Alexandra Oliva — Ali, for short — grew up in a tiny town in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Her last name is pronounced "all of a," like the first three words of the phrase “all of a sudden.”
In 2001, Ali left the Adirondacks for Yale University where she made some of the best friends of her life, failed to learn Russian, and wrote a very long essay about Robin Hood, which earned her a B.A. in History.
After Yale, Ali moved to Ireland to write, travel, and wait tables. When her work permit ran out, she briefly returned to her hometown before moving on to New York City.
In New York, Ali waited more tables, worked as a private tutor, met her husband online, learned to rock climb, and received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The New School. She also volunteered The Prospect Park Zoo, where she particularly enjoyed narrating the Friday morning sea lion feedings to visitors and getting to hold bearded dragons.
During this time, Ali also wrote two novels that she now refers to as her “practice novels,” though she didn’t know that's what they were at the time. While gathering rejection letters for the second of these, she had the idea for The Last One and immediately knew it was her next project.
To pull off this novel, Ali knew she needed to get her hands dirty. Soon she was using “writing research” as the impetus to sign up for an experience she would have been too scared to undertake otherwise: a fourteen-day field course with the Boulder Outdoor Survival School (B.O.S.S.) — which is known for providing some of the most authentic and challenging wilderness survival and primitive living experiences in the world.
Ali and her husband flew to Utah for the course, where they hiked out into the desert with expert guidance and minimal supplies. In the field, she pushed herself walking water source to water source without food for three days, learned how to start a fire using a bow drill, and glimpsed an elusive mountain lion minutes before being left to camp entirely on her own for two days. It was a difficult and amazing experience, and one that was extraordinarily helpful to writing The Last One.
In 2014, Ali and her husband moved to the Pacific Northwest and got a puppy. That puppy is now a dog and pretty much rules their lives.