Interview With Alex Otto, Fall 2021 Flash Fiction Runner-Up

Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Alexandra's Bio: 

Alexandra Otto writes stories and short screenplays. She just completed her first novel, a middle grade fantasy. When Alex isn’t writing or teaching, she is outsmarting the largest bears in the world in Southcentral Alaska. She is represented by Rena Rossner. 

You can connect with her on Twitter @alexottowrites and don't forget to read her story, “The Dreamkeeper” and then come back here for her interview. "The Dreamkeeper" originally appeared in Enchanted Conversations: A Fairy Tale Magazine.  

----------interview with Sue Bradford Edwards----------

WOW: The Dreamkeeper pulled me in and hasn’t left my mind since I read it. What was the inspiration behind this story? 

Alexandra: When one of my children was just a month old, she had a sudden high fever and had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. They found the cause and treated her, though we had to spend a few days there. I am fortunate that my child recovered fully. To write this story, I tapped into the memory of my fear that she would slip away. I suppose losing a child is every parent's worst fear. 

WOW:  Most definitely! This story is so rich with detail. How did you decide what deserved a place within your limited word count and what had to be left out? 

Alexandra: I think for flash fiction, it's really important to not overwhelm the reader with exposition. In "The Dreamkeeper" my protagonist said she had heard about Dreamkeepers from her grandmother, but she wasn't sure if they were real. That's all. There was not enough word count to give a history of who they were, how they appeared in the world, where they came from, etc. The reader had to take at face value that this was a myth which turned out to be real. I think it works because the reader is encountering the Dreamkeeper for the first time at the same moment that the main character is. 

It's also important to be precise with details; I didn't have a lot of time to describe the baby's nursery, so I chose one or two details to focus on, like a rattle made with jackrabbit fur, to give one specific image and a little insight into the rural background of the characters. 

WOW: Your bio lists your location as Kodiak, Alaska. How does this location feed into your stories? 

Alexandra: I always get inspired by the beauty of Alaska and the amazing people who live here. My middle grade novel is set in a fictional town in Alaska, but it's very closely based on my hometown of Kodiak. 

WOW: You have also written a middle grade fantasy novel. Can you tell us a bit about it? 

Alexandra: I am a Ukrainian-American writer. I grew up in an immigrant family and English is my second language. My story is based on Ukrainian folklore I heard about from my grandparents. My book is The Stolen Story Society. When eleven year old twins Anna and Roman discover that their grandmother's folktales have been stolen, they must go on a quest with the folktale witch Baba Yaga to retrieve them from a land of stolen stories. My novel is currently on submission by my agent. 

WOW:  That sounds fascinating.  I hope you will soon have good news for us. How do you move between a long project like a novel and shorter work like flash fiction? What advice do you have for readers who may be wondering if they should focus on only one type of writing or try multiple things? 

Alexandra: I took a writing workshop with a well known screenwriter at the Sundance Institute, who said she always works on multiple projects at once. I was relieved to hear her say that, because that is my process also. I find that when I lose steam for one project, I switch gears and work on another. Often while I'm working on the second project, ideas are simmering on the back burner for the first project, and inspiration will strike because the pressure of facing a blank page is removed.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my story! Keep reading and writing; we all have a rich world of stories to tap into and share with the world.

WOW:  And thank you, Alexandra. We appreciate the time you spent sharing your writing process with all of us.  


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