Interviewing Author (Princess) Alethea Kontis about the Writing Process


Alethea Kontis, as Princess

Alethea Kontis, princess

1.  What was the inception of the project you’re most excited about?  What were your first steps in building that idea into a viable story?

Two questions = two answers:

What project am I the most excited about? All of them! (I’m a rather excitable princess.) I am excited about the imminent rerelease of AlphaOops: H is for Halloween, because it it rare that an author gets a second chance at hitting the bigtime with the same book. I am excited about Enchanted, coming out next spring, because it is my very first novel, set in the fairy tale world I’ve dreamed of writing my whole life. I am excited about my story in John Skipp’s Demons anthology this fall, because I think it’s the best I’ve ever written.I am also SUPER excited about my upcoming collaborations with my dear friend artist Janet Lee, who is fresh off an Eisner win for Best New Graphic Album for Return of the Dapper Men. (I am so proud! WTG Janet & Jim!)

As for how I build an idea into a viable story…hmm. I’m what some folks call an “Athena writer.” I put the ideas into the stewpot of my head and let them, well, stew. I go for the obvious solutions and throw them away, then I turn things on their head and try it again. When writing a novel I have a vague road map of where I’m going, so I know how and where I want my characters to end up. Once I’ve mentally got the logic all Sherlocked out, then the story’s done. Fully formed and ready to spring from my head. All I need to do is just start writing. That last thing is the hard part. BUTT IN CHAIR is a constant issue with me.

2.  What kind of research and/or world-building did you do before beginning?

I’ve been reading fairy tales and nursery rhymes all my life, and I wrote Enchanted based on that knowledge alone. I know far more about folklore than your average girl with a tiara, but there’s a lot I’ve forgotten, or mixed up. So before I began working on the sequels, I started podcasting all of the Grimms’ fairy tales on my blog. I also sat down with the Andrew Lang fairy books and a notebook and started taking notes on every single fairy tale. I make note of the animals and their traits, the nomenclature, similarities and differences. I’m not sure I’ll ever be done with this particular self-taught doctorate, but I feel like I’m always learning about new facets of this world I’ve built in my head.

3.  What’s your first-draft process?  Outline, edit as you go, speed-writing?

Thanks to that aforementioned “Athena” dysfunction, I’m a very slow–but very clean–writer. On average, I do about 500 words an hour. My outlines are rough and consist of bullet points of events I know need to happen, and in what order, so I can be sure to keep on track. (This outline becomes far more detailed as I get to the last few chapters of the book, so I’m sure not to forget anything.) I don’t outline for short stories, I just tell them to myself over and over, every night before I fall asleep, until I’m finished writing them. Kind of like the way my dad used to read me as a kid.

4.  How do you start revisions?

I wait for my editor to say, “I love this, but it needs 30,000 words cut.” Then I take my machete, turn my brain on Heavy Copyedit Mode, and slash accordingly. Anything longer than a sentence or two I do not delete outright–I move it into a “Cuts” document, in case I ever plan to use it later in another story, or feature it as Extras or Easter Eggs on my website. When doing edits, I aim for two chapters a day.

5.  If you could choose a few descriptors that would go in a blurb on the front cover of your book, what would they be?

J.T. Ellison (yes, the bestselling thriller writer has a penchant for YA fantasy) gave me a blurb for Enchanted that blew my socks off. It touched on every word I would have said (like “Brothers Grimm” and “Neil Gaiman” and “lovechild”), and every word I’d forgotten to mention (like “classic” and “winner” and big screen”). I wish Harcourt could put the whole thing on the front cover, but I’ve seen my cover mock-up. They’ll be lucky to fit anything but the title.

6.  What cool thing would you put in the DVD extra version that didn’t get into the published work?  research or created detail you had to cut or couldn’t use?

Oh, definitely that 30,000 words I didn’t get to use. There’s some really great stuff in there. It just didn’t move the story along as quickly as kids read nowadays.

7.  Where should readers go to find out more about your work? or — whichever is easier to remember. (Just make sure you spell ALETHEA correctly.) I’ve always got my fingers in something, and I love telling everyone just how fabulously I can screw it all up.

8.  Care to share a link (aside from your own work) to something amazing you think everyone should see or know about?

Artist Janet Lee can be found here:

She also sells prints, cards, and limited edition holiday ornaments on her Etsy site here:

My sister, the famous jewelry designer (who was featured in Vogue, and is worn by Angela Bassett):

Author Eric James Stone, who is serializing Unforgettable, one of my favorite books of all time, and who just won a Nebula Award:

About E. C. Ambrose

I spend as much time in my office as I possibly can--thinking up terrible things to do to people who don't exist.
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