Alexandra Christo is no stranger to the young adult world. Her debut hit To Kill a Kingdom left fans feverishly awaiting for sophomore effort, Into the Crooked Place.
With her rapscallions unleashed into the world on October 8th, Christo took a moment to discuss some fun stories. Teachers be damned, she was going to be a fairy when she grew up, bribing her boyfriend with cookies, and what books were going to fill this seasons Halloween mood!
Please Note- Into the Crooked Place Pre-Order Campaign Ends Tomorrow! Details are at the end of the post!
1) Can you explain the difference (emotional, writing routine, promotional routine etc) going into the release of Into the release of Into the Crooked Place and To Kill a Kingdom?
Things were both a lot smoother — because I knew what to expect — and a lot harder — because I only knew some of what to expect.
Going into a second book, there were less surprises on the publishing side. I knew how it all worked and what questions I needed to ask, so I was a lot more emotionally prepared and there were far less confused and stressed tears!
TO KILL A KINGDOM was a whirlwind and I felt out of my depth, but this time around I was quite settled in the process. I allowed time for interviews and had already gotten into the rhythm of juggling multiple projects, so I felt far less overwhelmed and knew how to structure my time better. I’m also a full-time writer now, whereas during TO KILL A KINGDOM’S release, I had another job, so it was hard to balance responsibilities. This time around, being able to devote all of my time to writing and promo, made things far easier.
But, INTO THE CROOKED PLACE is the first book in a series, so with that came a whole new set of challenges. My debut was a standalone: I had a clear beginning, middle and end to work toward. With this book that got a lot muddier.
Writing and drafting the story took so much longer, because I had to think a whole book ahead. I had to create a host of plots that wouldn’t come into fruition into book two and think about how to wrap up character journeys without really wrapping them up. It caused a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of different kind of stress.
I had to plan, re-plan and then plan again!
2) To me (I don’t want to speak for anyone else), although both To Kill a Kingdom and Into the Crooked Place are in the fantasy genre, they read as very different books. Would you agree or disagree with that statement- explain, please.
Completely agree! Not just because To Kill a Kingdom is a standalone and CROOKED is a series, but because the worlds are so vastly different.
To Kill a Kingdom is more high fantasy, with mythical creatures and a society vastly different from ours. Into the Crooked Place is almost like an alternate version of our own world. It’s less pirates and mermaids, and more the gritty realities of what you need to do to survive on the streets, when you don’t have a family to fall back on. There’s magic and wonder, of course, but the roots of this world are darker.
Magic is less majestic than in To Kill a Kingdom, and more of a means to an end: it’s a skill to be learned, a job to be done, and a thing to be bought or craved.
3) Your books are “mostly YA” with “questionable morals” — that’s my wheelhouse– it is also a source, I think, for some of the push and pull around what is vs. what should be YA. Do you have an opinion on where the YA category currently stands (what is included in that category) and what it should trend towards in the future?
YA can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, and it seems that if a character is a certain age (teens to early 20s), the book is almost always labelled as YA, regardless of content. That can pigeon-hole writers who may want to transition into adult fiction, and confuse teen readers who may not want certain things in their stories.
Young Adult is a really broad spectrum, from early teens to much older. That’s why I think it’s always great to have content warnings, and let readers know if books veer more on the higher/older end of YA.
3) How did 4 year old you make the jump from not being able to be a fairy to writing about fairies?
I still remember that day in school — the teacher was asking us what we wanted to be when we were older and I said a fairy and she was adamant I had to choose something sensible. Do you mean a ballerina? she asked. No, I said, I mean a fairy. My mum even got called into the school to talk about it!
But here’s the part that’s clearest. When the teacher told my mum I couldn’t possibly be a fairy and that it was a bizarre answer to give, my mum said: Of course she can be a damn fairy. She’s four. She can be anything she want!
Quick Note: This was my mother’s experience of my entire education- sometimes I feel like I should apologize, except I think she was proud. Our moms’ should have tea someday and swap stories!
That stuck with me; the idea that my dreams didn’t have limits. My family are pretty cool people and I’m fortunate enough to have such a great support system. They let me know that whatever I wanted to do, it was possible. And that it didn’t matter if someone else didn’t believe in me, as long as I believed in myself.
4) In To Kill a Kingdom you pulled in a lot of mythology and definitely showed the darkside of Mermaids/like it wasn’t the Disney version that springs to mind. Would you ever want to do a straight retell of the actual Little Mermaid Canon story or other fairy tales that show that true origins, which are much darker and bend into the horror genre than the cleaned up animated Disney versions?
I don’t see the point in straight retellings that follow the exact storylines of what has come before: why remake something that already exists? (I’m looking at you, Disney/all you other movie studios!!). As a writer, it’s far more fun to take a story people know and twist the elements to make something new.
