They Call Me Alexandra Gastone
By: T.A. Maclagan
Release Date: May 20, 2015
When your life is a lie, how do you know what’s real?
Alexandra Gastone has a simple plan: graduate high school, get into Princeton, work for the CIA, and serve her great nation.
She was told the plan back when her name was Milena Rokva, back before the real Alexandra and her family were killed in a car crash.
Milena was trained to be a sleeper agent by Perun, a clandestine organization from her true homeland of Olissa. There, Milena learned everything she needed to infiltrate the life of CIA analyst Albert Gastone, Alexandra’s grandfather, and the ranks of America’s top intelligence agency.
For seven years, “Alexandra” has been on standby and life’s been good. Grandpa Albert loves her, and her strategically chosen boyfriend, Grant, is amazing.
But things are about to change. Perun no longer needs her at the CIA in five years’ time. They need her active now.
Between her cover as a high school girl—juggling a homecoming dance, history reports, and an increasingly suspicious boyfriend—and her mission in this high-stakes spy game, the boundaries of her two lives are beginning to blur.
Will she stay true to the country she barely remembers, or has her loyalty shattered along with her identity?
Q: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
If you’re a teen or adult who likes books with a strong female lead, twists and turns galore, compelling romance, and a believable journey of self-discovery then you’ll like They Call Me Alexandra Gastone.
Q: How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
I wanted a title that was immediately intriguing. Something that suggested spy without having ‘spy’ in the title. I think They Call Me Alexandra Gastone does that, especially when paired with the cover art. It suggests that the protagonist is actually someone other than Alexandra Gastone.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
Fiona Jayde was the designer. I was lucky in that my publisher was very keen on me being a part of the design process and asked for my input at each stage. Given the title of the book, we all thought a full on face shot would be good and we wanted to highlight Alexandra’s heterochromia (2 different eye colors) as it’s an integral component of the book. The red and black color scheme was chosen because it practically screams spy. If you look up spy novels on Amazon, most will have the same color scheme. It harkens back to the cold war and all the spy novels featuring the Soviets. Lastly, the rifle scope was added because as the designer zoomed in on the model’s face, her expression started to seem bland. However, once the rifle scope was added, her expression morphed from bland to defiant, which was perfect!
Q: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Alexandra is definitely my favorite character! I love how she’s both emotionally and physically strong but also has a sensitive side. I love that she’s willing to fight for what she believes in.
Q: How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Least favorite is a hard one. All the characters came from me so I have a certain fondness for everyone. I guess I’d have to go with the most despicable of the characters which is Mistress, although I actually love her in all her evil glory!
Q: If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?
To be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing at this point. I’m more than happy with the final manuscript. On the road to being published, my agent and editors had me do some pretty big rewrites on portions of the book and each one made it better. By the end, I think we’d collectively figured out the way the book needed to be in order to be its best possible self. That’s the version being published on May 20th!
Q: Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:
In the book, Alexandra is a sleeper agent from a small country called Olissa, but in my original manuscript she was from Russia and had strong communist leanings. My agent and editors wanted less ‘boring political stuff’ since it was a YA book, so Alexandra was moved from Russia to Olissa.
Q: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?
YA Spy books tend to fall into two broad categories, ‘lighthearted adventures’ like The Gallagher Girls and Also Known As and then the ‘more serious suspense’ novels like Sekret and Code Name Verity. Alexandra Gastone is more in keeping with the second category, although the book differs quite a lot from Sekret and Code Name Verity because of its contemporary American high school setting.
Q: How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
I love interacting with readers! Don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Q: What can we expect from you in the future?
Lots more books I hope! And a sequel to They Call Me Alexandra Gastone!
Q: What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Tell their friends they liked it! Suggest it for book clubs. Ask the local library to buy a copy. Leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon. They say good word of mouth is one of the best ways for a novel to gain traction with the public so a lot of a book’s success has to do with readers getting the word out.
Q: Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?
Don’t let a fear of failure prevent you from pursuing your goals. Don’t let criticism get you down. Learn and grow from it. As far as writing goes, there are few things I value more than constructive criticism. It helps make you better as a writer.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I hope you enjoy reading They Call Me Alexandra Gastone as much as I enjoyed writing it! If you like the novel, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I love chatting with readers!
Q: And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:
“I stared at the video screen. At the girl with my eyes—one blue and one gray-green. I’d seen this video hundreds of times, so I knew it by heart. It was of Alexandra Gastone walking home. “
About T.A. Maclagan
T.A. Maclagan is a Kansas girl by birth but now lives in the bush-clad hills of Wellington, New Zealand with her Kiwi husband, son and four pampered cats. With a bachelor’s degree in biology and a Ph.D. in anthropology, she’s studied poison dart frogs in the rainforests of Costa Rica, howler monkeys in Panama and the very exotic and always elusive American farmer. It was as she was writing her ‘just the facts’ dissertation that T.A. felt the call to pursue something more imaginative and discovered a passion for creative writing. They Call Me Alexandra Gastone is her first novel.