Interview with Priya Sharma, author of ‘The Orchid Hunters’

Priya Sharma has written two stories for Alt Hist so far: ‘The Bitterness of Apples’ in Issue 1 and ‘The Orchid Hunters’ in Issue 2. She kindly answered a few questions for Alt Hist.

How did you get into writing?

Reading a great book transported me but it also made me envious. I realised I wanted to write too and was making excuses not to. Some people find it a natural, easy process but I had to go through a very big pain barrier to make a start. Writing can feel like pulling teeth but nothing beats the thrill of completing a story (except for an editor accepting it, of course).

What do you do apart from writing?

I love books and films. It’s my mother’s fault. She introduced me to Hardy and Hitchcock. I’m a doctor by day.

How did you come up with the idea of writing about Victorian orchid hunters?

Men once died looking for what we can now get at the local garden centre. I find the history of the mundane fascinating- wars were once waged over coffee and nutmeg. Orchids are a window into a certain strata of Victorian society and its ideals. When I saw a documentary that showed elephants cradling the bones of their dead I knew I wanted to work it into a story and the ‘elephant orchid’ was born.

Are you working on any other short stories or novels at the moment and if so can you tell us a bit more about them?

I have two novels sat on my hard drive that need reworking- one is a historical fantasy and the other science fiction. I’m currently writing a horror short about the recession. The other piece I’m wrestling with is about a woman haunted by the failure of her marriage.

What are your ambitions as a writer?

To write more and write better. To be better at plotting. My approach to writing doesn’t lend itself to tight story structure, so it means I have to do a lot of rewrites to get a story I’m happy with. If I was better at planning it would also make it easier for me to write another novel.

Priya’s website: www.priyasharmafiction.co.uk contains more information and links to her other work.

Don’t forget to read the free extracts of Priya’s stories ‘The Bitterness of Apples’ and ‘The Orchid Hunters’.

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Interview with Anna Sykora, author of ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’

Anna SykoraNext we have an interview with Anna Sykora, author of ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’.

Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your writing

I grew up in a Manhattan apartment, a shy total oddball, reading my better world. Later I had a dream -I wanted to eat – so I actually practiced corporate tax law for 12 years (a nice living, no life). Then I married a German with visa problems. Now I’ve no living but a lovely life, reading and writing to my heart’s surfeit in this provincial nest (German Hanover).

I write everything from humor to apocalyptic horror and traditional poetry. I just placed my 98th tale and 188th poem, all by editors’ choice.

The internet keeps me connected with fantastic creatives pursuing their visions, all for tokens of money or just true love. At the end of the day, it’s love that matters more – most folks agree.

How did you get the idea for the story ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’?

I was reading the scholar Toby Wilkinson’s lavishly illustrated Lives of the Ancient Egyptians, and there on page 50 is a sculpture of a fleshy, almost female scribe. What if? I wondered. Down the ages, how many women have pretended to be men, in order to make careers they loved?

Looking at more pictures of art, and researching Egyptian life helped me fill in the story.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

As a girl I fell in love with H. G. Wells, and I still revere his lucid style. I just love Dostoyesky too, for his insights into the angels that dwell with the demons within us.

In poetry I’d say Rilke and Emily Dickinson rule my attention; both, extremely solitary, expressing their personhood through precise art.

As well as fiction I understand that you also write poetry. I am
fascinated to know more about how you balance working in these two
different formats.

Poetry for me is my deepest language: not even a ‘practice’, it’s what I hear in my head. On a desert island, I’d write poems in the sand, or recite them to the shrieking birds. I usually can write it after a short nap in the late afternoon. Sometimes it burbles up of its own free will, and I just have to write it down.

Prose, on the other hand, is WORK – best handled after breakfast, while the coffee’s still hot. I’ll rewrite a story 20 times, till every sentence sings. Then I’ll keep sending it out, no matter what, until it sticks somewhere. I once got a tale accepted after 37 rejections, no lie.

What are you working on at the moment?

My usual, ridiculous hodgepodge of SF and horror prose – and literary verse. Never will I ‘specialize’ and become a unique selling proposition! Indeed I’d like to try more alternate history soon. It tickles my imagination.

Having lived in Germany for decades now, I’d be confident trying a German setting.

Anna also told us about some of her other publications

I’ve got a humorous fantasy, ‘My Unicorn Summer’ in the latest issue of Mystic Signals, and my satire of marriage, ‘A Little Dust’ should appear in The Cynic Online on August 1.

Readers who liked ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’ might also enjoy my SF epic Megachicken, in last October’s archives of Radio Station WRFR’s ‘Beam Me Up’ programme in Rockland, Maine.

Don’t forget to read a free sample of Anna’s ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’ from the second issue of Alt Hist. We think you’ll like it.

