Please give a cold dead welcome to an author from across the pond (Also known as the UK if you’re from Canada!) The lovely A.L. Butcher!
What were you like at school?
Rebellious. I never did anything too terrible but I did have issues dealing with pointless rules – still do if I’m honest. I get bored easily and that didn’t help. I worked hard at subjects I liked – English, science, music and drama and not at ones I didn’t – like maths. I did OK but I could have done better.
At college I was vice-president of the Student Union – let’s just say there were a few issues with the management of the college at that time – big stuff – and there was a teeny weeny sit it which I might have helped organise…. And the press might have turned up….
As it happened it turned out there was a lot of dodgy stuff going on and it brought it to the fore. It nearly cost me my A-levels but we were trying to stand up for what was right at the time, and defend the student body from the corruption. Anyway I was quite political in those days – not so much now as I don’t have the energy these days. A degree in politics teaching one that often not much changes – even with good intentions – or if it does not for long. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing – there are issues which have changed for the better as a result of ordinary people speaking out. It’s politicians who are usually the problem.
So, what have you written?
To date I have three fantasy novels, several short stories in anthologies and my own companion short story collection. I also write poetry, maintain a blog and admin for a couple of facebook fantasy pages.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
I’ll talk about two – Dii’Athella is the main female character in two of my three novels and features in the third. She’s an elven sorceress in a world where magic is illegal and elves enslaved. When we first meet her she is fleeing for her life into a dangerous world she knows little about, and where her very existence is forbidden. As the stories progress she really comes into her own, discovering how powerful she truly is and a little of her own history. Despite her terrible life she is still kind, intelligent and eager to help others and she does. She is special for many reasons. Dii loves life, as she nearly loses it several times she is grateful for every day she has and every day she learns more about herself and the world.
The second is Rufus Redblade, the hero in my Heroika: Dragon Eaters story. He’s a Griffin Rider – now a mercenary – from a land ravaged by war and political intrigue. Once he would have been the royal guard but now the Riders are small bands of sellswords, rather mythical and feared. Currently there is peace but it’s barely holding and he knows war will come if the heir to the throne dies, which is likely. Rufus is a man who takes no crap, he does not appreciate fools. He’s brave – he risks his life for a child and her mother and he knows that the chances are he or one of his crew won’t return from their adventure. Rufus is a man who knows right from wrong, but as it pertains to his own moral code. What is special about him – ne doesn’t give up. Ever. If he wants something he goes after it, come what may, and this includes the heart of a dragon.
How much research do you do?
I’ve researched herb-lore, medieval weaponry, food, flora and fauna, geology and more for the novels. My strangest topic has probably been can a salamander be eaten. Yes it can – but you probably wouldn’t want to.
I usually spend a bit of time researching for the novels if it’s needed, I have several books on medieval history, mythology, and weaponry and I use the internet a lot. The world wide web is really useful! It’s hard not to get distracted though and I usually end up doing too much. At the moment I’m researching mythical creatures for a series of blog posts and I used a variation of keres in my latest novel, not to mention the dragon of course for Dragon Eaters. My latest blog post was about cyclopes and I touch on the origins of the stories and the real accounts of cyclopean babies and animals and the possible causes.
It’s really interesting – if you look into ancient stories there is often a base of fact, if misunderstood at the time. It might be buried deep but it’s there. Dragons for example – pretty much every culture has a dragon myth of some sort – based on perhaps, huge dinosaur bones, crocodiles or other living large fearsome beasts and the cultural desire for monsters and heroes. Dragons are symbolic.
Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?
Novels no, short stories yes. I’ve worked with my friend Diana L Wicker – who has her own YA fantasy series – on a short historical style fantasy called Outside the Walls. We wrote it originally for a charity anthology called Bellator, but expanded it recently as a short story in its own right and it’s just be produced as a short audio book through Audible. The story follows Lady Eleanor – who returns to her castle during wartime to find refugees at the gates of the town starving and sick. The council ignore them and only Eleanor takes pity on them and offers food, medicine and support. Among the dying and desperate she finds someone very familiar….
Why did you do decide to collaborate and did that affect your sales?
Diana and I had written stuff together before – we used to play an online RPG and wrote for that so we knew we could do it. Outside the Walls was actually adapted, loosely, from something we wrote for that and never used. Sales wise – She manages the paperback and I manage the e-book and audio. Every so often we exchange numbers – assuming there have been any sales and if needs be transfer the money over. As it’s a recent project it’s not really been a problem for tax as yet. I have that fun to come for the next tax return! As we both promote the story we get double exposure and really it’s more her audience than mine as my novels are a lot more….adult.
