Saturday, January 17, 2015

Interview with Krassi Zourkova, author of Wildalone - January 17, 2015

Please welcome Krassi Zourkova to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Wildalone was published by William Morrow on January 6, 2015. You may read a guest blog - Magic is a State of Mind - by Krassi here.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Krassi:  I left my first marks in books when I was one year old. I’d grab a pen and start filling the pages with sweeping circles. To indulge me, my parents bought two copies of each book: one for me to ruin, and one to keep. The sensible writing came later: I wrote my first poem at age six. I don’t exactly recall what gave me the urge, but I think it had to do with my love for rhythm and rhyme, with a desire to invent my own magical, flowing word arrangements. Around that same time, I had started piano lessons. So everything was connected—my first forays into musicality and the power of harmonious sound to move the human soul, whether with words or without.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Krassi:  I’m a prankster. I plot, and then trick myself into going against plan. There’s no originality in method. And so, I invite chaos. Never take the reader where the reader wants to go. The thing is, though, the only “reader” while I write is my own mind. So I chase my psyche off track. It sounds a bit schizophrenic perhaps, but there you have it.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Krassi:  The gap between the world as I create it on the page and the reality that rarely measures up. For a few hours each day, I exist in a universe whose logic matches my value system. Everything adds up—the good, the bad. Or if it doesn’t, I twist the story and fix the equation. It’s addictive. And coming back down to earth can be quite a shock.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Krassi:  Many of them are poets: Neruda, García Lorca, Rilke. I try to write prose the way they write verse: fewer words, richer meaning. One critic accused my novel of “abstract poetics,” but I think this gives me too much credit. Most people find the book to be a page-turner, and fly through it in a few hours. I think that’s wonderful. If I’ve managed to weave action out of poetics, then I’m at peace with the muse.

TQ:  Describe Wildalone in 140 characters or less.

Krassi:  Ancient Greek rituals and Balkan witchcraft lead to murder and magic on a U.S. college campus.

TQ:  Tell us something about Wildalone that is not in the book description.

Krassi:  There’s music in it. Lots and lots of music. Piano. Guitars. Even crickets at night. Music is what gives texture to the story.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Wildalone? What appealed to you about writing a novel with supernatural elements?

Krassi:  The legend of the wildalones had been haunting me for years. I had written a poem about them, about how even such vicious creatures are susceptible to falling in love, like the rest of us. As for the supernatural elements—I love magical realism. The novels of Gabriel García Márquez. Guillermo del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth. They all deal with that ineffable line beyond which the fantastical begins to seem possible.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Wildalone?

Krassi:  A lot of it was art history—right up my alley. I also listened to a ton of classical music, choosing for the plot pieces that I thought would have a visceral impact even on readers with no formal musical background. I read volumes of poetry, and ended up doing my own translations of all poems in the book. But where I truly went out on a limb was the flamenco subplot: not only did I go to Spain and tour Andalusia for two weeks, I also took a couple of years of flamenco lessons!

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Krassi:  The easiest character to write was the Princeton campus. And yes, it’s a character in itself. It has a past and an ever evolving present. It even has moods. Writing it wasn’t easy in the sense of choosing words and carving images out of white screen space—that part is never easy. But, this being a place instead of a person, I had the luxury of ascribing to it any emotion without having to justify or explain. It’s the exact opposite when writing human characters: each emotion or action or mood shift needs to have a clearly defined motivation.

The hardest character was the main heroine. With her, I had set myself a maddening task: to show an incredibly strong woman whose strength lies in what is often perceived as weakness. Innocence. Empathy. Patience. Self-doubt. To me, these are signs intellect and wisdom. But this assumes reading several levels below the surface. And for the reader to be able to do that, I had to write all those levels.

TQ:  Which question about your novel do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Question: Why write a fairy tale? Do adults really need escapism?

Answer: Because the everyday can be quite bleak as it is. Art nowadays, literature included, has a penchant for showing reality in its most gruesome, ugly, hopeless. I believe art can be more than a mirror to our grim predicament. It can—and should—give hope, capture the good in us, guide us.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Wildalone.


“Darkness doesn’t find us on its own, Theia. It is vain. It wants to be invited.”

“It was the moment I would always remember. That split second in time when, against all odds, the universe pauses to catch its breath, fate looks the other way, and you are allowed, just this once, to have what you want if only you can name it, but you must speak up or else it would become too late, and once it is too late it remains too late forever.”

TQ:  What's next?

Krassi:  Next is the sequel to Wildalone. This book was about exposing the past and waking the heroine up. Now the real rivalry between the brothers must start. There will also be new rituals, legends, magic—all the good stuff.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Wildalone 1
William Morrow, January 6, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

In this enchanting and darkly imaginative debut novel full of myth, magic, romance, and mystery, a Princeton freshman is drawn into a love triangle with two enigmatic brothers, and discovers terrifying secrets about her family and herself—a bewitching blend of Twilight, The Secret History, Jane Eyre, and A Discovery of Witches.

Arriving at Princeton for her freshman year, Thea Slavin finds herself alone, a stranger in a strange land. Away from her family and her Eastern European homeland for the first time, she struggles to adapt to unfamiliar American ways and the challenges of college life—including an enigmatic young man whose brooding good looks and murky past intrigue her. Falling into a romantic entanglement with Rhys and his equally handsome and mysterious brother, Jake, soon draws Thea into a sensual mythic underworld as irresistible as it is dangerous.

In this shadow world that seems to mimic Greek mythology and the Bulgarian legends of the Samodivi or “wildalones”—forest witches who beguile and entrap men—she will discover a shocking secret that threatens everything she holds dear. And when the terrifying truth about her own family is revealed, it will transform her forever . . . if she falls under its spell.

Mesmerizing and addictive, The Wildalone is a thrilling blend of the modern and the fantastic. Krassi Zourkova creates an atmospheric world filled with rich characters as fascinating and compelling as those of Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness, and Stephenie Meyer.

About Krassi

Krassi Zourkova grew up in Bulgaria and came to the United States to study art history at Princeton. After college, she graduated from Harvard Law School, and she has practiced finance law in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, where she currently lives. Her poems have appeared in various literary journals. Wildalone is her first novel.

Facebook  ~  Twitter @zourkova


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