[Today, we sit down for an interview with author and poet, Alexandra Seidel. Here, she discusses the influence of mythology on her writing; her paranormal romance alter ego, Alexa Piper; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: What roles do spirituality, mythology, and folklore play in your writing? Do you find yourself drawn to a particular mythos, or does it vary by the story or poem?
Alexandra Seidel: That is an excellent question, and one I frankly haven’t thought too much about. I think more than anything, I latch on to one specific thing, for instance I remember hearing this snippet about how swallowing a teaspoon full of salt before going to bed was believed to introduce prophetic visions. It was just a super short mention on the Folklore Podcast. I couldn’t even locate the episode later on for context when I felt a story coming along that relied on that, so I contacted Mark Norman of the Podcast who was super nice and helped me find out more. It led to “Her Tongue Was Weighted With Salt,” which will appear in Issue 2 of Dark Matter.
With myths and specific myths, I think I mix and match so things work in my own word or worlds. My tricksters swap genders a lot and like archery. For instance, Eris, who currently appears in a romance series I write as Alexa Piper, was male last time he was on the page. He also almost killed a pigeon, but I forgive him. [For more on mythology in romance, see her blog post “Writing About Hell.”]
Spirituality doesn’t interest me all that much. It sometimes appears in my writing as a practice, but to a lesser degree than a lot of other things.
ev0ke: Your poem “Seven Witches” appeared in the October 2018 issue of Eye to the Telescope. What was the inspiration for that poem, and which of those witches do you wish you could be? (Or all of them?)
AS: I don’t specifically remember what brought out that one. I am probably a little bit of all of them. And I would like to be the librarian witch or the shapechanger one.
ev0ke: You describe your short story “The Wings of Moths Like Shining Coins” as “hope-dark sf.” What is hope-dark science fiction? And what draws you to this particular genre?
AS: I think Fusion Fragment’s editor was the one who came up with that term, but it rang very true. I think as opposed to grimdark, which ends with a bleak outlook that is just a different shade of bleak from when the story started, hope-dark allows the reader for a sliver of, well, hope. You can see the protagonist has found at least something that improved their situation or the way they are feeling in their situation. Or that’s true for “Wings,” at least, I think. It’s a weird story, and you had best judge for yourself.
In terms of what draws me to this, this is another one of these instances where it’s more a subconscious thing, the kind of ending my story gets to have. Grimdark is not for me, but having a shift occur somewhere in either the world or, even better, my characters, that is interesting. And if it is a hopeful shift, I can even see them go on and do more stuff, and they are more likely to do that if there is just a tiny bit of hope involved.
ev0ke: “The Shepherdess, the Roc, and One Errant Sheep” will appear in a forthcoming issue of Dreamforge. First, congratulations! Second, without too many spoilers, can you tell us who this shepherdess is, and how she gets tangled up with a roc?
AS: Thank you! Well, the shepherdess came to an island for an apprenticeship. She ended up herding sheep, but not the ordinary kind, the kind with golden wool. The roc comes to the island for his own reasons. One thing his presence does is make the sheep run away. He also is a very big bird, and the shepherdess is upset because he’s a very big bird, and she wants to kick him off the island. There is one very monosyllabic character in this everyone just seems to love. This story is not hope-dark at all, it’s pure humor.
ev0ke: “Of White Cranes and Blue Stars” will appear in the Air anthology, edited by Rhonda Parrish. Did you write the story for that specific anthology? And how does the mythology of cranes fit into the narrative?
AS: I didn’t write it specifically for that anthology, it just happened to be a good fit, and as with all of Rhonda’s projects, I can be sure the piece found a good home.
Cranes, not so much. This story is about a goddess, a goddess who takes many forms and once brought her brother back to life in the reeds. She was known as Isis then.
ev0ke: What has been the most difficult, but ultimately most satisfying, piece for you to create?
AS: We writers learn and improve with everything we do, so up until this point, the most difficult projects for me have been the longer ones, which includes mostly the romance series I write as Alexa Piper. A novella of up to 40,000 words or more is just a different kind of beast than a short story, which caps at 7,500 words. And yet, I love those series for the worldbuilding I get to do over time, even if this brings issues of continuity with it. But all the mythological creatures and the places I get to explore on that huge canvas? That is just fun.
ev0ke: What kind of research goes into your writing? Trips to the library? Huge stacks of books? Long hours online?
AS: Oooh, I should be skipping this question! You see, I happen to be a very lazy writer. I’m what is called a pantser or a discovery writer, which means I don’t plan what happens on the page, I just sit down and start writing the thing. I don’t do research, but I will look up and find things if I need them, like what I mentioned about the connection with salt and divination above. But generally, I think I just take in things I see and hear, and then my brain acts as a blender and makes a story smoothie out of it. Being generally curious helps with the smoothie making of course, and I am that.
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
AS: The best way to keep up with my science fiction and fantasy stories is my website. If you like steamy romance with mythological creatures from all around the world, I will have to direct you to Alexa Piper’s work. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.
ev0ke: For people who love your work, which other authors would you recommend?
AS: That’s an easy one. Neil Gaiman and Catherynne M. Valente.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
AS: My romance publisher recruited me as a proofreader, so I do that, because grammar is just the coolest thing. I also keep a fun blog about writing called The Wicked Writing Corner.