Welcome to the two hundred and fifty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with memoirist Alexia Fraser. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Alexia. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Alexia: My name is Alexia E. Fraser, I am the author of the memoir, Memories of Mom. This is my first published book to-date. I became a writer after I wrote and acted my first monologue for a five-minute scene in acting class. I went on to write and produce several one-act plays both Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway.
Morgen: You mentioned memoir, what genre do you generally write?
Alexia: I find that I have a passion for non-fiction. So far, I have only written stories relating to real life situations. Beginning with one-act plays and now my first book. I am quite sure I could write other genres as well, if considered. I do have a very creative imagination.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Alexia: I do quite a bit of the marketing for my published work. I am on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, where I join many groups associated with writers and readers. I keep an up-dated blog, I send out emails to friends and associates. I had a book launch event, a book signing and is planning on having more signings introducing myself as a ‘brand’.
Morgen: Wow, that’s busy. Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?
Alexia: No I do not write under a pseudonym. Nor do I think it makes a difference to an author’s profile. It is a choice.
Morgen: It is, useful if you have a very ordinary name or write different genres. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Alexia: I do not have an agent. I believe they can be vital to an author’s success. “Two heads are definitely better than one.”
Morgen: They are, although my second is my (freelance) editor’s. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Alexia: My book is available on eBook. My experience of the process was effortless, I had someone managed that process. So far, I have only read my eBook. This is all new to me. I will increase my eBook reading as I go along.
Morgen: I don’t think I’m far ahead. I’ve had a generic eReader for over a year but it gathers dust. I bought a Kindle last week in the hope that it’ll get me reading more and I have read a couple of stories on it but do think I’ll still be reading more paper ink then electronic ink. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Alexia: My first acceptance was quite recent. I was recently invited to a “Tea ‘n Talk” at a community bookstore after I mailed a signed copy of my book to the store owner. I am looking forward to that event.
Morgen: I hope that goes well – perhaps you’d let me know. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Alexia: I have had many rejections. I am not afraid of rejections. I usually manage to shake them off as my mom would say. I shake them off and I continue.
Morgen: Best thing to do. They’re just the right thing for the wrong person. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Alexia: At the moment, I have partially scripted my next untitled book. Another non-fiction about my journey with my daughter as she challenged her dreams on becoming a professional contemporary ballet dancer and is now, I am very proud to say, living her dream as a member of the Ailey II Company in New York City. The story will be mainly about my experience as a supportive mother.
Morgen: A story a lot of readers will be able to relate to. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Alexia: I do not write every day. I do have thoughts and ideas every day. The most I have written in a day are 40 pages.
Morgen: That sounds really good. I was struck fairly recently by the fact that 300 words a day equates to a 100,000 word book in a year. You’d think that would be simple but alas I’m not writing regularly either, although, like you, I think about it all the time. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Alexia: I have occasionally experienced writer’s block. However, whenever I have a block I take a few days off, relax and write when the spirit moves me.
Morgen: A question some authors dread: where do you get your inspiration from?
Alexia: Besides from God. I get my inspiration from real life situations around me. I see a situation and I become inspired. It comes naturally to me.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Alexia: I usually just get an idea for a story and run with it. Once I start writing, the plot keeps flowing. I write until it ends.
Morgen: I’m like that as well really. I plotted my first novel but then the character (Sam) took over and I let the characters do that now. Speaking of which, do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Alexia: I do not create my characters. I write what comes to mind as I am writing. A name pops in my head and that is the name I use. They are believable because my stories are real.
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Alexia: I am involved in writing and producing one-act plays. My fourth play is scripted and will be produced in the near future.
Morgen: Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Alexia: My first reader is retired female who majored in English in college. She read my first draft and was very impressed. I have included her on the list of acclaims on the back cover of my hardcover book “Memories of Mom”.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Alexia: I find that as time goes on my writing is more fully-formed. So I do not do a lot of editing.
Morgen: It’s all about practice isn’t it – like playing the piano or painting. How much research do you have to do for your writing? Have you ever received feedback from your readers?
Alexia: Because I write non-fiction, I have no need to research. I write what I know and in my own voice. The feedback that I have received so far from my readers is great! One reader posted a picture of my book (Memories of Mom) next to her bathtub sprinkled with red rose petals and wrote “a relaxing bath with a good book… Priceless.” She truly enjoyed the read and is inspired to complete her manuscript by the end of 2011. I felt complete. Reviews are posted on my blog. www.alexiafraser.blogspot.com.
Morgen: That’s great! I love getting feedback, knowing that people are reading my stories. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Alexia: My ritual is writing on paper before I type. I have pages of hand written manuscript in one area of my writing space. I wrote my answers to these questions before I typed.
Morgen: I handwrite during my writing group’s workshops but it makes me realise how slow I am so it’s computer the rest of the time… unless you count dog walks. Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Alexia: I do not listen to music when I write. I enjoy silence. The only sound is my pen on paper or typing on the keyboard. I love peace and quiet!
Morgen: Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Alexia: I do use prologues / epilogues. I always find myself using them in my plays and now in my book. I believes it opens and concludes the story.
