Alexandra Ott is living her dream. She’s the successful middle-grade author of the Rules for Thieves and Seekers of the Wild Realm fantasy series. Reading and writing have been pillars in her journey since she was eight years old. Penning stories in a notebook and reading stacks of books inspired her to create the adventures that line bookstore shelves today. She wrote Rules for Thieves in college and landed a publishing contract with Aladdin, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. When she’s not writing, she helps other storytellers fulfill their ambitions. Her freelance editorial services are sought after by aspiring authors looking to prepare their manuscripts for publication. And if there’s any downtime in between, you might find her playing the flute, reading, and hanging out with her canine overlord.
I chatted with Alexandra to ask eleven questions that will give you an inside look at the author behind the books.
1. If you could bring one of the magical creatures you created in Seekers of the Wild Realm to live with you, who would it be and why?
I love all of the creatures of the Realm, but most of them would not make for very good pets. I don’t think my neighbors would appreciate a dragon setting things on fire! So I’d have to pick a gyrpuff, the tiny puffin-like birds of the Realm, because they’d be the most practical choice. Not to mention that they’re adorable!
2. As a traditionally published author, about how long does the process take to be on bookstore shelves once you finish the first draft of the book?
It depends on a lot of different factors, especially whether you already have an agent or not. The process of finding an agent can take months or years, and it’s different for everyone. Once you have an agent, they then submit the manuscript to publishers, and again you could be waiting months or years to receive an offer. And then, once you’re working with the publisher, it typically takes about two years for the book to actually hit shelves. For me, it was a total of five years from when I first started writing to when it was actually published!
3. In Seekers of the Wild Realm, why did you choose Iceland to model the geography after?
I knew that I wanted the Wild Realm to have lots of different types of magic creatures, which meant it would also need to contain varied environments that would be suitable for those creatures to live. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure how to build the geography of the world in a way that would make sense while also allowing the characters to explore so many different environments. So I did some research, looking for real-life examples of diverse geographies and animal ecosystems around the world. Ultimately, I realized that Iceland had exactly what I was looking for—tons of interesting geographic features and gorgeous landscapes, all contained on a single island. It was a really useful point of inspiration in figuring out the geography and environments of the Wild Realm.
4. What is the best piece of advice you can give an author when writing a query letter to prospective agents?
I used to read a lot of query letters back when I worked as an editorial assistant, and, in my opinion, the trick to a good query is managing to be succinct but also detailed at the same time. I’ve seen a lot of queries that used really vague language to try to describe the story, like “the consequences are life or death” or “everything will change” or “secrets will be exposed.” That kind of phrasing could be applied to a lot of different stories, so it doesn’t tell the person reading the query what’s unique about this one. The more you can provide specific details about your story, the more unique and interesting it’s going to sound. Of course, it’s tough to include detail in such a short pitch, but for authors struggling with this, I’d suggest writing out all the detail first and then paring it down, rather than reaching for vague summations that aren’t as meaningful.
5. What are you currently reading?
I just picked up A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser. I’ve always been a huge fan of her Vanderbeekers series, and I’m so excited for this one. It’s a middle-grade dual-perspective narrative about two children living in a homeless shelter and bonding over classical music. Karina Yan Glaser is so good at tackling tough topics in ways that are still hopeful and accessible to young readers, and I highly recommend her books!
6. Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?
For me, inspiration almost always comes from other forms of art—mostly books, but also music, film, TV, theater, ballet, visual art, anything that can tell a story. The more I engage with other stories, the more inspired I feel to write my own. Both of my published book series were inspired by the books I loved as a child. With Rules for Thieves, I was thinking about how much I’d always loved heist novels, and how I might write one with a twist ending. With Seekers of the Wild Realm, I was inspired by the many magical creature books I’d loved as a young reader, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun it would be to invent some magical creatures of my own.
7. What time of day are you most creative?
Late at night! I’ve always been a night owl, and I find that I work best at late hours, though I couldn’t tell you why. I get most of my story ideas at night, to the point that I am often jotting down notes or even entire scenes before I can fall asleep, knowing I’ll forget it all in the morning!