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Interview with David X. Wiggin, author of ‘The Apollo Mission’

Next in our series of interviews with authors from our second issue is David X. Wiggin. He wrote the wonderful ‘The Apollo Mission’ for Alt Hist Issue 2.

1. Can you tell us a bit about the mythology behind this story: Apollo and the links with NASA’s space programme?

Apollo, being the Greek & Roman deity of the sun and archery (not to mention a symbol of the triumph of rational civilization over nature), is really the most logical choice for a program that involves shooting giant arrows into the sky. Originally this story was going to be about the moon landing hoax conspiracy theory (not something I believe in but I think there’s some wonderful potential there) and in the course of doing research on space travel I came across the story of Wan Hu, a minor Ming Dynasty official who tried to fly into space using rockets attached to his chair. Immediately this turned to thoughts about earlier civilizations starting up space programs and a program for Rome – with its expanding empire, advanced technology, loyal soldiers, and actual worship of Apollo – suddenly made way too much sense. I’m surprised we don’t see more ideas for flying machines or lunar travel in ancient texts, frankly, but I guess that was seen as pretty far fetched for even those advanced civilizations.

2. What do you think might have been the historical implications if Romans had ventured into space?

I can’t even imagine. But since you asked, I’ll try.

Well, contrary to the legionnaire’s good feelings before he starts to plummet, I suspect Rome probably would have gone bankrupt and fallen all the same before it could have done anything meaningful with the program. The knowledge involved probably would have been forgotten for centuries until the sparkling minds of the Renaissance rediscovered it. Imagine: the V-2 rocket, invented by Leonardo almost half a millennia early! Imagine that power in the hands of an Italian city-state or the Catholic Church, the power to strike with the wrath of God from hundreds of miles away at your command. Now, imagine the same technology in the hands of the no-less brilliant Islamic world, a religiously-inspired Cold War heating up centuries early with Jerusalem or Constantinople caught in the middle. Hmmm… I think I smell sequel!

3. Tell our readers a bit about your background as a writer and what you’re currently working on.

I’ve been writing stories since I came in 3rd at a Halloween writing competition in 3rd grade. I wrote the same sorts of godawful poems and stories everyone did up through high school and then got into Sarah Lawrence College where I studied under and alongside some pretty amazing writers. I was fortunate to have the experience of growing up in places like Japan and Russia thanks to my parents work in the State Department, so I draw a lot from those experiences.

I tend to be pretty ADD and am a horrible commitaphobe so I usually have 4-5 projects going simultaneously and take years to finish any of them. Mostly I’m working on short stories these days and I’m doing research for two different books: a fantasy-comedy set in 1930’s China and a horror-mystery set in ’20’s Japan that’s basically an Edogawa Rampo homage. I’ll probably have them done in 10 years or so!

4. What are your favourite fiction genres and why?

Fantasy and horror would be my favorites, though they’re only ahead of the pack by a nose. Really I enjoy all kinds of literature and most of my favorite books in recent years have actually been more journalistic and autobiographical than anything else but I love the freedom of style that fantasy and horror provide. I mean, which would you rather read if given a choice? A book that dissects class and race in America, the beauty and torment of what it means to be human; or a book that discusses those things and has NAZI WEREWOLF NINJAS? The answer seems pretty clear to me.

David doesn’t have a website at the moment, but here’s some links to where his other work can be found online:

“A Fabulous Junkyard”
Steampunk Magazine #4
http://www.steampunkmagazine.com/steampunk-magazine-issue-four/

“The Burden of Proof”
Theaker’s Quarterly #36
http://theakersquarterly.blogspot.com/2011/03/theakers-quarterly-fiction-36-now.html

“Chess Stories #1-5″
http://www.louffapress.com/22664.html

Don’t forget to read a free sample of David’s ‘The Apollo Mission’ from the second issue of Alt Hist. We think you’ll like it.

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Interview with Jessica Wilson, author of ‘Death in Theatre’

We’re going to be running a series of interviews with the authors from our second issue. First up is Jessica Wilson, author of ‘Death in Theatre’.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m a recent graduate of the University of Maryland’s Elementary Education program. I’ve loved writing since the third grade, and I’ve been an aspiring novelist since middle school when my friends and I would exchange writing on the bus. I’m 23, recently engaged, and currently working on what I hope will be my first novel. I write largely fantasy; I’ve actually earned Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest twice.

What attracts you to historical fiction?

“Death in Theatre” was actually a happy accident. I do not typically write historical fiction, and I only rarely read it. When I do read it, my favorite part is being immersed in the world as it was back then. It’s one thing to think about how different life was in historic times, but quite another to view it through the eyes of someone (real or fictional) who lived it.

How did you get the idea for the story?