Morgen: What’s your favourite aspect of your writing life?
Alexia: Besides being passionate about writing my stories, I would most definitely say my favourite aspect of writing is simply having it written.
Morgen: Mine too – you have to get it out of your head. And least favourite?
Alexia: My least favourite aspect of writing is not having a hundred percent support from family members and the hurt you feel within. Not being able to have a first time self published author book signing at your neighbourhood Barnes & Noble because you’re not a celebrity or a Head of State is another.
Morgen: I’d agree with that. When I announced that I was quitting my day job some people were more supportive than others but just concerned for me I think. They’re coming round, seeing how passionate I am. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Alexia: I would advise aspiring writers to write what they know, worry not about getting it right, just have it written.
Morgen: Absolutely – you can’t edit a blank page. What do you like to read? Any authors you could recommend?
Alexia: I like reading non-fiction. I enjoy real life stories. I am very sentimental. I recommend the following authors: Joel Osteen, President Barack Obama, Sidney Poitier and Roschelle McKenzie who is the author of the novel, “Night Before Dawn”.
Morgen: I’m beyond sentimental, especially when it comes to film – I’m a slushbucket. I couldn’t go and see War Horse for that reason (although I still might, it’s only just come out). Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Alexia: I like the quote “Write what you know”.
Morgen: Me too. I did think I’d come to writing quite late (late 30s) but then I have all that extra experience. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Alexia: Guide to Getting Published, The Writer’s Boo for Wisdom by Steven Taylor Goldsberry, Writers Yearbook by Writers Digest, Writers Guild of America… http://www.wga.org are some of my recommendations.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Alexia: I am on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. I believe networking sites are very helpful. I have met several peers who have helped me to follow my dreams by offering assistance, suggestions and referrals. Networking sites sure works for me!
Morgen: They’re great, aren’t they. I’m on all the ones you mention (and Goodreads) although I haven’t really explored that or Google+ yet. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Alexia: There is always a story to tell. And there is always someone who wants to read what a writer writes. A writer’s future is absolutely solid!
Morgen: Couldn’t agree more. If you could have your life over again, is there anything you’d have done differently (writing-related or otherwise)?
Alexia: I would act in more ways to keep my mother alive longer. I would file a negligence report on the nursing home responsible for the close call mentioned in “Memories of Mom”.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Alexia: I would like to mention that Mom did not die from her illness. She died at the very hands of the healthcare professionals charged with her care. Unfortunately negligence is rampant in nursing homes and in hospitals.
Morgen: We have so many similar reported cases here in the UK and I’m sure many, many more unreported. It is quite literally a scandal. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Alexia: Morgen, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed this interview.
Morgen: You’re so welcome. Thank you for asking Dorothy arrange it.
I then invited Alexia to include an extract of her writing…
As a little girl growing up, I can recall that my mom hired a gardener to take care of our lawn. His name was Alan. Alan kept busy doing the landscaping, and whatever odds and ends he had to do outside.
Mom, who was a very good cook, was busy making lunch for us in the kitchen. She asked me to set the table and said that I should include Alan. This came as a surprise to me. I turned to my mom and I asked, “Is Alan sitting at the table with us?” “Yes,” she replied!
I never saw a gardener dine with a family before. They would sit outside or someplace else. My mom continued by saying, “Alan will be joining us at the table. We are all equal. He has a mother, too. He is someone’s child and I would like my children to be treated the same way.” Mom truly had an egalitarian spirit within her.
Lunch was ready, and Mom called out to Alan and told him to take a break and have some lunch with us. Alan stopped what he was doing, washed up and came inside to join us. Mom told him to have a seat. He was in awe. He then turned to Mom and said, “Ms. Spence, no one has ever been this kind to me. Thank you.”
Mom replied, “You’re welcome.” We all had an enjoyable lunch at the table with Alan. That was one of my most memorable moments, one that will always stay with me. It was certainly a good lesson to learn. Since then I have tried to live my life with a sense of equal treatment to others.
Alexia Elizabeth Smart-Fraser was born in the beautiful island of Jamaica. After marrying her high school sweetheart Edward, she migrated to the United States. She is the proud and loving mother of two children, son Sean and daughter Paige. Alexia studied acting at H.B. Studio. She worked as an extra on the set of “Cosby Mysteries” with Bill Cosby, “New York Undercover” with Malik Yubo, “Central Park West” with Lauren Hutton, and the series “Prince Street” with Mariska Hargitay.
As well, Alexia Fraser has written and produced three original non-fiction one act plays both off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway. “The Ryan’s,” “Dope the Endeavour” and “Blind Trust.” Her fourth play “Our God is Awesome” is not yet produced, but will be in the near future. Alexia is the original founder and partner of her production company, Paige Unlimited, LLC (www.paigeunlimitedllc.com) of which she is the Creative Arts VP.
Memories of Mom is Alexia Fraser’s first published book. She was driven to share her story after seeing her mom suffered unacceptable nursing home and hospital care. Her second book is already partially scripted. “Write what you know” is what she believes. You can find out more via…
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