Writing a book with another author is a whole different challenge to writing alone. You have to know how the other person writes, their style and their strengths and weaknesses. You have to agree – sometimes there would be a scene I thought was great and Di didn’t agree so compromise is your friend. There’s less freedom – but that may not be bad. It’s easy to get carried away and sometimes the pet scene isn’t actually as wonderful as the particular writer thinks and it’s helpful to have another set of eyes. Of course there is the challenge of time – we both work and Diana has a family to raise, not to mention she is in the US and I’m in the UK so at best we only get a couple of hours a day when we are both online and able to write together. Google drive worked well for this as co-operative writing is possible there and the notes facility is bloody useful!
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.
I don’t read as much as I’d like to. That said I usually have a true crime book on the go and often a novel. At present I’m trying to read true crime/dark history from every part of Britain. Fortunately there is a series of county-based true crime/historical crime books by Nicola Sly and John Van Der Kiste. I’ve read some of Mr Van Der Kiste’s historical non fiction and I enjoy his work. I’m trying to re-read all the Terry Pratchett books as well. Generally I read fantasy, sci-fi, classics, mythology, history, gothic horror and true crime.
John Van Der Kiste
Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
Usually yes. I’m often working on more than one project so I’ll go to something else for a while and then come back to the original book re-read and revise.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Reviews happen – or they don’t more often than not. Many readers don’t review for any number of reasons. Bad reviews happen too. No book suits everyone; there will be too much/not enough sex, violence, monsters, world building etc; there will be a character a reader doesn’t like or can’t get into. Some readers overlook minor typos, some pick up on everything and sometimes people simply don’t like it. I’ve read books, including popular ones, I simply didn’t enjoy. It happens. Deal with it.
Honestly if you don’t want bad reviews then don’t read the reviews or don’t publish. No book will please everyone. Look at any book on Amazon and I bet it has a mix of reviews. Good reviews are great but reviews are for readers, not authors. Whilst it’s nice to get them don’t obsess over it.
If someone does give a bad review don’t respond, don’t argue and don’t bitch. At least not publicly – it’s not worth it. The internet is great but it makes the world small and what has been said often can’t be
unsaid. Being snarky to reviewers is likely to do far more harm than a bad review itself. Give readers some credit, many don’t even read reviews and those that do often ignore ones which are blatantly nasty or don’t fit the reader’s own ideas. Let a reader make his or her own opinion.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
It can but doesn’t always. Like any marketing strategy it needs to be used in conjunction with other strategies. I’ve used free book promotions, with mixed results but I have noticed boosts on other books after the event. I suppose it depends on one’s definition of success and what one wants from the promotion. Free rarely garners reviews, as many readers download free books and don’t read them and there is a view that free = low quality (which isn’t true in my experience). I’ve downloaded free books and then gone on to buy the author’s other works. Having more than one book is of course beneficial. If there is just one title then why buy it when the reader can just wait for it to be free – but to offer a free book as a taster for other books can and does work. A while ago I ran a debate for Mythic Scribes on free books – where I interviewed authors and readers on their view on free books. http://mythicscribes.com/marketing/great-free-book-debate-authors/ http://mythicscribes.com/marketing/the-great-free-book-debate-the-readers/
What is your favourite quote?
I have several – I used to have folders full of quotes.
“If you can’t be a good example you’ll have to be a terrible warning.” – I used to have that on my office door.
Terry Pratchett came up with several –
“Where life can live it will, where it can’t it takes a little longer.”
“It’s not worth doing something unless you were doing something that someone, somewere, would much rather you weren’t doing.
“Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.”
“Most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally evil, but by people being fundamentally people.”
“I’d rather be a rising ape than a falling angel.”
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Again I have several – Professor Stephen Hawkin – because he’s a genius. Leonardo Da Vinci – for obvious reasons. Gaston Leroux, Terry Pratchett and Ellis Peters to thank them for their books. Marie Curie to thank her for her work. Charles Darwin, Homer, William Shakespeare, Francis Drake, Admiral Nelson, Nelson Mandela, Dame Judy Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Ronnie Barker, Michael Palin, David Attenborough.
Thanks so much for being on the blog this week A.L.! Please be sure to follow A.L. Butcher and check out her work!