The Essence of Fabulous

I was asked once what my favorite thing was about being a writer. My answer was probably the standard, “I get to write the books like the ones I loved as a kid and share them with the world.”

I’m adding a caveat to that today.

I do get to write the books I loved as a kid and share them with the world, but that world includes other authors…not just the ones I loved as a kid, but the ones who inspire me now, as well.

As many of you know, one of my 21 Most Influential Books of All Time is Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. Her character George Cooper was my first fictional love, and I will  never, ever forget him.

I had sent Tamora an ARC of ENCHANTED, just because I wanted to imagine myself on her bookshelf somewhere. I discovered the other day on Goodreads (and squeed to the world) that Tamora had not only given it 4 out of 5 stars, but had also written about ENCHANTED: “It’s a wonderful mix-up of fairy-tale tropes, a clever love story, and a delightful tale all on its own!”

Now, forever and ever amen, I get to tell people that Tamora Pierce said this wonderful thing about MY BOOK. It’s such an amazingly special feeling. I’ve written fan letters to Tamora (and had her sign about 20 books the first time we met), and in essence, she’s written a fan letter to me in return.

I still have trouble processing the sheer importance of the whole thing. Boy, I wish I could go back and tell my fifteen-year-old self THIS!

In light of this experience, I’m sure you can imagine my unfettered glee at receiving another email last night…from the agency of Sarah Addison Allen.

Like me, Sarah was raised in the south and knows a thing or two about sisters. And magic. (Read 100 more random tidbots about Sarah here.)

I first listened to her debut novel Garden Spells as an audiobook, so I can honestly say that I fell in love with every word. It is the book I handsell most at the bookstore, when women come in asking me what to read (most don’t seem to like YA, fantasy, or SF, strangely enough). I’ve reviewed many of her books over at IGMS.

Word apparently got around to Sarah about what a champion I was of her work, so when ENCHANTED was released I asked to please send her my very last ARC. As with Tamora, I expected nothing. Then last night, the Jane Rotrosen Agency sent me this:

Sarah Addison Allen sent us a blurb for your novel, ENCHANTED. We’re glad to be able to pass it along. It is:

“I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than caught under Alethea Kontis’s  spell.  Enchanted is, in a word, enchanting.”

Joy. Absolute, tremendous joy and happiness.

That’s right, folks, I CAST SPELLS. You better watch out. Only right now, I feel like I’m trapped in one of my own. And it’s a really, really good one. *happy spins*

Sarah and Tamora, thank you classy ladies both so very, very much for sharing the love and making this little girl very, very happy. *hugs*


[If you have not read either of these books, clicking on the covers will take you straight to Amazon, where you can read more information about both of them. Tamora writes great YA epic fantasy with strong female characters. Sarah writes gorgeous adult contemporary  magical realism, set in the south. I highly recommend them both. –AK]


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Princess Alethea’s Magical Elixir

Princess Alethea’s new reviews are now up at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show! This month I discuss:

Title: The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
EAN: 9780553807219

I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen over a crotchety old woman and an apple tree. The woman was named Evanelle, and if she knocked on your door to hand you a thimble at 2 a.m. it was because you needed it . . . or would need it in the near future. The apple tree’s fruit showed the eater the best moment of his or her life, regardless of whether or not that moment had already come to pass. The book was called Garden Spells, and I was a fan for life… (read more)

Title: Absolute Death
Author: Neil Gaiman
EAN: 9781401224639

I’m overstepping my bounds a bit on this one and toeing into my friend and fellow sideshow freak Spencer Ellsworth’s demesne, but when a Miracle Pictograph is oversized, slipcased, bound with fancy artwork, and put on sale for just shy of a Ben Franklin to hardcore collectors, it’s slightly more than just your average graphic novel… (read more)

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Genre Chick Interview: Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah Addison Allen’s debut novel Garden Spells was one of my all-time favorte books. I was pleased to find that her sophomore effort, The Sugar Queen, was equally delicious and her characters just as memorable as they were colorful.

There’s Josey, the rich girl with a closet full of romance novels, a secret cache of sweets, and a squatter-cum-fairy-godmother named Della Lee. Then there’s Chloe, whose passion can boil water and who is haunted by books that follow her around and present themselves whenever she needs them the most… however annoying. It’s the best kind of story: full of love, laughter, and a little bit of magic.

Which, of course, makes our interview with Sarah the best kind of interview.


Alethea Kontis: Genre labelers would probably pin your books as “magical realism.” Do you have any favorites in this genre?

Sarah Addison Allen: My favorites in this genre continue to be the first I ever read, in college. I think the newness, the way this literary device opened a whole new world for me when I discovered it, made these titles unforgettable, like first loves: The Passion by Jeanette Winterson, I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chapppell, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, and A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes

AK: In honor of Children’s Book Week (May 12-18), what was your favorite book as a child?

SAA: I loved picture books as a child. Some of my favorites were Millicent’s Ghost (“Great Aunt Agatha!”), The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes (“Come to the Palace tomorrow afternoon, for that is Easter Eve, and you shall be my fifth Easter Bunny.”), and The Funny Little Woman (“Tee-he-he-he.”)

AK: In Garden Spells, eating an apple from the apple tree showed you the most wonderful moment of your life. What has been the most wonderful moment of your life so far?

SAA: I’ve honestly never thought in terms of best and worst moments. For me, the beauty of life is found in the bigger picture, the cumulative power of experience. It’s like Claire burying the apples from her tree.  She wants to keep people from eating them so they won’t see the biggest event in their life and lose sight of the fact that every day is an event, that every day should be lived to its fullest.

AK: Do you like apples? Crave sweets at all?

SAA: I love apples! Covered in caramel, preferably. I have a ferocious sweet tooth. My upcoming book is even titled The Sugar Queen.

AK:  If you had a knack that developed into a magical power, what would it be? Conversely, what do you *wish* it would be?

SAA: I have a knack for attracting stray cats. Could that be a magical power? I could be Cat Woman. No, wait, that one’s already taken…

If I could wish for a magical power, I would wish for the ability to visit characters in books. To actually live in books for a while, instead of through them.

AK:  Does any sort of magic run in your family?

SAA: Hmm, we all seem to have an irresistible urge to offer food to anyone who visits. Walk through our doors and a plate will appear in your hands, like magic.

AK: Do you have any sisters?

SAA: I have one sister named Sydney, the name of one of the sisters in Garden Spells.  The fictional Sydney doesn’t bear any resemblance to the real one–I’ve just always loved the name. That was a big point of contention when we were kids. I thought Sydney got the better name… and when I was five years old, this necessarily meant our parents loved her more.

AK: You have the most amazingly unique characters–Evanelle in particular stood out for many of us. Are any of your characters (Evanelle in particular) based on anyone you know?

SAA: Evanelle is based on a real woman with the same name, which she pronounced EVEN-NELL. She was an elderly friend of my great-aunt’s, and she would drop by out of the blue with something she’d cooked or something she’d picked from her garden. She was a gift-giving woman, like generosity was in her genes.

AK: Garden Spells deals with the very serious issue of spousal abuse. How did you do research for Sydney? Was writing her character difficult?

SAA: For Sydney, I tapped into very base fears. The lack of physical safety is a base fear. Vulnerability is a base fear.  It took so much courage for Sydney to leave her abusive situation. I love all my characters in Garden Spells, and they all deserved their happy endings. But Sydney didn’t just deserve hers. She earned it.

AK: Will all your books be set in North Carolina?

SAA: The next couple, at least. There are magical aspects to the South I’ve yet to explore–superstitions, Moonpies, the religious experience that is North Carolina barbeque…

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