By Anushi Mehta
Today we’re pleased to welcome Alechia Dow to the WNDB blog to discuss The Kindred, out January 4, 2022!
To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…
Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings. Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.
Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne… and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal… and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal —and a love— that may decide the future of a galaxy.
Congratulations on the publication of The Kindred. I devoured the electrifying action, swoony love story and your utterly charismatic voice.
“Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor.” Could we start with where the concept came from and how it came to be, from inception to publication?
First of all, THANK YOU for your kindness, and also thank you for having me on here :)) So, the concept! I really love the idea of mind-pairings, from Sense8 to Star Wars, and I was excited to write something in this style. To be completely honest, I live abroad and I miss my family and friends often. That loneliness got me thinking… wouldn’t it be nice if I could be mentally connected to my best friend? We could share experiences and memories and emotions free of judgement and full of understanding—imagine how this would change the world? Imagine how it would change my world? Thankfully Inkyard really loved the idea of this, and let me write it.
As someone who has friends and family scattered all over the globe, I absolutely relate to this loneliness. What a beautiful idea!
For readers who may not have read The Kindred, can you share three emotions that the book is sure to provoke?
Joy (ha!), love, and hope.
It definitely triggered all three emotions for me; I would add connection too. You have a lot of fans in aspiring writers. A few days ago, some of my writing buddies were discussing how you manage so many projects at once, especially while being a mother. For all of us aspiring authors who would love to do more, could you share your top tips?
Awww this is so nice and lovely! Thank you! Mostly, I do what excites me. The more hyped I am to do something, the more likely I am to do it. So don’t chase perfection, chase passion. Prioritize and organize, and definitely have a small group of writing friends who support you and let you bounce your ideas off them. Everything you do when you aren’t writing can help your writing. If I’m walking the dog, I’m visualizing scenes. When I’m doing the dishes, I’m dreaming up dialogue. When I’m dancing with my daughter or watching a movie, I give my brain and manuscript time to rest. Afterwards, I often feel more inspired and rejuvenated. We have full lives outside of books; we have to keep filling them up with adventures and new things, because ultimately, it makes our time worthwhile and it also helps us write fuller characters and stories.
“Everything you do when you aren’t writing can help your writing.” There is so much we take in from our experiences, and it is most rewarding when that intuitively translates into our writing.
You’ve spoken about your past mentor, Tamara Mataya in a few interviews. She’s obviously had a very positive impact on your writing career. What is the number one you’ve learned from her?
Tamara is a superstar! I learned so much from her—she taught me how to shape a story and keep it moving. She taught me how to create physical anchors in a scene and really sink myself into the atmospheric details, which is huge. But the number one thing I learned from her: inhale art to exhale art. You have to read, watch television or movies, lose yourself in media and art, so you can make it. Keep filling that creative well. It helps you stay inspired, but it also helps you learn new ways to write.
I am still learning to dive deeper and dig further into the descriptions so this advice really resonates with me.
Your worldbuilding skills are masterful. You have created an entirely different planet, with otherworldly beings with its own set of rules and norms. That is wild! Tell us about where you developed this skill? What has helped you the most: reading, workshops, your mentorship, or something else?
Thank you! Worldbuilding is something you learn over time. Everyone has their own way to build, and there isn’t one right way to do it. I think of a book like a movie. Every scene is up there on the screen and the more details I give from why that character is there, doing what they’re doing, to what’s outside their windows, makes the scene more vibrant and visual. Thinking that way helps me understand where I need to add info that’ll boost the importance of that scene. There’s a balance to be struck—too much info slows the story down, too little info confuses the reader. Finding that sweet spot takes time and effort, but you get there the more you write. I’m still learning.
Early on as a writer, I believed one either had the writing bone or not. As I’ve experimented with my writing more, I’ve come to realise that it is much more a muscle that can be stretched, trained, and toned.
You touch upon body-shaming, racism and classism, why is it important for you to explore these themes in your stories?
I’m a fat, Black, queer woman. I grew up being all of those things and feeling somewhat negative about it as a kid because there weren’t a lot of good/positive representations out there for me. Now, I get to write about this, and hopefully, someone reading will see how I engage with these themes and how I want my characters to feel good despite anyone else’s thoughts (who don’t matter at all). I hope readers will identify with my characters, feel seen, and will feel good about themselves while reading. Joy is fat, Black, queer, and a love interest, a main character. Felix is brown, queer, and depressed, and a love interest, a main character. They might not be living their best lives at the beginning of the book, but over the course of it, they know they deserve to be.
Thank you for sharing your lived experiences and I am sorry for the narrow range of options in your early literary journey. I grew up with Enid Blyton, Judy Blume and Roald Dahl—all incredible talents, but far removed from my reality.
