In the Spotlight feature kicked off in April 2015 and is an opportunity for authors, editors and publishers (basically anyone in the book industry (yes, even bloggers!)) to connect with fans. There is an option to do an interview, guest post, feature a book sale or book release or a cover reveal. Best of all, it’s free! All you need to do is click on the image to reserve your spot!
Now on with the show!
In the Spotlight with Alexandra Penn
Welcome to Second Run Reviews, Alexandra! Thank you for being In the Spotlight. I appreciate you stopping by and answering a few questions. So let’s get things started.
In a tweet (140 characters or less), tell us a bit about yourself.
I write inclusive sci-fi, mostly inspired by childhood adventures I had around the Smithsonian or based in real-world history.
Please tell a bit about your journey to becoming a published author. What’s been the best things about it and the worst?
My journey to publication has been one of more confusion than anything else. I had the fortune to grow up among artists, which was wonderful for inspiration and technique but somewhat mystifying when it came to the business side of art. Pretty much all of 2017 felt like I was flying blind.
The best part of being a published author was the day I mailed a signed book to my grandmother… so she could give it to a friend, who was sending it to his granddaughter for Christmas. I received a lot of those books as a kid, signed books from authors I tangentially knew, and this was my first time being on the other side of the exchange. May or may not have cried a bit.
Worst part is navigating all the business/legal stuff. I’m not cut out for accounting.
Tell us a bit about your latest release. What inspired you to write it? Why should fans of Second Run Reviews consider reading it.
I just released The Letter Mage: Second Quarto, which is the second collection of my Letter Mage serial. I put out monthly installments on Patreon, and every four installments I put out a book with a whole bunch of fun extra stuff in it.
The Letter Mage is what I’m referencing when I say my work is influenced by my childhood. My parents both work for the Smithsonian Institution, and I spent a lot of time among scientists. I loved every second of it, and the Smithsonian is one of my favorite places in the world, but it never ceases to amaze me how cutthroat academia can be–there are always these huge pushes for interdisciplinary projects, but it’s an ongoing battle.
The Letter Mage takes that to the next level, with this kid going between departments and trying to solve a literal war that’s happening in his lunar university. It’s a fantasy world, so each department studies magic as opposed to science, but the different magic systems are based off real-life studies. For example, the title character studies magic that’s based off writing systems and linguistics.
Fans should consider reading it if they’re into YA science fantasy, particularly if they’re fans of stories like The Golden Compass or Artemis Fowl. It’s full of kid-friendly LGBT characters, wildly diverse cultures, and steampunk espionage. I like to tell people it’s more Steven Universe than Harry Potter.
What types of books do you enjoy reading the most? What three books to you find yourself recommending to your fans over and over?
I love reading the classic English canon, and I love reading silly-but-serious books. So: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, and Macbeth. The first because it’s my favorite interpretation of any religion, the second because it’s the single wittiest book I’ve ever read, and the third because it’s the perfect tragedy.
What is your current obsession? Any secret obsessions you would like to share?
My current obsession is painting. My grandmother does watercolor, but for some reason it always seemed like a hard hobby to get into–messy, with a lot of components. She gave me a bunch of watercolors last year, though, and I’ve since learned it’s okay to be a little messy!
I’m also in love with crochet, but that’s hardly a secret.
What is one question you wish I would have asked, that I haven’t?
“What advice do you have for beginning artists?”
Everyone tells you that following your dreams is hard, but they always make it sound like people are going to be actively against you. Like they’ll be mad at you for creating art at all or something. That’s not what happens.
Instead, you’ll have a lot of people telling you it shouldn’t be a priority. They’ll tell you to put it off, or list off all the priorities you need to put above it, and basically expect you to make your art once you’ve had a full career doing something else.
You gotta pay the bills, but as long as your basic needs are met that’s terrible advice. If you don’t treat your art like a real job, it won’t become one.
Also, take some business classes if you haven’t already.
Any last thoughts or wise words you want to pass along?
If you have any questions, I’ll be at the IOWA book signing on July 21! I’d love to meet you.
Thank you, Alexanda, for being In the Spotlight this week and telling us all about The Letter Mage. I hope you’ll come back soon and bring us up to date on more of your writing adventures!
The Letter Mage: First QuartoAuthor: Alexandra Penn
Published on: September 11, 2017
Genres: science fiction, fantasy, young adult
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Synopsis: 14-year-old Aleph Worf-Sapir just enrolled in the most dangerous student exchange program in the known worlds. Or it would be, if there had ever been an exchange program before: the University Moons barely communicate, much less visit each other… And that’s to say nothing of the mysterious Land Below.
Aleph has no idea what he’s in for. The brilliant Prism Witches want to lock him up, the mysterious Fourier Monks want to steal him away, the Glottal Moon isn’t what he thought it was, and the Land Below sent a strange (and handsome) young man to stir up trouble. Aleph has to figure out who he can trust, and fast.