Alexandra Sokoloff is a bestselling, award-winning author of supernatural, paranormal and crime thrillers. Her accolades include winning a Thriller Award and earning nominations for both a Bram Stoker Award and an Anthony Award. To date, she has written eleven novels.
Alexandra has also sold original suspense and horror scripts and written novel adaptations for Hollywood. She’s worked with major film studios Sony, Disney, Fox and Miramax, and for producers such as Michael Bay and David Heyman.
It was an honor to sit down with her to discuss writing. In this Q&A, she explains how her experiences with traditional and hybrid publishers have differed, what she finds most challenging and fulfilling about writing, and her definition of career success.
Can you tell us about your most recent release, BITTER MOON? Also, I understand it’s a part of a series, but can it also be read as a standalone?
BITTER MOON is the fourth book in the Huntress Moon thrillers, about a haunted FBI agent on the hunt for a female serial killer. Which arguably doesn’t exist in real life. There’s never been a female serial killer in the vein of the infamous ones we all know: Bundy, Gacy, Dahmer, Jack the Ripper, etc. Yes, that includes Aileen Wuornos—according to profilers, she was a spree killer with a vigilante motivation.
So the why and how of all that: who this woman is, why she does what she does, is a big part of the mystery and suspense of the books. And the twist of a woman killing men allows me to turn hated tropes of violence against women inside out, and explore the misogyny of our society and “justice” system.
BITTER MOON is both a prequel to the other books and the next book in the series: it tracks an investigation of a horrific series of attacks on young high school girls, but the two main characters/investigators are separated by sixteen years in time. It’s an almost supernatural dance they’re doing with each other.
As any reader of the books will tell you, you will get the most out of the series if you start from the beginning, with HUNTRESS MOON, and read in order. The books take place continuously, like a TV series, one month apart.
You’ve been published by both traditional and hybrid publishers. What, in your experience, have been the most significant differences between the two?
Is Thomas & Mercer a hybrid, do you think? Because I hear APub (Amazon Publishing) called a traditional publisher, but as you know yourself, Amazon really thinks out of the box. I can get behind calling them a hybrid!
I published my first four novels, my Haunted supernatural thrillers, with a Big Five publisher, but I was so disillusioned with my publisher’s inability to work quickly to adapt to the new reality of digital publishing that I took a huge chance and self-published the first in my Huntress series.
Thomas & Mercer was watching the success of that book and they offered me a great deal to go with them for the rest of the series. I love their marketing strategies and their sense of being a team with their authors. I know I can bring them ideas and work with them to implement them, and I trust them to do the very best marketing for the books that they can devise.
They get the digital age. Traditional publishers, well… let’s just say promotion was a grueling and frustrating experience.
How long does it generally take you to finish a first draft of a novel?
If I’m doing nothing else, I can do a rough first draft in two or three months, and then it takes another two to make it in any way readable.
But there’s so much other STUFF we have to do as authors, that five months is an ideal more than a reality.
How many drafts do you usually write before you reach the final draft?
Um… seventeen? I do a very extensive outline, fifty or sixty pages, then bash out a really, really, REALLY rough first draft, and then do all kinds of layering drafts focusing on different aspects of the story: sensory detail, character work, set pieces, suspense, sex, that kind of thing.
I also do several passes with input from beta readers. So yeah, a lot.
Do you have a writing schedule? If so, can you share a little about it?
I generally start writing as soon as I wake up in the morning. And then I keep banker’s hours, with a break somewhere to work out.
I guess my hours are about nine a.m. to four p.m., with of course those annoying forays into business or you know, life, eating up two or three hours of the day.
On a deadline I’ll write as far into the night as I have to.
What do you find most challenging about writing? Most fulfilling?
Most challenging, hmm. All of it?
Most fulfilling is being done with a book, for sure! When it exists as a real story world with real characters that readers get quite passionate about – that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
What are you working on now?
I’m developing a TV series (as a writer and executive producer) based on the Huntress books, and writing Book 5 in the series. Which may be the end of the series – but I have to keep flexible depending on what happens with the TV series.
What’s your definition of career success?
I’m making a great living writing books that combine my love of thrillers with my political and social activism, that may actually have the power to change people’s minds and change lives for the better.
That’s pretty damn close to my ideal.
Do you have a favorite quote about writing?
I’ve always loved this one from Saroyan:
“If you want to be a writer, find a small room in a big city and sit down at your desk in front of the window. When you stand up ten years later, you will be a writer.”
Because it really is about staying in the chair. For ten years.
Learn More About Alexandra Sokoloff:
Note: Alexandra’s Thriller Award-nominated Huntress/FBI series are available free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.