Get ready to learn more about the book Alpaca and Apparitions in this discussion with sapphic author Andi R. Christopher.
Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Andi R. Christopher about Alpaca and Apparitions, writing, reading, and more.
This book is part of the Set in Australia / New Zealand category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.
Why did you write Alpaca and Apparitions?
I began this series of witchy books as a lockdown project with friends, to give us something fun to focus on. I’d written two books based in Wellington about the same couple, and now it was time for a change (while 3rd in the series, Alpaca and Apparitions introduces a new couple and can be read as a standalone). So this time I created a new couple and put them in a rural setting, and mostly just had a lot of fun with it. All my witchy characters have particular passions and kinds of magic, and Mildred is a fibre artist – who better for her to meet than an alpaca farmer? I also wanted to write about community and acceptance and mutual support – there’s a place for darker books (and I write them!) but I think it’s important to imagine how things could be better as well.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
I’m most like Mildred (though I wish I had her level of talent) but I think Anneke’s my favourite. I like her attitude and that she knows what’s important to her. She doesn’t let herself be put in boxes. She has the courage to do her own thing, but family and tradition is also important to her, and she finds a way to combine the two.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I already had a template for titles – the first two in the series are Succulents and Spells and Microscopes and Magic. I wanted to combine an interest of the main character with a magical concept, both beginning with the same letter. It took a few attempts to get it right, but I’m pretty happy with Alpaca and Apparitions.
If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?
There’s already a sequel! Alpaca and Apparitions is followed by Data and Divination, again about a different couple, though there are connections between all the books, followed by Witchcraft and Weddings which returns to the characters in the first two books and concludes the series.
What is your writing process like?
I’ve tried to change, but I’m team pantser all the way. The plus side is that writing is like reading – I’m finding out what happens as I go, and I let my characters surprise me. But it does mean my first drafts are very very rough and I spend a lot of time that could be saved if only I could work out how to plan in a way that works for me…
Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
I’m fortunate enough to have a home office and I love it. I painted it bright green when we moved to this house and I still think it’s a great colour. I have books behind me and a huge print of an octopus on the wall above my desk.
The best thing to help me stay focused would be a clear desk but unfortunately I’m not very good at that. I have a small collection of Thinking Putty which gives me something tactile to play with, and a set of Loops for when the neighbours get out the lawnmowers. I’ve also started lighting scented candles with a different one for each book.
What do you do to get inside your character’s heads?
I feel like this is mostly just about spending time with them. I know it’s often said that most writing doesn’t happen at the keyboard, and it’s true. I can be thinking through what’s going on for my characters, and how they’d react to different situations when I’m cooking, or on the train, or having a shower. The more you get to know them in general, the easier it is to know what they’d do in the situation you’re writing about.
I used to complete detailed character sheets, but I felt like I was just coming up with details for the sake of it, rather than developing an in depth, hollistic sense of who they are.
Do you feel bad putting your characters through the wringer?
Yes, I hate it! I know it’s traditional for writers to delight in it, and I love _reading_ it but I struggle to do it. Traumatic backstory, I can do 100%. But putting a character through the wringer again is tough. Without spoilers, I’m currently working on book 4 in my Charley Deacon series and a character who has worked really hard for everything has made a mistake and isn’t in a good place, and I just want to fix everything for her. It’s tough.
What books did you grow up reading?
After picture books, I grew up reading a lot of early-ish twentieth century children’s books – my favourites included Carrie’s War, Charlotte Sometimes, and heaps by E. Nesbit, Alan Garner, and Noel Streatfeild. They gave me an early taste for fantasy, but also as I read them over and over I started to understand just how skilled the writing was – there’s a scene in Carrie’s War, for example, that’s ostensibly about counting sugar replacement pills but is really about how hard it is to tell someone you’re unhappy and disconnection and it’s absolutely masterful. Understanding that writers did more than just write down events was mind-opening.
From there I moved on to science fiction: Asimov and Wyndham, and from there I mostly just inhaled the library before finding recent fantasy books as an adult. It’s all had an influence one way or another.
Do you only read books in one genre or do you genre hop?
I definitely genre hop. Science fiction and fantasy are my first love, but I also read crime fiction, literary/contemporary, romance, and more. I think every genre brings something I like to the table, and if I’m in the right frame of mind there’s nothing better than curling up with a good mystery or sitting under a tree making my way through a romance novel.