Monday, April 28, 2014

Fairy Tales and Zombie Stories... An Interview with Alisse Lee Goldenberg

Interview time! This week I was fortunate enough to sit down with the talented Alisse Lee Goldenberg to discuss her newest release, Sitnalta, her love of fairy tales and how she manages to effortlessly switch from writing young adult fantasies to horror novels.

Steph Post: Sitnalta was released this past fall and has gotten wonderful reviews. What sort of feedback have you received from readers?

Alisse Lee Goldenberg: I have heard how much they like the fairy-tale aspect of the story, and that they enjoyed how Sitnalta was a strong female role-model.  For me, those two comments make the journey worth it, since that was what I was writing towards.

SP: The character of Sitnalta is a strong female character in a fairytale-esque story. Do you think she is a role model for young female readers? If so, what do you want readers to learn from her?

ALG: I want readers to be true to themselves and to stand up for what they believe in.  Sitnalta has to learn to fight for what she wants, and to fight for what she believes is right. These are important lessons for anyone regardless of their gender.

SP: I have to ask about the names… what prompted to you play around with your character’s names and their meanings? Is something that you have done in your other books?

ALG: Names have always intrigued me. I believe that a person is in some way defined by their name. I wanted the names of my characters to evoke an image of who they were. In my other books, I did play around somewhat with what I called my characters, particularly in The Strings of the Violin, but not to the extent I did in Sitnalta.

SP: Speaking of other books- as well as Sitnalta, you’ve written a zombie thriller titled Bath Salts. Is it easy for you to bounce back and forth between genres? And do you have a preferred genre?

ALG: I was a little nervous writing Bath Salts since I’d never written horror before. But I was lucky to have my good friend and co-author An Tran to hold my hand and help me through the gory bits.I didn’t feel it too difficult to bounce back and forth between genres, for me it’s all about telling a good story.  As for a preferred genre, I keep coming back to fantasy. Yet, I seem to have caught the horror bug somewhat, as An and I have some other projects on the go.

SP: Like myself, you have an avid interest in fairy tales and folklore. Any favorite stories, characters or themes?

ALG: I love the idea of a quest in a story. And as such, my favourite is The Golden Mountain. It’s a Moroccan folk tale along the idea of Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders, only the theme here is that of a girl who seeks knowledge. That, in and of itself, is a big reason why I love the story so much. It’s not a prince, or true love the girl seeks, but it’s the idea of personal growth.

SP: Sitnalta will be followed by a sequel. Can you give us any details on what it will be about and when we’ll be able to get a hold of it?

ALG: Well, it will be out sometime after I’m finished writing it! But as for the plot, it takes place after the events in Sitnalta, and Gerald and Aud are back, as well as our favourite princess. I don’t want to give too much away, but we will see much more of the world, including the intriguing Island Kingdoms. 

Everyone in the land loves Princess Sitnalta of Colonodona. Everyone except her father, the monstrous King Supmylo, whose thirst for revenge and hideous cravings, have nearly destroyed the once peaceful kingdom. He cares only for power—the more the better—and he despises Sitnalta because she wasn’t born a boy. He wanted an heir, a prince, to grow his kingdom and fulfill his own father’s legacy. But now, his only choice is to join with a neighboring kingdom, and at the tender age of 15, Sitnalta is to be married to another king who is at least as old as her own father.

But Sitnalta has other ideas. Before her father can come for her, she sneaks out of her bedroom window, scales the castle walls, and enters the magical forest that surrounds her kingdom. There she meets Najort, a kind-hearted troll, who was tasked by a wizard decades earlier to protect a valuable secret—with his life, if necessary.

But King Supmylo has vowed that nothing will stop him from returning his daughter to Colonodona, and forcing her to go through with the royal wedding. With the help of friends from both kingdoms, Sitnalta and Najort flee ahead of the rabid king. For if they are captured, Supmylo will become so invincible, no one could stand against him.