I love the dark versions of the fairytales and drew a lot of inspiration from the original Hans Christian Andersen when writing To Kill a Kingdom: but the fun part was to take the bits I needed, mold them into something different, and use them to create an entirely new world.
I always say that it’s more of a re-imagining than a re-telling, and I love that YA is full of those types of stories: darker and entirely different takes on tales we thought we knew.
5) Further on that point- would you ever want to do something with even more of a Greek and/or Roman mythology influence?
If the story called for it. I’m part Greek so writing a book that included some of that mythology would be really fun, but I don’t want it to be forced. To Kill a Kingdom drew on Greek mythology, with the Sea Goddess Keto and the murderous creatures she birthed (AKA sirens!), but I didn’t want to rely on it to keep the story going, and it was more of a nod than anything.
I won’t say no for future books, but the idea has to come organically and be something I actually want to write. I’ve never sat down and been like ‘Okay, I want to write about X thing. Let’s create a story around that’. The stories themselves come first, even if it’s only as pieces and fragments.
6) I heard this saying once- Make sure your knight in shining armour isn’t an idiot wrapped in tinfoil. The word idiot is often replaced with much colorful language! The strong female characters you’ve written in your books make that saying pop in my mind often. Is that the idea you are kind of going for- that women should be their own knight in shining armor?
Absolutely! Everyone should be their own knight and we shouldn’t rely on romantic partners to dictate our stories.
To Kill a Kingdom came about because I grew up reading fairy tales where women were always passive in their own stories; they were victims of the plot, rather than active participants. I wanted to create a world where a woman was strong, ambitious, and could not only save herself but went after what she wanted and didn’t apologise for it.
I find it frustrating that even in today’s society women are still pushed to put romance first or criticized for being too ambitious, or told that our strengths — our power — is limited. It isn’t!
With Into the Crooked Place, three of our four main characters are women, and none of them rely on the male characters to get things done. They all take charge and all bring different strengths to the table; whether it’s emotional, physical or tactical. Everyone is equal, respected and confident in their abilities to take care of business!
7) How exactly does the whole baking cookies to bribe your boyfriend into watching horror movies work? What horror movies have you bribed him into seeing with said cookies? What kind of cookies?
I LOVE horror. I grew up on those kind of films and stories, and though I don’t really scare easily, I love how they build the tension and make each moment count. It’s wonderful storytelling. And a great excuse for popcorn.
My partner . . . well, he got scared by the puppets in Toy Story!!! But chocolate chip cookies at least let him get through IT, so that’s something.
8) I don’t want to put you on the spot but Sept-Nov have an incredible amount of insanely anticipated titles coming out. What are you most looking forward to reading/have read?
SO MANY COOL BOOKS! I’m especially excited for Ninth House <ETA: by Leigh Bardugo> (see: my horror obsession!) and Tenth Girl <ETA: by Sara Faring>. And of course Angel Mage <ETA: By Garth Nix> — I’m actually doing an event with Garth Nix in Nottingham on October 14th, so can’t wait to dive into his latest masterpiece.
Alexandra Christo Bio:
Hi, I’m Alexandra! I’m a twenty-something writer from England who likes marathoning Korean dramas, and writing characters with questionable morals.
My books are mostly YA, mostly fantasy, and mostly show that I let my imagination run a little too wild.
My debut novel TO KILL A KINGDOM is a standalone fantasy about killer sirens and killer pirates, who team up and try very hard not to kill each other. If you like Disney’s Little Mermaid, I hope I haven’t destroyed your childhood memories of it.
My second book, INTO THE CROOKED PLACE is the first in a fantasy duology about four murderous black magic dealers who team up to save their city, after discovering the plot behind their kingpin’s dangerous new magic.
Alexandra Christo Contact Information:
I also love receiving letters or post from you guys:
Box number 4
61 Grafton Road, Kentish Town
London, NW5 3EN
(This is not my home address)
I’m so happy to share the US pre-order campaign for INTO THE CROOKED PLACE, book one in my new YA fantasy duology in stores October 8th 2019! Fill out the form below with your name, address, email and proof of purchase with Crooked US Pre-order in the subject line by midnight on October 14th, 2019 and I’ll send you a signed bookplate! US only. For some handy links on where you can pre-order your copy, visit my CROOKED book page.
- One entry per person
- You must supply a name, US address, and copy of receipt purchase/preorder of INTO THE CROOKED PLACE
- Subscription boxes do not count as pre-orders
- Entries must be received by midnight on 14th October 2019
- There is no substitution for the pre-order prize.
- It is a signed bookplate, which will be subject to availability