alisha costanzo, author, blood, blood phoenix, book, Broken World, character development, claimed, editing, fantasy, folklore, horror, humor, interview, leprachaun, Lurker, myth, novel, paranormal, process, publish, publishing, rebirth, Ria, Roleplay, roleplaying, romance, RP, self-publish, sex, spotlight, urban fantasy, vampire, vampires, writing, writing tips
I found that one of my favorite pages is being deleted, and since I had so much fun with this person, I wanted to share our interview.
RPW2PA Interview with Alisha Costanzo Blood Phoenix: Rebirth
March 23, 2014 at 8:47pm
The Lurker: Alisha welcome. Thank you for joining me today. *smiling brightly* I understand you had a book just recently published. But before you start on that, I was wondering if we can talk about you first. Can you give us a bit about your background, and what started you writing? I mean many know that you were an RP Writer for a long time. Why the change from RP Writer to Published Author? Was the switch hard to do? What experiences of RP writing were you able to bring over to your published writing? Tea? *Smiling still while holding up a hot cup of tea*, and not breaking stride.*
Alisha: Thank you for having me, Erin. This place looks a lot bigger on the inside. Ooo, tea. Thank you. I’m usually a coffee girl, but I like the switch every now and then. Okay, about me. I’ve been writing for a long time. In fact, I’ve been with these characters and this world since I was sixteen, thirteen years ago. But I wrote a ton of fan fics before then with my friends in script format. I had hundreds of them, and a few even made their way onto my computer. I remember disctinctly writing my first scene in prose, and it was a sex scene. I was twelve and oh so proud of my imagination. But I’m asked a lot, as all authors are, about what inspired me to start writing. And I honestly believe that it’s innate-both a product of my environment and my genetics. I was left to my own devices as a child, which left me with my sixty-seven imaginary friends, most of which have never left me. Plus, both of my parents are creative people. My dad is an avid reader, and he is a natural story-teller, as is his mother. He tells great oral stories that I hope to one day collect in writing, using his voice. My mother is a crafter, and she now runs her own stained-glass business. But I grew up with her running craft shows and being surrounded by an enormous amount of creative people. She also instilled in me a deep appreciation for true talent, original thought, and pride in high standards, which is likely why I earned my MFA in Creative Writing to ensure my craft was well developed.
As for my RPing, I LOVE Rping. It’s so completely different than writing stories on my own. The practice is organic and raw, like the writing process itself. I hope to continue with my characters since they drive much of my creative force outside my current main project. I’m actually revising a book based off of original RP characters. As for a switch, I’ve always wanted to publish my writing in a traditional format, and self-publishing seemed like a great option with the ways of the market changing. Plus, I’d love to publish other writers, which I hope to do with an on-going project I am editing with Anthony S. Buoni. Publishing was far easier than I thought it would be, even with all of the grueling revisions. But I don’t really like to think of it as a switch. RPing is as hard and as public as writing a book, if not more so. And my RPing characters have gained their voices again this month, which makes me ecstatic. Overall, RPing has become a staple for my traditional writing. It keeps me true to my characters and their stories.
The Lurker: Seems that your education and upbringing does provide anyone with the right ingredients to hone and express their creative side. Why publish this book now after thirteen years? So now that we are talking about your book Blood Phoenix: Rebirth. Can you tell us a bit about it and the characters?
Alisha: There comes a time when an author re-writes a book so many times that publishing is the only way to move on. Don’t get me wrong, I love where Blood Phoenix: Rebirth as it is, but it’s the nature of authors to tinker and tinker and tinker and tinker, and well, we always feel like we can improve something if we don’t let go of it. So I’ve let go of my first novel after thirteen years to focus on other projects-one of which is book two. The series is a melding of several genres: urban fantasy, horror, suspense/action, satire, and a bit of romance.
In book one, Ria, the main character, is thrown into a frightening new world only to find out she’d always been more than human. She struggles through the entire book to come to grips with what she is and how powerful she’s become. But more importantly, she struggles to stay alive. Her maker, James, doesn’t ease her struggle. He’s brisk and unsympathetic, and he can’t seem to reign in her turmoil enough to train her before she’s kidnapped, staked, and summoned to take audience with his queen and lover. Yet, Ria gets a bit of help along the way. When James deserts her on his queen’s orders, he sends an ally to keep her safe. Boden was meant to be just that, her temporary protector, but he turns into an integral part of Ria’s life. But no matter who has her back, no one can seem to protect her from the queen’s clutches.
The Lurker: Can you tell us which of the characters are more like you? Which one was the hardest to write for? Can you give any insight into your characters?
