Author Interview: Alethea Kontis

THE AUTHOR

Alethea Kontis is a fairy princess and bestselling author of many shiny books for children of all ages, including The Woodcutter Sisters and the AlphaOops! series. She lives in Ashburn, VA with her Fairy Godfamily and a teddy bear named Charlie.  You can find her at http://aletheakontis.com.

Alethea Kontis

THE INTERVIEW

What do you like to snack on while writing?

Hummus and veggie chips! It’s all Sherrilyn Kenyon’s fault — we always keep that on hand at her writing cabin.

What would Sunday [the protagonist of Enchanted] ask for if she had one wish?

To make a difference in her world. A good one.

Which character do you find most frustrating?

The most frustrating characters are the ones I’m currently writing. Whomever that might be.

What was your favorite scene to write, in any book?

Currently, my favorite scene is in the second-to-last chapter of Hero. I won’t spoil anything, but it introduces two characters I hadn’t originally intended to write. They just sprang fully-formed onto the page, and it was love at first sight.

My favorite parts of Enchanted are chapters 4 and 5 (“Godspat” and “Wicked”). I know I’m not supposed to have favorite chapters, but when I heard Katherine Kellgren narrate them for the audiobook, I fell in love with them all over again. They’re almost like perfect, self-contained short stories from beginning to end that tell SO much about Sunday and Rumbold.

What makes the Woodcutter Sister series particularly relevant to teens?

For those who like to read between the lines, there are many relevant topics for discussion in the Woodcutter Sisters books: unrequited love, transformation, trouble with parents, the love of a family, responsibility, sibling rivalry, agoraphobia, gender identity, communication, addiction, loss…the list goes on (and one day I’ll write it up for Book Clubs and Reading Groups). For those who just want a fun fairy tale adventure, well, the series is that too.

Most of all, I hope to encourage teens to pick up the original Grimm and Andersen stories, or the Andrew Lang Fairy Books, or 1001 Arabian Nights, or any of the other

tales that created the myths we tell today. I think they’d be surprised how much they don’t know. I am still studying them all, and having a blast doing it.

How is the process for writing picture books different from young adult books?

Writing picture books is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from writing short stories and novels. I’ve found that picture book manuscripts work better if they are presented more like screenplays, with the dialogue as the focus and the illustration notes listed like stage directions. (I hear comic books are written much the same way.) I wrote the first AlphaOops book like a short story, and I had to chop out an insane amount of text–a picture really is worth 1000 words. I wrote the second AlphaOops book like a stage play, and the editing went a lot smoother.

Has your background in either chemistry or acting influenced your writing in any way?

Oh, definitely! My background in math and science definitely affected the way in which I look at literature as a whole. It’s not just visceral for me–it has to make sense. And it should be smart. Like, really crazy John Nash smart, with patterns everywhere and everything happening for a reason.

Dialogue is my strong point–in part because I was an actress and in part because I grew up at the movie theatre (literally–my family still owns theatres in Vermont). But I believe the strength of my characters is 100% from acting. Just as a director will ask, “What’s your motivation?” I need to know why a character is doing what they are doing. If a movement or a line of dialogue is unnecessary to the advancement of the plot, it doesn’t need to be there. Economy of words and movement leads to both a stronger performance and a stronger scene.

What is your favorite fairy tale?

“The Goose Girl.”

“Snow White and Rose Red” is a close second.

What are you working on next?

I am currently working on BELOVED, the third book in the Woodcutter Sisters series (Friday’s tale), as well as a novella about Trix’s adventures (TRIXTER), which we hope to make available this winter as an e-book.

What important question have we forgotten to ask?

How’s Charlie doing? Oh, he’s great. He got a girlfriend while we were in Vermont earlier this year. Her name is Maddie. She belonged to my grandmother, Madeleine, who passed away. Hero is dedicated to both of my grandmothers. Charlie just finished helping write the acknowledgements for that book. It was very emotional. He wishes I would find the time to write more picture books or work on my video blog. So do I.

THE BOOKS

ENCHANTED (WOODCUTTER SISTERS #1):It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past – and hers?

ALPHAOOPS!: THE DAY Z WENT FIRST: It’s backwards! It’s inside out! It’s every letter for itself! This laugh-out-loud romp is not your average alphabet book!

Z is tired of always having to be last when the alphabet family lines up. He is demanding fair and equal treatment! The letters (more or less) agree to go backwards, but it’s not long before P has some ideas of his own. And so does H, for that matter. In fact, it seems as if almost every letter has a different opinion about how the alphabet should be arranged. It’s chaos! It’s pandemonium! And it’s definitely not as easy as A-B-C! Filled with visually humorous details, Bob Kolar’s colorful illustrations are the perfect foil for Alethea Kontis’s snappy story about the comic confusion that comes when the letters of the alphabet, like a class of unruly children, step out of order and show that each one has a mind of its own.

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