An Interview With Alesha Escobar About The Gray Towers Trilogy

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I am delight­ed to wel­come Ale­sha Esco­bar back to my site, this time for an inter­view about  the sec­ond book in The Gray Tow­er series.  If you haven’t read the first book, The Tower’s Alchemist, then get on it.  You’re miss­ing out on action packed read­ing.

1. The Tower’s Alchemist is a lux­u­ri­ous mish­mash of ideas.  We have Nazis, witch­es and war­locks, vam­pires, mag­ic, spies, and decep­tion, not to men­tion lots of action.  Can you give us a lit­tle back­ground about the basic plot of the Tower’s Alchemist?

It’s about a very dif­fer­ent World War II, where mag­ic exists in the world and Hitler’s obses­sion with the occult has led to him mak­ing a pact with war­locks. Of course the Allies won’t be out­done, and so they recruit wiz­ards trained by the benev­o­lent yet aloof insti­tu­tion known as the Gray Tow­er. My pro­tag­o­nist, Isabel­la George, is a Tow­er-trained alchemist work­ing for British intel­li­gence and spy­ing in Nazi-occu­pied France. How­ev­er we meet her at a point in her career when she wants to retire and set­tle down before she ends up dead–or worse, in an exper­i­men­tal lab.

She agrees to go on one final mis­sion, but things end up get­ting complicated–both in her pro­fes­sion­al life and her pri­vate life, and she dis­cov­ers that she has hid­den ene­mies, even in the Gray Tow­er.

2.  The Tower’s Alchemist is an awe­some mix of tra­di­tion­al gen­res and tropes in an orig­i­nal pack­age.  What was the gen­e­sis for the sto­ry?

My hus­band came up with the idea of a female pro­tag­o­nist who’s a wiz­ard spy­ing in WWII–sort of a Hell­boy meets Har­ry Dres­den meets spy type sto­ry. I loved the con­cept and start­ed flesh­ing every­thing out, and after a cou­ple of drafts The Tower’s Alchemist was born.

3.  The sec­ond book in this series is Dark Rift.  How does this sto­ry pick up where the first one left off?  What did you hope to achieve in terms of the plot and char­ac­ter growth with the sec­ond book?

Dark Rift picks up a week or two after the end­ing of Tower’s Alchemist. Isabel­la vis­its a gyp­sy woman to have her mind sealed so that a men­tal­ist wiz­ard can’t read her thoughts or mem­o­ries. Then she does one of the things she’s been desir­ing to do for a long time–go home to her fam­i­ly. Of course she finds that trou­ble won’t wait on her, and the plot takes not only inter­est­ing twists, but also answers sev­er­al burn­ing ques­tions from The Tower’s Alchemist. You’ll see Isabel­la grow, both as a char­ac­ter and in mag­i­cal pow­er, and at the same time she’s going to be forced to face her demons.

4.  Both books are part of the Gray Tow­er Tril­o­gy, which means there will be a third book at some point.  Do you already know the direc­tion this last sto­ry will take or will it be a sur­prise to you as you write?  Have you start­ed writ­ing it yet and/or is there a pub­li­ca­tion date?

My hus­band almost fell out of his chair when I told him I (at first) wasn’t sure how it was going to end. Yes, I am one of those writ­ers. Haha! All I have to say is thank good­ness for Dra­mat­i­ca Pro because those out­lines helped me immense­ly. I’ve actu­al­ly start­ed writ­ing the third book and I know how it will all end. My pro­ject­ed pub­li­ca­tion date is Sum­mer 2013, but if I can com­plete it ear­li­er, you know I will!

5.  Who is your favorite char­ac­ter is and why?  If that char­ac­ter could share one thing about him or her­self, what would it be?

That’s a tough one. I’ve fall­en in love with so many char­ac­ters in the sto­ry. I’ll pick my two favorites–Isabella and Neal. Isabel­la, because of the heart she has, and her will­ing­ness to fight for what she believes is right. Her sar­casm doesn’t hurt, either. If she could share one thing about her­self, it would be that her sec­ond career choice would’ve been teach­ing. Neal War­ren appears at the end of Tower’s Alchemist, but plays a much larg­er role in Dark Rift. He’s a Philoso­pher, which means he’s Sher­lock Holmes on crack with a bit of mag­i­cal enchant­ment pow­ers mixed in. He’s a bit mys­te­ri­ous, he’s a lot of fun, and fierce­ly loy­al to the Gray Tow­er. If he could share one thing about him­self, it would prob­a­bly be that he only uses half the stuff he pur­chas­es from the black mar­ket.

