RW: So let’s start this off from the beginning, I read that your husband gave you this idea for a female wizard spying for the Allies in WWII against the Nazis and basically said, see what you can do with it and you did. And you did it quite well if I may say so. Now where did he come up with that idea?
ALESHA: Thank you! He started off trying to create a fun roleplaying game (RPG) character for his sister, and when I heard “female spy” and “World War II” mixed with magic and intrigue, I immediately knew that such a character would fit well in a full-fledged story. I told him to give me that character, and she became Isabella George.
RW: People have said your main character of wizard Isabella George is another take on something Jim Butcher would have created. I have my opinion but why do you think people say that?
ALESHA: I don’t mind taking that as a compliment, because I’m a huge fan of Jim Butcher! I think people may say that because of a wizard openly practicing and offering wizardly services in modern society. When we first meet Butcher’s Harry Dresden, he is a wizard for hire (and he becomes much more). Isabella is a trained alchemist, and British intelligence hires her to spy against the Nazis; throughout the course of the trilogy, she becomes much more.
RW: Tells us why Isabella and your version of wizardry is not Jim Butcher?
ALESHA: I think the difference comes in with the magic system, as well as the fact that in the Gray Tower Trilogy, the number of people with magical abilities are declining, almost like a dying breed. There’s also going to be this unique voice and spark that will come through when you follow Isabella on her journey.
RW: You have different types of Wizards in your books. Why the divisions in abilities? Where did that come from?
ALESHA: Just as we have physical and mental talents, people who are born with magical abilities also have a propensity toward certain powers–mind control, alchemy, healing, etc. One of my characters, a priest named Gabriel, explains that these preternatural abilities were normal and widespread before the Fall of Man, but we’ve lost most of it since then. Throughout time, people like shamans, healers and miracle workers, were remnants of this legacy. The Gray Tower was founded in order to support and train these people for the good of society. They track down people who exhibit abilities (some people have only one predominate ability, others have two) and offer to train them.
RW: How many drafts of The Tower’s Alchemist did you go through?
ALESHA: More than two, that’s for sure. But it was necessary, and the process made me better and stronger as a writer.
RW: How different is the book from that first draft to what we see now?
ALESHA: Very different, which is a good thing, because it shows what you’ve put into the process and what you’ve learned from the process.
RW: Was your plan from the beginning to write a trilogy?
ALESHA: Yes, because a series spanning 10+ books? I ain’t got time for that!
RW: Were there any actual Historical elements that led you to how to approach writing The Tower’s Alchemist?
ALESHA: I definitely played upon the concept that Hitler and his followers were into the occult and wanted to use it to their advantage. In the book, though Hitler doesn’t appear as a character, he is spoken of as having formed an alliance with warlocks who would help fight the Allies and give him victory. This is why my heroine, Isabella, is hired by the British to spy against the Nazis. Is there a rogue alchemist poisoning Ally soldiers? Let’s send in that woman trained by the Gray Tower to take care of it. That’s their line of reasoning.
RW: How did you come up with the names of your characters?
ALESHA: I will not lie. Baby Names book. Sometimes I purposefully set out to find a name with a colorful flair, but I often had to be mindful about taking into account things like a character’s nationality or ethnicity (and this went for both first and last names).
RW: How did you determine what your story would be about? I mean there is a lot in WWII you could go with but for this one it wasn’t going right for the heart of the Nazis like what the next two include. I really need to start reading them.
ALESHA: Please do! I want to chat about the next two books with you. While researching WWII, I found out that female spies going behind enemy lines lasted an average of six weeks. In the story, Isabella has been at it for more than a few months—so she’s a survivor, but she’s also burned out. I wanted her to go from being jaded and tired to being reinvigorated. So the general arc of The Tower’s Alchemist is about Isabella experiencing what should have been her last mission, and how it caused her to become even more entangled in this deadly world of espionage and magic.
RW: That was a very subtle thing you did there. I didn’t even think of it like that. I just enjoyed the story and went along for the ride. Very awesome. Now, was there a temptation to make Isabella George a woman of ethnic background who is good at disguise?
