TRI: Tell us about Alethea Kontis, the woman and the writer. i.e., where are you originally from, how did you get started in writing, etc.
Alethea: I was born in South Burlington, Vermont. My half-French, half-Greek family of storytellers gave me the name “Alethea”, which means “Truth.” The curse of this beautiful name (other than the obvious) is that for some reason no one can pronounce it or spell it correctly.
My father read to me every night when I was a baby, so I was reading at a very early age. I was an avid reader by the time I was five, and I began writing when I was around 8…mostly for class assignments. My Greek Grandmother gave me a blank book that I vowed to fill with poetry and my French Grandmother gave me a giant tome of unexpurgated Grimm & Andersen Fairy Tales.
I submitted writing all the time to contests and magazines: everything from TV Guide to the box of Cracker Jacks. I kept all my rejections in a shoebox, and when they depressed me, I would throw them all out and start again. When I was bored, I would sit on my mother’s feet and ask her what to write. One day, she told me to write her a new fairy tale. I could not think of a better lifelong goal.
So by the age of twelve, I was fairly committed to a career as a writer. I had big plans to grow up and be Joan Wilder. Still working on that.
TRI: Do you have philosophy for your writing career or life?
Alethea: Other than “Shut Up and Write,” my biggest philosophy is “Every stranger is a best friend I haven’t met yet.” Like Sherrilyn Kenyon always told me, you make your fans one at a time. I’ve learned from experience just how true this is.
TRI: I like that…What drives you to write?
Alethea: I want to write books just like the ones I loved when I was a kid, reading my way through the juvenile section of the library. Someday I want to mean to someone what Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley and Dianna Wynne Jones and Meredith Ann Pierce and Lloyd Alexander all meant to me.
TRI: How much of your writing is driven, influenced by your readers?
Alethea: At the moment, very little. Even though I’ve been hard at this for almost a decade, I am still effectively at the beginning of my career, telling the stories in my head that need to be told. As I grow and interact with my fans and they become part of my life experience, I’m sure that will definitely inform and affect my writing. It will be interesting to see how.
TRI: Is there something that you would like to share that your readers or peers do not know about you?
Alethea: Goodness, I’m such an open book that there’s little people don’t know about me…you can find anything these days if you have the patience to look for it. Things the romance folks might not know: I have a teddy bear named Charlie, my first best friend was a tree, and I never played at being a princess when I was a kid. I much preferred dressing as a gypsy and running through the fields speaking in a British accent that drove my little sister crazy. The only Princess I ever pretended to be was Princess Leia, when I played Star Wars with Danny. I didn’t come into my princesshood until I was 30.
TRI: Very cute…Who is your favorite fantasy writer? What draws you to this writer?
Alethea: I could no sooner pick a favorite star in the heavens! But the book I buy extra copies of to give to friends is William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. It is a brilliant masterpiece of storytelling, and if you’ve only seen the film then you have no idea what you’re missing. Just read Chapter One. I promise. You won’t regret it.
TRI: I think I shall…We know that authors love all of their creations, but is there one of yours that is your ultimate favorite? Why?
Alethea: Right now, my favorite is a story called “The Unicorn Hunter”, which is still available to read free online (http://www.scribd.com/doc/70431258/The-Unicorn-Hunter). It is the story of what really happened to Snow White, between the time she left the huntsman in the woods and the time she found the dwarfs. It’s such a beautiful bittersweet tale of love and friendship…I cried when I finished writing it, because I lamented those characters being on the paper now, instead of in my head.
But worry not, for they will return in the Enchanted universe…oh yes, they will.
TRI: Tell me more about Enchanted. I read excerpts from it and felt as if I was reading a song.
Alethea: I admit: I had way too much fun writing Enchanted. It was the story I’d been waiting to tell all my life, in the way only I could tell it. What I didn’t realize back when I was 12 and writing fairy tales was that in order to tell a fairy tale properly, I had to live one first. I’ve gone from being the engineer’s daughter in the house at the edge of the Wood to being a princess, and the long, hard road in between has been fraught with magic and monsters.
Enchanted takes the premise that all the fairy tales we know came from one family: the Woodcutters. They have seven daughters: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Sunday is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, who has a magical little book in which the things she writes come true. She shares her writing one day with a frog in the Enchanted Wood who becomes her friend. And when her kiss finally does work, the frog turns into a prince…one her family has long despised. So he goes back to the palace and decides to hold three balls and invite all the eligible ladies in the land…a subversive effort to get Sunday to fall in love with him as a man.
But other evils are afoot, and many other fairy tales are hiding in the woodwork. Enchanted really was a five-year labor of love. I’ve listened to the audio-book three or four times now, and I still sometimes can’t believe I wrote it.
TRI: Tell us about discipline in your writing career?
Alethea: On a perfect day, I run four miles and write at least 1000 words before Joe and the girls come home from work and school. Not every day is the perfect day. Thus the “Shut up and write!” post-it on my monitor.
TRI: As a writer do you feel you have come full circle?
Alethea: Not in the slightest! I feel more like I’ve spent ten years preparing and Gandalf has finally knocked on the door of my Hobbit hole to take me off on The Grand Adventure.
TRI: Any words of wisdom for newbies?
Alethea: Never stop writing. No, it never gets any easier. So just shut up and write. *hugs*
TRI: Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.
Alethea: Thank you!!