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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tour Guest Post: The Cracked Slipper by Stephanie Alexander

About the Book
When Eleanor Brice unexpectedly wins the heart of Gregory Desmarais, Crown Prince of Cartheigh, she’s sure she’s found her happily-ever-after. Unfortunately, Prince Charming has a loose grip on his temper, a looser grip on his marriage vows, and a tight grip on the bottle.

Eight years of mistreatment, isolation and clandestine book learning hardly prepare Eleanor for life at Eclatant Palace, where women are seen, not heard. According to Eleanor’s eavesdropping parrot, no one at court appreciates her unladylike tendency to voice her opinion. To make matters worse, her royal fiancé spends his last night of bachelorhood on a drunken whoring spree. Before the ink dries on her marriage proclamation Eleanor realizes that she loves her husband’s best friend, former soldier Dorian Finley.

Eleanor can’t resist Dorian’s honesty, or his unusual admiration for her intelligence, and soon both are caught in a dangerous obsession. She drowns her confusion in charitable endeavors, but the people’s love can’t protect her from her feelings. When a magical crime endangers the bond between unicorns, dragons and the royal family, a falsely accused Eleanor must clear her own name to save her life. The road toward vindication will force a choice between hard-won security and an impossible love.
Author Bio
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Stephanie Alexander grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, the oldest of three children. Drawing, writing stories and harassing her parents for a pony consumed much of her childhood.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the College of Charleston, South Carolina, and then followed her long-time fascination with sociopolitical structures and women’s issues to land a Master of Arts in Sociology from American University. She spent several years as a Policy Associate at the International Center for Research on Women, a think-tank focused on women’s health and economic advancement.

Stephanie embraced full-time motherhood after the birth of the first of her three children in 2003. And after six wonderful years buried in diapers and picture books, she returned to her childhood passion and wrote her own fairytale. Her academic and professional background influenced multiple themes in her debut novel The Cracked Slipper (available in paperback and all eBook formats), including patriarchy and power dynamics, education and economic independence, and the ramifications of early childhood experiences.

The author is a member of the Women’s Fiction Chapter of Romance Writers of America and the Bethesda Writer’s Center, and an alumna of the Algonkian NYC Pitch and Shop Conference.

Stephanie’s family put down permanent southern roots in 2011 when she returned to the College of Charleston as an Adjunct Professor of Sociology and Friends of the Addlestone Library board member.

Finding the Reality Within Fantasy
There’s a lot of talk amongst novelists about the whole plot-driven versus character-driven argument. Of course, in a perfect world our books would be driven by both plot and character. If you write fantasy, however, you’ve got more than just the who and the what to worry about. In a fantasy book, the world your characters inhabit is just as important as who they are and what they do. 

Of course all novels must have a strong sense of place. In a fantasy book the stakes are even higher. The world arguably a character unto itself. 

In thinking about world building in fantasy novels, I’ve focus on two elements that go beyond imagination.  Beyond coming up with some kind of exotic unheard of creature or a new twist on an old spell. The best fantasy worlds aren’t just creative; they are both familiar and subtle. 

No one does the familiar fantasy world better than JK Rowling. Harry’s world literally exists within our own… right under our noses. Rowling creates a space for her characters to live that is wildly creative, but so mirrors out own reality that the reader can’t disbelieve it. 

The Quidditch World cup? Advertisements for magical cleaning products? Paparazzi hounding enchanted celebrities? Harry’s world is just like ours, but a lot more fun. 

I’ve sometimes found that fantasy writers try to hard to make the world different, when in my mind what works best is to make things sort of the same…just better. It’s easier to fully believe in a fantasy setting when you don’t have to think about it too hard. If I’m rereading a paragraph to try and understand the minutiae of a religious ceremony or the rules of enchantment or the complex familial relations of a family of trolls, that’s less energy I have for the real story. We writers should go easy on our readers by making it simple for them to believe in our personal interpretations of magic. 

In addition to familiarity, I admire writers who can subtly deliver the fantastical. When magic, or even just differentness, blends in with a character’s day-to-day existence, it usually has more umph. It’s a natural part of the background. In Stephen King’s Dark Tower books, he never needs to explain what Roland’s world actually is… is it our world in the future? A parallel dimension? We’re all connected somehow, but the reader just accepts the differences between our world and Mid-world. In my opinion, much of acceptance can be attributed to the fact that King never actually explains what those differences are. They just flow through the narrative, and we take them as fact and continue on. If it’s not a big deal to the characters, it doesn’t have to be a big deal to the reader. 

The idea of focusing on familiarity and subtly in world building might seem counterintuitive. Don’t’ we want our readers to be amazed or shocked or blown away by the depth of our creativity? Of course we do, but one of the most important ways to blow someone away with your imagination is to make them believe in it. If your readers can really see themselves inhabiting the world, then you’ve succeeded in blowing them away. I don’t want to live in a world I don’t understand, where I’m constantly analyzing the rules. I don’t want to stop and think, “Really? How could that be?” 

Believable fantasy is the kind where the reader can see himself or herself navigating the world without an encyclopedia. Where the unimaginable is just part of the characters’ day-to-day. Real magic is deceptively simple. 

The Cracked Slipper will be free on these days November 6-7 & December 7-9

1 comment:

  1. No way! My birthday is December 7th! I really want to read the book. I know what I'll be getting for my birthday. Thanks. :)