Today I have the pleasure of sharing an interview with Sara Alexi as part of her blog tour for The Other Daughter 🙂
Many thanks to Twinkle Troughton for the opportunity to join in.
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
My name is Sara Alexi and I write The Greek Village series, The Greek Island Series and The Yorkshire Village Series. Before I started writing I worked as a psychotherapist and this reflects in my books which are all character driven. Each book visits a new character and, through their story, we learn what emotional demons they are battling. As we accompany the protagonist we witness how they try to cope with life and their inner struggles and how they ultimately manage to work through these issues, often with help from an unexpected source.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I am constantly inspired by the ‘normal’ people and issues I see around me. We tolerate so much in our lives without batting an eyelid, accepting all that is thrown at us without an issue, but so often life is very unfair. If I experience or witness something that seems touched with that unfairness I feel compelled to speak out. It is passion that sets the story off within me, and interesting characters that drive the ideas forward.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
All my characters are based on observing people I know. I will see something small, just an idyosyncracatic way of moving, or a way of phrasing something, it may just be in passing, possibly by someone I have never met and then I extrapolate that into a whole character, adding in bits of the people I know where they fit to create a new human being.
How do you pick your characters’ names?
I struggle with character names, and often use the first names of my readers. Some names of course fit better than others, some feel more comic, some more serious, some feminine and some very masculine. On several occasions a character has had one name right up until the last round of edits and then I feel it no longer fits and I change it. One rule I do have for the Greek character names is that I try to make the protagonist’s and the major players names as short as possible. The incidental characters tend to have longer names. This is probably because I am dyslexic and when I read other peoples’ books it really helps if the names are quickly readable and memorable.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I plot quite heavily, work out the arc and the story and the sub-story. Then I write down all the events that have to happen and all the things the reader must know to make the whole idea believable. I write each of these on squares of paper and then I arrange them in the order that they need to be shown. This allows me to ensure that the pieces of the sub-plot and any minor characters that are needed near the end are mentioned often enough not to lose them. Once that is done I have a ‘chat’ with the protagonist to get the ‘mood’ of the book before I start writing.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Thomas Hardy, Anthony Trollope, The Brontes, ( Is that cheating?) John Steinbeck, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Cooper Clark. That is six I know but I am allowing myself the last one as he is a poet.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
She is not everybody’s cup of tea but I think a day with Barbara Cartland would be such fun. We could groom her dogs, write a book before lunch time, and then we could discuss etiquette, romance, and how she remained so energetic all her life. I would also ask her what she thought her greatest learning and her greatest achievements were in her lifetime because, somehow, I doubt the answer would be the 723 novels that she wrote. I think she would be fascinating and fun and, maybe, rather intimidating. Obviously I would dress as a man for this wonderful day, paint on a moustache and wear britches as Barabara Cartland once infamously said she would rather have lunch with a stupid man than a clever woman, and I would hate to disappoint.
Were you a big reader as a child?
My father suspected I was dyslexic as a child but decided not to have me tested as he thought I would use it as an excuse not to try at school! Consequently school was a disturbing mystery and the world was a struggle. Reading was the last thought in my head and the least of my battles; first I had to work out what was going on in situations such as English lessons and why no-one else seemed as perplexed as I. To some degree I still have difficulty and go through periods of not reading at all and then I find a book that flows and my dyslexia does not seem like a fight and then I become an avid reader until a character with lots of vowels in their name (they are the tricky things) scares me off again.
When did you start to write?
I started writing five years ago, and it seems I have a lot to say as I have published 29 books to date.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
If you are talking about the books I have written a book, once they are published I no longer consider them to be mine. The process has had its cathartic effect on me and so it moves on and becomes the reader’s journey. So perhaps it might be best to ask them? If you are talking about any book in that has ever been written then I would change the ending of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and scribble out the bit where it says that it was all just a dream and leave it to the imagination of the reader as to what had actually happened.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
I am often very impressed by other peoples writing and when I have finished a good book I so wish I had been the author. It would be difficult to pick one out but two come to mind as I think; Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and A Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich. Stunning character observations, so human.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
This is a most interesting question, and one that I sometimes used to put to my clients when I ran my psychotherapy practice. Strange how I have never pondered this question myself! Of course the answer would probably change over the years but right now, it would be along the lines of: ’I am what I choose to be‘ or ‘Living Hopefully Ever After‘ if it was about the whole of my life. Or if it was only about my writing it could be ‘Dyslexics Are Toeple Poo’ or maybe ’Adding to Positive‘ as that is the purpose of the books. I thought over this question longer than it took me to answer all the others and I am still only fumbling about with half baked ideas.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
I would want to go to tea at the Ritz with Mr Slope from the Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope. He would be overwhelmed by where he was but would not want it to show and he would want to ingratiate himself into his surroundings. I think this would amuse me greatly and I would be sure to play along. Although I think I would be laughing ‘at’ him and myself rather than with him, which isn’t kind, but then he is only a fictitious character and I would laughing at myself too.