ALESHA: There wasn’t, but I did want a diverse reflection of people who in real life aided in the effort against the Nazis. The character Jasmine Leon, for example, is an homage to the black singer/actress Josephine Baker, who spied for the French. Adelaide was inspired by a real Indian princess (Noor Khan) who sided with the French Resistance and did the dangerous work of radio broadcasting, sending coded messages to the Resistance. Come to think of it, there is an amazing international cast filling this story. I’m searching for a voice actor (for the audiobook) who can do several accents, because we’ve got British, German, French, Russian, American, Italian, and Irish characters.
RW: I read the Amazon Reviews for The Tower’s Alchemist, well I actually read the worst ones because I wanted to see what faults people found. To be honest two of the three were written by the same person using their own log in and a separate one under the title of Amazon customer. And I really could take the time to shoot every single one of this person’s problems down but not wasting any more of my time with that. Actually, I might do that, just not here. I thoroughly dislike amateur haters who don’t know good writing from the back of cereal boxes. When you read a review like that what do you do with it, what do you take away from it? And really what do you do with the reviews at all?
ALESHA: I just let it be. I can’t tell anyone how to feel about the story, or to like it. I respect the fact that we all have our opinions and preferences. I will definitely respond to a reader who has directly contacted me via Facebook or email, because they took the time to send me a note saying how much they’ve enjoyed the books, or they might have a question about them. I love when that happens, because I’ve been spinning stories since I was a kid, and what made it all worth it was seeing others enjoy my tales.
RW: The world The Tower’s Alchemist is set in is filled with magic somewhat openly. I feel it’s more that certain parts of society like the military and maybe the governments are more actively aware but that doesn’t mean it is an accepted thing so much. For me personally I get a since from a character or two at times that it’s like there is a slight fear of Wizards but in part because of an unknown factor and a feeling of being slightly inferior in a way. Are those feelings you were going for and if so why?
ALESHA: Definitely so. “Normal” people’s reactions to wizards are going to run the spectrum from acceptance to rejection. In the world of the Gray Tower Trilogy, people with magical abilities are in the minority, and those formally trained as wizards by the Gray Tower are even fewer in number. So the general population isn’t afraid of wizards, survival-wise, but because the hierarchy within the Tower is composed of some arrogant Master Wizards, and no one can find the actual Gray Tower unless summoned, there is an air of mystery and hesitation. This is why you also see in the story people who decide that they don’t want or need the Gray Tower, or people who see a spiritual significance in their abilities and end up turning to the Church for guidance (like Gabriel, our resident sword-wielding Catholic priest with elemental abilities). Governments and military are more in tune with wizards and what’s going on. Everyday people are more likely to view a wizard as the equivalent of a Freemason plus cool powers.
RW: Tell us about the book cover design. Is there meaning to it? Who designed it? Why did you pick the colors you did?
ALESHA: I’m one of those people who’ll unabashedly give you stick figures! I’m both jealous and in awe of artists. I knew I couldn’t do the covers alone, so I had my husband design them. He’s been doing art professionally for a long time, so I figured he’d take care of it (plus, you know, I bribed him with tacos). The symbols on the covers are alchemical ones. On The Tower’s Alchemist, I believe the symbols stand for Time, Secrecy, and Hidden Things. For the following two books, the symbols change along with the major theme of each book.
RW: Tacos? Ah, now you are speaking my dinero. Anyone else notice the word dine is in dinero? Perfect. Okay, back on track here. You have done something I really enjoy here and that is you have created something called the Cruenti and the Black Wolves which I somewhat compare to two other magical creations of sorts we all should be familiar with. Would you tell us about them and how you came about them being what they are or more about how they ended up being what they are from who they were if that makes sense?
ALESHA: Oh boy, the Cruenti. Where do I start? You know our vampire myths? In the world of my story, those vampires are really warlocks known as Cruenti. However, the difference is that they’re only interested in your blood if you’re a wizard. You’re tastier to them if you have magical abilities, plus they can steal your powers this way. Usually they’ll leave you alone if you’re Joe Normal Guy walking down the street—unless you get in their way. Another interesting thing about them is that in order to become a Cruenti, you have to make a pact with a demon. It’s not for the faint of heart, but definitely for the vain and greedy. Now, we all know how those types of pacts end—the Cruenti warlock ends up degenerating and losing his humanity until he’s physically and mentally transformed into a monster—and that’s how Black Wolves are born. Black Wolves are powerful magical creatures, former warlocks, but they are also unpredictable and irrational—sometimes they attack their own allies.