Enter to win a free elec­tron­ic copy of The Dark Rift for your Kin­dle.  Email me at [email protected] between 11/30/12 and 12/07/12 to enter the draw­ing.  Good luck!  Good read­ing!

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Ale­sha Esco­bar

Ale­sha Esco­bar writes fan­ta­sy and urban fan­ta­sy sto­ries to sup­port her choco­late habit. She earned a B.A. in Eng­lish Writ­ing and a Mas­ter of Sci­ence in Edu­ca­tion, and has enjoyed both teach­ing writ­ing and being a writer. Her hob­bies include read­ing, watch­ing movies, and mak­ing crafts. She is cur­rent­ly work­ing on the final install­ment of The Gray Tow­er Tril­o­gy.

Find Ale­sha online at these venues:

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My Survivor (6 Sentences)

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Dolomiti - Val di Funes e le Odle

lui­gi via Comp­fight

 Can­cer free for a year now after com­plet­ing chemo, my survivor’s hair has grown back shiny sil­ver-white, and real­iz­ing against social con­ven­tions that she doesn’t need long flow­ing locks to be wom­an­ly or beau­ti­ful, she now wears it in smart short Peter Pan-ish lay­ers.

Except, when I enter the exam room I can tell right off that she doesn’t feel wom­an­ly or smart or beau­ti­ful; I have a sixth sense about these things as a woman and as a nurse.

Her guilt, an evil tal­is­man, has grown too large to wear around her neck and now occu­pies the seat next to her so I roll my chair right up in front of my sur­vivor, box of tis­sues in hand, and tell her that she is stun­ning­ly love­ly, because she is, and I push Guilt out of the room, if only for the dura­tion of our time togeth­er.

She is fifty-six years old and will soon need to have the left knee replaced (too) as the pain is too much to ignore, and at a steadi­ly increas­ing 139 kilos, not pounds, she has resigned her­self to giv­ing up on any attempts at weight loss because it’s seems impos­si­ble to fol­low the 1400 calo­rie diet plan the very cute, very young, very (un)knowledgeable, very thin, very-tar­i­an, very well-mean­ing nutri­tion­ist offered her.

I ask my sur­vivor to tell me why this new bat­tle is impor­tant, because though it may seem so, she real­ly has not for­got­ten; it’s just that Guilt as of late has been drown­ing out her voice.

Moun­tains are climbed in small steps one at a time,” I say, then I see the caul of self-loathing lift as she real­izes she can.

(Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished at 6 sen­tences.)

How I Got Schooled

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I had an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence recent­ly that brought me abrupt­ly back to the sub­ject of cul­tur­al (mis)appropriation. It was one of those moments when an out­sider pre­sumed to school me about my own reli­gious and  cul­tur­al tra­di­tions.

The woman was a patient, some­one I haven’t met before. She seemed appre­hen­sive when I entered the exam room. I inter­viewed her about the side effects she’s been expe­ri­enc­ing with her cur­rent chemo reg­i­men. I tried to ease her appre­hen­sion by ask­ing about her fam­i­ly.  She showed me pic­tures on her iPad of her home in the coun­try, her kids, a sun­set.  Then she asked me about my fam­i­ly. Specif­i­cal­ly, she want­ed to know if my daugh­ters cov­er their hair as well. I answered in the affir­ma­tive, offer­ing eye con­tact and an hon­est easy smile as it is at this point that peo­ple often become uncom­fort­able because they think that per­haps I might be. I’m not…ever.  My years of apolo­get­ics are long past.  The rest of the con­ver­sa­tion pro­ceed­ed like this:

So the scarf is part of your cul­ture?”

I shook my head. “No. My scarf is a req­ui­site of my reli­gion.”  I didn’t expound and say that as a fel­low born and raised Amer­i­can my cul­ture and hers are essen­tial­ly the same.

