Alethea Kontis is the co-author of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Dark-Hunter Companion” and penned the “AlphaOops” series of picture books.
Her short fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in a myriad of anthologies and magazines. She has done multiple collaborations with Eisner winning artist J.K. Lee, including “The Wonderland Alphabet” and “Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome.” Her debut young adult fairy tale novel, “Enchanted,” won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2012 and was nominated for both the Andre Norton Award and the Audie Award in 2013.
With “Hero,” the sequel to “Enchanted,” due to hit the shelves in October, Alethea took time to answer some questions about her writing, the publishing market and social media.
You have been a “New York Times bestselling author” for a few years now. What does that mean to you on a personal level? Is it an accolade that you were actively hoping for when you were first published?
The first goal of every aspiring writer is to get published. It’s the brass ring. Some never achieve this goal. But if you really want it, you will find a way to make it happen and plant your flag at the top of the mountain. You don’t really care what comes after that.
But, then what? What happens after Inigo Montoya defeats the six-fingered man? After your first book is published, you start setting other goals for yourself, ones that will motivate you to push forward just as strongly as that first brass ring. This series of boxes to check is different for every author, but some things are the same: foreign sales, publishing a sequel, publishing with multiple houses, publishing in a different genre, hitting the New York Times list and so on.
While I can check the box and say I’m a New York Times bestselling author, I still don’t feel like I deserve it. My name was on “The Dark-Hunter Companion,” but so was Sherrilyn Kenyon’s. And, let’s be honest, she’s why the book hit the list two weeks in a row. Did I write the book? Sure. Am I proud of the book? Absolutely. Will I continue to introduce myself as a New York Times bestselling author? Yes, sir, because author Joe Lansdale told me to.
It just adds another box for me to check on my list: hit the New York Times ALL BY MYSELF. I’ll get there. Maybe even to number one. But, that’s another box.
With “Hero” coming out in October are you finding that your everyday life has changed at all?
There are two ways in which my life has changed. The first thing is that I am now very aware of my time. I have a clearer picture of how much work I need to put into each day to achieve what I hope to achieve. Does that mean I have fully embraced discipline? Yeah, I wish. But, I still try harder every day.
The second thing is my family. When a desire, like publishing, that has consumed you all your life finally takes off, it’s tempting to let it continue to consume your life. You can’t. Like a teenager, you push the envelope as far as possible, testing your mental and physical limits and those of your family. I did that last year. There were some not-so-pretty emotional moments and at the end of 2012 I got very, very sick and stayed that way for almost three months.
Now I have a better idea of how to balance my time between work, family life and tours and conventions. The last bit of difficulty is convincing them that while I still have fun traveling all around the world, it’s still work and very exhausting.
How do your writing deadlines work?
There are publisher deadlines and there are personal deadlines. I make lots of to-do lists and I have a lot of personal deadlines. Sometimes I won’t answer emails for weeks in order to shut down the inner “personal assistant” and get some actual fiction writing done.
When the publisher gives you a deadline for a manuscript, that’s when you have to turn it in. Earlier, if possible. Douglas Adams has a great quote that laissez-faire authors adopt about deadlines whizzing by. But, publishers really do appreciate authors who turn in their manuscripts on time and I enjoy having an appreciative publisher, so it’s a win-win.
Can you tell us a little bit about how Hero went from getting the green light to being submitted for the editing process?
“Hero” was difficult in that I wasn’t sure until the last minute if the publisher even wanted to continue the “Woodcutter Sisters” series, so I didn’t write it. I suppose I should have just written it anyway, but they weren’t happy with the outline and first 20,000 words I had delivered to them the previous year and I didn’t want to finish a book they didn’t want in the first place. In hindsight I should have just worked on a completely different book…but that’s moot.
“Enchanted” was a one-contract book with little hope for a continuation, despite my dream of a seven-book series. But, when the first print run sold out the month of release, the publisher came back to my agent with the contract for two more. Which meant I only had five months to write “Hero,” and two of those were already booked solid with touring for “Enchanted.”
I don’t blame the publisher. In this day, age and economy, everyone has to play it close to the vest. Honestly, I’m proud of myself for both proving I could move books and delivering the sequel to deadline.
How do you feel about using social media to increase public awareness of your products? Is it something that you embrace enthusiastically, or something that you feel is a necessary evil?
It’s quite simple. If you feel that social media is a “necessary evil,” then you have no business there. It’s like reading books to Kindergartners. If you’re not having fun, they can tell. Then it’s no fun for anyone.
I’m very lucky in that I love social media. My personal philosophy is “every stranger is just a best friend I haven’t met yet.” I have met the most amazing people online, or at conventions where we continue the friendship online. It’s a wonderful thing and a great way to keep in touch.
For me, social media is more about ME and the books are just something I do. I do promote my books, sure, but more often I am taking pictures of fans and friends from conventions all over the world and posting them. That way the rest of my friends and family can live vicariously through me and fully experience the magic that is my world.
I do wish there were better ways to connect them all (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, etc) without having to post in several different places at once and I think I have a pretty good system up, but in six months that will probably all change again. I also wish I had more time to mess about with it, of course, but I do still need to do that pesky writing at some point.
What is next for you after “Hero?” What projects are you working on now?
Right now the next thing after “Hero” is the third book in the “Woodcutter Series”: “Beloved.” I have a publisher deadline of October, but a personal deadline of the end of July. When I’m done with all this touring in May, I’m going to dive back into that, even if I need to travel to a different state to do so.
Usually I’m working on a short story or two on the side (I have a short story problem… they’re just SO MUCH FUN), but I’m currently waiting to hear back about a secret project that may take up quite a bit of my time in the near future.
And while all that’s happening, my agent is still shopping around a novel, an intermediate fantasy series and a collection of my fairy tale short stories illustrated by one of my favorite artists ever. I’ll also be putting out another short story collection via e-book and at some point I’ll be launching a Kickstarter to reprint my essay collection “Beauty & Dynamite” and its sequel, “Murphy’s Girl.”
As Neil Gaiman says, we must be dandelions. Good thing I enjoy dancing on the wind. Now I just need to make enough money to hire a personal assistant. (Adds to list of check boxes…)
Alethea Kontis will be making a return visit to Atlanta’s Dragon Con on Labor Day Weekend 2013. You can visit her website at http://www.aletheakontis.com, follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aletheakontis or visit her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/princessaletheakontis.