Some Thoughts with ... Alexandra Almeida
Alexandra Almeida has over 25 years of experience in technology, strategy, and innovation. In her role as Chief Transformation Officer, she acts as a senior advisor to enterprise executives. Alexandra is an experienced speaker at events such as SXSW, and the Women in Tech Series.
For the time being, and to protect her creative freedoms, Alexandra prefers to write using a number of pen names.
Her debut fantasy novel, released under another pen name, has received the following awards and recognition:
- Reader’s Favorite Awards - Gold Medal Winner - Young Adult - Fantasy - Epic
- Reader Views Awards - 1st Place - Fantasy
- CIPA EVVY Book Awards - 2nd Place - Fiction - Mythology
- B.R.A.G. Medallion Recipient
- Eric Hoffer’s Da Vinci Eye Awards Finalist for Best Cover Artwork
- The Wishing Shelf Book Awards Finalist - Books for Adults
- Awesome Indies Approved
Following the self-publishing path by choice to retain full control of her IP, Alexandra invests in the best editors available in the business to match publishing quality standards.
Welcome to a new post on my favourite section of the web. Today we are accompanied by Alexandra Almeida, author of the Spiral Worlds series.
Let's dive in!
1.- What made you decide for self-publishing?
I have been self-publishing under a variety of pen names since 2014. Back then, when I first looked into the publishing industry, I didn’t like what I saw. Neither big publishing nor tech platforms were doing the right thing for authors, but at least the tech platforms like Amazon or Smashwords allowed me to keep my IP, and to have full control over my cover and marketing. This was important to me, particularly because big publishing lacked digital marketing skills, and the gap in royalties and up-front payments between the top one percent and the rest of the published books was significant.
I always wrote unique books that didn’t quite fit the genre, didn’t follow popular tropes, and featured characters that were rarely seen on the page. I never had big ambitions of commercial success. I needed to create, and I needed to represent a cross-section of people and themes that were likely to connect with a niche audience. I’m also blessed to be able to hire the best editors, creatives, and advisors.
I explored publishing in the blockchain back in 2017. Quite a successful project, and this gave me hope that one day, I could fully own my royalties and reach out to my audience without the intermediation of big business. I’m currently part of a variety of projects in this space, and slow progress is being made that may be a game-changer for creators. Here, the hype is the enemy of progress, because these communities are not interested in the speculation or hype of crypto, but in what the technology can do to give them back control over their destinies.
I also love the fact that self-publishing allows us to learn and evolve our go-to market and our story. This direct feedback is immensely valuable, because success is built on continuous improvement.
I also have recently discovered that the self-publishing community is now more united than ever. The support is an absolute delight, and the opportunity to collaborate drives quite successful outcomes. We are all in this together, and I LOVE IT!
2.- How did the idea of Spiral Worlds (the series) appear?
The moment the idea emerged is actually captured on screen here. I live in Sydney Australia but have traveled to Austin Texas to attend SXSW almost every year. The convergence of film, music, and digital innovation offered by the festival is the perfect environment to recharge and get inspired.
During the 2019 festival, I watched a fun talk by George Hotz’s about Jailbreaking the Simulation. You can see me here, at minute 40, asking George the question that led to this story. I started by stating, “I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud.” That was the moment Spiral Worlds was born, back then a short story called Contrast.
At that time, in Tech, we were all exploring this concept of AGI—sentient AI—and how we could potentially all be living in a simulated reality. I was also intrigued by the volume of series on Netflix focused on serial killers and why people were so interested in them. Why humans were so keen to explore such darkness in the comfort of their homes?
3.- What other mediums would you say were a big part of the inspiration process?
For the last two decades, my heart beats to the rhythm and lyrics of Linking Park’s music. Every year-end, Spotify shames me mercilessly for my obsession, but there is something about the mix of musical genres, and the perfect creative juxtaposition between Mike and Chester—their voices, their styles, and the way they approach life—that never fails to inspire me, whether I am happy, sad, or outraged.
There’s a little bit of Mike’s rapping in Storm’s performances, a lot of Chester’s struggles with life in Shadow’s descent, and a pinch of Mike’s ever-cheerful approach to life in Harry’s sunny perspective.
Every medium inspires me. I’m a huge fan of visual art, architecture, poetry, film, and TV, and the book does not shy away from celebrating all of it.
And whether it is LP's music, the Dead Poet Society, or the Little Prince, the series uses these and many other influences to explore what makes us human, the power of idealism, the strength and pitfalls of empathy, or lack of it, and how it relates to resilience.
4.- From all the work related to publishing, which part would you say it’s the most challenging?
I am a 49-year-old woman, writing cerebral hard sci-fi focused on AI and the metaverse, with a high degree of existential dread, a pinch of queer romance, and a very literary writing style.
The audience interested in exploring the evolution of AI into consciousness—the most recent theories by our greatest minds—does not necessarily want to read about a queer romance or relate to an unapologetically female and somewhat lyrical perspective on such issues. So marketing is hard, and there are many lessons learned and some challenges on how to target the right readers while leaving some room for discovery by other communities.
