Monday, 29 December 2008

People of Interest

This month Xenia Alexiou has agreed to be interesting for us, so I have devised a series of questions that delve deep into the mind of this hot new writer. Psych majors may find this article riveting.

Me – After reading Lethal Affairs the word on everyone’s lips is ‘How tall are you?’ For those of us who have not met you in person and rely on photos alone – are you really tall or is Kim perhaps quite small?

I’ve got to admit, I didn’t see that one coming, but it sure made me laugh. For those interested, I am not tall, I’m average height. Kim’s around 5’4’’.

Me – ‘Elite Operatives’ is a rapidly expanding series. Thief of Always is due out next month (Feb, 2009), and a third in the series Missing Lynx is already in the pipeline. This must be an incredibly exciting time for you. The ideas and energy are definitely flowing. Can you tell us something about Thief, and maybe wet our appetites for Lynx?

Exciting, nerve racking, can’t tell the difference most of the time. I want to give every story my best and know that I still have lots to learn, but just the thought of someone trashing my work makes me dry heave. Being a writer yourself, I’m sure you know what I mean.
One thing I can tell you about this series as a whole is that I have dropped subtle hints in every book that tie things together and forecast events/characters to come. Thief of Always presents a new yet familiar operative, Mishael/ aka Allegro. (She was first mentioned in Lethal Affairs). Her mission is to steal a precious Arabic stone from Dutch Countess Kris van der Jagt and return it to the Arab world in exchange for intel on an imminent attack against European targets. The problem is, she’s not the only one out to steal the diamond. Arab terrorists and German Neo Nazis are after the same target. The story takes place all over Europe and the Middle East.
Missing Lynx is with yet another op. When a sadistic serial killer known as the Headhunter resurfaces, a government blunder forces the Elite Operatives Organization into action. Operation Mask falls to Lynx. She has the determination, skills and most importantly the right profile, but her youth and lack of experience in the field could put more than the mission in jeopardy.Her search takes her deep into the jungles of Vietnam, where she must battle not only the ruthless purveyors of the international skin trade, but also her growing feelings for a mysterious mercenary with her own agenda for the Headhunter.

Me – How far do you see the Elite Operatives series going? Is there an over all game plan? Will it be exclusive for your writing career or can we expect to see you diversify into standalones, perhaps dipping back into the Elite universe from time to time?

How far the series will go really depends on the publisher but I’d like to stay with it until I feel it’s ready to put to bed. I’d hate to stretch it until breaks.
I would like to write some standalones, but timing is everything. I guess I’ll get to that when I don’t have to worry about interruptions.

Me – The other thing I wonder about is how do you and Kim collaborate? Is there a clear designation of roles and responsibilities or do you mix and match? What do you think are the special skills required for a successful collaboration, and why do you think we don’t see more of them? Also what happens if you disagree, do you wrestle, play rock scissors paper, how do you compromise on points of difference? Is it even an issue?

This one appears to be a very popular question. No role playing required, besides I hate labels J. But seriously, we both do what we enjoy and are best at. I have the stories plotted out and the characters fleshed out by the time we start a book. As for the writing, I do almost all the dialogue, action scenes and character insights. Kim does most of the setting detail and IMO kicks ass at it. But regardless of who writes what, we always edit each other to make sure that we have a consistent voice throughout. My style can be quite masculine and Kim’s voice softens it up.
I can only speak for myself. I know it’s probably different for other writing duos. But the reason that Kim and I enjoy this collaboration so much is because we’re also good friends with a high degree of mutual respect. We never let pride or PMS get in the way and although I do the plotting, if Kim has a better idea or thinks something doesn’t work, I delete it no questions asked and come up with something else.
Writing intrigue can be quite intense because the plots are complex, which means that sometimes I need to trash a days work and start over. Kim wasn’t a happy camper the first time around, but she quickly came to realize that it was all for the best. She still gives me the evil eye now and then, but I usually say something stupid to make her laugh and we move on. I gotta say, we generally laugh a lot and it makes writing together a true pleasure.

Me – Looking at your web site photography plays a major part in your creativity. Your writing is also very visual, and you have stated you are a meticulous planner before you start a book. Do you see any parallels in your approach to text as well as image? Is your method of composition unique to yourself, or to the medium you happen to be working in? An whether you are working with words or imagery does the end result stimulate you equally?

The angle you choose to take a picture from is very often what makes a picture unique. It’s what makes it your POV. I try to be original with where, when and how I go about a story the way I do with photography, but I have to admit the old cliché is absolutely true. A picture IS worth a thousand words and maybe more. I find writing exciting because I get to form people and worlds, problems and solutions. I find photography exhilarating because in many ways, it forms me.

Me – A quick glance at your biography on tells me you share your home with two extraordinary Shepherds, Athos and Noah. An admirable act of generosity given the depletion of traditional rural occupations in modern agricultural Europe. Apart from collecting trades people on your travels, what are you favourite memories/places from all your wanderings and how much do you use as research for your writing?

What can I say, I’m a sucker for all animals, but dogs in particular.
I don’t think I have a favorite memory or place. All countries have something different and beautiful to offer. Both in landscape and people. Besides imo favorite memories don’t necessarily have to be the most pleasant ones, but I do treasure them because they’ve taught me something.
What I write has mostly been inspired by my travels. It’s also why I like to keep the locations international. This world is so diverse and for whatever reason I feel the need to take the reader along and show them some of what I’ve seen. One of my characters put it best when she said, “I’ve seen the beauty and the beast that hides within”.
Me - And here they are. Xenia's wonderful shepherds. How many of you knew they were actual dogs and not herders of sheep on lonely hilltops? Mm?

Me – So, my final question is if you were an Elite Operative on a top secret mission what would your code name be and what special skills would you possess?

Hmmm good one. Kim says I should go with Jaguar but maybe your blog readers can come up with something better. Let me know if they do.
As for skills, I think I’d go for singing my targets into submission or until they lose their will to live and jump off a building. Whichever comes first, I’m easy that way. And yup, I suck that bad.

Gill thanks so much for the spot light blog and please find a way to bring Ginette back. For those of you who haven't read GEM, Ginette is a wonderfully funny character and the book had me in stitches from beginning to end. Well done Gill, I can't wait to read your next.

Me – You are more than welcome, Xenia. It’s been great fun and thank you for the insights. I’m looking forward to Thief this February, and be sure to let us know when Lynx heads off to the printers.


kea said...

funny skill: sing people to death ! LOL

Not much to say really... said...

Ok – it’s an exaggeration. But I have seen her put ppl in a near coma.
It’s ruined many a birthday party.
"happy Birthday to-thunk...