Between Two Lockers: We get the dish from YA authors on their books, lives and secret crushes. See More...

Between Two Lockers With Alysia Gray Painter

An interview with Alysia Gray Painter, author of Wilfair and Redwoodian.

Between Two Lockers With Alysia Gray Painter

Hey, FYAers! It's Wednesday! Wednesday is the day you wake up and realize that you'd rather be anywhere else but where you are! (Except for me; I'm at sxsw.) But never fear! We have a special treat for you today, because Alysia Gray Painter has stopped by for one of our patented, hard-hitting, SUPER SCIENTIFIC interviews!

Alysia is the author of Wilfair and Redwoodian, the first two books in a series about hotel heiress Fair Finley, her super hot neighbors, and metaphysical, shape shifting ghost buildings. I absolutely love these books (bonus! They're available on Amazon for very little! You could be reading these books in 10 minutes!), I adore Alysia, and so I was super happy to interview her. I think you guys will agree that she is DEFINITELY a kindred spirit.


Fair Finley's family is famous for adding obscenely elaborate amenities to their hotels. Which of the Finley's "cherries on top of cherries" would you most like to see in a hotel?

A midnight snacks restaurant! One will soon debut at a Finley hotel, in fact. It'll only be open during the midnight hour and patrons must arrive in pajamas or, better yet, their skivvies. Also? There are no tables. Guests will dine while standing before multiple open refrigerators; think messy slices of cake and milk drunk directly from cartons. Silverware and plates are banned. It's my dream eatery, after The Wilfair's dip-a-torium.

I can have now?

Fair's best friend, Sutton, shortens her curse words to acronyms. Do you just make up letters or do the acronyms actually stand for something? If so, share one please?

THAMFM does in fact mean Tell Him About My Favorite Movies. The bawdier ones are for Sutton to privately savor.

Let's discuss self-publishing. A lot of people feel like self-publishing is "giving up" - it's for people who are "too lazy" to seek traditional publishing outlets. Having spent a few years looking at some of the crap that surrounds the publishing industry, I'm not so sure. Can you talk a little bit about your route to publishing your books, both the pros and the cons?

My experiences with traditional publishing have been positive. I worked on an earlier book with a fantastic agent and I've enjoyed being in some fab anthologies. But the very month I dipped my toe back into the traditional querying pool self-publishing broke wide. It seemed like a good route for the Wilfair books given the fact that several magical hotel/motel stories kept bobbing around in my ether. So my decision to self-pub came down to two reasons: All the books I wanted to happen could happen and I could significantly shorten the time between their releases.

Since I'm an unrepentant fussbudget, I was also attracted to the notion of finding a designer and an editor and flexing some entrepreneurial muscle. And I like managing long-scope projects. I'm not an instant gratification fan, as anyone following the slow burn of Wilfair's two late-blooming lovers knows. If a project will involve serious effort over many years, not to mention the occasional salty-faced crying jag and small victory, I'm grabbing the ballpoint pen attached to the sign-up sheet.

There are trade-offs. I know fewer people will find the books. But an intimate readership is a-ok by me; some wonderful readers have already come aboard. As for the stigma? Shrug. We don't get enough opportunities to put our inner good girl to the test and find out if she can weather a few raised eyebrows. (Disclaimer: I'm not claiming I'm rock 'n roll because I self-publish; I am, in fact, a deeply unrock 'n roll human being.)

This path also allows me the freedom to gently cup my hands around the aforementioned slow burn, purse my lips, and blow; fanning that flame and not rushing things has been the biggest pleasure. I've taken some charming heat because there's no kiss in Wilfair or Redwoodian. Of course, our heroine is attempting to toss her nice neighbor out of his home, take his swimming pool, and crush his family business. Complicated.

And my stomach flips when potential sweethearts invent ways to touch because kissing is out of the question. Redwoodian has several "my fingertips are on your face because I completely have to put them there for an important reason" moments. (Exhibit A: Fair Finley's problematic evening gloves and Gomery Overbove's knack for peeling them off.) Shy people being sly, because they freakin' have to or they'll burst, are my most favorite people ever. Also? A lot of fiction deals with young couples seeking hard-to-find privacy; I wanted to play with that. Fair and Gomery have a hundred easy ways to be alone. They possess master keys to, oh, dozens of hotel and motel rooms. They live, daily, with strangers in love (and lust). So placing two heart-cautious 20-year-old people in a naturally romantic setting intrigued me.

I only fear that if those two do reach kiss #1 they'll instantly liquefy into a sloshy pair of people puddles. Meaning that, to make things right, kiss #2 would need to send hot sparks straight into space.

Wait. Did I just type that? Can't erase it now, I guess. Smiley face.

A smiley faced Alysia with her two besties, Luisa and Tracy.


If your real life adolescence was a YA book, what would you, the main character, be like?

Everyone's pal. If someone doesn't like me I make it my laser-focus mission to win them over. Which is totes annoying, I realize.

Who is your secret crush?

He's the gangly theater lighting guy who mouths along with the star's lines. When he catches me looking up at him on his ladder he turns and fusses with a gel. He avoids me for a few days but soon a giant flower made from red, yellow, and green gels appears on my locker. And when I next visit the theater I discover every bulb aglow in my favorite color, copper brown.

What is your number #1 source of angst?

