Thursday, October 26, 2023

Alysa Wishingrad

Alysa Wishingrad writes fantastical stories for young readers, tales that ask; is the truth really true? Her favorite stories are those that meld the historical with the fantastic, and that find ways to shine a light on both the things that divide and unite us all. The Verdigris Pawn, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, is her debut novel.

Her new novel is Between Monsters and Marvels.

Wishingrad lives in the Hudson Valley with her family and two demanding rescue dogs.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think, far more than my debut, The Verdigris Pawn, Between Monsters and Marvels does a good deal of work to set the stage for the book. The title alone promises the reader, well . . . monsters, but it also promises something else that feels safer, friendlier, and above all, magical. The word Between also does a good deal of work as Dare, the main character, gets caught between a great many rocks and some very hard, and tricky places. There are the worlds of Barrow’s Bay, the bucolic island she grew up on, and City-on-the-Pike, the teeming, overcrowded, and at times desperate city on the mainland to which she is banished after her father’s untimely and mysterious death. Then once in the City, Dare gets caught between competing loyalties and allies, the truth and lies, history and facts, and who she always thought her father was and reality. And finally, Dare must learn to live between what she knows and what she hopes can be true.

What's in a name?

From the moment you meet her I think the reader understands exactly the depth of meaning behind Dare’s name. Though her given name is Darvlah, everyone, except for the governor, calls her Dare. And she is daring to the core!

Yes, she is opinionated, defensive, quick tempered, and fiery. But she also has the self-confidence to flout convention and spurn the impulse to try to fit in. She knows who she is, and she won’t change that for anyone. But she also knows that her edges are rough, and she tries, for a time, to soften them, to emulate her kind and gentle father, the one person who truly understood and appreciated her.

Dare is truly daring and bold and determined, and she will not stop until she finds the truth of the monsters and her father’s death. But she is also vulnerable and loving and devoted to truth and kindness.

I dare you not to fall in love with her!

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I don’t start drafting until I know the full arc of a story, and I cannot move forward until I have a beginning that works. It’s in those early pages that I find the voice of a piece and ground myself in the world. So I will stay there until I have a solid launch pad.

But in fact, it’s the middle that is hardest for me, and that I have changed the most for both of my books. I’ve been known to chuck entire full drafts, or as in the case of Between Monsters and Marvels, the last 200 pages in order to make the middle work. If the center of the arc isn’t working, then even the tightest beginning will not matter. As for a satisfying ending, it has to be earned and built on the back of that strong middle. If I’ve done my job right, then the ending should almost write itself.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I like to think that there’s a piece of me in every character I craft—but I would say that Dare is the closest to my heart. I understand her desire to put on a tough face, I think I was like that when I was younger, to not let anyone in lest they hurt you. But I also relate to her soft heart, her unconditional love, and her undying belief that the truth is out there. I’m also just as determined as she and unflinching in my belief that we have a responsibility to each other, to nature, and to being honest and truthful in all our dealings with others.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I am a devoted thief! I will glean ideas from everywhere: history, theater, tv shows, movies, music, overheard conversations, magazines, and news stories. Ideas are everywhere. I try to stay open so that those floating seeds can find me. But I also know not every idea has wings, at least not ones that I can use. But what’s fun is to see how seeds show up in unexpected ways.
Visit Alysa Wishingrad's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Alysa Wishingrad & Cleo and Lucy.

The Page 69 Test: The Verdigris Pawn.

--Marshal Zeringue