I wrote “Death in Theatre” for a challenge on my writing website. It was a genre challenge, and that round was Historic Fiction. At first I wanted to go with something closer to my usual comfort range, like something medieval, Roman, or feudal Japanese. But eventually I decided that focusing on an individual would be best, and that a traitor or assassin would be the most intriguing. When I thought of John Wilkes Booth, I was uncertain at first because it’s not my usual fare, but I decided to challenge myself. What kind of man must Booth have been to assassinate President Lincoln?

Union or Confederacy?

Union. My family is actually from the south, but my dad was in the Army when I grew up and I lived all over. When I came back to the family home for my tenth grade year, seeing the Confederate pride down there disturbed me on a number of levels. The Confederacy wasn’t all about slave-holding, of course, though that was one reason I was put off by all the Confederate pride. But the simple fact that the Confederacy wanted to split from the Union makes all that pride seem unpatriotic to me. Maybe they view it differently, but that’s why I found (and still find) it hard to understand.

What are you currently working on?

A young adult fantasy novel. I actually have a lot of ideas floating around, but I’m trying to stick to this one. I have a long history of getting very far in a story and then abandoning it, taking a break for another idea. By the time I get back to the old story, I hate it and want to rewrite. My goal is to get all the way through this one this time, because what’s the use in being a writer if you never finish anything?

Don’t forget to read a free sample of Jessica’s ‘Death in Theatre’ from the second issue of Alt Hist. We think you’ll like it.

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Book Review Offer: Wolf Hunt by Sebastian P. Breit

We have another review copy available – this time an alternate history novel by Sebastian P. Breit called Wolf Hunt. If you would like to review this title for Alt Hist then simply email me at althist.editor@gmail.com with some information about your past reviewing work and if you pass muster I’ll email you a copy of the PDF review copy of the book.

Here’s some more information about the book and about Sebastian.

About “Wolf Hunt”:

“2024. The world we know is crumbling. A devastating war in the Persian Gulf has left the global economy in ruins, and civilization itself is beginning to crack under the strain.

When a war-weary task force of NATO ships races against time and a rival fleet to prevent Brazil’s descent into a murderous civil war, their mission is unexpectedly upset by a mysterious tempest. Thrown back in time, Captains Steven Flynn and Florian Hallwinter with their crews emerge in the year 1940 as the world is gripped in the fires of World War Two.

Presented with the opportunity to change both past and future for the better, they find themselves drawn into a maelstrom of conflicting interests. While overcoming the suspicion of their natural allies of the time proves harder than they imagined, they soon discover that even the best intentions carry the seeds of doom. For whereas Flynn is American, Hallwinter and his crew are from Germany…”

Wolf Hunt is as much about the journey of these two similar yet different groups of men to change history itself as it is about the clashes—and the clash of cultures which ensues—along the way. For the Americans, it’s about witnessing a place that calls itself America—the America of the ‘Greatest Generation’ even—but which culturally and socially is rather alien to the place they know. For the Germans, it’s as much a story about clashing head-on with their nightmares as it is a quest for national redemption.

Available as ebook & paperback:
Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Hunt-Burning-Ages-1/dp/1463570104/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1309960929&sr=1-1

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Hunt-Burning-Ages-ebook/dp/B0056QJGN0/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1308844347&sr=1-4

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0056QJGN0

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/64670

About the author:

Sebastian P. Breit has worked in the financial sector and has studied English and Political Sciences at the University of Trier, Germany. He currently lives in Germany’s oldest city, Trier where the Roman past lurks behind each and every corner. You can follow his writing progress & projects as well as his ramblings on a wide range of topics on his web page: “The Burning Ages”
www.spbreit.com

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Great Review of Alt Hist 2 at SF Crowsnest

Gareth Jones over at SF Crowsnest has given Alt Hist Issue 2 a really great review.

Here’s some of the highlights:

“The second issue of ‘AltHist’ magazine builds on the solid basis of the first issue, bringing a collection of historical fiction and alternate histories from a broad cross-section of history. There are some wonderful stories among them.”

“‘Long Nights In Languedoc’ … was a highly enjoyable start to the magazine. ”

“‘The Apollo Mission’ by David X. Wiggin is pretty short but does a good job of imagining the setting and the feelings of the unfortunate volunteer.”

‘Son of Flanders': The horrors of life in the trenches are atmospherically portrayed”

‘In Cappadocia’: “short but intriguing”

“‘The Orchid Hunters’ is a superb story by Priya Sharma”

‘Death In Theatre’: “an interesting study in motivation and human nature.”

‘The Scarab Of Thutmose’: “an amusingly quirky tale of intrigue”

“‘The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street’ by NK Pulley is an intriguing Victorian tale set in London”

Remember if you want to order Alt Hist Issue 2 there are lots of options available. Visit the How to Get Your Alt Hist page for details.

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