What are you working on right now?
For the first time in five years I have managed to get ahead of myself and have two books written but as yet unpublished. So I feel I have some time in which I can do some extensive research for my next novel. This will take me to most of the major capitals of Europe which will be very exciting if somewhat cold at this time of year. (I am writing this in October and so probably wouldn’t go until November.) The idea is that whilst I travel I will make some notes about locations and ambiances but knowing how I am I feel sure I will not be able to wait to start writing and I would not be surprised if I came back with the bulk of the novel written.
Do you have a new release due?
There are two new releases over the next two months:
The Other Daughter is due out on November 1st. My mother died a few months ago, and to try and come to terms with this momentous event I used the process of writing to help process all I was feeling and what her death meant to me. Obviously this means there is much of me in this book but the storyline is purely fiction as are the characters. I think this book, of the ones I have written, had the propensity to become grim but, because of what I tend to focus on when I write, I think it has escaped the darkness and has become an uplifting read. I hope so anyway.
Then there will be a seasonal book around December 1st. This is a light read pulling together a lot of the best loved characters from other books on a seasonal trip to a Greek island where two characters, a mother and son, find their lives unexpectedly changing. All the seasonal elements are included and it is a read that is full of joy. A real heart warming story that can be read independently of the series.
Then in the New Year I hope to have the one I said I would be doing research on that is set in the capitals of Europe. I am aiming for the beginning of February, if not before – fingers crossed.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
Start a new book. Which doesn’t sound like much of a celebration but towards the end of writing a book a new story will come into my head and the new characters will start plaguing my imagination and, in short, I just cannot wait to start their book. So sitting down and working on the first chapter of that new book is exactly how I celebrate.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I am very active on Facebook where I encourage readers to friend me and post on my page. There is a good community there now and they chat with each other too. It is strange how small the world is as friends have unexpectedly reunited through my Facebook page and new friends have been made. I also tweet and use Intragram and my email address is Saraalexi@me.com for anyone who wants to write.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Just a big thank you to my readers.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Sara. I’m so sorry to hear you lost your mother recently. x
The Other Daughter by Sara Alexi is a compelling and gritty tale, set amongst the wild moors and crooked streets of a Yorkshire Village, following one woman who finally untangles herself from the clutches of a painful past and a self-centred mother.
More than a decade after leaving home Dawn finds herself stuck in a dead-end job, in a rundown flat, while her sister has it all – the husband, children and prestigious job in sunny Australia. Their mum’s favouritism is palpable, and even as she has a terrible fall leaving Dawn to pick up the pieces, nothing Dawn does can live up to her perfect, absent sister.
But still Dawn persists with taking care of her aging and fragile mum, until one day it begins to feel like the only thing standing between Dawn and her happiness is her mother’s continued, pitiful existence…
Sara Alexi is one of the top 150 most successful, self-published authors of all time; a prolific writer, she has written 15 books (and counting) in just four years, with book sales reaching well over half a million copies.
Remarkably, Sara is dyslexic. At school English lessons were a time of confusion, she found that books were indecipherable hieroglyphics and she was unable to enjoy reading and writing; growing up in a time when at a time when dyslexia was not well understood and little or no support was available. And so her artistic nature was confined to painting, an art form that she loved and would take her travelling around the world.
Despite her dyslexia Sara qualified as a psychotherapist and ran her own practice in Yorkshire for many years. In a casual conversation with a client, she discovered that Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and Hans Christian Andersen were all dyslexic, and Sara’s perspective changed. The world of fiction opened to her with this shift in perception.
Sara now spends much of her time in a tiny rural village in the Peloponnese, in Greece, where she is (very slowly) renovating a ruined stone farmhouse, whilst observing the Greek way of life and absorbing the culture, enriching her vision for both writing and painting.
Sara’s ‘Greek Village Series’ is inspired by the people she has met travelling, her time spent in Greece alongside her career as a psychotherapist; her writing provides a keenly observed, compassionate insight into people, culture, and the human condition, and is set around a charming rural Greek village
Predating the current refugee crisis in Greece by some three years, Sara’s debut novel, The Illegal Gardener, focuses on the immigration problems in Greece, and the clash of cultures that accompanies those seeking a better life in the West.