 AlisseLee Goldenberg is an author of Horror and Young Adult fantasy fiction. She has her Bachelors of  Education and a Fine Arts degree, and has studied fantasy and folk lore since she was a child. Alisse      lives in Toronto with her husband Brian, their triplets Joseph, Phillip, and Hailey, and their rambunctious    Goldendoodle Sebastian.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

T-Shirts and Quotes and Writing

"If I start counting down from ten, I may lose patience at five." -Ava Crowder

So I was late to the faculty meeting this afternoon and when I rushed in, steeling myself to be bombarded with information about testing, testing and more testing (it is testing season after all), I was confronted by something very unexpected: T-Shirts. And glitter. And sequins. And puff paint.

I'm feeling a little lost at this point (as in, time travel lost- bedazzling? really?), so I ask a fellow teacher what in God's name we're doing....

And apparently we're making informational and inspirational T-shirts to wear as a sign of encouragement to the students. I'm supposed to come up with something motivational. My first idea? Spray paint and an anarchy symbol.

Yet there is no spray paint (though plenty of neon fabric markers!) and I am told that my idea won't work anyway because I need to put a quote on my shirt. Something directed at the students. And my first idea on this front?

"You ever hear the saying, 'You ran into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. You run into assholes all day, you're the asshole.'?" -Raylan Givens.

Probably not school appropriate....I needed to think deeper, more philosophical, anyway. I'm trying to inspire the next generation.  How about...

"You pick the devil you run with." -Mags Bennett
"Truth always sounds like lies to a sinner." -Boyd Crowder
"I believe you dictate the river of truth through your own actions."- Also Boyd (yeah... I'm a little biased)

Again, though, not exactly motivational. These won't get the kids hyped up about their education. Then I really think I've got it:

"Put your foot down, Dewey Crow!" - Boyd Crowder

I'm actually considering this one (most people at work won't get it until I tell them it's from Justified, and then they'll nod and give me that weird "oh I forgot, she's obsessed" look before they quickly walk away), when, alas, I am then informed that the quote on my shirt also needs to be related to my content area. I teach writing. My quote needs to be about writing...

Not. As. Fun..... *sigh*

But this whole experience got me thinking... If you had to have a quote to live by, motivate someone, or at the very least, Sharpie onto a T-shirt, what would it be? What words have impressed themselves upon you to the point of memorization and recitation? Who has said something better than you ever could?

I'd love to know.... Please comment below and share!

(And for the record, I decided to go with "If it sounds like writing, rewrite it."- Elmore Leonard. I opted out on the glitter, though....)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Emily Belden is on Fire! (An Interview...)

In case you hadn't heard, Emily Belden's memoir Eightysixed: Life Lessons Learned has been selling like hotcakes. With all of the publicity currently surrounding her Emily is a busy lady, but I was fortunate enough to score an interview with her. But first, here's a little info on the book that's got everybody talking...

Chicagoan Emily Belden has no idea what to do with her twenty-something life — particularly as it pertains to love — which is a tough problem for a hopelessly romantic half-Jew who's fresh out of a failed relationship.
But if “figuring it all out” and “wanting it all” were Olympic sports, Emily would have been a gold medalist in both categories. Never one to admit defeat in the face of the enemy, Emily gets back in the dating ring again and again.
But, the more she tries to make her therapist proud, the deeper down the rabbit hole she goes. While recovering the pieces of her broken heart, straight-A Emily’s dating world morphs into a mad soirĂ©e of drug addicts, embezzlers, perverts, and pimps.
Just as she begins to believe that a bottle of wine might be her only shot at happiness, a chance encounter with a man she never should have met resets Emily’s buttons. What she experiences next satiates her heart, her soul, and her stomach, as she frees herself from the perils of her mid-twenties and becomes exactly who she is supposed to be.

