My Interview with Author Vanessa Ravel

My Interview with Author Vanessa Ravel

Vanessa Ravel, Author – Four O’Clock Alice

 

 

A little girl. An ancient enemy. A shared past.

Alice Davies wouldn’t hurt a fly, but death seems to follow her everywhere. And as the body count rises, people in Dolwicke start to whisper.

If you like ancient myths and portal fantasies, you’ll love this surreal tale that will pull you down the rabbit hole for the adventure of a lifetime.

 

Hello Vanessa, thanks for the interview!

I just finished Four O’clock Alice and I have so many thoughts. I found it suspenseful with Alice Davies one of the most fascinating, engaging, and endearing characters I’ve read in a long time.

Now, most of us know the story of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, but yours is a different kind of Alice and I’m still not sure of the reference between the two stories. Would you please explain?  And also, if you don’t cover this, I’d love to know where you got the idea for this amazing story!

Vanessa – Thank you for inviting me to chat, Ingrid! I’m so happy to hear you liked Four O’clock Alice. It was my first novel—my baby, if you will—so I’m really pleased to know that she turned out okay! Like most first-time parents, I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing (I’m still learning with this next one, but I like to think I’m getting the hang of it!)

The relationship between my Alice and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is nuanced. I wanted to create a character with the same kind of curiosity and wonder as Lewis Carroll’s Alice, so I peppered my book with allusions to Carroll’s story. I also wanted to use Alice in Wonderland to establish exposition and setting (Edwardian England) and to show that the book was contemporary (though Carroll published his work 50 years earlier).

As it turns out, those superficial allusions opened a Pandora’s box of hidden connections between mine and Carroll’s story that, thanks to your great question, I just noticed. For example, both stories can be considered coming-of-age stories. In each story, the girl learns about herself and the world around her, and experiences fabulous and frightening things. She physically grows (and shrinks!) and for better or worse, Alice goes on the adventure of a lifetime.

Of course, it’s all subjective—some may see Alice in Wonderland as a political allegory and my book as a paperweight, but that’s what’s fun about literature analysis, isn’t it? The meaning is in the eye of the beholder.

A lot of people have asked me where I got the idea for Alice, and unfortunately, the story is really not that interesting! I don’t know how often this happens to other authors, but in 2012, I sat down to write a completely different book (I’m not really an “outliner”). Yes, the main character was a little girl. Yes, the genre was gothic/dark fantasy. But that’s pretty much where the similarities ended.

What happened was I wrote myself into a rabbit hole and instead of trunking my beloved first novel, I dug deeper and found Alice on the other side. Moral of the story: sometimes you have dig through mud to find clay!

– I really like that! “Moral of the story: sometimes you have dig through mud to find clay!” Kind of reminds me of your field “epidemiology” where you must dig through all the cases to find the “clay” so to speak. Right? Or am I way off base here?

Vanessa – Nope, you’re spot-on, that’s what epidemiologists do. They dig through a bunch of data to uncover the hidden associations between exposures and diseases. And then they write papers about it! (Clearly my favorite part about being an epidemiologist is writing the papers)

I – And like all readers who enjoy getting lost in the next big adventure, I’m not going to ask you about the ins and out of your story or your characters. Though I must say, I did marvel at how your story unfolds. Well done!! It was a crazy and wild ride and I’m so very glad I had the pleasure!

Vanessa – So glad you enjoyed your trip down the rabbit hole!

I – I must ask why gothic/dark fantasy?

Vanessa – I didn’t choose this genre; it chose me. Judging by my reading track record, I would probably have chosen something more steeped in horror (which is what I’m writing now) or at least supernatural. However, that isn’t to say I don’t like dark fantasy; most of my favorite films fall into this genre (Pan’s Labyrinth, Edward Scissorhands, The Devil’s Backbone, etc.).  The Gothic part kind of snuck up on me too. Even though I don’t have much experience reading those kinds of books, for some reason the Edwardian setting really spoke to me for Alice. There’s a certain romantic appeal to the period around the time of the Great War, something about not having antibiotics I guess, that’s both horrific and enchanting. It would be cool to visit that period—though not without a pocket full of Azithromycin.

 I – Okay, so can you give us a sneak peek at what’s next for Alice?

Vanessa – Alice is a standalone novel, although now that you mention it, maybe there’s more story to tell…

I -I certainly hope so! Alice is truly a great character. So, what’s next from Vanessa Ravel?

Vanessa – Speaking of series, I do have one planned down the line. I’m hoping to start on it after my upcoming release, Demon Dance. This gritty short horror story collection is a big departure from Alice, and came from somewhere completely other within me. I think the strangeness of Alice is still there, though, and if you dig deep enough, so is the heart, but it’s surrounded by a lot of barbed wire.

 I – Sounds great! I love a good horror story!

 

Okay, time for some fun! You can answer any questions below you want to answer:

Where would you love to take a hot-air balloon ride real or imaginary?

