Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A
“When I was younger, I’d read about history and feel as if it always happened somewhere else.”
Alexandria Brim is a historical fiction writer from Staten Island. She combines her love for history and fiction into one with her writing. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) as well as Hearts Through History, a subgroup devoted to those who write historical romances. She also joined the Summer Writer’s Club challenge.
Nevena: Welcome to the spotlight, Alexandria. Why do you write?
Alexandria: And we start with a philosophical question! Just kidding. I tell people it’s a compulsion because it really is. Twitchy fingers urging to hold a pen or fly across a keyboard, stories pouring forth. Characters to create, worlds to build, plots to agonize over. It’s fun, it’s frustrating, but in the end, it’s what I do.
Nevena: I love your writer’s manifesto! But how do you fit writing into your life?
Alexandria: I try to fit it in whenever I can, usually late at night—thank goodness for insomnia. When I’m busy, I sometimes carry a notebook with me. Last year at AnimeNext, a convention dedicated to all things anime and manga, I spent some time sitting on the floor writing while a few friends made some purchases. My friends and I had cosplayed, so people wanted pictures. Thankfully, I had dressed as a child character, so no one cared that I took pictures on my knees. This way I could keep writing until the last possible moment, and then resume the minute they walked away.
Nevena: How efficient! What are your favorite genres to read and write?
Alexandria: Historical fiction, definitely. I still remember when I was a little girl and my parents took me to a bookstore in the Woodbridge Mall in New Jersey (which sadly is no longer there). They told one of the employees about my reading level and my interest in history. He placed Meet Samantha, one of the American Girl books, in my hand, and I was hooked. I read through the other series and graduated to Dear America. As I aged out of those, my aunt bought me The Fifth of March by Ann Rinaldi. That’s when I realized I could write historical fiction novels myself. Rinaldi is my idol.
Nevena: I think you’ll be excited that we’re adding historical fiction to the Genre Map this summer. Tell us more about the project you’re currently working on, The Conference House. How did Annemie Visser’s story come to you?
Alexandria: Funny story. It came to me in the shower! I had wanted to write a story set in the Billopp House but had yet to find the best way. Then standing underneath the hot water, I heard a voice in my head. She was a young woman working for the Billopps, descended from the original Dutch settlers on the Island, and a Loyalist. Most Revolution-era historical fiction novels which feature a Loyalist usually end with the character switching sides to become a Patriot. I wanted to write a character who doesn’t.
I am particularly interested in Loyalists after the research I’ve done. The winners write the history books, so they say. We know the Patriots’ complaints against the British and the Loyalists, but not so much the extent of what they did to the Loyalists. Embargoes were passed against the British, and when Staten Islanders defied them, the colonial governments put bans on trading with merchants on the Island. Because Staten Islanders were smuggling in British goods, they then put patrols on the island. All by governments the Islanders didn’t believe have the power to do so. The hypocrisy was something I wanted to highlight.
Nevena: You really do know your history! What’s the appeal of eighteen-century Staten Island for you?
Alexandria: I’m a native Staten Islander and when I was younger, I’d read about history and feel as if it always happened somewhere else. As I got older, I learned more about my hometown. And I was fascinated by what had happened here. The Staten Island Peace Conference took place on September 11, 1776 at the home of Christopher Billopp, the Conference House. And the names involved! John Adams! Benjamin Franklin! It was an attempt between the British and the colonists to make peace and it is ignored in the history books. Furthermore, Staten Islanders were an interesting bunch during the Revolution. So I wanted to tell their story and at the same time, let other people like me know that history doesn’t happen somewhere else. It can happen right in your own neighborhood.
Nevena: What comes first when you write: the plot or the characters? In general, what is your process like?
Alexandria: It depends on the project. The setting came first to me for The Conference House, then the characters and, with them, the plot. Meanwhile, for The Wedding Game, which is on Book Country, the plot came first, but it was the characters who brought it from a silly little day dream to a novel. The characters are always important to me so I do spend time on them. And research. As for my process, I am a panster. I have an idea of how I want the story to go, but for me, the fun is the journey the characters take me on. I also tend to write linearly, so I start at the beginning and don’t stop until I reach the end.
Nevena: What are your proudest writing achievements?
Alexandria: This past January I entered part of The Wedding Game into a contest. While I wasn’t a finalist, I still got positive feedback from the judges. It filled me with pride to know people like my writing.
Nevena: Congrats! So why are you on Book Country? How has it helped you grow as a writer?
Alexandria: I joined Book Country after attending Comic Con in 2011. It was around the time I was getting really serious about my writing and publishing, so it was definitely something I was interested in. I signed up a day or two later. And I have learned so much from the people on this site. Editing my writing for The Wedding Game, I can see it in the chapters written prior to joining Book Country. Too many dialogue tags, too many adverbs, etc.
That writing competition? I doubt my writing would have gotten such great remarks without everything I learned here.
Nevena: I’m glad that’s the case. Is there anything else you want to share with the Book Country peeps?
Alexandria: I’m a walking font of knowledge when it comes to Disney trivia. You have a question, I probably know the answer. Hakuna Matata!
Nevena: Good to know, haha! Thanks for joining us, Alexandria. It’s been a pleasure.