seekers of the wild realm, by Alexandra ott
Alexandra Ott writes some of the best underdog girl characters in middle grade fiction. I wanted to ask her all sorts of questions about that and lucky for us, she said yes! So let's not waste anymore time...
Where did the idea for the Seekers series come from?
I’ve always wanted to write a book about magical creatures. I love animals, and as a young reader, books about fantastical beings always sparked my imagination. And as a fantasy writer, it’s so much fun to envision new kinds of creatures and figure out what magical abilities they might have, as well as exploring classic fantasy creatures like dragons and unicorns. That’s what drew me to the Seekers idea—a world where all different kinds of magical creatures exist together, and we get to see them all!
Your books (Thieves series and Seekers) deal with girls trying to break into a boys’ world. Why do you think this theme resonates so much with you as an author?
Something else I’ve always loved in books, ever since I was a young reader, is ambitious female characters! I was a pretty ambitious kid myself, so I was naturally drawn to stories about girls with big dreams and determination to go after their goals. I want my books to be empowering and inspiring for my readers, the way my favorite books were for me. But I also want to be honest—chasing big dreams isn’t easy, especially for young girls dealing with systems that are designed against them, and I wanted to acknowledge some of those challenges truthfully. Both of the main female characters in my books, Bryn and Alli, face hardships, but I hope their determination in the face of that is even more rewarding and empowering for readers.
I love your descriptions of the Wild Realm in Seekers. Did you have a vision for what it would look like or did you build it as you went? Did you base any of it on real places?
I did draw inspiration from real places, primarily Iceland! I knew that I wanted the Wild Realm to be located on an island, somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, and I knew it needed to have several different kinds of environments that would suit different kinds of magical creatures. Iceland has many of the characteristics I was looking for—a large island with lots of dramatic landscapes and geographic features, including volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, hot springs, lava fields, and so on. It served as the perfect inspirational starting point for imagining the Realm, and then I built onto it from there as the story developed.
Bryn and Ari have a reluctant friendship. The tension between them as competitors really snaps. Did this come naturally as the characters developed or did you have to work at it to get it right?
Bryn and Ari’s relationship definitely took a lot of development. The rivalry between them was there from the start, but I had to balance that rivalry with their emerging friendship as the book continues, which is a tricky balance. I didn’t get it right in my early drafts, but my very wise editorial team helped me fine-tune their relationship into something that feels much more natural.
What is the weirdest thing you have done during the pandemic?
I happened to adopt a puppy shortly before the pandemic, which has made working from home more of a challenge, to say the least. My attempts to entertain the tiny but ferocious bundle of fur have led to me shouting things like “Fingers are not for biting!” and “Don’t eat that!” at all hours, which I’m sure has my neighbors very concerned. ;)