The Horror Tree Presents an Interview with Alexandrea Weis
The Horror Tree Presents- an Interview with Alexandrea Weis
By Ruschelle Dillon
Ruschelle: Alexandrea, welcome to the Horror Tree, where you will find all sorts of fruit, nuts and meat sacks hanging for you to snack on. Watch out for the disgustingly bloody ones. They’re not quite ripe yet. It’s great to have you here. You have a fantastic selection of books out there for your newfound fans to feast from. Many take place in your hometown of New Orleans which has seen more than its fair share of destruction from hurricanes, Ida being the most recent. At the penning of these questions, there are still swaths of Louisiana that are still without electricity and are digging out of Ida’s wrath. Has the devastating weather played a part in inspiring your books? Horrors can beget horrors.
Alexandrea: Honestly, the response in the aftermath has been fantastic compared to what we went through with Katrina. Then we had weeks without running water, power, gasoline, or food. It was a nightmare and very horror worthy. We’ve been fortunate this time. I got my power back in six days. A big THANK YOU to the line men and women who came to restore our electricity. They are a godsend!
Ruschelle: New Orleans has such a rich history. What are some aspects of NOLA that you must include when writing your stories? Conversely, are there nibblets that you find trite or just flat out wrong that you refuse to put in black and white? (I liked the word nibblets. I am also hungry for corn right now…)
Alexandrea: Whenever I write about my hometown, I always include the quirkiness of the people, the architecture, our rich traditions, and our religious zeal for food. I try to be true to how we speak, which changes depending on which part of the city you reside in. Those in the 9th Ward have a different take on things than those in the Irish Bayou. They even have various colloquialisms. How our folks are portrayed, from bad accents to food descriptions that would make Mee Maw Foucheaux cringe, frustrate me. Many writers don’t realize that it’s easy to spot those who don’t know the city. Your work suffers from your lack of research. But you can’t absorb New Orleans in a single visit—and the French Quarter is not the actual city. You have to immerse yourself in the nuances of who we are, why we are so devoted to our sliver by the river, and why no hurricane will ever chase us away. New Orleans is a state of mind, a way of life, and until you come to understand that, you can never write about it with any measure of accuracy.
Ruschelle: Your latest offering, Have you Seen Me? Is a YA tale of secrets, mystery, and murder. Could you tell us a little about your inspiration for this book? Is it loosely based on any real-life serial killers?
Alexandrea: The inspiration for this book was the cover. My agent found it and asked if I could write a YA 90s themed slasher mystery. I looked at the girl with the haunted eyes and decided to set it some place mysterious in Louisiana, and voila, Have You Seen Me was born. This story isn’t based on real killers, but I studied a great deal about such individuals to recreate their personality in our murderer.
Ruschelle: Many writers would love to pen a YA Novel. And many YA books crossover to adults which gains an author more readers! How do you create a novel that entices both young adults and adults to dig in and consume the world you concocted with out being too childish or too grown up?
Alexandrea: My personal belief is that on the inside, we all stop aging at about sixteen. We are still that sixteen-year-old kid wondering how to keep faking it, so everyone believes we know what we’re doing. That is who I write for—that adolescent inside us. When you stop looking at age-defining characteristics of a genre and just write a story that will appeal to everyone, you don’t limit yourself.
Ruschelle: You are a certified wildlife rehabber! A cause near and dear to my black little heart. How did you get into rescue? And has this topic ever graced the pages of any of your novels?
Alexandrea: I began my adventure in wildlife when a neighbor brought me a baby squirrel that had fallen from a tree after a storm. She became my first baby. I named her Widget, and she lived with me all her life. She opened the door for me, and slowly, I took in more babies, got my permit with the La. Wildlife and Fisheries, and never looked back. I love helping orphaned and injured wildlife. It is so fulfilling. And yes, wildlife rehabbing was the central theme of one of my earlier works, Broken Wings. It is a story close to home for me where the main character Pamela Wells runs a rehab facility. Several animals I’ve rehabbed make cameos in some of my books as well.
Ruschelle: If you could write a story about three of the critters you’ve rehabbed, which three do you feel would make a great, hero, villain, and romantic partner to either? And this story is to be for the over 18 crowd.
Alexandrea: I plan for a mystery series based on one critter—a mischievous raccoon named Rodney. He helps solve crime mysteries along the Bogue Falaya River in Louisiana while working with his human friend. I also have a story in mind for Widget, my first squirrel rehab. About how she returns to the wild to fit into the hierarchy of the squirrel world. The last would be something about Boobie—a squirrel with the sweetest personality. We were very close. His story would be about the powerful bond between animals and people.
Ruschelle: You were educated as a nurse. Deep respect for that profession. I’m certain nursing has assisted you greatly while working on the death of your darlings through medicinal means and down and dirty murder.
Alexandrea: Nursing made me a better writer, especially where murder is concerned. Having the pharmacological and physiological background to understand what can bring death about helps add a realistic tone to my work. I constantly research new ways to off a character—let’s face it, how they die makes for a good read—and being a nurse taught me about research and how to break complicated medical terms into something any reader can understand.