Alisha: Sure! Ria is the most like me, which makes her perspective both easy and hard to write. She’s far more of a brat than I am, but a lot of her smaller details are me-the meditation, the vampire myth trivia, the potty mouth, the English and communications background, and the obsession with coffee-although, I’m coming to find that’s a general writer trait.
Boden is the most fun to write because he’s so distinct with his accent and easy personality changes. As I mentioned in my earlier explanation of the story, he wasn’t meant to stick around, which makes the fact that he does organic. I have to get to know him the same way I get to know real people; we interact when I write.
And finally, some insight. I’ve found that James is one of the more misunderstood characters because, quite frankly, he’s an ass in book one. But he’s got a lot of shit going on in the background. He’s a pretty broken man, but he really does want to take care of Ria in his own ways. In their reality, he sacrifices quite a lot for her that the reader doesn’t get to see.
The Lurker: Many people are have talked about sex scenes in a book. Being too much or too little. I find that depending on my mood will depend on what I like to read. But then, I am not shy when it comes to sex. However, many people are shy and uncomfortable with this aspect of story telling. Can you tell us what your thoughts are on this type of story telling? When is it too much?
Alisha: I’m a sexual author down to the way my language flows, but I appreciate all types of sexual writing. And the genre determines my view. I have much more sexual tension and play in my novel than most urban fantasies-so much so that it falls borderline with paranormal romance, except the focus isn’t on romance. Most of what I write is graphic without being overly technical. I like real words for genitalia, like cock and pussy, and don’t mind some of the euphemisms for them, but I’d rather hear the descriptive dirty words than have it flowery.
A story can have too much sex and be too descriptive-again, too technical takes away from the romance of it. But there can be too much sex in a story. For example, I wrote a novel for July’s NaNoWriMo boot camp. It’s a paranormal romance/erotica, and currently, two-thirds of it is sex. That’s too much. Some chapters contain two or three sexual encounters, and it muddles the storyline. Balance is key. Sex should be used to give a bit of excitement and down time for the overall plot. And honestly, a little can go a long way in most cases. As a reader, tension, especially sexual tension, keeps me interested in a story.
The Lurker: RP Writing is alive, for now. But I am sure you are aware of the continuing issues that face RP Writers. The constant deletion of accounts and groups being devastated by losing large amounts of material. Some people are argue that it is the right of the fan. “Freedom of Speech.” But now that you are an author, do you consider a group of fans writing fan fiction about your stories an act of “Freedom of Speech”? Or maybe you feel it infringes on your copyright rule. How would you feel about it?
Alisha: A balance can exist between the two: freedom of speech and copyright infringement. As long as RP Writers give credit to the author for the world and its characters somewhere in their information, I see it as free advertising and marketing. Fan fiction and mimetics has been around for so long that the transfer to electronic forum seems natural. Writers learn from other writers. We’re trained to learn that way. We’re told that if we want to improve we must do two things: read more and write more. We are obviously influenced by what we read in some way or another.
When I entered the RPing world, I wrote as several of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s characters. It turned into a live writing exercise where I had to take established characters and be true to their forms in situations outside of their world. My writing instructors often suggested this practice. And I could never predict how a fan might respond to my interpretation of any character I play. But authors must realize that once their works have been published, their content is public, and readers are free to their own interpretations. This happens in English class when students have to write papers about stories and novels. In this way, a work grows beyond the author’s intentions, and RPing does the same thing. Essentially, I’m for it. 100%. I would love to see groups made based off of my characters. It’s on my bucket list.
The Lurker: *nodding in understanding* That is really good to hear. Lets come back to your book. We have touched on the premise of the book, and we have posted a thread for all to see the interviews with the characters of your book. *leans in and whispers* Which is brilliant by the way. *wink* But can you tell us how hard it was for you to publish your book? What experience and lessons have you learned that you may or may not apply to your second book? *blushing* You are doing a second book, are you not? *pleading look*
Alisha: Thank you, Erin. Now, actually publishing the book wasn’t as difficult as I thought. It was, however, a bit time consuming. Createspace offers templates for print, and several templates exist for Amazon and Smashwords, which can be utilized for the other e-book sites. This go around, I published it everywhere I could think of. For book two, I plan to only publish on the three I mentioned (Createspace, Amazon, and Smashwords). I will also not rush my publication date on the next book. For book one, I published too quickly to meet my deadline, and the first round of books were published with some glaring flaws, which I was able to fix and republish. Now, the overall process of publishing from start to finish is quite time consuming and difficult, and I don’t think a lot of writers are prepared for how in-depth the process is for quality work. I edited Blood Phoenix: Rebirth over a dozen times with various programs and word lists and etc. I hired an editor, Joe Martin of Ragnarok Publications and Nine Worlds, and I still combed through the book four more times after it left his hands. Revision and editing is the longest process for a book, next to the actual writing. And yes, book two, Blood Phoenix: Claimed, should be out later this year. I have two more revisions before it will be ready for my editor, and then a few more after that.
