Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Q&A: TASHA ALEXANDER, PT 1

Our guest today is novelist Tasha Alexander, author of the historical mystery And Only to Deceive (William Morrow), named by Poisoned Pen Bookstore as one of the Top 20 First Mysteries of 2005. The novel, set in Victorian England, involves stolen antiquities, betrayal, and murder:

For Emily, accepting the proposal of Philip, the Viscount Ashton, was an easy way to escape her overbearing mother, who was set on a grand society match. So when Emily's dashing husband died on safari soon after their wedding, she felt little grief. After all, she barely knew him. Now, nearly two years later, she discovers that Philip was a far different man from the one she had married so cavalierly ...

Now, with further ado, the first installment of our Q&A ...

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PART ONE

Who are your literary influences?
Gosh, I’m such a book junkie; I’ll read just about anything. But as to who influences my writing, I’d say Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy L. Sayers and Elizabeth Peters. At the moment I’m absolutely in love with David Mitchell’s writing.

Who are your philosophical influences?
I’m the daughter of two philosophy professors, so this is kind of a loaded question … Plato, Sartre, and on bad days, Nietzsche.

What is the best thing anyone said about one of your books?
Honestly, every single nice thing that’s been said about my book has warmed my heart. But one thing that made me dance around the house was in a review that ran on reviewingtheevidence.com: “Alexander's writing made me remember why I became an English major in the first place. It's for the books.”

What is the worst thing anyone said about one of your books?

Kirkus called And Only to Deceive “pleasantly soporific.” My goal in life is to become successful enough as I writer that I feel comfortable walking around in a t-shirt with PLEASANTLY SOPORIFIC emblazoned across the chest.

How many books do you read a month?

Five or six

What are your writing habits?

I sit down at the computer as soon as everyone else has left the house in the morning and usually begin by writing emails. This could be considered procrastination or warming up, depending on your point of view.

Then I read what I wrote the day before, make notes about what I’d like to revise, enter those changes into the computer, and at last start the real writing. I try to do two thousand words a day, which is a reasonable goal for me. I’d undoubtedly be more efficient if I had no access to email, but writing can be isolating work; I wouldn’t want to give up my correspondence with the handful of other authors I’m lucky enough to have as friends.

If I’m finding myself distracted, I’ll go to Starbucks in downtown Franklin. Lots of creative people there, so there’s a certain amount of benevolent peer pressure that’s excellent for kick-starting productivity. Plus, their chai tea is the best.

When I reach the stage of being immersed in the book, I don’t want to stop writing at all, something not particularly appreciated by my husband and son, who find themselves knee-deep in pizza boxes at a house where the dust buffalos have taken over from the dust bunnies. They much prefer the earlier stages, when I’m doing lots of thinking. Thinking often done best while, say, baking Viennese pastry.

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Come back tomorrow for the second installment of our conversation. In the meantime, And Only to Deceive is available at Amazon and other fine booksellers. Read the first chapter online. Find Tasha online at www.TashaAlexander.com.

(Author photos by Wolf Hoffman.)

Related links:
TASHA ALEXANDER, PT 2
TASHA ALEXANDER, PT 3

More Novelist Q&As:

LONNIE CRUSE (Murder In Metropolis)
THOMAS O'CALLAGHAN (Bone Thief)
ANNE RICE (Christ The Lord: Out Of Egypt)

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