Interview: William Alexander

Tell us a bit about your story.  What’s it about?

Adolescence observed from a younger perspective. Urban Legends.  The portal magics of graffiti. A kitten-shaped backpack.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I wrote “Ana’s Tag” for my last week at the Clarion Workshop. Kelly Link and Holly Black were our two instructors, and my only goal was to write something that Kelly and Holly would like.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I have brilliant younger sisters, and Ana is a blend of the two of them. The three of us strung random Spanish words together to create nonsense profanity and hold imaginary conversations, just like the siblings in the story. Our parents both spoke Spanish, but we children had lost most of it.

What is the appeal of parallel worlds stories and/or portal fantasies? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about them? Why do you think readers/viewers love it so much?

Because all doors are magic. A doorway is more interesting than either of the two places it connects and separates. My toddling son loves elevator doors; they’re shiny, and by pushing buttons he can change what’s on the other side.

What are some of your favorite examples of parallel worlds or portal fantasies (in any media), and what makes them your favorites?

The Golden Compass, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Un Lun Dun are all perfect gateway drugs to gateway fiction, and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry scratches the Narnian itch for grownups. “The Girl in the Fireplace,” a Doctor Who episode, makes excellent use of several portals. The video game Portal is a near-perfect short story, and makes magnificent use of malleable doorways.