The Lurker: You have mentioned that you published your own book and may be looking to help publish other authors as well. Can you tell us how one would go about contacting you and what your requirements would be?
Alisha: I do! I want to give opportunities to other writers I believe in, as I am attempting to do with the anthology I am currently editing with Anthony S. Buoni, entitled Distorted. I also provide freelance work for authors as well, and my services are listed on my website. I hope to open my own small, online press in the next few years; however, if anyone is interested in submitting to me now for help with publication, I am more than happy to work them. I do have a bit of a disclaimer. As my students are well aware, I am a hard ass. I expect high quality writing, proper development, and clean language before I take my editor pen to a project. And although I do help with overall development, a writer must learn to create and edit on their own, which is the hardest lesson I learned in writing my MFA thesis. Now, for overall requirements, I like genre fiction, such as Fantasy, Sci Fi, Romance, Mystery, Horror, YA. and etc. I’m not a fan of pure literary works as I find them boring on most occasions. And I typically prefer works that push boundaries and mix genres. I love to read books that give new life to old ideas and satire, especially. (Satire and social conformity are my geek buttons.) So, in any case, contacting me. The best place to reach me for publishing is my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Lurker: *shaking my head* Wow! I am really impressed. You have such a full and exciting life. What is next for the Great and talented Alisha? You mentioned a second book, it will follow up the first one I assume. But can you tell us a bit about it and roughly when do you think your fans should be on the look out for it?
Alisha: Yes, there is a second book coming. I hope to have it out late this year. It picks up where book one leaves off, with Ria struggling under the pressure of vampire life. She gains another mentor, Gene, and a group of varying allies, many of which are human. But vampirism hasn’t gotten any peachier. Ria’s put through her second trial, a renegade fight with a man she’d known as a human. And I think that’s all I can tell without giving away too much.
I also have a novelette about how Phea became the first vampire coming out at the end of this year, hopefully, in the Distorted anthology. I hope to show readers another side of my protagonist, since I don’t know anyone who likes her but me. She wasn’t always such a tremendously evil bitch.
The Lurker: What lessons have your learned so far in being not only a published author but also being self published as well? Have you found it has changed the way you write? How is this effecting your family?
Alisha: Self-publishing hasn’t affected the way I write. I will always strive for the best possible product, which means clean writing and engaging characters, etc. I must say that it will be nice to have more eyes on this next project before it goes out to avoid some of the hiccups that I had on the last go around. And I have a very proud and supportive family. They’re all my cheerleaders as are so many of my friends. My husband has been an enormous help. He brought the book to our university to show other students and hands out bookmarks for me. He’s a saint.
The Lurker: What can you tell RP Writers whom may have a special story they have squirreled away afraid to share but think it just might be something special, but to afraid to publish? What piece of advice would you tell them that you wish you had known in the beginning?
Alisha: Choose your first readers carefully. Friends will always love to read a friend’s book, but be sure it’s polished for most of them. Very few friends want to read draft after draft after draft. It becomes work. But there is always one friend who will read multiple drafts (I have a few). On that note, I say pull out those squirreled away stories, read them, take notes, revise, revise, revise again, get a reader, revise again, and either submit it or hire an editor and publish the damn thing. Writers don’t grow into their potential if they don’t let finished work go, like I said earlier. And I understand the fear involved with publishing work. Publishing means sharing something so incredibly private with the world without control. And negative reactions or bad reviews hurt, but you’ll be surprised by how many people there are who want to help you succeed. I sure was.
The Lurker: *beaming a bright smile* Okay, before we close this interview, I want to thank you for coming today and sharing your book, imagination, and wisdom with us all. However, I do have one more question about your current book. If there is one thing you want readers of your book to take away with them, what would that be?
Alisha: Thank you so much, Erin, for having me today. Everything you do for us authors is simply amazing. You are a saint.
To answer your question, I genuinely want to connect with my readers through a shared love of paranormal creatures and of the place where mythical history and new fiction meet, like Boden as my personification of old meeting new. I’ve really twisted vampire myths with pop culture references and light-hearted satire. More than anything else, I hope to bring readers over to the dark side with a new perspective and a sense of anticipation.
As a tribute to this wonderful woman, I want to thank her again for all of her time and love. I’ll miss you!