Joining us today is the lovely Alexia Casale!
A British-American citizen of Italian heritage, Alexia is an author, writing consultant and editor. She also teaches English Literature and Writing. After an MA in Social & Political Sciences (Psychology major) then MPhil in Educational Psychology & Technology, both at Cambridge University, she took a break from academia and moved to New York. There she worked on a Tony-award-winning Broadway show before returning to England to complete a PhD and teaching qualification to become a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In between, she worked as a West End script-critic, box-office manager for a music festival and executive editor of a human rights journal. Her debut novel, The Bone Dragon, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Jugendliteraturpreis, and long-listed for the Branford Boase Award. It was also a Book of the Year for the Financial Times and Independent. Her second book, House of Windows is a ‘Reading Well for Young People: Shelf-help‘ title.
Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Bubble bath. Books. Piping nozzles.
Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? 21st December, Winter Solstice, is an important family day for us, centred around decorating our Christmas Tree with ornaments from around the world. Most of the rest of our traditions centre around food – well, we are an Italian/Jewish household.
What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? It’s probably more about Christmas movies for me – all the old musicals I grew up watching with my grandparents and
(I LOVE the old musicals – can’t have Christmas without them!)
If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be ? There is no way I can pick… I’d love to have a meal’s worth of time to talk to Margaret Attwood or Barbara Kingsolver. People from history… Shakespeare would be an interesting companion for a meal, surely! Diana Wynne Jones is a more recent writer I would love to have fangirled over – before I hopefully calmed down and asked some semi-intelligent questions about craft. Ditto Josephine Tey. But ask me tomorrow and it’ll be someone else. Probably still a writer, though. Or people from history I’m considering writing about – oh, the opportunity to get the inside scoop!
Wonderful fantastical figures and magical creatures are synonymous with Christmas and come to life at this time of year. In The Bone Dragon, why did you choose a dragon as Evie’s magical companion? The Bone Dragon is very much about the line between truth and fiction… and there’s such a rich history of Dragons in fiction, it gave me a lot to play with: referencing other books and stories helped me keep the reader guessing about what sort of dragon Evie’s Dragon is… I purposefully wanted to keep the ground shifting, one minute making it seem like the Dragon falls under the mentor archetype, then ‘revealing’ it as more ‘shadow-like, then confusing everything so the only conclusion seems that the Dragon plays a ‘shapeshifter’ role. But I can’t lie – if I could have a magical companion, it would probably be a Dragon. The ‘able to breath fire’ thing is a major selling point.
You’ve spoken in the past about the importance of daydreams in generating wonderful ideas for writing. What would your ideal Christmas daydream be? A transporter pad so I could go anywhere in the world without having to do too much journeying (I’m a bit of a ‘It IS the destination, not the journey’ sort of girl when we’re talking literal travel) and this would mean I could see all my favourite people, all the time – even just popping into writer friends’ places for a 5 minute cuppa to solve a plot problem. Also I would get a disintegrator weapon – no body, no murder. Nuff said with politics the way they are. See why I like Dragons?
Reader’s question from students at Warden Park Secondary Academy: what do you do if you get stuck when you’re writing? First, I try to figure out why I’m stuck. Sometimes it’s because I need a break… but usually it’s because I don’t know what happens next: maybe I know what follows plot-wise but somehow I don’t know what little steps and pieces of dialogue take the story from where it is to the ‘next big step forwards’. The answer almost always lies with the characters: maybe I’ve made someone act out of character so it all feels wrong… or maybe I’ve got an idea that just won’t work because the character would never do the thing I want him/her to do next. The solution is to go back to who the characters are and what motivates them… and then figure out how to change the context and situation so that it is not just believable but inevitable for them to carry out the plot I’ve got in mind. So when I’m struck I try to recognise that it’s my way of telling myself I need to think a bit more carefully, plan a little more, and respect who my characters are as if they were real people.
(Really great advice – thank you.)
Turkey or goose? Goose? YUCK! Turkey all the way.
Real or fake tree? Real. Watered carefully for 3-4 weeks. Bliss and beauty.
Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Mince pies.
Stockings – end of the bed or over the fireplace? Under the tree! It’s all about the tree in our house.
Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Depends who I’m seeing when. Also when we eat the trifle.
Thank you so much for participating! Have a very Happy Christmas.