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Debut Author Interview: Alexandra Overy and These Feathered Flames Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! I hope you are all doing well and are excited for spring. I just got my second vaccine last Saturday, and it was such a happy experience. So funny to say that about a shot, but it's true. My daughter is getting her second one next week. It just feels so good to start seeing her inside again and to share a meal together.  And next week, I'll be able to start seeing my mom twice a week like I used to before the pandemic. It's amazing!

Today I’m excited to have debut author Alexandra Overy here to share about her YA fantasy These Feathered Flames. It sounds like it has fantastic world building and a mystery to figure out. I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

A queer retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother. 




Before I get to my interview with Jennifer, I have my IWSG post.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the March 3rd posting of the IWSG are PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton!

Optional Question: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I don’t add controversial topics and haven’t tried something as major as changing the POV. However, I have been more open to changes in my manuscript.

I’ve been way more open to my critique partners suggestions for improvements and to questions they want answered with my current manuscript. I’ve discovered through this process that my story has changed in good ways that I didn’t plan, and the whole story is much deeper and better because I was willing to change how I thought it would go.

Are you a risk taker in your writing?

Interview With Alexandra Overy

Hi Alexandra! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an author.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading and I think writing kind of naturally followed that. I was always creating my own worlds and stories (often to avoid the real world), and that continued as I got older. When I was in college I finally decided that if I had all these ideas I had to sit down and write one out completely. That was my first finished manuscript and the book that got me my first agent. It unfortunately didn’t sell, but that led me to my next book which was These Feathered Flames. There were a lot of rejections along the way, from both agents and editors, but I’m so happy I stuck through it and now I get to see my work as a real book!

2. That’s so awesome that your debut book is only your second completed manuscript. Where did you get the idea for These Feathered Flames?

After my first book didn’t sell, I was brainstorming new ideas with my agent. We talked about some stories I love, and touched on ballet stories as I used to dance. The Firebird is one of my favourite ballets, and I’d been wanting to write a story about a complex sister relationship for a while, so the idea grew from there.

3. I’ve read that readers loved your world building. Share what your world building process is like.

I studied history in college, so understanding people through societal norms, expectations, and cultures

has always been a process that I really enjoy and I think that’s reflected in my world building. I tend to start with the big picture things: what does the world look like, how is the power structured, do they have a religion, what’s important to them? All those things really inform a culture and how it’s shaped, so I like to have those early on. Then I go more into detail, especially things that matter specifically for my characters. For These Feathered Flames it was an interesting experience as the world is inspired by 16th century Russia, but not based on it. That means it’s a magical world that’s different from ours in a lot of ways, and has different belief systems and cultural touchstones, so it was challenging to decide where to draw inspiration from the real world and where to deviate. For example, in Russia a person’s last name changes according to their gender (eg. Morozov for male, Morozova for female), but that wasn’t something that made sense in the world of These Feathered Flames, as it’s queer normative and uses gender inclusive language so would have no reason to gender names. That’s what always makes world building so fun, really building a culture from the ground up and understanding when something would matter to them, and when you’re just bringing something in because that’s how it is in our world.

4. That’s great advice to start with the big picture when creating your world. This is a retelling of a Russian folktale. How did you decide what to include from the folktale and what to make different so that the story is your own?

Similar to the previous question, it was really interesting deciding what to keep and what to deviate from. Although this is marketed as a retelling, it’s probably more accurate again to say “inspired by”, as it’s certainly a loose interpretation. Ultimately, I had to look at what it was that drew me to the story and the central part of the folktale that really intrigued me was the idea of the Firebird as a personification of woman, and the way that men would see something beautiful and immediately want to either kill it or possess it. That’s where the idea of the Firebird as a mantle that’s passed down from mother to daughter came from, and from there the story began to fill itself in. I will say, if you know the folktale, you’ll also see some more aspects of it in the sequel!

5. Was it easier to share Izaveta’s or Asya’s story? Is either your favorite character? Why?

This is a tough question, because I feel like I had challenges with both of them. Although Izaveta falls under the more “unlikable” category, I think I found her voice easier than Asya’s, whereas her story was harder. Izaveta deals a lot with court intrigue and politics which took a lot of work to tie together, and meant I had to know what ten different people wanted and were planning at any given time which took a lot of notecards! Asya on the other hand had a harder voice because she’s so full of contradictions: she has this monstrous power but at the same time is awkward and just trying her best to do the right thing. Her story, however, was much easier to piece together as it follows slightly simpler plot beats and carries the main mystery. Writing the two together was definitely a good way to push my own writing! I shouldn’t say which is my favourite though….because Izaveta would probably kill me and I’ve been mean enough to Asya as it is.