8. Did your writing process change at all from writing Rules for Thieves to Seekers of the Wild Realm?
Yes, it was different in several ways. I wasn’t under contract yet when I wrote Rules for Thieves , so it was a much slower process in general, and I took several years to finish it. I often had to write frantically over the summer or other breaks from school because I was in college at that time. With the Seekers series, I sold it to my editor before the full manuscript was written, so I had to figure out how to write most of the book on deadline. But in addition to the difference in timelines, it was just a completely different writing process from one book to the next. Rules for Thieves was too short in my early drafts, and much of the revision was figuring out how to develop the material more and where to add substance. But the first draft of Seekers was incredibly overwritten and far too long, so most of that revision process was spent trying to figure out what to cut and how to better streamline the story. It was like learning to write a book all over again!
9. What is the best room in your house for writing?
Over the years, I’ve gotten used to writing in many different locations, and I’ve tried to learn to be productive in any space. Most of Rules for Thieves was written in my college library and dorm room, and most of the Seekers series was written in the tiny corner of a small apartment. But, as of last year, I’m lucky enough to have a proper home office, and it’s become my favorite writing space. I’ve lined the walls with my bookshelves so that I can be surrounded by stories, and I have multiple dry-erase boards for jotting down outlines and notes. Most importantly, there’s a window that’s low enough for my little dog to look outside, so she’s endlessly entertained barking at all the people, dogs, and squirrels passing by while I work.
10. If you weren’t a writer, what would your desired profession be?
Honestly, I have difficulty imagining myself doing anything else! Even if I weren’t actively writing, I’d still want to work with books in some capacity. I love doing editorial work to help other authors strengthen their stories. I also very seriously considered becoming a librarian. Anything where I can surround myself with books!
11. What are you working on now?
I have a lot of projects I’m really excited about! I can’t share details right now, unfortunately, but I have more than one middle-grade novel in progress, and hopefully I’ll have news to share about them soon. :)
To find out more about Alexandra's books visit https://alexandraott.com
Connect with her on Instagram @alexottbooks
On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/alexandraottbooks
Journey to Zentobia
When ten-year-old Maggie and her older brother Peter discover a portal inside a rainbow, they stumble through it and end up in another world. But Zentobia is not what it seems. A sinister plot is brewing, and the amateur detectives are the only ones who can stop it. With danger on their trail and mysteries emerging, can they keep Zentobia safe before time runs out?
Perfect for fans of The Land of Stories series.
All magic is banished in Zentobia, but when an evil leader wants to bring back dark magic, Maggie and Peter risk it all to stop him. They join forces with the villain’s sneaky daughter who possesses a powerful secret. When Maggie’s instincts prompt her to investigate a hidden underground tunnel, she discovers a mysterious book carving that holds the answer to the future of magic. Before long, the siblings unravel more clues about Zentobia, including why it’s connected to their hometown by a rainbow. Can they stop the biggest threat Zentobia has ever faced and make it back to Hailsville, or will dark magic destroy the world forever?
With exciting twists and turns around every corner of this children's book, the journey for Maggie and Peter is just beginning.
Return to Zentobia
The action-packed sequel available now on Amazon!
Ten-year-old Maggie Miller discovers the Book of Magic is the key to defeating a villain and embarks on a quest to stop a sinister plot in this sequel that’s perfect for fans of The Land of Stories series.
After foiling a villain’s attempt to bring back dark magic in the mysterious world of Zentobia, Maggie and Peter learn a new threat exists. When the villain’s daughter sends Maggie a plea for help to locate the Book of Magic and save her mom, the siblings travel through the rainbow portal to rescue their friends in this action-packed sequel to Journey to Zentobia.
Securing the Book of Magic is no easy task, even for a seasoned amateur detective like Maggie. The book contains a powerful spell that will prevent dark magic from destroying Zentobia and spreading to Maggie and Peter’s home, but it’s buried deep in a maze of enchanted tunnels.
During their quest, dangerous beasts hunt them, vines transform to monstrous creatures, and rising flood water blocks their path. A wrong turn dumps the group into a secret world that’s evaporating by the minute. Casting a spell with an ingredient that’s hidden in an enchanted boneyard offers their only hope to return to Zentobia.
And when the villain’s daughter discovers she is the heir to the Book of Magic, will she deliver the spell to defeat her father? Or will someone unleash a bigger scheme with Maggie and Peter’s hometown as the target?
The Jessa Becker Files on Kindle Vella
Read the first three episodes for free!
New episodes each week.
When mysterious hit-and-runs rattle neighboring towns, investigative reporter Jessa Becker fights for a front-page story. After the bodies vanish, Homicide Detective Chase Donovan recruits Jessa to help solve the case and restore his disastrous love life. But danger emerges when they infiltrate the secret auction of a devious scientist who claims to raise the dead. Worse yet, Jessa is exposed as a target. With the biggest story of her career on the line, will she land it, or die trying?
