The Friday Book Feature
Xan Alexander likes being the controversial force behind the pen name XZA. She’s brazen in interviews – never more so than when she uses one to seduce charming book reviewer Michael. But he seems ready for a relationship, and Xan refuses to have one. Her uncle’s suicide over a devastating break-up twenty years ago taught her that love is fleeting and dangerous. Accidentally spending ten years with Michael does little to change Xan’s opinion until she decides to look deeper into the truths she takes for granted.
College student Jessie is ecstatic to catch up with her old friend Willa. When Willa gives her an XZA novel she can’t stop raving about, Jessie hopes that reading it will help them reconnect. She’s not prepared for XZA’s books to take over her life, supercharge her vulnerable friendship, and shake up the relationship she clings to with her opinionated boyfriend Dick.
Included in the interwoven stories of Xan and Jessie are excerpts from XZA’s three novels.
CreateSpace (for printed copies): https://www.createspace.com/3914999
US Amazon: XZA: A Novel
UK Amazon: XZA: A Novel
Cassandra Leuthold lives in South Bend, Indiana, with her writer husband and moody cat. She started writing at age seven and never stopped. Her other interests include sewing, researching family history, and relaxing in nature. Cassandra holds a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies and a Master’s in English.
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Green Hill Press
October 26, 2013
Welcome Cassandra and thanks for joining us today!
Can you tell us a little about your latest novel/release?
After spending nine years trying to find the right way to tell this story, I’m proud to finally release it. It’s about two very different women: Xan, who’s not afraid to say anything, and Jessie, who’s afraid to make waves. Xan is the woman I wanted to be when I grew up: fearless and outspoken with friends to match. It’s easy to see yourself and the people you know in these characters.
Are you a pre-planning plotter or a go with the flow writer?
I’m more of a planner, but I’m always pleasantly surprised when something pops up that works perfectly. I try to get the best of both worlds.
How do you come up with titles for your novels, do you get the idea for the story first or does that come after you have the title?
It’s a mix of both. XZA was a title and a set of initials for Xan’s character for years before I found the right name for them to belong to. Sometimes, finding the title first helps me find the right focus and tone for a story. Other times, I write the story and have to hunt for the right title.
Has anyone influenced your writing style and chosen genre?
I cross genres and styles, but there are four authors I’d credit with influencing my writing. I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan, no surprise to anyone who’s read my blog. He’s wildly imaginative, and his descriptions flow like they’re effortless. I’ve loved Amy Tan for years for her true-to-life representation of family relations and her nods to her own heritage. For fresh, unique characters, you can’t beat the short stories of Flannery O’Connor. She had an unbelievable way of bringing characters to life quickly and relateably. Last but not least, Lois Duncan, who introduced me to flawed but beautiful characters and especially the supernatural.
What was the best book you have read in the last few months and why did you love it?
Blue Angel by Francine Prose. I was instantly hooked by the premise of a not-so-professional relationship between a college professor and his young, brilliant student. It pulled no punches without being lewd. The scenes of college students critiquing each other’s work were realistic enough to make me cringe and laugh out loud. The ending answered the important questions without giving everything away.
Which would you rather do and why:
a. Base Jumping
b. Hot Air Ballooning
c. Deep Sea Diving with Sharks (No Cage – muwahahha!)
d. A Desert Trek
C. Deep sea diving with sharks, no cage. Diabolical? Yes, but I love animals, and I’m obsessed with sharks. My husband and I got to pet small sharks on our honeymoon in Indianapolis. They were velvet soft and so delicate, you couldn’t touch their fins, or you could bruise them.
If HG Wells turned up in his Time Machine in your living room, would you get on-board and where would you go first?
The Victorian Era. The more I researched it for a steampunk project, the more it fascinated me. They had many more inventions and technological advances than most people realize. I love the fashions, the shapes, and the hats.
Out of the following places to get inspiration, which one would you choose & why:
a. Deserted Island
b. Sprawling Megatropolis
c. Magical Forest
d. Outer Space
All of them, and for the same book. It would give a story incredible depth to explore such different places. The landscapes would lend different atmospheres and feelings. The way that people survive and relate to each other in each area would be intriguing to uncover.
Are you working on anything new right now, and can you share the details with us?
I’m working on a short story called “Harlequin” about a boy who finds a harlequin mask in his great-grandfather’s attic. He reaches adulthood without ever having outgrown the wearing of masks. Even when he meets a woman who shares an appreciation for masks, their relationship doesn’t race to happily-ever-after. It’s dark but haunting with a light mystical element.
What’s your personal take on E-Books, and do you prefer reading them over a traditional hard copy?
I like both. I like the customization that readers can get with ebooks. On the other hand, especially if it’s an author I admire, I have to have a hard copy. I have to hold the bulk of their genius in my hands. But I also appreciate the lightness of my Kindle and how many books I can download without taking up extra space in my house.
Very many thanks to my guest author Cassandra for sharing her fab novel and a little of her life with us today.
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