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.

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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.