6. That must have been hard to keep track of so many people wanted and were planning. I heard your vlog at WriteOnCon. Share why you outline and your approach to outlining.

I think the thing I like about outlining is it gives me a map to follow which always makes those first steps into a new draft much less daunting. I don’t always stick to it 100%, and it definitely changes as I go and get to know my characters more, but having it there gives me a bit of extra security. My approach tends to be quite detailed, though I don’t usually know the “how” of things in the outline. I know what happens but usually don’t know the exact machinations of how until I actually get to writing it—and that’s okay! Definitely don’t feel you need to have everything exact in the outline. Allowing yourself to be vague can actually really help, as it takes some of the pressure off. And that’s really why I outline: to take the pressure off myself a bit so I’m not just venturing into the unknown of a new draft.

7. Even though I don’t outline too much before I start writing, I like your idea of doing it to take some pressure off yourself when you’re drafting. What’s your writing schedule like? What advice do you have for other writers to stay productive and write faster?

I have a very eclectic writing schedule, which is a nice way of saying I don’t have a proper schedule haha. I write a lot when I’m on a deadline or feeling really inspired, often forgetting entirely about other things, and other times I find I can’t write for weeks at a time. My advice to other writers is to be kind to yourself, even if you aren’t able to stick to a schedule or word count goals. Ultimately, the thing that makes me least productive is when I’m either burned out from trying to stick to a schedule, or being hard on myself. The words will come, and forcing them (most of the time) doesn’t help.

8. That’s great to know that you can produce enough to be a published author if you don’t write on a regular schedule. Your agent is Patrice Caldwell. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Patrice is my second agent, so my query process for that was a little different. I already had books under contract and needed to find an agent who’d be happy to work on things they hadn’t sold. I queried Patrice via the regular query method, and we hopped on the phone a few days later. I immediately knew it was a great fit and I’m happy to have such a strong advocate!

9. How are you planning to market These Feathered Flames in light of the pandemic? What advice do you have to other authors who will be debuting in the future?

It’s definitely been a different experience to the one I expected back when the book sold in 2019, but I’m lucky that we’ve had enough time now to get used to this and for people to come up with ideas for marketing without doing things in person. I’ve definitely pivoted more to online marketing and using things like Instagram Live more than I would have otherwise. I also really appreciate how hard the book community is working to help authors, especially debuts, promote their books in this strange time. My advice to other debut authors is advice I’m bad at following, but: let go of the things that are out of your control. So much of debuting is out of your control, and even now in the months leading up to publication I constantly feel like I should be doing more. But, in the end, you have to just trust your team around you and not overthink the things you can’t control.

10. That’s such great advice. You have a sequel coming in this series and The Gingerbread Witch, a MG retelling of Hansel and Gretel releasing in 2022. How are you managing working on multiple projects and working on marketing them?

Similarly to my writing schedule, my switching between projects is a little eclectic. I like having multiple things to work on at the same time in different genres or age groups, because when I’m feeling burnt out on one project, I can switch to the next and feel refreshed and excited to write again. I don’t have a strict schedule, so much as depending on my deadlines to try to balance writing them. Something I’ve found really helps when I have to switch quickly between projects with very different tones, is to have a playlist or some sort of media (film/book/etc) that really gets you in the right mood for the different project. It helps ease that transition a lot!

11. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a few things right now! I’m somewhat avoiding working on the draft of my sequel and spending some time this month working on The Gingerbread Witch, which has been a really nice break from the heavy emotions of my sequel. I’m also beginning to play around with my next YA idea, which I think is going to be a book I wrote a while ago, but I’m finally ready to get right.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alexandra. You can find Alexandra at www.alexandraovery.com, @alexandraovery on twitter, @allywritesandstuff on Instagram.

Giveaway Details

Alexandra has generously offered a signed ARC of These Feathered Flaimes for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by April 24th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The giveaway is U.S.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, April 12th I have an interview with debut author Kaela Rivera and a giveaway of her MG fantasy based on Mexican mythology Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Wednesday, April 14th I have an agent spotlight interview with Emily Fortney and a query critique giveaway

Friday, April 16th I’m participating in the Rainbow on Roses Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 19th I have an interview with debut author Laekan Kemp and a giveaway of her YA contemporary Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Monday, April 26th I’m reviewing and giving away Rescue, a MG historical by Jennifer Nielsen, one of my favorite authors

Tuesday, May 4th I’m participating in the Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, May 5th I have an interview with debut author Daniel Aleman and a giveaway of his YA contemporary about immigration Indivisible and a query critique by his agent Peter Knapp and my IWSG post

Monday, May 10th I have a guest post by author Jessica Lawson with a giveaway of her MG fantasy How to Save a Queendom and a query critique by her agent Tina Dubois

Hope to see you next Monday!






