted like a philosopher’s stone, and it’s going to become a task of literary archaeology for a reader to dust off the traces and excavate the common origins.
I write … everything
The Secrets of Jin-shei’ has been reviewed as a historical novel, though it is quite clearly a fantasy that is BASED on a historical period in China’s history. I called my mythical land Syai and while it was inspired by Imperial China it most definitely was NOT the China of our world’s history.
‘Embers of Heaven’ is set in the same world 400 years later and is a mythical retelling of our own China’s Cultural Revolution.
When I first began writing historical fantasy, I was inspired by times and places rooted in our own familiar world, but leavened with a dash of the unreal. A world that might have been. I wrote about places which might be identifiable as something from our own history and geography but gave them different names. If I used things that were supposed to have happened in the “true” history of our world I sometimes fudged the precise timing so that I could create a more consistent story rooted in my own world.
‘Empress’ was inspired by our own world’s Byzantium, set a bit further back in time and in a different part of the same alternate world as my two Jin-shei books. The story was inspired by the saga of Byzantine Emperor Justinian and the courtesan Theodora, described as both one of the greatest love stories ever told and the greatest con perpetrated by a wily woman on a guileless man, depending on what sources you consult. Read my fictional version and make up your own mind.
There is a pattern to my world building. More books like Empress and the Jin-shei novels are coming. All of them will become integrated into a lush alternative world with its own past, its own current events, its own future. I am literally rewriting the (fantastical) history of our world, novel by novel, building it brick by brick, character by character, word by word.
And then there are the ‘other’ books. ‘Midnight at Spanish Gardens,’ for example, is set in the recent past and is quite realistic in tone. But in it, a strange bartender gives people the chance to live alternative lives, and later have to decide which life to continue. Contemporary fantasy perhaps?
‘AbductiCon’ is surely pure science fiction, complete with androids and time travel. But… But… But… It is also humor, a fond take off on science-fiction conventions. And it’s also fantasy; it breaks the laws of physics, at least as far as we know them. The time traveling androids take the whole con hotel into space, for heaven’s sake, what is that if not fantasy?
‘Letters from the Fire’ is set in the near past and involves a very real war, NATO’s attack on my homeland. I caught a clerk putting it in the nonfiction history section of his book store. I don’t think he was quite sure he believed me when I told him it was fiction. I guess it’s a mainstream novel.
I’ve also written something (‘Wings of Fire’) that might fall into the bracket of paranormal romance – selkies and angels and creatures from assorted world mythologies, oh my; a high/epic fantasy (the ‘Changer of Days’ books); and unclassifiable things like my latest, the Val Hall stories (what do you call tales about retired superheroes (Third Class), set largely in a very familiar world we all already live in? Alternate history?).
I am a writer. You could define that as “I am a creature who writes stories”.
It is just as easy to turn that light in the other direction.
I am a writer. My stories … write me.
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