I am so glad you wrote your two protagonists. Joy Abara is a spunky, yet play-it-safe kind of girl from a lowly planet. Felix Hamdi is your typical swoony playboy who also happens to be royalty. And of course they fall hard for each other! How did you draw out these characters?
I love this pair; I think Joy and Felix really balance each other. Felix has everything he wants, but not what he needs. Joy has everything she needs, and nothing she wants. Joy judges Felix because, in her mind, he has the world in his hands and can control his fate, while she feels her life is in control of her world, its traditions and expectations. Felix doesn’t understand why Joy just can’t walk away from that. Through their connection, they both learn how to live their lives the way they want, while standing up for themselves and looking beyond themselves.
I haven’t had a chance to read your debut (The Sound of Stars) but it’s also written from alternating points of view. Hitting the nail on the head with a dual narrative structure is challenging, but you do it so seamlessly. Is this a conscious stylistic choice you have made as an author?
Haha! Thank you! With The Sound of Stars, I did dual with one first person, and one third person POV (because he’s an alien and I wanted you to feel a bit of a disconnect through his perspective and word choices). The Kindred is dual with both first person because they’re both aliens sharing a mental link. My first few books were third person with one POV. But as I’ve grown as a writer, I definitely love writing dual more. I feel closer to the characters, and when I’m writing love stories, I want you to know their thoughts and how they differ or even contradict the other POV. I want you to feel like you live inside their head and see why they think they need to do what they do. Have I mastered it? No, I just know this feels like the right way to write stories for me at the moment.
I was worried that the dual-narrative wouldn’t work for me as a reader, but the transition spots were so well-picked, I naturally swam into the alternating POVs.
What’s the most challenging part about promoting your book to an American audience while living in Germany?
Time zones!! A lot of folks don’t realize I’m 6-9 hours ahead of the US, so I have to do a lot of weird little math to make sure I’m going to be there on time. It doesn’t always work out lol, I’ve agreed to events that are at 1 am or later over here because I didn’t calculate the difference. Also, it’s hard to know my audience and if I have fans, when my book is not available in Germany. I have to rely on social media to tell me if people are reading/or loving, and that’s not always a good indicator.
Thank you for your insights and little gems of advice. Let’s move on to the rapid-fire round:
What’s a raisinet?
A chocolate covered raisin and also the best candy ever.
Three things you couldn’t write without.
Tea, a very comfy chair, and some classical background music!
The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams.
Writers who have inspired you?
Octavia Butler, Bethany C. Morrow, Meg Cabot and so many more.
Joy or Felix?
I CANNOT CHOOSE!
Terra or Hali?
Baking or writing?
WHAT? You can’t ask me that!!! Buuuut if I have to answer––and only because you’re lovely, I have to think about which one gives me more joy. With baking, there are no expectations other than taste, and I don’t have to wait for results and there’s so little pressure.
Top 3 YA books of 2021:
So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix by Bethany C. Morrow, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar, Thronebreakers by Rebecca Coffindaffer. I have so many more favorites, this was really hard!
What’s next for you?
A short story in Out There: Into the Queer New Yonder in June 2022, and my middle grade debut, An Enchanted Match (title pending) coming out in Fall 2023. Maybe more!
I want to say Star Wars or X-Men, but truth is, every project I’ve written so far has been my dream project. At this moment, I’m hoping another dream project finds its home!
Thank you, Alechia! It was a pleasure and an honor to speak to you.Wishing you all the best with The Kindred!
Thank you so so much for having me!!! This has been an absolute pleasure and I’m such a huge fan of WNDB!!
Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, teacher, and librarian. When she’s not writing, you can find her having epic dance parties with her little girl, baking, reading, or traveling.
Anushi Mehta is a first generation Belgian-Indian who grew up in charming Antwerp. She pursued degrees in psychology and primary teaching at Warwick University and met her husband while working in London. Now, they live in Mumbai and everyone from her two-year-old to her 88-year-old grandma teases her for always feeling cold. After moving to Mumbai, Anushi completed an introductory course on learning disabilities and ‘Yoga for the Special Child’ by Sonia Sumar and then worked as a special educator until her son was born. Moreover, she oversees a primary school in her ancestral hometown, where she focuses on raising literacy levels. Anushi discovered the power of voice when she began inventing stories about spunky Indian girls for her daughter. It is her dream that each of her stories feature masala chai. In addition to honing her craft with courses at Highlights Foundation and The Writing Barn, she is an active participant of 12×12 and Desi Kidlit, a community of writers from the Asian Diaspora. Anushi has also been selected by We Need Diverse Books as one of the “sixteen creative, rising voices”. Alan Gratz is mentoring her for her MG, LEVEL PLAYING FIELD. Finally, Anushi is an interviewer at We Need Diverse Books and a contributor at The Word – A Storytelling Sanctuary.