There are a lot (I assumed she meant Mus­lims) who come here for treat­ment.”

Oh yes.  This is true. This being an inter­na­tion­al­ly renown can­cer cen­ter peo­ple from all over the world come here to receive what they believe will be the best pos­si­ble treat­ment.”

Well you know, the thing that I find so sur­pris­ing is that you’ll see these men push­ing their wives in wheel­chairs.”

At this point I no longer had to assume. I knew she was refer­ring to Mus­lims. I knew where she was head­ed, and despite the warn­ing voice in my head, I asked her to elab­o­rate. So I said, “Oh? Why is that sur­pris­ing?”

Well, usu­al­ly the women walk ten feet behind the men.”

Exact­ly ten feet? I thought is was six. Just kid­ding.  

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Sté­fan via Comp­fight

I was dumb­found­ed and shook my head. “Uh, that’s not true.”

Yes it is and I see it all the time.”

Are we liv­ing in the same world? Why is it that I nev­er see this? And since I’m an obser­vant Mus­lim, I sup­pose I’m break­ing some age old law because I walk where I please with­out fear of an hon­or killing (I am being face­tious) or being sent to hell by Allah. I want­ed to ask her if she thinks that these men love their wives any less than Amer­i­can or non-Mus­lim men love their wives, if she believes that even rid­dled with can­cer these women would be expect­ed to trun­dle along exact­ly ten feet behind their hus­bands even after the expense and time of being flown to the USA for expen­sive can­cer treat­ments.

This was not the appro­pri­ate venue for me to school her about the dif­fer­ence between cul­ture and reli­gion, to divorce her of a stereo­type as old as dirt and as wrong as sin. She was my patient and it would be inap­pro­pri­ate and unpro­fes­sion­al for me to enter into a debate. So I said in a way that I hope sound­ed light-heart­ed, “Well if you see this, it’s not a pre­cept of the reli­gion (my reli­gion), but more like­ly a cul­tur­al prac­tice.”

The look she gave me, this pity­ing poor fool­ish igno­rant girl look, made me want to scream. Of course I didn’t though. Not out loud, in any case, but there was def­i­nite­ly tight ten­sion in the room until I left.

But hon­est­ly, where does she get off school­ing me about ME? I know where she gets off, because as I’ve already men­tioned, she and I do come from the same cul­ture.

There is this thing we west­ern­ers are guilty of… think­ing we know bet­ter, that we are the benev­o­lent teach­ers of right, that we mere­ly tol­er­ate the rest of the world’s back­ward cul­tur­al prac­tices. This is an unfor­giv­ably arro­gant atti­tude and it’s ram­pant.

But even deep­er and more sig­nif­i­cant, and per­haps this is my igno­rance here, how can any­one with access to tech­nol­o­gy liv­ing in this glob­al world be so incred­i­bly out of touch? Okay I sup­pose she can be. I mean as glob­al­ly savvy as we in the west like to think we are, we’re often just about as provin­cial and insu­lat­ed as we can get, as evi­denced by her obvi­ous igno­rance. The most aggra­vat­ing part though was her arro­gant per­sis­tence that she was cor­rect, that she knew bet­ter than me.

I believe there is an old no longer prac­ticed Japan­ese cul­tur­al tra­di­tion where the men walk ahead of the women.  Tra­di­tion­al­ly this was so that the men could serve as pro­tec­tion. This was not intend­ed as a means to sup­press or oppress the women. I have nev­er met a Mus­lim woman, who because of her faith, walks behind her hus­band unless she just hap­pened to end up there.

But that is all beside the point. I real­ly want­ed to talk about writ­ing. I want­ed to impress how impor­tant it is for writ­ers to be tru­ly glob­al thinkers. We can not afford, if we care about our craft and our read­ers, to lose the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn. We all make errors and assump­tions, but when faced with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn the truth from the source, unlike my patient, we don’t have the lux­u­ry of shak­ing our heads and shak­ing off infor­ma­tion in favor of hold­ing on to erro­neous pre­con­ceived ideas.

This woman is not a writer, her words won’t like­ly be dis­sem­i­nat­ed via the inter­net or some oth­er form of media, but let’s pre­tend she is a writer, a very pop­u­lar writer… Imag­ine the affect.