Question Time with Alexa Donne
We were so lucky to have the author of our March Readalong, Alexa Donne, join us for a short Q&A session with some of our readers.
Below is an extract of everything we asked her during our session!
Thank you so much for agreeing to take part – I think on behalf of everyone we would like to thank you for your wonderful book ☺️ We honestly feel like it was the perfect choice given what’s going on in the world right now. Such a fun and cute escape from reality!
It’s definitely a beach read so I hope it’s helping people!
Clearly both of your books, Brightly Burning and The Stars We Steal are Young Adult Sci Fi but do you like to read any particular genres? Do you have a favourite genre?
My favourite genre to read is thriller, so my next YA book is actually a thriller! 😀
Ohhhh how exciting!!! Can you give us any sneaky details? 👀
Yes! It’s set at an elite East Coast boarding school and is about a clique of Mean Girls who have been sabotaging their classmates for three years to increase their odds for the Ivy League and then on Early Decision Day, one of them is murdered
Ohh that sounds amazing, we are all over that – we love a good school setting!
Knowing that you love thrillers – where did your inspiration come from? Did you read a lot of YA Sci Fi or was there a big gap in the market? How did both of your books come about?
So it all started with Brightly Burning, which was a thought experiment. I marvelled that there just aren’t many YA retellings of Jane Eyre despite how beloved it is my readers. So I wondered how to make a retelling work that felt like a proper YA.
My answer was to set it in space, in a post-apocalyptic future with a rigid class system. And when that was done I wanted to write another book set in the universe, and Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen, and also a challenge to adapt for YA.
So I just… Put my mind to making it all work. The Bachelor part came while I was writing the book.
Clearly you are a big fan of the classics if you have based two books on them! Which is your favourite Jane Austen classic?
Persuasion lol! And then of course I love Pride & Prejudice, and I’m also fond of Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
Which is your favourite character in Persuasion? And who was your favourite character to write in The Stars We Steal?
I have a soft spot for Benwick? Who became Ben, of course. And then honestly I’m basic AF because Anne Elliot for life lol. And swoon over Wentworth.
But my fave characters to write were 100% Evgenia and Daniel!
Was there any particular reason you chose to make the main character’s ancestry Scandinavian?
I needed to set things on a new ship and at the time I hadn’t had a standalone German ship in BB (but I created one while writing TSWS). I’d already explored the British ship in BB, so I wanted to pick a ship that I’d have fun building out.
Leo herself is German as well because I got a kick out of basing her family on the Hapsburgs. Really I was limited to current countries with royal families because I wanted to play with the faded, useless royalty thing 😀
(I know the Hapsburgs are Austrian but I know more about Germany so made Leo German because fiction lol)
The big relief is a German reader posted that the German was correct! I had no one at my publisher to check for me!
Are you a coffee drinker? we noticed you picked coffee over the classic tea in the book. Was there a reason for this?
Yes! I’m a coffee girl. But Brightly Burning is all about tea because they have imports from the British ship
If you had to cast actors to play Elliot and Leo who would they be?
For actors I don’t have anyone in mind sadly! For Leo I’d want someone plus sized so that actress list is so limited. For Elliot, just find the next Rupert Penry-Jones haha
That’s actually part of our next question. Obviously gender roles are vastly different from Austen times to now. How important was it for you to adapt these roles and change them up? Leo was such a strong and inspiring female lead and we wondered how important it is for you to write woman characters like this when a lot of your readers are young women of an impressionable age? You must feel a sense of responsibility as an author in that way!
I always strive to give my women agency; I think it’s essential in YA fiction, or really every book. It was a challenge with Anne because she’s so passive. So I definitely had to sacrifice aspects of the retelling for that.
There are Jane Austen characters with agency, even relative to that time, so I drew more from those heroines.
And actually the one thing Anne was was the only sensible head of household. I just… Amplified her power to actually rein in her ridiculous parent and sister
In regards to writing, What was the first scene for the book that you wrote?
I am a linear writer, so I started at the very beginning! Aside from some additional description and minor line edits, the first chapter is exactly as I first wrote it! Do you plan on doing any other retellings in the same world?
I’m probably tapped out on the world, but never say never. I do have a few more space romances up my sleeve, but the market for them isn’t great.
What was the hardest scene to write in the book and were there any parts that didn’t make the final book?
I had a couple tricky spots. I rewrote the scene after the concert three times. The space walk also got a complete overhaul. Really any scene with Leo and Elliot was high pressure to nail it!
We loved the space walk scene! Why were they so difficult for you to write?
Originally Elliot didn’t come back! Thankfully my editor and agent gave me the note to change it. The entire romance arc was different in the first draft because I was trying to hew more closely to Persuasion.
So ultimately I did sacrifice a lot of the original to write a better and more organic romance arc
What was your favourite scene to describe??
It’s hard to choose! I probably enjoyed describing the study/library most and writing that romance scene? Though every dress description is a favourite haha
The sister relationship between Leo and Carina was wonderful. Not always getting along it reminded a lot us our relationships with our sisters. Were you inspired by anything in writing this relationship?
I’m actually an only child, so the sister relationship mostly drew on what I know of friends with siblings, and also some bits from female friendships I’ve had – It’s so good to hear that it rings true!
Do you have any tips for aspiring YA writers?
My tip for the writers out there: write the conflict-filled first draft but then when you edit make changes to ensure characters feel like real people and not stock villains haha! Conflict characters are tricky!
My last question is how it feels to see your book out there being read by so many people and to actually discuss it like this with readers??
It’s amazing! Especially for this book. I’m so proud of it, but it has a lower profile than my debut, so it means so so much, honestly! I really want romance fans to find it, especially. It’s my love letter to Jane Austen tropes.
Well there is nothing more from us, Thank you so much for joining us today! It means the world Alexa!
As you can probably see, we bombarded her with basically every question we could think of but it was soooo worth it! such a great insight into an authors mind and into the creation of a great book!
Hope you guys have loved this! What would you have asked her if you could? Are you surprised by any of the answers?
Lots of Love,
Kayleigh and Tish xx