Interview with Alexa Whitewolf
She’s also a regular contributor to The Writer’s Cookbook.
I sent her some questions to find out more about her writing process, her writing history, and her love of dogs and travel.
How did you get into writing?
I’ve always been an avid reader, since I was young and living in Romania.
My mom has a love for books that she passed on to me—something I’m grateful for each day of my life!—and as a kid, I stared reading Greek and Roman mythology, fables and folkloric tales of Romania, and ended up with a passion for anything related to Ancient Egypt.
When I was 11, we moved from Romania to Canada, and that in itself was a harsh adjustment. We’d landed in a French province—Quebec—and while I spoke English, I’d only just started learning French in Romania. My love for reading once again saved me, as I taught myself French over that summer and by the time I got into school in September, I was fairly fluent. Turns out my mom also passed her affinity to languages to me.
Reading naturally evolved into writing when I ran out of books that I could relate to.
With each day, my experiences of a young child immigrating to Canada became not heavier, but pressing on me. Like I needed to let it out.
But having been raised to be polite, I bit my tongue a lot more as a child, at times when I should have spoken out and said more.
When I wrote, though, strong heroines grew under my hand, saying and doing everything I wished I had the power to.
They, in turn, gave me the strength to grow into my own, and become the person I am today. It’s been a while since I’ve held my tongue, and I’ve got writing to thank for that.
What made you stop writing?
A complicated answer…but I’ll do my best.
When I originally wrote my first book, The Dragon Medallion, and published it then with a self-publishing company, I was extremely proud. My mom supported me 100%, doing the impossible to make sure I reached my dream of seeing my book in paperback.
My father, on the other hand? Let’s just say he wasn’t so inclined.
His dismissal of my dream and constant criticism was heavy on the shoulders of the fourteen-year-old I was at the time.
And while I kept writing, I lost the passion to show it to someone, to be proud of what I created.
Instead, I kept everything to myself, and used it as a way to escape a reality that was becoming more oppressing by the day.
About a year before the end of my high school, my parents separated and while their decision was by no means a surprise, I lost the drive to write. Not because of that event, but rather because I had to step up and help my mom. Had to get good grades, to get a scholarship, and eventually move away for university. Those first two years of university were brutal, and left no time for breathing, let alone writing. So I closed the door for good on my childhood passion.
How did you get back into writing?
Fatefully, it was in university I met my husband. We started dating shortly after I began my first year, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
With him, I was able to be myself, and that meant being able to voice dreams I’d only ever had in my head before. Like how I wanted to publish books, to change the world in some way, to travel and not work a 9-5 job. He understood me like no one else.
And when we moved in together, among boxes and boxes of my stuff, I found a notebook I’d once written in. The scenes in there—though I didn’t know it at the time—were to become the beginning scenes of Avalon Dreams.
My husband found me quietly reading the notebook in our new living room, and asked to see it.
He read a few excerpts, and rather than straight-out congratulate me, he asked, ‘Where’s the rest?’
I remember looking at him like I was seeing him for the first time, and blinking a couple times. Then I admitted there was no rest, that it was an unfinished story. This led to a night-long discussion about what had started my writing, and how it had evolved.
When he asked me why I didn’t write anymore, I told him, ‘because I lost the drive, and the inspiration’.
Typically, my husband forced me to dig a little bit deeper and find the true reason: I’d lost the drive, yes, and the inspiration, but not because of everything that had happened; rather, because I was truly happy.
Before, growing up, I was always writing from a point of anger, of pent-up emotion, needing to put my thoughts on paper so they didn’t eat me from the inside out.
But now that I was happy, a young woman living on my own, I had no such place to draw inspiration from. Instead, even more scarily, I had to learn to write from a point of happiness. And that’s where Avalon Dreams picked up from, and how I got back into writing.
Where do you get your ideas from?
95% of the time, they come in dreams. I have a very vivid imagination, and my dreams are no better. They’re so vivid, they could be movies.
So I always keep my phone nearby my bed or a piece of paper, and when I wake up in the middle of the night with a scene or characters swirling in my head, I jot it down, to follow up on in the morning.
On the days when I’m off work, I usually end up neck-deep in writing through the night.
The other 5%, the ideas come from emotions. I’ve never based any of my characters or plots on real-life situations.
Ah, no. Not true. My husband’s characteristics and personality show up in practically every male character I write!
And a piece of me is in every female character, true.
