Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brightly Woven: Interview with Alexandra Bracken

Today's interview is with Alexandra Bracken, about her debut novel, Brightly Woven.

Sydelle Mirabil is living proof that, with a single drop of rain, a life can be changed forever. Tucked away in the farthest reaches of the kingdom, her dusty village has suffered under the weight of a strangely persistent drought. That is, of course, until a wizard wanders into town and brings the rain with him.

In return for this gift, Wayland North is offered any reward he desires—and no one is more surprised than Sydelle when, without any explanation, he chooses her. Taken from her home, Sydelle hardly needs encouragement to find reasons to dislike North. He drinks too much and bathes too little, and if that isn’t enough to drive her to madness, North rarely even uses the magic he takes such pride in possessing. Yet, it’s not long before she realizes there’s something strange about the wizard, who is as fiercely protective of her as he is secretive about a curse that turns his limbs a sinister shade of black and leaves him breathless with agony. Unfortunately, there is never a chance for her to seek answers.

Along with the strangely powerful quakes and storms that trace their path across the kingdom, other wizards begin to take an inexplicable interest in her as well, resulting in a series of deadly duels. Against a backdrop of war and uncertainty, Sydelle is faced with the growing awareness that these events aren’t as random as she had believed—that no curse, not even that of Wayland North, is quite as terrible as the one she herself may carry.

Hey Alexandra! Tell us a little about yourself as a writer – do you outline, or wing it? Do you write daily, or in snatches?

I’m an inbetweener! I have to know where the story is going when I sit down to write it, so I often work off a very loose outline. That said, I always give myself permission to leave the outline in the dust if some new plot turn strikes me in the moment. And I wish I could say that I write daily! I prefer to sit down and write for long stretches of time (between four and six hours), which means I do most of my writing on the weekend now.

When – and why – did you begin writing?

I started writing at a very young age! In third grade, my teacher put a heavy focus on creative writing, and we must have done at least three or four stories over the year. The best part was that she would help us “bind” the pages (which we of course illustrated!) using contact paper and cardboard. ☺ I started writing with the active goal of publication my freshman year of college, and while that book will never see the light of day, it taught me a lot about crafting a story.

Tell us about your publishing journey. What did it take to get Brightly Woven on bookshelves?

Oooooh… a lot of revising! I wrote Brightly Woven over the course of six or so months, but spent nearly a year revising first by myself and then with an agent. My agent and publication stories are actually pretty typical, though they were blissfully short. I started querying for my agent in December of 2007 and was offered representation by my agent that February—on my 21st birthday! It went on submissions in

October of 2008 and I was able to tell my friends and family about my deal on Thanksgiving day. So, for me, it’s taken QUITE a long time to see the story go from manuscript to bound book, but it’s been worth it!

What was your process writing this book? What did you have trouble with, and what inspired you?

I felt like I wrote Brightly Woven in a rush of emotions, and rode that wave out until the very end. I really wanted to write a story about compassion—about two people who would be there for one another, even when no one else would. In some ways it was a very easy story to write, and the first draft was incredibly energetic despite it being so, so long. That said, I really struggled to revise it later, especially when it came to reworking the beginning of the story. While the first draft had all of the elements you’ll still find in the finished draft, the story’s plotline needed to be stronger, and straightened out. That was not quite as easy or fun after several rounds of revision!

Most fantasies have a lot of worldbuilding that goes into them. How did you go about creating the world of Brightly Woven?

I feel like I go backwards when it comes to worldbuilding. I tend to start developing my characters first, and then try to figure out what sort of world had produced them. From the moment North’s character sprung into my mind, I knew he’d be carrying a lot of sadness inside of him. I built the wizarding society and the belief system off of his insecurities and attitude, not the other way around. So yeah, kind of backwards, right? I’d like to think that being a History major also helped me give some depth to their world, if only because it gave me a perspective on how interconnected all faucets of human life are.

I think that is an awesome way to go about worldbuilding! Actually, it makes sense to me. Sounds like a more organic process than in other traditional worldbuilding methods. I'm going to remember this...

So what’s one thing I wouldn’t know about Brightly Woven by reading the blurb?

Sydelle is extremely stubborn and refuses to leave her loom behind, which is both a good and a bad thing!

Here on Headdesk, I have a minor obsession with the rules of writing. Is there any particular rule you write by?

First drafts are allowed to suck! I have to remind myself this all the time thanks to my perfectionist tendencies, but it’s sometimes the only thing that gets me through the first draft.

If knew you a teenager who aspired to be a novelist, what would you say to them?

This is the advice I give to everyone, especially to teens: focus on your writing first, and publication second! If you do that, I think you’ll find that publication will fall into place when it’s meant to happen.

How have you grown as a writer, and how do you hope to see yourself grow in the future?

I recently went back and re-read the first full novel I ever wrote, and was really surprised to see how much I had grown between that novel and Brightly Woven. My goal is always to improve with every book I write, but I’d like to expand into other areas of fantasy as well…

What’s next for Alexandra Bracken?

While there aren’t any plans for a Brightly Woven sequel right now, I’m working on several projects right now. Other than that, I’m keeping my options blissfully open.

Sounds like a plan. Thanks for being here, Alexandra, and best of luck!

Alexandra Bracken wrote Brightly Woven as a birthday present for a friend, and the story grew and flourished during a year of unpredictable, wild weather. A native of Arizona, she is a recent graduate of the College of William and Mary, where she majored in History and English. She now lives in New York City. To learn more about Alexandra and her writing, check out her website.


dorkvader said...

Sha-weet!!! I'm super pumped to read that now! >_> <_< I wonder if I'll have to twist some arms at my library...

Bibliophile said...

And boy do I want a sequel!

Anonymous said...

i just litterly finished that book 15 mins ago its sooooooooooo good you need to right a squeal like really really soon please i love your books and hope you right more

Anonymous said...

I just finished Brightly Woven about ten mins ago...stayed up untill three reading it, and then couldn't get to sleep because I just kept thinking about it. It was SO GOOD! I absoloutley LOVE the caracters (defenitly North) and I REALLY hope that you make a second one! Pwease!?
~Cassy <3

Creative A said...

I finally got my hands on this book, and I have to say, I loved it. Definitely the kind worth re-reading.


Anonymous said...

OMG!!!!! I loved this book. I've rereading countless times, and I think how the book ends shouldn't need a sequel. The author does a very nice job of tying in loose ends, and personally, I like it when the ending is open for the reader to think about. It just feels that having book after book sets it in stone too much. Although short stories would be nice.:)

Anonymous said...

I just read Brightly Woven for the third time, and I sill love it! I really hope that there is a sequel.

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