Liza said...

I am so impressed at the time and dedication and thoughtfulness it takes in world building. It takes such an inward analysis, so many "what if" questions. Having never been able to outline, I am so appreciative of those who can and do. Congratulations, Alexandra. Thank you for the interview, Natalie.

nashvillecats2 said...

Wonderful interview Natalie.


Jennifer Hawes said...

I think I need to be more of a risk-taker in writing and try some new ideas! Great interview with Jennifer.

Cathrina Constantine said...

It's good to get differing opinions on your writing. Every reader has likes and dislikes, and doling out criticism can be harsh or helpful. I alway hope it'll be helpful. Then sorting through their suggestions can be mind-boggling. I once had 3 beta's tell me 3 different things, on how and where my manuscript should begin.

Pat Garcia said...

The main thing is that you're open to listen and consider, and if you see something that you needs changing you do it.
Wishing you a great month of April.

Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Critique partners can offer some great insights!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm getting my second shot on Saturday and it will be the highlight of my weekend!

Good luck to Alexandra on her next project...revamping an old project sounds like fun!

Jemi Fraser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jemi Fraser said...

Oops - I hit delete instead of reply to my own comment!
I typed the title of the book incorrectly. *sigh*

These Feathered Flames sounds terrific! Good luck with it.
Crit buddies are the best!

Computer Tutor said...

That was a great answer, to #IWSG. I hadn't thought of being open to critique partners as risk taking but of course, it is. Yep, me too.

Gwen Gardner said...

Natalie, I'm not a risk-taker in my writing either. I know I need to do it, but it's very foreign. Also, I've had my first shot, woot!

Alexandra, I love the premise of your book. Sounds like it starts off with a bang and makes me want to read it! Good luck!

Ellen Jacobson said...

Alexandra - love the cover and the idea of a story inspired by 16th century Russia, but not based on it. I think that's a neat way to to things - be inspired by a historical period, but not base your story directly on it.

cleemckenzie said...

Changing POV after you start a story is the worst. I base my statement on experience. After choosing the wrong POV once, I take a lot of time before I decide who should tell a story before I actually start telling it. Live and learn.

Congrats to Alexandra on her book. I love stories based on history.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, though I don't add controversial topics to my writing I do take risks in my writing.

How are things with you?

J.Q. Rose said...

I am happy you have appreciated having crit partners to open up your stories. I am amazed when meeting with my writers' group. One submission read by 4 people can garner a whole different way of thinking. Each reader has a "specialty" to find in the subs so each one has a different take on the stories. Their suggestions (not criticism) really help me to dig deeper to tell the story. I always write in 3rd person, but I had to change to 1st person to write an intimate, true memoir. That certainly broadened my writing and creating vibes. Best wishes on your projects!

emaginette said...

One of my biggest challenges is to stop and listen when getting verbal feedback. I'm much more successful when getting it in writing. Thank goodness I have some very patient people in my life.

Anna from elements of emaginette

Chrys Fey said...

I went right over to Goodreads and added These Feathered Flames to my "Want to Read" list. :)

Olga Godim said...

@ Natalie: I have to learn to accept feedback, especially critical feedback. My first 'gut' response has always been to defend my story, to disregard the advice I don't like. But I think I have to open up to my critics' suggestions if I want to become a better writer.
@Alexandra: your story sounds fascinating. And I love the cover.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's what I tell my authors - the suggested edits are to make the story stronger, deeper, and better.

Fundy Blue said...

Happy IWSG Day, Natalie! Great interview with Alexandra. I wish her every success with her book!

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm somewhat of a risk taker, but I usually need a reason. With critiques, I pay attention to all, then sort by where they come from and how they pertain to my story.

Anonymous said...

I've never written with the intention of deliberately creating controversy. There are plenty of other people out there willing to do it.

These Feathered Flames sounds fascinating! I find the inspired by, rather than based upon, distinction is critical to understanding and enjoying a work.

Jemima Pett said...

Thanks for your continued support, Natalie :) I think you take risks when you start writing anyway; you need to settle and discover your self and your style before you can branch out. The only time I tackled controversy my editor went nuts, so I don't now. Except in flash fiction :)

Sandra Cox said...

Ooh, Feathered Flames sounds fascinating.
Crit partners are great aren't they? I rely heavily on my betas. They're wonderful.
What is your WIP about? Is it a YA fantasy? If there's anything I can do at any point of its journey just holler.

diedre Knight said...