Matching friends is sort of my bag. And if a friendship I groom doesn't take root I'm bummed.

At what point would the reader pump his/her fist in victory?

When I triumphantly announce that our high school has bought (coughstolencough) the swimming pool from the high school next door.

And who would play you in the film adaptation?

Can I say a 15-year-old Angela Lansbury? And can I put hearts around her name? Angela Lansbury

Yes, you can!

A young Jessica Fletcher?


What is your secret power?

If a friend shares a minor issue with me, I attempt two things: I listen with love and I send her off with an action item. I'm a bit bossy when it comes to my pals' life hiccups. If only I could be as gimlet-eyed about my own foibles! So, my secret power: Tiny Problem Detangler.

I have a few problems you could detangle! How is your fluency with international smuggling law?

What is your #1 favorite food?

Condiments 4evr. That's one reason I put a dip restaurant in Wilfair. I could eat Sriracha and Bob's Big Boy blue cheese salad dressing on practically anything. I could and have.

Mmm Sriracha!

Tell me about your area of expertise.

I do a fairly convincing pterodactyl call. It's kind of this ear-splitting dinosaur screech. I hate to brag, but if I made the screech right now, and a pterodactyl happened to be flying overhead, he would totally land on the front lawn, thinking his mate was in the vicinity.

If you could assemble your own Ocean's 11 of fictional characters, who would you pick and why?

1.  Tracy Flick -- Organization wiz

2.  HAL 9000 -- Systems analyst

3.  Walter Mitty -- Resident dreamer

4.  Charlotte A. Cavatica -- P.R. and marketing

5.  Marilla Cuthbert -- Director of Awesomeness

6.  Marvin the Paranoid Android -- Expectations manager

7.  Danny Torrance -- Long-range forecasting

8.  Emma Woodhouse -- Human resources

9.  Trixie Belden -- Whip-smart intern

10.  Lucy Van Pelt -- Staff psychiatrist

11.  Gandalf -- Big picture guy

Danny Ocean isn't here right now, Mrs Torrence.

What is your best karaoke song?

Steve Miller's "The Joker". I used to mumble the "really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree" part, but I've embraced my inner innuendo lover.

Tell me something scandalous!

The only crime I've ever committed was shoplifting a packet of tissues from the gift shop in my dad's hotel. I was 5 years old and I was MORTIFIED when I got stopped outside the shop. I didn't realize I had to pay for the tissues; I was a bit of a hotel princess, I fear. But the fact that I pocketed a sensible packet of two-ply tissues is truly a window into my rather practical soul. It's like, what? The toys and candy held no illicit appeal?

What is your favorite adult beverage?

Recreating vintage cocktails is my husband's hobby, so it's hard to choose. He makes a ginger-spicy Moscow Mule and a perfectly tweedy Sidecar. Party at Casa Painter!

I just had a sidecar!

What book have you read the most number of times?

The corner of my A Room with a View paperback is gnawed. I tell people my dog did it but, you know. It may have been me, attempting to eat it because it is so delicious.

Who is your "freebie"?

Maybe Captain Von Trapp? If The Sound of Music comes on TV my eyes go glassy and my jaw slackens. I'm besotted with his starchy suits and his post-honeymoon glow and his love for those yodeling marionettes. I also do a rather cutting Baroness impersonation; I'm just wild about her. So there's my full repertoire of impressions: a pterodactyl and the Baroness from The Sound of Music.

YA authors are so cool. Who would you give a BFF charm to?

Cecil Castellucci. She's a friend of a friend, and she is just as pizzazz-y in person as she is on the page. (She also practically steals my pal's documentary Starwoids; that's Cecil, queued up to see The Phantom Menace at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.)

If you were invited to the FYA slumber party (and obvs, you ARE), what is the most crucial snack food and/or movie/or anything you'd bring?

I'd wear a high-necked, flowery nightgown, but when I saw everyone's cute little tanks and shorts I'd retreat to the bathroom to knot my hem in order to make my look, like, hipper. It would not work. Snack food: 7-Layer Bean Dip, extra sour cream. Movie: Truly, Madly, Deeply. Sigh: Alan Rickman as a lovesick ghost. Wait. The perfect slumber party would be if Alan Rickman could actually be eating 7-Layer Bean Dip with us. He'd admire my fussy flannel gown. And we'd enjoy a tasty pitcher of my husband's Moscow Mules. And my husband would be there, too, and he'd be like "What in the hell, Alan Rickman is at your slumber party!" And then we'd all laugh and high five.

Yeah we would!

And Now! MASH! As ever, Alysia has provided us with three ideal options. We've chosen the fourth option. The random number is 9. Let's see what the future holds!


Alan Rickman
Christopher Plummer
Whoever is on BBC America as I type this
Brody Jenner

Jurassic era
Wilfair Hotel
Nazi-occupied Austria

# of Kids
A pair of cuddlesome Pugs
All seven Von Trapp children
All eight Gosselin children

Pterodactyl impersonator
Cheese dip quality tester
Travel writer
Crash test dummy

Motel van
Bass-thumping limo (hot tub on the roof)
A Ferris wheel on wheels
Amish buggy

Well, it could be worse! So long as whoever is on BBC America right now is under the age of sixty and good with a horse and cart, you're all set!

Thanks for hanging out and chatting with us, Alysia! Sidecars on me!

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.