I was lucky enough to have Alexandria contact me via my blog mid 2019 offering me the chance to read her new novel Below, based in an Arctic like setting and focused around Inuit mythology I quickly sent my reply saying I would love the chance. I read and reviewed the book earlier in the year (review) and it blew me away. I loved everything from the setting, the writing to the characters, so I figured I would push my luck an ask her if she was available for an interview… she said yes! want to find more about this amazing book as well as about the authors writing process? Then dig in, and make sure to add it to your Goodreads.
Hi Alexandria! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. To start off with tell us a little bit about your yourself.
Hi, Becky–thank you for having me! I’m Alexandria Warwick, author of The Demon Race and the upcoming North series. Aside from writing, I’m an orchestral violinist, I enjoy watercolor painting, and I love all things A:TLA, Pokemon, Zelda, and Miyazaki.
I see from your website you are a big fan of the last Airbender. Did that influence your work at all, especially with Yuki’s power?
Oooh yes. Avatar:The Last Airbender. My favorite show EVER! Funnily enough, the central idea of Below–a face-stealing demon–came from Avatar. In the series, there’s a spirit called Koh, the Face Stealer. I thought the idea was different from what we normally see in fantasy, and I wanted to put my own spin on it. As for the elemental magic aspect, that was surprisingly not an influence of Below. Apaay’s world isn’t a world of elemental magic. Rather, it is influenced by the Inuit culture, which has a strong connection to the environment.
Did you always know Below was going to be based around Inuit culture & Mythology?
Initially I only had the concept of the Face Stealer. In my ideas notebook, I had another story idea centered around one of the Native American mythologies. When I did further research, I came across the Inuit, and setting the world in a harsh Arctic environment was when I paired the face-stealing idea with the Inuit mythology. I think the setting cinched it for me because I love writing in places of extremes.
How did you research the mythology, and cultural influences used in the book?
I focused on the Inuit of Nunavut, Canada when conducting research. I looked for mythology and oral stories that were specific to that region. I was in contact with someone in Iqaluit who was generous enough to give me feedback about the mythology.
I took the writing of an indigenous culture very seriously. I utilized the blog American Indians in Children’s Literature to help guide me on positive representation of an indigenous culture. The sources I used were written, for the most part, either by Inuit or for Inuit. If something was written from a white lens, I kept that into consideration. When creating the story, I asked myself what are the most important pieces of Inuit culture, the heart of it, so to speak. Their naming customs, community, and resilience are what I chose to focus on when building Apaay’s culture. At the end of the day, I am a white woman writing a story influenced by a people who have been subject to white colonialism. My goal was to create a fully fleshed world, fully fleshed characters, and to give Apaay’s story justice.
What is your book writing process? (are you a planner, write the end first, do you listen to specific music?)
I am very much a planner! I write by an outline that hits the emotional beats, but still has room for flexibility. Especially with a series, I have to be able to keep track of events and foreshadowing. I write pretty much from beginning to end, but if I get stuck I’ll jump ahead to another scene and try to fill in the holes later. The important thing is keeping the momentum going. A few other things: I can’t start writing unless I have the name of the main character, and until I have the first line of the story. I do listen to music when I write! It’s basically movie scores or epic music like Audiomachine. I can’t write to music with words.
Do any of the characters in your books have traits from yourself, or people in your life?
Apaay is the closest character to me that I’ve ever written. In so many ways I feel that she is me. She cares very deeply for people, she feels very deeply as well, and she struggles with choosing how to live her life based on what other people want, versus being true to herself. (The only thing is I don’t really tell dad jokes!) For secondary characters, maybe subconsciously I took a trait from someone I know? I didn’t do it intentionally though.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realised about yourself through writing?
This is a very good question! I had to think about it for a minute. Writing has taught me to really embrace who I am as an individual. It took me many manuscripts of exploring my writing style to finally settle into a style I consider mine. When exploring, there were a lot of frustrations with feeling that how I wrote wasn’t what people wanted to read, or it wasn’t a style that people connected with or liked. It’s a very subjective thing. In the process though, it helped me grow as a person, helped me build confidence in myself. How I write is connected to who I am. When I am confident in how I write, I am validating myself in other areas of my life. I’m building security in my individuality.
Tell us a bit about your latest book below, and anything else you have in the works.
At its core, Below is a story about love for one’s family, survival, and the resilience of the human spirit. As for what’s next, I’m working on book two in the series, which will release in late 2020!
Probably a miniature wolf. Like, pomeranian-sized, but a wolf. (It’s domesticated though!)
Night in or Night out?
Night in. So I can write more! Or read.
It depends. I’m kind of a mood eater. Sometimes I’m craving a bagel and it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten, haha. I also go through food obsession phases. Last obsession was I believe ravioli with rosemary butter sauce.
Favourite movie/Tv series?
Well, you already know my favorite TV show. Favorite movie is between Mulan and Howl’s Moving Castle.