Vanessa –Assuming you could tranquilizer dart me and drag me into said hot-air balloon (not a fan of heights), it would be nice to visit the past. Back when I was five and my only worry was how long I was going to get to play on the swings before it was time to go home.

I – I love your attitude, your strength, reading your bio on your website you really are amazing! Aside from writing, what are your other creative pursuits, goals, dreams, what have you?

Vanessa – I do declare, that’s probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me! I don’t have much time to do anything creatively but write nowadays, but I do like to draw and make stuffed toy animals. I used to make them as Christmas gifts. I should get back to doing that!

Vanessa w Dudley before he passed in 2014

I – Stuffed toy animals, what a great gift idea!

What are your other passions?

Vanessa – Aside from writing, I’d say my passion is animals. Specifically, dogs, if my Facebook profile is any indication. I have five at the moment, but there’s always room in my heart (though not necessarily in my house) for more. I’d love to have a big plot of land to build a rescue or sanctuary. Better get working on that next book…

I – Please do! I think your readers and the homeless dogs of this world would much appreciate it.

Favorite genre to read? A genre outside your norm that you’d like to read?

Vanessa – Definitely horror! I’m a major fan of Stephen King. I actually love how boring his books are. It sounds strange, but I think the true King fans will know what I’m talking about—at least I hope so… for all I know, they’ll want to burn me at the stake for calling their idol boring. In any case, what I mean is that for me, the best parts of his work—short stories and novels alike—are the exposition, where basically nothing happens. Gives you a chance to fall in love with the characters before you even get to the story. It would be interesting to read a science fiction book, but I’m afraid I just wouldn’t ‘get’ it!

I -I totally get what you mean about the “boring bits” in Stephen King books. I LOVE those!! Mainly because you know he’s introducing you to his characters and then there’s the sudden buildup that you just weren’t expecting but, “Bam,” it hits you square in the face like a really scary snowball. I LOVE Stephen King with John Saul a close second, oh, and Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby was awesome. And my absolute favorite book ever so far is “IT.”

What’s your favorite flavor ice cream?

Vanessa –That would have to be pistachio

I– Flip flops or sandals?

Vanessa – Flip flops all day long. I’m an L.A. girl, after all!

I– Favorite place to veg?

Vanessa – Being a vegetarian, it’s hard to find “acceptable,” let alone edible food at non-vegan restaurants apart from side salads and French fries and mozzarella sticks. We just discovered that Fatburger sells the Impossible Burger, which is an impossibly awesome meat-free, plant-based burger that tastes exactly like meat. So, my boyfriend and I have kind of been living at Fatburger on the weekends. Don’t judge.

I – I asked where you like to veg? Sorry, that’s probably a generational thing. I meant relax, hangout, unwind, but the food thing was awesome, didn’t know you were a vegetarian until then. 🙂 I’d like to include both if that’s acceptable to you.

VanessaOh, LOL to the generational thing. You know, I should know what that means. The first time I heard that was in the movie “Clueless” when they were talking about “vegging” out on the couch all day long. Duh. It’s actually what I thought about when I read your question! But circuitously, what I replied with actually makes sense, because I really don’t veg out except when I go out to eat. I’m kind of a shut-in! Since I’m super shy, I don’t really go out and do things apart from car rides and walks and hiking in the forest and desert (not really “vegging out” – kind of the opposite LOL). So I guess Fatburger and the local vegan place is where we kind of loiter/”veg.” And the couch with the dogs, of course!

I – Your earliest happy memory?

Vanessa – Seeing Santa in my house! I know now that it was a false memory, that there was no fat man in a red suit in my house (no wonder my mom kind of freaked out when I told her). But it sure made my four-year-old self happy!

Your favorite horror movie actor?

Vanessa – Interesting question! I’ll give two answers to this one: my female favorite would be Sigourney Weaver (gotta love the Alien movies) and the male favorite is Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs is in my top 5 movies and is my favorite book!). Of course, there are a ton of great character actors that totally make the genre but those are my two big-name actors.

I – Your favorite horror author(s)?

Vanessa – In case you hadn’t noticed… Stephen King, I also like Dean Koontz. Sadly, I don’t read enough to be able to scrape up a real list.

I – First movie or first book, both 😊

Vanessa – My first book was a picture book called Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema about an African shepherd boy that must find a way to end a drought that threatens all the wildlife in the plain. I think first movie that really left a mark on me was Killer Klowns from Outer Space. I was about four and already into scary stuff. Easy to do when your sister is ten years older than you and it’s the late eighties, i.e., the era of bad horror films!

I – Killer Klowns from Outer Space! Hysterical!

Any question I didn’t ask during the interview that you want me to ask?

Vanessa – I can’t think of anything… you were very thorough, Ingrid!

Thank you, Vanessa, for the interview. It’s been an absolute pleasure!

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