Hromic, Alma A. 1963-

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HROMIC, Alma A. 1963-

(Alma Alexander)

PERSONAL: Born 1963, in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia (now Serbia); married R. A. Deckert (a journalist and editor), June, 2000. Education: University of Cape Town, South Africa, M.Sc. (microbiology), 1987.

ADDRESSES: Home—506 Sudden Valley, Bellingham, WA 98229. Agent—c/o Author Mail, 7th Floor, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.

CAREER: Writer, editor, and microbiologist. Allergy Society, South Africa, editor of scientific journal; editor for an educational publisher in New Zealand; literary critic.

AWARDS, HONORS: Finalist, Sir Julius Vogel Award, 2002, and Award of Excellence, WordWeaving, both for Changer of Days.


Houses in Africa (memoir), David Ling Publishing Limited (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.

The Dolphin's Daughter and Other Stories, Longman (London, England), 1995.

(With R. A. Deckert) Letters from the Fire (novel), HarperCollins (Auckland, New Zealand), 2000.

Changer of Days (fantasy series), Volume 1 and 2, HarperCollins/Voyager (Auckland, New Zealand), 2001–02.

(As Alma Alexander) The Secrets of Jin-Shei (novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Also contributor of short fiction and nonfiction to magazines in South Africa, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Hromic's work has been translated into Dutch, Italian, and German.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel dealing with the Anasazi Indians of the American Southwest, cybermagic, and a race of elves.

SIDELIGHTS: Born in Yugoslavia, writer Alma A. Hromic was raised in various countries of Africa where her father, employed by international aid agencies, was posted. She was trained in microbiology in South Africa, but writing about science overtook her desire for lab and research work. From South Africa, Hromic moved to New Zealand, where she published her first book-length work, Houses in Africa, a memoir of the twenty years she spent in Zambia, Swaziland, and South Africa. She also published a collection of three fables in New Zealand in 1995, the best-selling The Dolphin's Daughter and Other Stories.

In 1999, with the beginning of NATO air strikes against Serbia, Hromic witnessed from afar the destruction of her native town, Novi Sad. Desperate to be somehow involved from the distance of her home in Auckland, New Zealand, she began a series of e-mail correspondences with a friend she had met online, Florida journalist R. A. Deckert. The result of this correspondence was the collaboration of Letters from the Fire, a "cyber-romance novel set in the political context of the NATO bombings," as Margie Thomson described the book in a New Zealand Herald Review. Composed in real time as the two watched the unfolding of events in Serbia from both New Zealand and Florida, the novel tells of the growing love of Dave, a liberal American opposed to the war, and Sasha, a Serb in Novi Sad undergoing NATO bombings. For Vasili Stavropoulos, reviewing Letters from the Fire in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, the novel "makes an important contribution to our understanding of the Kosovo crisis, bringing it back from the abstractions of international relations to the minutiae of ordinary life." The fictional romance between Dave and Sasha found reality in the lives of the book's coauthors, who were married in 2000 and moved to the state of Washington.

The versatile Hromic next ventured into fantasy literature, publishing two volumes of Changer of Days in 2001 and 2002. The volumes tell the story of nine-year-old Anghara Kir Hama, who loses her powerful father and loving mother, and also her royal name and her home at Miranei, mountain capital of the land of Roisinan. She is forced into hiding by her greedy half-brother Sif, who not only steals her kingdom but also seeks her death to secure his hold on the future of the Kir Hama dynasty. Anghara must act with a maturity far beyond her years in order to survive; she develops her powers of sight as she flees to the safety of Sanctuary, but even there she finds betrayal. Finally escaping to the harsh desert, she finds allies and a new strength to battle Sif. Victoria Strauss, writing on SF, called the work an "epic fantasy."

Hromic discovered science fiction and fantasy when she was a teen growing up in Africa. Speaking with interviewer Chris Przybyszewski for SF, Hromic noted that once she discovered the works of writers such as Ursula K. LeGuin, Roger Zelazny and J. R. R. Tolkien, "I never looked back." The work of LeGuin in particular influenced her 2004 novel, The Secrets of Jin-Shei, written under the name Alma Alexander. According to Booklist reviewer Nancy Pearl, this "fast-paced, imaginative, and thoroughly engrossing fantasy explores the meaning of friendship and loyalty among eight women."

Set in a mythical Chinese kingdom where mothers have passed down to their daughters a secret language and the ability to create special friendships, The Secrets of Jin-Shei focuses on the young poet Tai, daughter of a seamstress. Tai finds her special friendship, her jin-shei, in the form of the oldest daughter of the emperor, and this friendship changes not only Tai's life but also the fate of the entire realm. Pearl noted that this was the first of Hromic's novels to be published in the United States and prophesied that it "will surely whet readers' appetites for more." A Kirkus Reviews critic described the novel as the events of an "ancient sisterhood [who] fight, die, and practice sorcery for one another as they struggle to survive." For this critic the novel is "more episodic than epic," but Jennifer Baker, writing in Library Journal, had higher praise, calling The Secrets of Jin-Shei a "perfect genre-buster: romance, political intrigue, adventure, horror, magic, suspense—and enough anthropological detail to create a believable alternate history." And Strauss found the same work both "vivid and involving . . . an exotic journey into the imagination, and a graceful exploration of the heart."

Hromic told CA: "Reading is the first thing that got me interested in writing. As a child I read the way other people breathed or ate—it was as much a part of my existence as my heartbeat. After that, it was just a matter of time. In particular, though, I have to single out the influence of my poet grandfather, who taught me to love language when I was barely a toddler. It was thanks to this man and his beautiful spirit that I felt able to spread my own literary wings. I owe him more than I can possibly say.

"I read widely and voraciously. In the mainstream arena (and I include historical fiction in this bracket), I would single out an eclectic mixture of contemporary and more venerable writers like Louis de Bernieres, Pearl Buck, Howard Spring, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, John Glasworthy, Isabel Allende, Sharon Penman, Ivo Andric (Nobel prize winner from Yugoslavia), and a bunch of poets including, but not limited to, Neruda, Rimbaud, Pushkin, and my grandfather (Stevan Mutibaric). In the speculative fiction arena (fantasy and science fiction), I would like to mention Neil Gaiman, Guy Gavriel Kay, Charles de Lint, Judith Tarr, Michael Moorcock, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. le Guin, and the list goes on. A writer cannot be a writer unless the reading net is cast far and wide.

"My writing process is, in a word, chaotic. I seldom, if ever, write from synopsis and frequently find out what happens next in a story at the time as my readers would—by writing that next scene. I never know what my characters might get up to from one chapter to the next, and I am often utterly taken by surprise when they change the track I thought they were on and disappear to pursue their own agendas. Somehow, though, it always works out.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that it is possible to live in many worlds and love them all."



Booklist, March 1, 2004, Nancy Pearl, review of The Secrets of Jin-Shei, p. 136.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of The Secrets of Jin-Shei, pp. 95-96.

Library Journal, March 1, 2004, Jennifer Baker, review of The Secrets of Jin-Shei, p. 106.

New Zealand Herald, October 2, 1999, Margie Thomson, review of Letters from the Fire.

Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia), December 24, 1999, Vasili Stavropoulos, "We Shall Create a Desert and Call It Peace."


Alma A. Hromic Home Page, (July 5, 2004).

SF, (April, 2004), Chris Przybyszewski, "A Conversation with Alma Alexander"; (July 5, 2004) Victoria Strauss, review of The Secrets of Jin-Shei., (July 5, 2004).