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ND graduate presents at festival

Ryan Sydlik | Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Notre Dame Literary Festival brought in a writer more familiar with the University than most when organizers chose Tasha Alexander as one of the event’s headliners.

Alexander, who spoke Tuesday night, graduated from Notre Dame in 1992 and is the daughter of two Notre Dame philosophy professors. Writing under a pseudonym – her real name is Tasha Tyska – she is the author of the Victorian era thriller, “And Only to Deceive” (2005).

A first time author, Alexander said she was “incredibly lucky” to get her book published.

After hunting for agents, Alexander found one she liked and e-mailed a copy of the first few chapters to that agent to create curiosity. An hour later, she received a response asking her to send the rest of the text.

When the time came for the publisher to make an offer, Harper Collins said it would be delighted to publish her novel. All she had to do, they said, was change her name.

At first, Alexander was unsure about using a pseudonym, but she later settled on using her son’s first name, Alexander, as her new last name.

Alexander said she had wanted to write since childhood but always had found excuses not to get started.

“I always had this idea that you need a big uninterrupted block of time [to write a book],” she said.

After staying home to raise her first child, Alexander changed her mind and told herself, “If it stinks, well at least I know I tried.”

With her newfound motivation, Alexander reflected on her personal interests, such as historical fiction, London, Paris and ancient art. The result was a story about art forgeries.

Alexander created a young, widowed woman as a main character with the intention of reusing the young character in a series of novels. Furthermore, a widowed woman in 1890s England would have the freedom of movement that an unmarried or married woman would not have had at that time, Alexander said.

When she began as an author, she had “a barely serviceable computer and a three and-a-half year old in the room,” she said.

Her busy schedule actually served to motivate her as she wrote, Alexander said.

“It is a lot easier to procrastinate if you have a big block of time,” she said.

And the motivation led to enjoyment as she progressed through the novel.

“If you are not having fun writing the book, than you have to change something,” she said. “You can’t control and agent or a publisher, but you can change your book.”

Alexander said it was very satisfying to know a large company was taking her small book very seriously.

After talking about the anxiousness of waiting a year and a half, Alexander told the audience about the joy she received when she finally got the first published copy in the mail.

“I had a hard time believing that it was real,” she said.