Ruschelle: Because of your nursing skills, have you read books where a character kills another character, and the death was so fantastically unbelievable that you pulled yourself away from your phone before you sent off a tweet asking the author where they learned biology?
Alexandrea: The medical inaccuracy in fiction ASTOUNDS me. I never confront an author about their mistakes. If they wanted to learn the correct way to kill off a character or what happens in an ICU, they would have done their research. The same is true for movies. Many dark mysteries turn into comedies for me when no one bothers to find out how to set up a breathing tube, IV, or heart monitor in ICU. I do get a lot of medical questions from editors who know me. I always try to set things straight when I can. Remember, if you are writing a book, the people who read it will garner expectations from your falsehoods. I have had patients say, “This doesn’t happen in the movies,” or “It wasn’t like this in the book” while caring for them. That is why getting the medical details right matters—someone someday will be influenced by your words.
Ruschelle: What is the most important medical 101 fact that you learned and incorporated into your books?
Alexandrea: Life is fragile but killing someone is hard. Unless you cut a major blood vessel, blow out the brain stem, or decapitate your victim, they will keep going. Television has taught everyone that a guy who takes a bullet will crumple to the ground. That’s not always the case. I’ve seen individuals with six or more bullet wounds walk into an ED. The human body is highly resilient.
Ruschelle: Some stories flow from writers naturally while others, put up a bloody struggle. Of your many many books, which one was a quick and easy birth, and which one wanted to stay and gestate longer than it should have?
Alexandrea: Have You Seen Me was a fun, flowing adventure, as was the second book coming in the Waverly Prep Series, Things That Won’t Stay Dead. Most of my books have flowed like these. Probably the hardest one was Realm, the story of Roxanna, wife of Alexander the Great. There was so much history, so many details to get right that it took a while to write. The result was well worth the effort. It’s one book of which I am very proud.
Ruschelle: You grew up in the motion picture industry. How has it helped you tell your stories?
Alexandrea: I grew up on sets, and they helped me visualize a story and the characters. How someone moves says a lot on the screen and in a book. The details of the setting, the clothes, and how someone speaks were all things movies taught me to put into my stories. It trained my brain to picture every detail before putting it on the page. I guess you could say I write the movie going on in my head.
Ruschelle: Reboots are all the rage right now in the motion picture world. If you were given the greenlight to write a screenplay of any movie of your choosing which would you love to retell?
Alexandrea: Sunday Morning horror movies were my favorite as a kid. The Tingler (1959) staring Vincent Price scared the wits out of me. It was a great story about a parasitic creature that feeds on fear in humans. I would love to get my hands on that a do a modern-day retelling.
Ruschelle: You write horror, crime, thriller, and romance-to name a few. Is there any genre or subgenre you wouldn’t pen?
Alexandrea: I once said I would never do sci-fi, but I wrote a grounded sci-fi, The Chimera Effect, coming in 2023. That genre is easier for me because of my medical background. Fantasy is one I won’t tackle, but then again, never say never.
Ruschelle: Being an author is usually a solitary business. But I’ve seen your name paired up with Lucas Astor for your books The Chimera Effect, Death by the River and The Magus Blackwell novel series. Could you tell us about the writing process with a co-writer? How do you both work on novels as a team? Any pros and cons for your newfound fans when thinking about collaborating with a fellow author?
Alexandrea: Writing with Lucas is easy because we are the same twisted and warped individuals, lol. We see worlds and characters in a unique way, which is half the battle. I would advise anyone looking to collaborate to find a like-minded induvial. Otherwise, the process may be challenging. I believe you must have the same concept for a story, see the same world and characters for any collaboration to work. It could be a complicated process without that.
Ruschelle: What project or projects are you working on that we all can look forward to reading, listening, or watching?
Alexandrea: I am putting the finishing touches on Book 2 in the St. Benedict Series, the follow-up to Death by the River. A River of Secrets will be coming in 2022. This book will continue Leslie’s story and how she copes with the fallout from Beau Devereaux’s crimes.
Ruschelle: Thank you so much for hanging out with me here at the Horror Tree! It’s been a pleasure. So, will you please tell your newfound fans how they might find you on the www?
Alexandrea: Thank you so much for having me!! I loved your questions!!
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Ruschelle Dillon is a freelance writer whose efforts focus on the dark humor and the horror genres. Ms. Dillon’s brand of humor has been incorporated in a wide variety of projects, including the irreverent blog Puppets Don’t Wear Pants and novelette “Bone-sai”, published through Black Bed Sheet Books as well as the live-action video shorts “Don’t Punch the Corpse” and “Mothman”. She also interviews authors for the Horror Tree website.
Her short stories have appeared in various anthologies and online zines such as Strangely Funny III, Story Shack, Siren’s Call, Weird Ales- Another Round and Women in Horror Anthology Vol. 2, Sanitarium Magazine, Dark Voices and Fear and Fables. Her collection of short stories, Arithmophobia published by Mystery and Horror LLC, is available through Amazon & Barnes and Noble. Summer 2020, Black Bed Sheet Publishing will release her dark Novella, The Stain.