Today I am interviewing Alesha Escobar, a fellow time-travel enthusiast, and author of the paranormal fantasy series, The Gray Tower Trilogy, which is currently on sale for 0.99¢!
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DJ: Hey Alesha! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Alesha Escobar: Of course! I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, I’m an unrepentant caffeine addict, and when I’m not writing, I’m probably stalking other authors whom I adore. I enjoy reading the classics, as well as sci-fi and fantasy, and the Hellblazer comics. I’m married to an amazing geeky guy who storyboards for The Simpsons TV show.
DJ: What is the Gray Tower trilogy about?
Alesha: It’s about an alternate World War II, with a supernatural twist. The Nazis have recruited warlocks and vampires to help them win the war, and British intelligence has responded by hiring wizards trained by the benevolent yet aloof Gray Tower. There’s magic, espionage, heart-pounding action, with a dash of humor and romance thrown in.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the Gray Tower trilogy?
Alesha: The historical research was a huge influence. There really was a Special Operations Executive (SOE) spy organization during WWII, comprised mostly of women who Winston Churchill believed would go unnoticed while infiltrating Nazi-occupied territory but could still deal a lot of damage. He called them “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” with good reason. In terms of the fantasy aspect, an important influence was Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time). I was fascinated by the structure of the Aes Sedai society and how they functioned at various levels in greater society. Readers who are familiar with that will pick up on the parallel structure presented with the Gray Tower and its wizards.
DJ: Could you actually tell us a little about the first book in the trilogy, The Tower’s Alchemist, too? (Seeing as how this is where readers will be starting) 😛
Alesha: Well, I don’t know, some people like to start mid-way, who am I to judge? All kidding aside, The Tower’s Alchemist follows Isabella George, a Gray Tower dropout. She’s an alchemist and spy for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), but she’s also growing weary–friends and colleagues are disappearing or turning up dead, and it weighs on her that she could be next. She decides to take one final mission before retiring: extract a rogue alchemist from Nazi-occupied France and destroy the deadly weapons he’s been creating. She’s confident at first, but then she finds that someone within her organization has betrayed her, a vampiric warlock is stalking her in order to steal her powers, and the Master Wizards who trained her want her dead. I was thrilled when this book broke the Top 100 in Genre Fiction at Amazon (and made best seller in a few categories), and now the next step is a screenplay adaptation.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters in the trilogy? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them?
Alesha: Isabella has a great heart, but sometimes she can be headstrong. She honestly wants to make a difference in the world. Readers who’ve reviewed the book have said they sympathized with her because of this, and despite her imperfections, she holds to a code of honor and tries to do right by others. One of her interesting habits is buying hard-to-get magical items off a French bootlegger. Come to think of it, she has some shady contacts.
Brande Drahomir is a bit of an enigma, insanely loyal to the Gray Tower yet professing to want to help Isabella all the time. He strikes me as very conflicted, and in the story, he has to make a choice as to whose side he’s truly on.
Neal Warren (you’ll know him when you see him). If Sherlock Holmes could cast spells, you’d get Neal. Oh, and he has a bit of a naughty side.
One of my main villains, Nikon Praskovya (I don’t know why I have so much fun writing the bad guys). Nikon’s a Russian spy with telekinetic abilities. She’s the thorn in Isabella’s side.
DJ: What is the alternate world for the Gray Tower trilogy like?
Alesha: It’s much like the historical 1940’s but rooted in a world where magic exists openly and “historically” but has steadily decreased in the 20th Century. The Gray Tower, since the Middle Ages, trained people to control their abilities and sent them back out into the world, but they are rivaled by Octavian Eckhard (the warlock leader who partners with the Nazis) who believes people with magical abilities are superior and should be leading the world. Meanwhile, the Vatican quietly trains its own people, believing their powers to be divine gifts. One of my characters, Father Gabriel, belongs to this third faction.
DJ: Since this series has wizards, I’m going to assume that with those wizards comes magic! So please, what is your magic system about?
Alesha: There are different schools of magic to train people according to their abilities. If you’re tested by the Gray Tower, they can determine if you’re a natural born alchemist (they can taste/detect metals, manipulate them, and create potions), mentalist (mind control), or philosopher (think: super-Sherlock with Word of Power magic). Not everyone, of course, is born with these abilities. Some are stronger, some weaker, and some even have secondary abilities on top of their first.
Those who are religious in the story believe magical abilities are residual gifts humanity lost through the Fall of Man, while the skeptical believe it’s just the way some humans have evolved and it needs further study (hence, a mad scientist collects wizards for this purpose).
What frightens them the most, though, are Cruenti warlocks. The Cruenti are the source of vampire legends. In the world of The Gray Tower Trilogy, a Cruenti will mostly leave regular people alone and prey upon wizards. By consuming a wizards’ blood, a Cruenti can increase his power and even absorb the abilities of his victim. However, in order to become a Cruenti, you have to make a demonic pact (and not even all warlocks are willing to make such a pact). Eventually a Cruenti degenerates and becomes so warped that he’s no longer a man (or woman), but a beast. These are the Black Wolves, and they’re pretty vicious.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing the Gray Tower trilogy?
Alesha: The journey and growth of Isabella and several other main characters, how some of them changed. And, as I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed writing the villains. My favorite has to be Nikon Praskovya, because she’s smart, a survivor, and she’s a great foil to Isabella.
DJ: The Gray Tower trilogy was completed a few years back with the release of Circadian Circle – since then, what have readers been talking about most once they finished it? How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers?