So glad you can see your mom and daughter again, Natalie!
I think all writers are hesitant (at first) to listen to critiques. I liken them to an extra set of toes to check the water temp before I jump in ;-)

I just know Alexandra's book will be a success! Very best wishes.
Happy April!

Tyrean Martinson said...

I think 16th Century Russia would definitely be an inspiring place!
And Natalie - CP are awesome, aren't they? Mine always help me see what I need to do and where in my WIPs.

Liz A. said...

I agree about outlines. It's nice to not have to figure things out while drafting. And having multiple projects at once helps when if you're only doing one, if you're not feeling it that day, it's a struggle. Sounds like an interesting book.

Jenni said...

I'm so glad you've gotten to see your daughter and will get to see your mom on a regular schedule again! I'm looking forward to seeing my mom again soon.

I think the very act of writing is taking a risk, whether or not we tackle controversial topics.

Please count me out of the giveway as my TBR list is very long right now. The Firebird story is one of my favorite Russian folktales.

Samantha Bryant said...

Good critique can be so helpful. I'm glad you've got some good critique partners.

S.E. White Books said...

Always love your interviews but this one was particularly apropos and I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much!
Also, wonderful that you can see your family again. Wishing you all good health!

Pat Hatt said...

Great to accept feedback indeed.

Bah, who needs a schedule to write lol

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

It's great to hear you've had a good experience developing your manuscript.

And These Feathered Flames sounds like a great read.

Denise Covey said...

Eyes on our ms can be either helpful or not. I usually wait and see if several say the same thing, otherwise you lose your own story.

ken ohl said...

this sounds so intriguing

Claire Bobrow said...

Loved reading this interview and look forward to reading the book! I'm intrigued by the Firebird inspiration. Congrats, Alexandra!

Emma L Gill said...

Great interview! A good critique partner is like gold, aren’t they? :)

Unknown said...

This has been on my TBR for a while now. I can't wait to read it. The cover is gorgeous! (kati_z@hotmail.com)

Loni Townsend said...

I've found critique partner feedback invaluable and have ended up making sweeping changes that I wouldn't have recognized as needed before their input. Grats Alexandra!

Tonja Drecker said...

What an interesting twist on that tale!
I don't think I've taken too many risks yet, although I don't have any trouble doing it if the idea arises. AS to CPs— I couldn't live without them.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

What a splendid cover and interesting story, Alexandra. All the luck with the new release.

Lucky you, Natalie, to have the vaccine. Believe it or not, I still can't get it. I'm in Pennsylvania and they say possibly by April 20th, we should be able to get the vaccine no matter our age. Here's hoping! Bravo to you to visit with your mother and family. Stay safe, my dear! All best to you!

Danielle H. said...

I have this book on my TBR and it was fun to get to know the author and how she writes. I also must outline to know what happens and it's fun to find your characters showing you the how and why things happen. I follow Natalie on Twitter.

tetewa said...

I enjoy reading author interviews, sounds like my kind of read!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks for all the interviews you do, Natalie. How do you stay so organized?

Chelly Writes said...

Can't wait to read this one!!!

Angie Quantrell said...

Wow, the intrigue! This book sounds great! Congrats!

I shared the post on Twitter. angelecolline at yahoo dot com

I do take risks in my writing...sometimes. But I don't think I'm consistent in that. If something is not working, then I go all out and totally turn things upside down. That has not been successful. LOL.

Megan said...

This book sounds amazing, and with fabulous ace rep too! (Not entering the giveaway as I am not in the US)

Adrienne Reiter said...

Great interview. Good luck with the new release! I'm slated to get the vaccine next week. Can't wait.

Diane Estrella said...

Sounds interesting! Thanks for the giveaway! following on GFC

dianemestrella at gmail dot com

Diane Burton said...

It's wonderful you get to see your daughter inside and enjoy a meal together. Same with your mom. It's hard to be apart.

I love The Firebird ballet. Wishing Alexandra much success.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

The book sounds awesome -- I've added it to my Goodreads TBR :-)

Luciana Cavallaro said...

I enjoyed the interview. I'm always on the lookout for retells of fairytales :)
I had done critiquing in the past, but the group I was in didn't critique as much as criticise.

DMS said...

What a gorgeous cover! It was interesting to read where Alexandra got her idea for her debut. I enjoy fairy tale retellings and wish Alexandra the best of luck!

Ilona Bray said...

I'd been wishing to find more Russia-inspired manuscripts! Can't wait to read this.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.