* Noblesse Oblige:
Ceci N’est Pas Une Démocratie
*How do I pronounce your name?
Say it with me: ALETHEA KONTIS*
Or, you can hear the pronunciation of “Alethea Kontis” and a little bit of history behind the name over at TeachingBooks.net!
******WATCH THIS VIDEO******
In June 2015, I did a library interview with FL teens via Skype that was fraught with technical difficulties, prompting me to create this video response to all their questions. If you’re going to ask me to do an interview, it would definitely behoove you to watch this video first!
*Who is your agent?
The fabulous Moe Ferrara @ BookEnds Literary!
Email: [email protected]
*How do I contact you?
Go to the bar at the top of this page and click “Contact.”
If you’d like to send me physical letters (and I do love them!), please use this address:
PO Box 512
Mims, FL 32754
*How can I get a book personalized and signed by you?
Come see me at any of my appearances–you will have a beautifully signed book and all the swag I can carry! Over the holidays (starting around October), I often make signed books available from my Storenvy page. You can always get an e-signing from Authorgraph.
*Are you a Person of Color (POC)?
More and more this is becoming a hot button issue for folks.
I identify as Greek. I was baptized in the Greek church and was raised with many of the Greek traditions and superstitions. However, my father’s father was not from Greece–he and his family were among those victims of the Catastrophe of Smyrna (Ottoman Empire) in 1922. My great-grandfather was killed on a death march. His wife, who escaped to the docks with her children that day, was a direct descendant of the Komnenos family–Byzantine Emperors that ruled over what became the part of Turkey that exists in Asia Minor…where my family lived happily until the Turks decided they didn’t want any more Greeks or Armenians in their country.
Smyrna became “Izmir” after that. Constantinople became “Istanbul.” (Yes, folks. That catchy little song is a reference to the genocide of my people. I will never sing it again.)
My great-grandmother escaped with her children to Greece, but they were refugees, and thusly viewed as second-class citizens. When he was of age, my grandfather joined the Merchant Marines to show his patriotism…and then the Nazis invaded Greece. My grandfather was trapped on his ship with the crew–men without a country. They survived at sea until finally docking in America. He became a citizen, joined the U.S. Navy, and changed his last name from Kontaridis to Kontis. Then he married a nice Greek girl named Helen, whose mother had emigrated from the Peloponnesus when she was a child.
My mother’s family is French, via Canada. My father’s Ottoman/Anatolian Greek people were victims of genocide and diaspora. No one seems to be able to pronounce my name, despite the fact that it’s spelled phonetically. I did not grow up eating what American kids eat, or singing the songs they sang (Nana taught us all British songs; Memere sang Billie Holiday). But I’ve got olive skin and look like any other white girl on the block.
Am I a POC? You decide. Either way, thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell the world a little about my Ottoman heritage–it’s certainly not something that’s taught in American public schools.
*I’ve written a children’s book. How do I get it published?
My experience getting AlphaOops traditionally published was one of those one-in-a-million flukes…but as I get asked this question a lot:
Check out the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org), their local chapters and conferences.
Getting a book published is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do and getting a picture book published is near impossible. Have a thick skin and prepare yourself for truckloads of rejection and humiliation. But if you’re just masochistic and hardheaded enough to never give up, you’ll make it happen. (Just like anything else in this world.) I wish you the best of luck!
*How did you get AlphaOops published?
I grew up writing stories exclusively for my entertainment and that of my friends and family. It was one of these friends who forwarded AlphaOops along to another friend, who handed it to someone where she worked…at Candlewick Press. The Art Director then apparently read the story out loud to the entire office (can you imagine?) and had them all laughing hysterically.
There was nothing on those pages but the title of the story and my name (NEVER give a story to anyone without a little contact information), they had to hunt me down (thankfully much easier to do in the Internet Age than it used to be) to ask me if they could pleasepleaseplease publish it (if this ever happens to you, say YES!).
I said yes.
*Where do you get your ideas?
ASK QUESTIONS. Then, make up the answers.
How do you get ideas? If in your whole life you have never, ever had an idea, then you should really get out more. Wake up, open your eyes, and pay attention when your teachers are talking.
I can tell you where I’ve gotten my ideas for specific projects. Most of those discussions can be found on my website. (You can also find bonus essays that accompany my short stories for sale on Nook and Kindle.)
*Are there other writers in your family?
My Nana (paternal grandmother Helen E. Kontis) is a poet. I was an avid reader of poetry when I was young (Ogden Nash, Gelett Burgess), and my first writings were mostly poetry. My father (George E. Kontis) regularly publishes nonfiction magazine articles.
*How long have you been writing?
Since I was…Seven? Eight? Five?
I say officially started writing when I was ten years old, but I’d been dabbling for years before that. One of those moments that’s frozen in my brain happened at ten. I was in a gifted program called ALERT when I was in elementary school, and we did a unit on poetry where we each had to write our own poem. Mine was called “Friendship”:
Sometimes I wonder why
I am who I am
I tell the truth, I never lie
I’m gentle as a lamb
I don’t have much to give you
In friendship as in pen
But I’ll always need you
For you’re my only friend.
I looked at my round handwriting on the paper and the world clicked. I knew then that putting words on paper was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. (You know…like a fallback if the whole acting thing didn’t pan out.)
*You did some acting when you were younger? Do you still?
I had a brilliant Music teacher in elementary school named Linda Hall who put on elaborate school-wide musical plays every year. My first part was the role of Marcie in “We’re all Stars, Charlie Brown.”
I was seven. My large-scale theatrical debut was as Kim, the Ravenal’s daughter in “Showboat.” Shortly after that, I starred in an eight-part PBS educational miniseries called “Pass it Along.”
I haven’t done any acting since high school — but I am still a huge fan of my exceptionally talented friends and former classmates, like Patrick Kramer (who can be found acting and directing at the Boiler Room Theatre and other venues around Nashville) and Paul Pierro. There’s also that fantastic low-budget horror flick Blood Oath that I helped produce…and a few others I’ve helped out on…
You never know what tomorrow will bring!
*What was it like to work at Ingram Book Company? What does a “book buyer” do?
I did an official interview with author Maurice Broaddus for the Horror Writers Association that answers all of those questions HERE. I also did a guest blog for Magical Words in April 2008 outlining a day in my mad life as an Ingram Buyer. Prepare to be exhausted.
I worked at Ingram from 2000-2009.
*Your YouTube user name is “Thieftess.” Where did that name come from?
Back in the halcyon days of the internet, when we neophytes were clamoring to be on AOL, I had to pick a screen name. (I was hooked on the “Movie Quote Trivia” chat room.)
Back when we played D&D (and in the novel my friends and I wrote during high school), I was Llogan, Queen of Thieves. (A nod to my first fictional love, Tamora Pierce’s George Cooper.) “Thieftess” was like “Chieftess”, only more perfect. I used it for everything — even my original Hatrack screen name.
When I started to gain some certain degree of fame (ha!) I realized that it was silly to use any screen name other than my own, so I became Alethea Kontis (or Princess Alethea). But I didn’t want Thieftess to totally disappear…and YouTube seemed a harmless enough place to do that.