So I’ll amend that statement to say that while I’ve based some aspects of my characters on real-life people, what really sparks an idea is whatever emotion I’m feeling.
That emotion creates a character, who in turn develops a voice, and then before I know it, I’ve got another series on my hands!
What’s the worst piece of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given?
Not to self-publish. I can’t recall who told me this, might’ve been a teacher or some family friend when they heard of my writing…
But they were dead-wrong.
I have one book only with a publisher—Blood Ties, Love Binds—because it’s a standalone.
I might end up submitting one of my series to them, once this year’s innovations slow down.
But overall, all my others books have been independently published by myself.
And despite the hard work that comes with it, I relish the control and ability to reach the skies 🙂
What’s the best piece of writing-related advice you’ve been given?
Don’t count on friends to buy your books.
This little piece of advice probably saved me from making mistakes. It doesn’t necessarily apply to every author out there, I mean I’m sure there are some who have a massive support network.
Personally, I found it’s a hit and miss.
I have some friends who don’t blink twice and buy everything I’ve ever written, and I have others who envy from afar, and others still whom I’ve gifted the books for free and never heard back.
And it’s okay, I’ve learned. It’s the way life goes.
Which is why I’ve been focusing on expanding my readership not among my friends, but among the readers of the world!
How do you get into the right mindset to write?
It takes the right playlist! I can’t write without music, but once I find the perfect song that resonates with a particular scene/chapter of my book, I’m off…
And not to be counted on to eat, take a break, or do anything but write until it’s all out of my head and on paper.
Out of all of your characters, who’s your favourite and why?
They’re all my babies!
BUT, because I’m a huge dog-lover… I’d have to say Alistair/Atrox.
Alistair is a fallen deity, turned demon lord of the underworld, turned protector to princess Vivienne—the Lady of the Lake.
In my Avalon Chronicles series, he grew from a companion, to a protector, to taking charge, and finally fighting his way back to his old self, the god Atrox.
He’d have to be my favourite because he’s such a mix of good/bad, yet loyal to a fault!
His complicated past history and future make him my most beloved character, and that’s why he’s getting his own novella this year!
Are there any genres/mediums you haven’t dabbled in that you’d like to try?
When I read/watch movies, I’m always drawn to thrillers.
I’ve actually got two ideas in the works that I hope to be able to get into this year, because they’re pretty awesome!
Aside from thrillers, I’d love to try my hand at some historical fiction, specifically around the Renaissance era, but that might be something for later years.
How much time do you spend writing compared to book marketing?
Err, truthfully? Writing is WAY more fun!
Last year, I’d have to say it was an 80/20 split, with writing taking the most of my time.
I mean, I ended up finishing two series, writing 1/2 of a third and a novella, and publishing a standalone with a Finnish publisher! It was a heck of a ride!
This year, I’m planning to be better at it! I’ve set up a schedule that forces me to focus on marketing 3 days of the week every 2 weeks, and that’ll lead to a more equal split of 60/40, I hope.
How do you manage your time between your day job, writing, marketing, doggos, husband, and everything else you have going on?
It’s not easy, because it seldom leaves time just for ME.
And that’s a big problem—something I only clued in to last year—when I ended up pretty burned out not even halfway through.
My day job is the usual 9-5, and at least it’s not exhausting to the extent I’m good for nothing once I get home.
More often than not, I get to work way earlier than I should as we commute from out of town, so I get a nice writing break there.
Then I use my breaks and lunches to write, and if it’s super quiet towards the end of the day, by the time I get home I’m even more energized to write!
But of course, my husband and doggies come first, so we definitely find quality time to spend together.
It helps that my husband also has his own business on the side to his day job, in selling outdoor sports equipment online.
He also needs a certain amount of hours per week to fulfil orders and do marketing, so we’ve set up a system where a few days out of the week, we take two or three hours in the evening specifically for our businesses. I use that time to go in-depth on marketing one week, and catch up on my writing schedule the other week, since I alternate what I focus on.
Our puppies always get our focus the minute we’re through the door (they’re loud like that) so we definitely make sure they feel the love! It helps that they love to cuddle with me when I write.
Other than that, I’m also a night owl. So what I don’t want to sacrifice in personal time with my husband and doggies, I always tend to sacrifice in sleep. But it works out when I get to sleep in over the weekend!
While this may not be foolproof plan, it is the one that ends up leaving me happiest at the end of my day.