Journey to Zentobia Five Star Reviews!
"What an enchanting, magical adventure! I had so much fun!
I absolutely loved this. I loved the sibling relationship b/n Maggie & Peter, & it made me miss my own brother. Lol I also loved the idea of the portal being in the end of a rainbow! So creative. The world building was amazing, & I felt like I was flying around w/them in Zentobia in my own flying shoes! Very atmospheric! I LOVE Zentobia-the rainbow, the waterfalls, the shoes, the talking animals, & so much more all sound so amazing! The story flowed so nicely, & there was always something happening, & high stakes as well-which make for a fast-paced read. Themes of friendship, family, never giving up, & doing what’s right. Highly recommend! Such a fun, exciting read. That ending has me needing a book 2 now! Loved it & want more. Can’t wait to see what happens-I’m assuming there will be a book 2🤞🏻Absolutely beautiful cover by Kim Dingwall as well!💜"
- Reviewed by Belle's Middle Grade
"Journey to Zentobia by Stacy D'Alessandro is an exciting, colorful sci-fi fantasy adventure that children will fall in love with. This author sifts together all the elements kids love, and some adults will find this engaging and entertaining as well. The writing is full of energy and emotion, with unexpected plot points and encounters. The pacing is just right, and young readers will instantly be locked into the story, thanks to the author's imagination and good instincts for what kids look for in a sci-fi fantasy adventure. For a pulse-pounding read, young audiences will love Journey to Zentobia by Stacy D'Alessandro.
It is a must-read."
- Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers’ Favorite
"This is such a brilliant middle grade read! I dove straight into it, after reading the blurb and think it is a brilliant story for young readers. It has a great level of detail, with fun and exciting characters. The story flowed so well and stayed exciting and fun throughout. I read portions of it to my daughter, and she loved it, thinking it was loads of fun. It is definitely one that I want her to read, as her reading level rises. Overall a great read and definitely one I recommend!"
-Natural Bri's Reviews
"Aimed at middle readers, the book has plenty of action and a lively style. Young readers will find this a reader-friendly selection, with the occasional vocabulary-building challenge to keep them on their toes."
- The BookLIfe Prize
"I bought this for my 10 year old son as he loves fantasy and adventure stories and I thought he'd like to read this. This book has got him completely absorbed it's amazing. He's not a particularly quick reader, gets bored very easily and drops things very quickly but NOT with this book! It's been days now and he is completely absorbed it so great to see he is getting so much enjoyment out of it. I've got my daughter asking if she can read it next... absolutely!! All I can say to you is, do buy it they'll love!" - Amazon review
"If your child loves fantasy fiction this is a great book to choose. My 9 year old loves the colorful characters and storyline. She's a big fan of The Land of Stories series (Chris Colfer) so Journey to Zentobia was a great find to compliment her taste."
- Amazon review
"My daughter really enjoyed reading Journey to Zentobia so much, and she didn't want to stop reading it!!! It was such a fun, intriguing, and captivating story with so much excitement and adventure! While reading this magical fantasy book, you feel like you are joining the main characters as they embark on such an enthralling and enchanting journey! Author Stacy D'Alessandro incorporates so much creativity, vivid imagination, and thrilling adventure into this lively and animated story. It is a wonderful and fantastic book for both kids and adults, and we really hope that there will be a sequel in the future!"
- Amazon review
Journey to Zentobia Book Trailer
Return to Zentobia Book Trailer
Stacy is a freelance writer who specializes in writing feature and business stories, press releases, author bios, newsletter and web site copy. To chat about a project you need help with or ask about pricing information, contact her direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Routine trips to Disneyland with her daughter played a role in Stacy's passion for storytelling.
Her daughter inspired the idea for Journey to Zentobia on a road trip home from one of their visits to the happiest place on Earth. They would pass a piece of paper back and forth in the car and each write part of a story. Her daughter's idea for a brother and sister to transport back in time through a rainbow portal stuck with Stacy for almost two years before she sat in front of the computer and began to write Journey to Zentobia.
Though she changed her daughter's original idea of the main characters going back in time to ending up in another world, the credit still goes to her innovative, young mind.
When she wasn’t working on this children's book, she wrote freelance stories for
newspapers and magazines. Prior to that, she worked in the public relations
industry in Las Vegas for more than 25 years.
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