In less than a day, I could adjust the book to fit neatly into a box, but I have been painting outside the lines all my life and I live for it. It gives me great joy and equal amounts of pain. Contrast and perspective—that’s what life is all about, right?
5.- I find it interesting that precisely when AI has become one of the most popular words, your novel has Sybil, a really powerful AI. How did you create this character?
I’ve been working in the technology industry since 1996, and have been exploring such themes probably since the turn of the century. Unanimity was written four years ago, and nothing was updated to match current world events. I do have a track record for predicting the future, because I spend a lot of time looking at innovation and political trends and where they are leading.
Sybil is special, because zie isn't a human-like digital bot, but the sentient universe that connects all bots, their Metaverse. I took a patchwork of the best literature and thinking on the nature of the universe and collective consciousness and encapsulated it all into Sibyl. Because of this, it didn’t make sense for this being to have a gender. Zie is all genders and none, zie may look and feel human-like at times, but believe zir, zie’s not.
Despite its fantasy references, Unanimity explores a theory of consciousness that is grounded in research and scientific progress across a variety of fields.
Once it is established that the Universe is our collective consciousness—a fact that comes to light in the first chapter—it is fun to think about serendipity, and destiny, and those gut feelings predicting events about the people we care about, and what it would mean if the universe connected us all and had feelings.
Perhaps we should spend more time shouting at the Universe? Will zie listen? Who knows, but it’s worth a shot.
6.- The concept of some kind of Gods over all is kinda interesting. What were you thinking about when creating them?
We are currently faced with very powerful individuals, (typically male and Caucasian, but not always) that suffer significantly from God complex—the billionaires, the Big Tech CEOs, certain groups in academia and scientific circles—all emerging as wannabe Gods wanting to “protect” humanity by advancing AI, the “colonization” of Mars, research on eugenics, just to name a few of their pet projects.
Some time ago, Google quietly dropped the motto “Don’t be evil” because, well…capitalism and ethics don’t always align, and I hope by now, most will have understood many of these wannabe Gods are self-serving and dangerous.
I wanted to imagine a scenario where everyone is actually trying to do the right thing, the best they can, based on whatever value system and life experience they have. And, I wanted to explore what happens when anyone, even the most well-intended, decides to play God, because as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
7.- If you could just stay in one of the worlds, which one would you choose and why?
I will stick to Up Above, where the sky and the earth and the people are real and not a simulated reality. Are we? Real?
8.- Of all the characters created for Unanimity, do you have a favourite one?
Choosing a favorite child is very hard. However, if you ask me to pick one, Thomas Astley-Byron is the heart and soul of this story. His young idealism, his creativity, and his over-empathetic sensibility are features I understand well. However, it is easy for me to have a lot of fun channeling Nate, Rosa, and even Harry, because there is a lot of me in all of them. As for my resilient Stella, she is the one I most need to appreciate and learn from. I am most excited about that journey into her world and mindset, because parts of it are foreign to me, but are a constant feature of the worlds around me.
9.- Unanimity uses a fragmented timeline for the narrative. Would you say that it brought some challenges to the writing process?
The back story—the past—was written linearly, edited by the best, and was ready to publish years ago. However, I felt there was a lot of talk about building the digital world, and not enough time spent in the world. So it was a little too cerebral, and very dark, particularly the second part of the backstory to be shared in book 2, Parity, which includes Shadow’s “descent.”
So two years ago I jumped into the future to imagine the world forty-years later. It was the perfect solution because it provided a wonderful contrast between intent and unintended consequences. So one book—Contrast—turned into a six-book series. I have the entire timeline outlined, and weaving between past and present works well for SFF readers with one exception.
For very good reasons, each character has a different name than his digital twin, in addition to that, the ones who are closer to each other will never call their friends anything else than their original name, because that’s the name they have used all their life. Now, that’s a lot to take in when we jump straight into the middle of the story. Most hard sci-fi readers are used to this sort of complexity, but many others are not, and the cover and the queer romance attract a different type of readership that is most MOST welcomed. So I’m monitoring reader feedback before deciding on whether I should bring some more of the past upfront, to give the reader a chance to adjust to each character before adding two-name complexity. If I do decide to reorder, this will slow down the story and remove some of the impacts of experiencing past decisions when we already know their unintended consequences.
The joy of self-publishing, is that I can easily tweak the order and test reader feedback and still maintain the overall coherence of the series. Why is the naming so important? Well, you will need to read Parity to find out.
10.- What can we expect from Alexandra Almeida in the future?
I have my work cut out with this series: Unanimity, Parity, Gravity, Velocity, Symphony, Eternity. I have to confess I enjoy every minute of it, even with all the tradeoffs I have to make in my personal life to be able to pull this off in my spare time. Parity will be released on the 5th of July 2023 and is available for pre-order at amazon.