Alesha: I get a lot of people asking me to add a fourth book and tell me they don’t care if it’s a “trilogy,” they want part four (laughs). I’m thinking about a novella and some shorts for the Gray Tower world because I know they’d love it, but I’m also ready to finish up my newest projects. How else will I buy more chocolate?
I’ve really enjoyed many of the reviews, especially the one where one blogger asks, “What the hell did I just read?!” and goes on to say that the book is a great mix of magic, espionage, and action. I’ve noticed that most of them [the reviewers] really connect with Isabella as a character, they loved the action, scenery, and rich layers of story. I think the Tower’s Alchemist alone has around 50+ reviews, ranging from “I love it!” to “Meh.” But, you can’t please everyone, and that’s okay. I’m aiming to woo and keep those I can please.
DJ: What was your goal in writing the Gray Tower trilogy? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when it is finally told?
Alesha: I primarily wanted a fun espionage fantasy in an alternate history setting. I would hope that some of the themes running through the series resonate with people, such as the cost of loyalty, the depth of forgiveness, corruption, redemption, and the need to keep fighting even when things look grim.
DJ: I’m always curious when authors finish a series, how close to the original course they stayed when it is finally completed or if it ended up evolving and changing. Did the plot stay the same as you had first imagined it? How about the ending? Or the evolution of your characters?
Alesha: Oh boy, there are some characters I created who never made it into the story, other characters who I thought would live who ended up dying, and characters who escaped death and showed me why they needed to make it to the end of the series. Even with outlines and carefully crafted plots, you have to be open to the characters (and maybe the story) taking on a life of their own. I use my outlines as guideposts, but I also leave room for inspiration.
DJ: I’ve actually heard that this is being adapted into a screenplay?
Alesha: Yes! I have a B.A. in English with a Writing Emphasis (communications, media writing, and journalism). I’m working on the screenplay adaptation and will shop it around to my contacts. I did get an offer from someone for an animated film adaptation…maybe we’ll see that one day? But after seeing shows like “Agent Carter,” I would love to see a live action version of The Tower’s Alchemist.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from the Gray Tower trilogy that you can share with us?
Alesha: “Some nights I’d just sit and enjoy the banter and raucous jokes of the Air Force officers, or watch with amusement as one of the uptight businessmen asked one of the cute twenty-something girls to dance. Sometimes I’d sit at the bar with two or three other SOE agents, and we’d just give each other the I-Know-What-You’re-Going-Through look without uttering a word.” –Isabella
“That reminds me, I ran into his daughter a few days ago. She lit me on fire, shot me, and tried to make my heart explode…I like her.” –Marc Eckhard
“Only the guilty have something to confess, sir.” –Reneé Apolline
DJ: What else have you been working on lately? Aka What is next for you?
Alesha: I’ve completed two short stories, one is “Logan 6” in the Masters of Time anthology (which you already know about, fellow time traveler), and the other is in the upcoming Magic Unveiled anthology, “The Black Dagger Gods.” I’m currently writing a yet-to-be-named dystopian fantasy novel.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/aleshaescobar
Author Newsletter: http://www.aleshaescobar.com/newsletter/
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about the Gray Tower trilogy that we haven’t talked about yet?
Alesha: That the story was born from a writing challenge issued to me, and it became so much more. I’ve poured a lot of heart, time, research, and passion into this series, and I hope that it shines through to readers and potential readers. I’ve been writing stories to entertain people since I was seven, and I just don’t see myself stopping! Thanks to all the amazing readers and bloggers who’ve been on this journey with me.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Alesha: Yes! Just a reminder to new readers that Amazon bundles my individual books into a collection for $7.98, but I offer the exact same trilogy as a “box set” for $5.99–however, because of my special BookBub promotion, you can get the box set containing all three books for just 0.99¢ (Sept. 28 – Oct. 4).
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Alesha: Thank you! I appreciate you hosting me
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*** The Gray Tower Trilogy is available TODAY!!! And for a limited time (Sept 14 – Oct 4) will only be 0.99¢!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Three full-length Amazon bestselling fantasy novels in one collection: The Tower’s Alchemist (now being adapted to screenplay!), Dark Rift, and Circadian Circle.
Be a spy. Save the world.
If only it were that simple.
The Nazis have unleashed occult forces throughout Europe, and the Allies are forced to recruit wizards to help them fight in the streets of Europe and in the shadows.
Among them is the battle weary spy, Isabella George, a Gray Tower dropout trained in Alchemy. Longing for retirement and a life of peace, she accepts one final job-extract a deadly warlock from Nazi occupied France and prevent him from unleashing an alchemical weapon that will devour the continent.
But France is crawling with the Cruenti, vampiric warlocks who feed off other wizards. When things don’t go according to plan, one Cruenti sets his deadly eyes on her.
Plans within plans. Plots versus counter-plots. Heists gone wrong, Vatican wizards, and the greatest manipulation of history that has ever been seen, is just a taste of what Isabella George is in for, in this action-packed supernatural spy thriller.
Who am I? I’m a lover of good stories, of biting sarcasm and chocolate. I write fantasy and science fiction, with a dash of romance and humor mixed in.
I’m the author of the Gray Tower Trilogy: The Tower’s Alchemist, Dark Rift, and Circadian Circle, as well as the short story Logan 6 in the “Masters of Time” anthology.
Please connect with me via Facebook and my website (www.aleshaescobar.com) to receive updates and access to special offers.