Today I have a Q&A with Rochelle Alexandra as part of the blog tour for her new novel In Alexa’s Shoes but first a little about the book:
Title: In Alexa’s Shoes by Rochelle Alexandra
Publisher: Author Academy Elite
Date Published: 25th June 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
In Alexa’s Shoes – a dramatic, uplifting true story of a teenage girl overcoming great odds to survive. A historical novel that beckons the reader to follow in the footsteps of a real-life individual one step at a time. Based on the true story of the author’s grandmother.
In the autumn of 1940, thirteen-year-old Alexa’s happy life is ripped from her as she, her mother, and many of the locals are rounded up by the Nazis in Poland. Loaded into trucks, they are transported to an unknown destination. Terror and uncertainty become the new normal. Life is a continuous nightmare as she is selected by the Gestapo officer’s wife, destined to become little more than their slave.
Separated from everyone she loves Alexa relies on her Christian faith, inner strength and courage, to endure through her long nightmare. Her story takes her on a treacherous journey across war-ravaged Europe in search of her family and the life she once knew. Despite living through unimaginable hardships and life-threatening danger, Alexa feels that someone or something seems to be looking out for her. Years later, she finds out that not all was as it seemed, as hidden secrets from this dark period in history are revealed to her.
Where do you find inspiration for your novels?
I find writing about what I know is the best way for me to write. The inspiration for ‘In Alexa’s Shoes’ came after hearing first hand from my Polish grandmother, about her true-life experiences during WWII. We were very close and each time I’d go over to visit her in Poland, she’d share a little more of her story with me. Each time she’d tell me more about the things she had gone through. I could visualise it in my mind’s eye, as if watching a movie of her life. I always said to her that it would make a great novel, to which she agreed but said that she was too old now to write it but that I should write her story for her. I promised her that I would one day and finally began writing it in January of 2018. Knowing the story so well, it was relatively easy for me to write, even though I had to translate it into English in my head first. I had a real passion for telling it and felt that I had a duty to do it in a way that highlighted the best qualities of Alexa and delivered it in a way that she would both approve and be proud of. Alexa’s story is one that I’ve told to many friends over the years at dinner parties or on my travels to strangers and it has always gotten an amazing response. This also gave me the encouragement to write my grandmother’s story down.
Who is your writing hero?
That’s a hard choice to make, but if I could only pick one author I’d have to go with Agatha Christie. I love her detective mysteries and the way her plots unravel, I always have. The murder, the suspects, the hidden secrets, the suspicions, the explanations and unexpected twist in her storylines. I like the way she always keeps you guessing who done it until the end. I like her use of locations, especially the foreign ones. It appeals to my love of travel.
Which book do you wish you had written?
Another hard to choose question, but I’d pick ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ if it’s an Agatha Christie work. I love a good murder mystery and I love the way her work has stood the test of time. However, equally I’d love to have written any of Ian Fleming’s Bond thrillers.
What advice would you give to someone considering taking the plunge and attempting to write their first novel?
First of all, I’d say don’t be put off by the enormity of the task before you. Just start writing and keep writing. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, but keep the finish line in your sights. The only thing that can stop you – is you, so don’t let the negativity, fear and doubts set in. Do your research, know your characters and plot out the map of your book. Then start getting down your first draught. Don’t allow yourself to get held up by blocks, skip that part and move on to another chapter. You can always go back to it later when clarity has come, and chances are it will as you write more of your content. Keep moving forward, write, write, write you can edit it later.
It’s helpful to have a proposal written out, even if only for yourself. Include such things as a synopsis, comparison titles, unique selling point, your target audience. This will help as you write your novel, remember it’s a marathon but you want to complete it and cross the finish line.
If you could have a dinner party and invite three other writers (living or dead), who would you invite?
Heather Morris who wrote ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her in person yet, but we have become friends on social media, and I enjoy our conversations. She’s written a fabulous piece of work and her next promises to be just as powerful.
Agatha Christie of course.
Ian Fleming would be my third guest of choice. What a fabulous interchange of conversation that would be around my dinner table with those three highly esteemed authors. Whatever would I serve on the menu?
What’s the one question you wish I had asked and what’s the answer?
Is there a message that you tried to convey in your novel?
The answer is Yes. Alexa had a real love for people, all people. She was very compassionate and emanated love in every part of her life. Despite the hardships and trials which she went through at such a young age, being taken by the Nazis and separated from her mother, she didn’t become bitter, resentful or allow breeding ground for hatred. She believed that hate was a poison which had detrimental effects, not only on the hater themselves but also on the receivers. She chose love over hate, which is something that is needed very much in our world today especially in light of all the hate crimes recently around the world. We need to remember the lessons of the past, or again we are destined to repeat them. Through the Nazis hatred for the Jews there were many other groups who were segregated against, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Alexa and her Christian mother were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they were wrenched away from life as they knew it, forever changed by that day. I hope my novel reaches the hearts of many, including our youths and millennials who doubt that the holocaust even occurred.
About Rochelle Alexandra:
Rochelle Alexandra was born in Glasgow, Scotland where she grew up, then moved to New York to live when she was eighteen. She had an early love for writing poetry, winning a National Scottish competition and later had a few poems published in the USA. She’s a talented artist and photographer with a real love for children, horse riding and travel. Her favourite jobs were in advertising, working for a newspaper, a photographer’s assistant and private chef. She ran her own freelance art business painting portraits, murals, abstracts and commissions.
She never set out to be a writer, but after hearing her Polish grandmother’s gripping true life history during WWII first hand, she made a promise to her gran that she would write her story in book form. Sadly her grandmother Alexa passed away aged 92, just two months before the novel ‘In Alexa’s Shoes’ about her life was due to be published. Little did Rochelle know that she’d love the writing process so much and now has several future novels planned.