RW: You have two works coming out this year. Tell us about those and do I get a copy to review?
ALESHA: Yes! I’ve just sent off my short story, LOGAN 6, to the editor. It’s coming up in the Masters of Time anthology (July 2015) and I’m working my way through a novel as well. I’d love to send you a copy, but first you must promise me
I have no idea what I have to promise but I promise!!! Typical writer cliff hanger thingy.
RW: What is Creative Alchemy?
ALESHA: Creative Alchemy is the small media/publishing company founded by Luis [the taco loving hubby artist] and me. It’s basically a micro-press (we publish a few titles per year), and an author services company. As an independent author, there have been times when I needed things like a press release, a freelance editor, or story feedback, and I didn’t have time to search a million places. This was a great solution for me, and since I’m a lover and promoter of other independent authors, being able to offer these great services became a natural extension of Creative Alchemy.
RW: Who would you say was your biggest literary influence when you consider what you write and why?
ALESHA: Robert Jordan, George Martin, JK Rowling, Jim Butcher. They write amazing stories and create memorable characters. When I stepped out of my “I only want to read Tolkien and Tolkien-like fantasy” bubble, their stories welcomed me with open arms. Dresden Files was the first urban fantasy I had ever read, Jordan’s Wheel of Time made me love magic mashed with politics and intrigue (and apparently, detailed descriptions of what my dinner guest is wearing), Martin ripped my heart out (I’m still salty over the fate of Ned), and I first read Harry Potter while taking a Children’s Literature course in college, back in 2001.
RW: What is your favorite beverage to drink and why?
ALESHA: Coffee. It’s delicious, flavorful, and I think I’ve built up a resistance to it, so I drink more than I should. No! Why am I telling you this? Is this answer going to be part of the interview?
RW: What is your biggest writing pet peeve and why?
ALESHA: For myself, it’s all about time. I can easily get frustrated when I lack time I need to write. I wish I could say I sit down for a couple of hours and bang out a thousand words, but I’m lucky if I get in a paragraph. I’m a mom, constantly trying to convince my three year old that wearing Spiderman pajamas doesn’t mean he can jump off the furniture, or I’m driving my eldest to school or dance class. As a reader who enjoys stories, a writing pet peeve of mine is when I encounter passionless or inauthentic writing. I read books to escape, to imagine a different world, and in order to enjoy all that, I want you (the writer) to pull me in and give it all you’ve got—don’t hold back!
RW: What are two hobbies that you have?
ALESHA: I like working with my hands, so you might find me mixing a homemade hair elixir or beading a necklace. I also enjoy baking desserts.
RW: So now we see where the Alchemist comes from. Watch out Luis! What would your husband say is his favorite thing about you?
ALESHA: He feels I’m a kindred spirit and that I accept him for who he is. I love that!
RW: What is your favorite word and why?
ALESHA: That’s tough, asking me to narrow it down. I know…I have a favorite phrase. It’s the last line of Dante’s Divine Comedy: “The love that moves the sun and the other stars.” It’s beautiful to me.
RW: Finally, why should people buy your book?
ALESHA: People should buy my book because it’s a fantastic ride. It’s a fresh, fun fantasy mash-up that will make you want to continue reading.
And now you all want to go and buy the book, right? You can’t! Why? Because it’s FREE for Kindle right now! Click here.
Make sure to follow Alesha on Twitter
@The_GrayTower and check out her site at aleshaescobar.com.
And there you have it. Was I given The Tower’s Alchemist to read for this interview or for a review? No. Did I find Alesha on my own and then read her book after I got it on my own? Yes. I’ll be honest, I don’t often have the time to do that. But I did and I am glad I did. Get it and you will want the next one. I want to see whose butt Isabella kicks next!
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