And of course, I schedule vacation time and I’ve recently added ‘weekends/week off’ where I don’t do any social media/writing, but just focus on myself. Kinda like a mental health break.
What was the reaction of those around you when they found out that you were planning to self publish? Were they supportive? Did people look at you/treat you differently, either temporarily or permanently?
I’ve never been very vocal about my books with close friends, so when they saw my posts on my personal Facebook, some ignored them, and others immediately contacted me to ask how did I do it, and which publishing house it was with, and could I put them in touch with someone. They were very disappointed when I told them I self-published, and dismissed my efforts as ‘not real publishing’.
I learned a while ago how words hurt, and I went into publishing with the mindset that I had to develop a thicker skin. So I didn’t let it get to me to the point it would affect my writing, but it did hurt, as some were close friends.
My mom and husband were 100% behind me when I decided to self-publish. My mom’s only ever been supportive since I was a kid, and to this day wishes me only the best of success.
My husband and I had a long conversation about the cost of self-publishing and he understood it would mean I’d have to put money from our savings towards and editor and cover designer, and he was ok with that.
They’re the only people whose opinions really matters to me, so the fact they’re behind me 100% only strengthens my position that I’m right in this. But, to be honest, the more I write and the more books I publish, that feeling of ‘THIS is what I’m meant to do’ grows stronger, sometimes blinding me with its resolution.
And no matter what people think, at the end of the day, I chose the best path for me.
I had a contract offer for the Avalon Chronicles from a traditional publisher, and I remember seeing the 15% offer and thinking, ‘Is this what my work is worth?’ While that’s regular in the trad pub business, I can’t say I’m ok with it. Not after the hours I put into my work.
And, at the end of the day, it came down to: what do I get out of it? I’ve found self-publishing much more serves my needs, and despite people’s reactions, I still think it was the perfect decision.
You’ve mentioned how writing books is meant for you. What else, besides that, makes you truly happy?
Three words: dogs, travel, and hiking. Spending time with my dogs is always, ALWAYS, at the top of my list, but when I’m feeling down or had a really bad day at work, being with them (and my husband!) lifts up my spirits like no other!
Dogs have truly been a part of my life since I was young, and one of my goals once I’m a full-time author is to buy a large piece of land and open up a kennel to rescue Siberian huskies, malamutes, German shepherd and labrador retrievers. I’d love to rescue ALL types of dogs, but having owned these breeds, and trained them from puppy to adulthood, I feel like I could really make a difference in their lives! Of course, I’d have trained staff on the grounds as well.
Travelling opens my mind to new possibilities each and every time! S
o far, I’ve been to France, Amsterdam, Spain, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Scotland. My husband loves travelling as well so we’re planning to see at least two countries each year, until we make our way through our list.
And as for hiking, this is a newly discovered passion.
Nature has always been my thing, and I LOVE swimming in natural lakes, but hiking has become a new favourite pastime here, and something I love doing when the weather is nice. Probably why I also tend to navigate towards visiting countries that have LOADS of places to nature-sightsee.
What are you working on right now?
More than I counted on! I have four projects I’m bouncing around, with another three scheduled for fall.
My Moonlight Rogues paranormal series is the focus for the time being. The series follows four rogue-but-sexy-as-hell werewolves as they balance their natural instincts for alpha with submitting to a pack, and find love in the mix! (If you want to catch up on the series, books one and two are out already and tons of info is available on my website.)
Presently, I’m working on book three—Third to Tumble—and a short stories collection to release for Spring 2019.
Also in the works, but meant for a summer release, is my Alistair novella and a standalone paranormal romance with angels and demons, and a rather fiery female character!
In the fall, I’ll be working on the last wolf book, and the two thrillers I mentioned earlier! So it’s a packed year as far as those go!
What do you have coming out next?
What I’m most excited about and coming soon is my third wolf romance, Third to Tumble! (Check out the link for info on how to get your hands on an ARC!) It follows the story of Finn, an Irish werewolf with abilities way above the norm, and Elle, a human who’s not quite all-human, and has a mysterious tie to an old race…
It’ll be released 21 May, 2019, but about a month before that I’ll be releasing a short story collection called Moonlight Rogues – Origins, containing one story following each wolf and showing a bit of their past.
This means you get to see Dominic and Tristan again, as well as learn about Finn and Lucas before their actual books go live!
Interested readers can keep up with me via social media or sign up for my newsletter and get first dibs on sales and releases 🙂