Steph Post: As Eightysixed is a memoir, how comfortable were you in writing about your own life experiences? Were you nervous that this would have any negative consequences concerning people you know and/or wrote about?
Emily Belden: If I didn’t decide to commit to making this a true tell-all, then it would have been hard. But, I made the choice to put it all out there so that I could write without hesitation or guilt. There’s really no other way to do it. Of course now there are many chapters that have worried my husband-to-be, as his 85-year-old grandma got her hands on a copy, but what can you do!? 
SP: What gave you the inspiration to take a rough part of your life (and everyone’s life- if you haven’t had some awkward experiences in your 20s, you haven’t lived…) and turn it into a full blown book? Was this something you deliberately set out to do?
EB: I was really just sort of journaling about my life at the time. It was a coping mechanism. But as the unbelievable experiences started to rack up, I realized: well, this could be a book. A few years later, behold: Eightysixed. Definitely one of the best accidents to happen to me!
SP: Did you have a specific reader in mind when you were writing Eightysixed? Do you think it can appeal to a wide audience, ie., people not in their twenties or people who have never lived in the “big city”?
EB: For a fact, I know this book has been read and related to by everyone from a pastor’s daughter to a middle-aged Mormon, and everyone in between. The book is ultimate a story about love and hope and the funny way the world helps you find yourself when you’re feeling lost. Between all the one-liners and hot messes, it truly does something for the soul.
SP: I always wonder what people are going to write about once they’ve written a memoir… Some writers continue in the genre by focusing on other parts of their lives and some gravitate towards fiction or journalism, etc. What does the future of writing look like for you?
EB: It will be a hard road now that my life has settled down. I’m three weeks away from getting married (cue the freak-out) and I’m a homebody with my two rescue pitbulls. The days of pimps and bottle service are over for me! So next on my writing docket will be a work of fiction called “Six Months”. What do you think it’s about?
SP: So far Eightysixed has been a tremendous success (and will continue to be, I’m sure!). What advice do you have for up-and-coming  writers as far as navigating the publishing world?
EB: Get used to the word “no” in all its various forms, and just remember that it only takes one yes. Maybe it’s to and from yourself in the form of self-publishing, or maybe your manuscript will land in the hands of someone who truly “gets it”. You’ve got to be patient and go with  your gut.

Special thanks to Emily Belden for stopping by! Please check out her website at and don't forget to pick up your copy of Eightysixed: Life Lessons Learned

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Review: Leonard Chang's Crossings

I think that the complex genre of "literary thriller" is often misappropriated, but if you're searching for a perfect example of a book in this category, you need look no further than Leonard Chang's 2009 novel Crossings.

Why is this book literary? Because the stark language is mesmerizing in its simplicity and its power. Because the characters are difficult, complicated, and heartbreaking. Because the reader is transported to a world that is terrifying and tender, a Pandora's box wrenched open in the first chapter and taking the entire novel to (possibly....) be slammed shut. Because cliches are absent and rawness abundant, because the story is more important than the plot.

Why is it a thriller? Because I couldn't put it down. I read the second half in one setting, ripping through the pages, because I HAD to know what was going to happen to the characters. I became so caught up in the fate of the characters that it was all I could do to not skip ahead so I could find out, for God's sake, how the characters were going to untangle themselves from the hopeless web they were all caught up in.

It's been a while since I've read a book that I felt had momentum, driving me forward to read just one more chapter (!), and I was greatly appreciative of Chang's ability to lure me in with his literary treatment of characters and then keep me reading with his fast-paced and twisted plot. Crossings is a  true literary thriller, and, at the end of the day, simply one hell of a good book.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Obsession and Writing and Camille Rose Garcia

Hands down, Camille Rose Garcia is my favorite artist of all time (I even have a piece of her artwork tattooed on me...) and here's why:

I'm not exactly sure when and where I was when I first discovered Garcia's work, but I can remember the feeling I felt. Like someone had reached deep down into my subconscious and dragged out everything that I loved and feared, everything that moved me, and then captured all of those feelings in paint. It was intense, slightly disturbing and ultimately thrilling. I felt like I had been in love with Garcia's artwork forever. 

And while I neither read nor write fantasy, I definitely feel that Garcia's work has had an influence on my writing. Her work is dark, brutal and yet whimsical. She explores the depths of what people want, what people need and what is ugly about humanity. But there are also so many beautiful messages of hope. She's not afraid to cross lines and blend conflicting ideas for the sake of the image and for the feeling she wants to convey. I would like to believe that in a way, I do the same with words. 

If you like these pieces, please check out more of Camille Rose Garcia's artwork at