Author Spotlight: Alexandra Christo talks INTO THE CROOKED PLACE
I'm so excited to welcome Alexandra Christo on today's blog! Her debut, TO KILL A KINGDOM, was one of my favorite reads last year, and now she's back with a YA fantasy duology about four murderous black magic dealers who team up to save their city in INTO THE CROOKED PLACE.
With a BA in Creative Writing, Alexandra works as a copywriter in London, and when she's not busy making up stories, she can be found buying far too many cushions and organizing food crawls all over the city. She currently lives in Hertfordshire with an abundance of cacti (because they're the only plants she can keep alive).
INTO THE CROOKED PLACE is available now from Feiwel & Friends. Check out the synopsis below!
Into the Crooked Place begins a gritty two-book YA fantasy series from Alexandra Christo, the author of To Kill a Kingdom.
The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.
Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.
Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.
Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.
And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.
Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic―a weapon she didn’t know she had―to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.
And now, here's my chat with Alexandra!
Hi, Alexandra! Welcome and congrats on Into the Crooked Place. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Hi! And thank you!
CROOKED came from my love of magic. I grew up watching magicians like David Blaine on TV, or seeing mentalists like Derren Brown in the theatre, and was always blown away by how they grabbed the crowd and made the audience believe whatever they wanted them to. And, of course, the magic: the idea that it was a skill to be learned, a trick to be performed, a pack of cards you could buy.
That gave me the idea of magic being not only a show, but a tangible thing people would learn, want to buy, crave to use, and collect to show off their status.
And so CROOKED was born! A world where magic is bought and sold in the alleys and, when the sun goes down, the shadows of the world come to life.
The story takes place in the city of Creije and follows four young crooks, who uncover a deadly new elixir on their streets and must come together to stop it from spreading and destroy their home. The only problem is, they’re far more used to destroying the world than saving it! And if there’s one thing they can’t do, then it’s trust each other.
You have an enviable talent for writing multi-POV! What’s your best tip for writers looking to do the same?
Character boards. Know who your characters are before you get started, so that their points of view stand out and readers know whose head their in without needing to look. Character boards help me so much when I’m planning – I note down everything from their backstory, to their motives, to their ticks. I also write random sample chapters of them doing everyday things, so I can get into their heads and figure out how they work as people.
And, of course, make sure that the point of view pushes the story forward! You don’t need to follow a set formula of Character A, Character B, Character A, Character B. Mix it up! Jump into whoever’s head is most needed at that moment.
Into the Crooked Place is the first book in a 2-book series. How did having this big overall story arc influence your plotting?
It made for a lot more sleepless nights! I rewrote the beginning of CROOKED over a dozen times and redrafted the whole book a dozen more. I had to think a lot of steps ahead, far more than usual, because I wasn’t just writing one book and so that meant I wasn’t just writing one story. I had to give each character an ARC and then a bigger ARC to carry over into book 2. There was a lot more planning involved, because on the one hand I wanted the ending to wrap up nicely and for my characters to have grown and achieved something, but not so I didn’t leave myself any room for more exploration in book 2. It’s a delicate balance and it took me a while to get it right!
With a standalone, like TO KILL A KINGDOM, I had a set path. I knew where I wanted to go and how to get there, with CROOKED the part was a lot harder, and the paths weren’t as clear. In other words: coffee. And also asking for help when I needed it, reaching out to friends (and my editor!) and bouncing ideas off of them.
Writing can be a solitary thing, but I do my best work when I get new perspectives.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Into the Crooked Place teach you?
To be patient with myself and not try to get it all right the first time. I stressed a lot that things weren’t quite early on, or worried I wouldn’t be able to tie up all those loose ends I created. Writing a book is hard and I’ve learned not to kick myself for taking the time I need to get things where they need to be. It’s okay to take a break, or take a step back.
I’m a lot kinder to myself now, and a lot more understanding of how I work as a writer. I’m not the kind of person that can write thousands of words every day and can be on the computer from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. But that’s fine. I have my own rhythm and my own pace, and it works pretty great.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned (so far) in your publishing career?
Make a to-do-list to keep track of all my different tasks and projects, so I know what I need to be working on for that day and when it’s due. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed or put things off until the last minute (or forget about them altogether!), so creating lists on my calendar has been helpful this time around.
Also, don’t look at Goodreads. Don’t worry about one bad review. I know now that not everyone is going to like my books, and that’s okay!
Many thanks go out to Alexandra for taking the time to tell us more about the inspiration behind INTO THE CROOKED PLACE, and as well for sharing her tips on writing multi-POV, and more. Be to sure to add this fun, intense, and deliciously written novel your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,