Thursday, April 28, 2011
Guest Author Interview: Alexi Zentner
Please welcome today's guest author Alexi Zentner. Alexi is the author of Touch.
EJ: When did you begin writing?
Alexi: I think, like most authors, I started writing as a kid, but I didn't start writing seriously until maybe six years ago. It took me a while to figure out the difference between wanting to be a writer and working at being a writer.
EJ: What brought you to the paranormal genre?
Alexi: I'm really interested in the ways that we accept the seemingly miraculous nature of science - just the fact that we are here, that we are conscious is amazing - as a matter of fact, but we have lost touch with a lot of the myths that used to be accepted as fact. In some ways, what fascinates me the most is the question of myth: how does a story go from being an accepted fact to a myth? There is a lot of magic in TOUCH, but I think of it as mythical realism rather than magical realism. What does that mean? Mostly that the myth and magic is woven throughout the story, an accepted part of the reality of the characters' lives rather than momentary bursts of amazement. The amazement should carry through the entire novel. The magic in TOUCH doesn't just take the forms of magical realism, whether the central and south American versions or the European versions, which are rooted firmly in their own place and traditions; I'd like to believe that I'm doing something new and unique to North America. All of that being said, I didn't really realize just how much magic, how many monsters and witches and supernatural things, were in the novel until after I'd finished writing it and I had to start talking about it. I'm sure some of comes from reading widely, both as a kid and now, as a writer. I'm not particularly snobby about what crosses my desk.
EJ: If you could be any paranormal or have any one supernatural talent, what would it be? Why?
Alexi: On the purely frivolous level, I'd have the ability to find what I was looking for in my fridge so that I wouldn't have to feel so incompetent. More seriously, I think an underrated talent would be the ability to soothe pain. Not physical pain, though that would be useful, of course, but rather the emotional pain (or less dramatically, ennui) that so many people seem to suffer from. I'm a generally happy guy, and usually when I'm not, I can just sort of say to myself, "get over it." I recognize that's not true for everybody, of course, and I wish it was something I could help with. Oh, and also, I'd like to be able to eat whatever I want - i.e. candy - and have it be good for me.
EJ: Tell us why readers will enjoy your new release.
Alexi: Why are readers going to enjoy my novel, TOUCH? I'm terrible at these questions. I'm much better at talking up other people than myself. Okay, here it goes: Touch is set in the fictional town of Sawgamet, a north-woods boomtown gone bust, where the cold of winter breaks the glass of the schoolhouse thermometer and the river freezes so fast it can trap the drowning. Stephen, a pastor, has brought his family home on the eve of his mother's death, thirty years after the mythic summer his grandfather returned in to raise his beloved wife from the dead. Publishers Weekly and Quill & Quire gave the book starred reviews and respectively called TOUCH "eerie and elegiac," and "one of those books that gets people talking." The incredibly generous and talented authors who read the book and praised it in advance of publication called TOUCH "haunting," "full of mystery and beauty," "ravishing," "enchanted with fables," and "full of a sinister magic straight from the Brothers Grimm." While TOUCH may not fit as neatly into the paranormal genre as some books - despite the magic and the monsters, I'm not sure what genre it truly belongs in other than the always slippery category of "literary fiction" - I think the reason why TOUCH seems to be resonating with early readers is that, at it's core, the book is a love story. It's about the grandfather - who walked across the country, stole a dog from a witch, and then founded the town of Sawgamet - and his inability to let go of the woman he loves even though she is in the grave, and it's about Stephen and his own memories. While the story is told in this incredibly harsh landscape, where I have the supernatural bumping against human heartbreak and loss, Touch is actually a really hopeful book. The monsters and myths in the story are sometimes one and the same, sometimes scary and sometimes simply part of Sawgamet.
EJ: If your book(s) were being made into a movie, who would you cast for the leading roles? Why?
Alexi: For a leading role? It's embarrassing to admit that I haven't really thought about this. It's hard to think of my novel as a movie. The honest answer would probably be whomever I thought would draw the biggest audience, though I'd probably prefer somebody who wasn't already defined by other roles.
Touch by Alexi Zentner
In Sawgamet, a north woods boomtown gone bust, the cold of winter breaks the glass of the schoolhouse thermometer, and the dangers of working in the cuts are overshadowed by the mysteries and magic lurking in the woods. Stephen, a pastor, is at home on the eve of his mother's funeral, thirty years after the mythic summer his grandfather returned to the town in search of his beloved but long-dead wife. And like his grandfather, Stephen is forced to confront the losses of his past.
Touch introduces you to a world where monsters and witches oppose singing dogs and golden caribou, where the living and the dead part and meet again in the crippling beauty of winter and the surreal haze of summer.
Thank you Alexi for joining us here today at From the Shadows!
To learn more about Alexi Zentner and his books, please visit his website.