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Today’s book tour and guest post is with author A.L. Butcher.
An Interview with author A.L Butcher
SB: What are your top 10 favorite books/authors and why?
A.L. Butcher : Not in any order:
I, the Sun – Janet Morris – not only is this an amazing biography of a remarkable man but through this book I was lucky enough to meet Janet and Chris Morris, and become friends with these lovely, talented people, and write for Perseid Press.
Watership Down – Richard Adams – it’s a beautiful, enchanting story that’s both simple and complex
The Count of Monte Cristo – A Dumas – possibly the greatest revenge story in the world. It’s exciting and the antihero is awesome
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte – same reason as Monte Cristo.
Phantom of the Opera – I love this story – it’s tragic, exciting, mysterious and has spawned one of the things I love most.
The Odyssey – I love mythology – especially Greek and Roman myths. It’s great adventure, filled with mischief, monsters, morals and more.
Lord of the Rings – I love the mythic storytelling – the grand adventure and that in the end it’s the simple folk who save the day – Samwise and Frodo. It’s a tale of friendship, courage, magic and a rich lore that permeates British culture.
Thud – Terry Pratchett – I love all of the Commander Vimes stories. He’s a complex character – a good man who knows it’s a fine line between being a good man and a bad one and that he could easily go down the dark path and become what he seeks to fight. He hates rules and bends them whenever possible.
Schindler’s List – because everyone should read this book
SB: What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
ALB : Depends on the book. I’ve researched flora and fauna of various terrains, weapons and the damage they do, myths, the potential chemical composition of dragon fire, the potential of dragon flight, poisons, medieval food, weather, the victims of Jack the Ripper and all sorts of other things. I usually research as I go along.
SB : Do you read yourself and if so, what is your favorite genre?
ALB : I read a lot. I tend to read true crime, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy and history, but recently I’ve got into biographies.
SB : Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
ALB: I usually have several stories at any one time. Currently I have the fourth novel in my series and at least half a dozen short stories on the go. I’ve been known to write a short story in a weekend, but then again sometimes I go for months without writing anything story-related.
SB: Pen or type writer or computer?
ALB: Definitely computer. I have awful handwriting – so much so I used to get detention at school for handwriting practice. It didn’t help. I hold a pen between my first and second fingers with my fingers wrapped around it. That is a comfortable writing position for me. Because I rarely write anything freehand now my handwriting is barely readable anyway. Writing freehand also makes my hands hurt – I have a neurological condition called fibromyalgia and I get pain and pins and needles in my hands. Typing on a keyboard doesn’t hurt as much.
I also have a spellchecker, delete, and a whole host of info near to hand if I use the PC or laptop. I haven’t used a typewriter for…maybe 30 years.
SB : What made you want to become an author, and do you feel it was the right decision?
ALB: A writer is something you are, I think. I’d say the same for an artist or musician. It’s in your soul and if you don’t let it out then it’s there poking you everyday saying, ‘Let me out… let me be free.’ Of course one can be a writer, artist or musician and not be very good at it. That doesn’t stop one being those things or enjoying them, just in private.
I’ve been storytelling as long as I’ve been able to write and make up tales. As a child I had an invisible friend who was a squirrel – and we used to go on all sorts of adventures. My late father and grandmother used to make up stories for us, my eldest sister teaches drama and English, and my other sister is an artist and dressmaker. My late mother was a dressmaker and awesome cook. We all had a little bit of muse in one form or another.
I assume what you mean is when did I decide to publish? 2012. My mother had been fighting cancer for a number of years and it was a very stressful time for the whole family. My best friend persuaded me to adapt a short story I’d written for a game we played into a novel, I combined it with a world-setting I’d created for something else and the first novel was born. I released it in June 2012 – when my mother was in the last stages of her cancer.
Was it worth it? Hell yes. Mum was so proud and pleased. Holding my book brought her so much joy in the last months of her life. She told everyone. I mean EVERYONE – nurses, the doctor, the neighbours who called, all my relatives – including the elderly neighbour across the road. This lady wanted to read it, I told her it had saucy bedroom scenes and I wasn’t sure she would approve. She laughed and told me she’d been married for 40 years and doubted it would shock her. I don’t regret a single day of writing – it’s brought me joy, taught me loads, and I’ve met some great people.
SB: Do you have any advice to offer for new authors?
ALB: Write what you want to write, and what you want to read. Don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. Write for yourself, for the joy of it, for the worlds and people you create.
If you want to self-publish – then go for it. There are pros and cons to it, of course. But that’s true of traditional publishing as well. Do what is right for you. Keep in mind self-publishing is hard work – you don’t have the backing of a publishing house – so the marketing, editing, getting cover art etc. is your responsibility. That said, you can publish the quirky stuff, the non-mainstream stuff and have some success with it.
Read the FAQ and the Terms of Service or contract. Seriously. Especially if you decide to self-publish. It’s a business, and it really helps to understand the rules, what is covered and not covered, when you are likely to get paid, and what to do and not do. KDP (Amazon’s self-pubbing platform) has good FAQ but many, probably most, new authors/publishers don’t read them and get in a tizz when their money doesn’t appear instantly, they’ve had their book blocked because they did something daft or sneaky and got caught. We think it’s at least 500 authors who have had their accounts terminated for transgressing the rules this year.
Find others to read and critique your work. Most authors think their work is great and it’s hard to see (and admit to) any criticism or issues with a story. You, as the author, may know the entire history of these characters and why they are doing whatever they are doing but a reader doesn’t. I’ve read books with little to know character or world building and I hated them. I do not care for a character I know nothing about, in a boring world of nothing. Others may see something you don’t – or not see something you do. On that note – if you can afford it get an editor. There are some who will accept instalments. You don’t see your own errors. The mind fills in the gaps. Editors – depending on the type – will look for inconsistencies, typos, developmental issues and a host of other things.
SB: What makes a good story?
ALB: Engaging characters and a rich world that can be believed in, even if it’s alien or fantastic. Without at least engaging characters people won’t care about the plot.
Think about the books you enjoy, what makes them enjoyable for you?
SB: What are you currently reading?
ALB: I’m reading a book about sex and sexuality in Stuart Britain. And I’m listening to the Definitive Sherlock Holmes in audiobook.
SB: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
ALB: Getting stuck, writer’s block, confidence, inspiration.
If you get stuck on a particular point, then skip it and come back to it (just don’t forget). I’ve written my story into a corner more than once and had to change tack, and I’ve frequently skipped over parts and written further along and then once I’ve worked that out – the getting there resolves itself.
Writer’s block – listen to music, read, watch a movie. Try not to stress. The writing will come or it won’t.
Confidence. Yeah, that’s a hard one.
Inspiration. Don’t force a story to be something it’s not. It will show. If the muse doesn’t strike you then go away from the story for a bit. It will come back.
SB: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
ALB: I write what I want to write. If people read it, then that’s great. I cannot write to formula, or what’s popular at any given moment. I take a while to write anything, unless I’m having a really creative burst, so by the time I’ve written that popular thing, it probably won’t be popular. I can write fantasy and historical fantasy, poetry and a bit of horror – I can’t write contemporary romance, Westerns or Chick Lit so I don’t try – it would be rubbish.
Dark Tales and Twisted Verses
A Fireside Tales Collection #2
by A.L. Butcher
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Horror, Dark Poetry
Dark tales of ghosts of war, blood from the Autumn of Terror, the wrath of nature, an unusual murder and a cynical vampire. Twisted poetry of loss and mayhem.
Some adult themes and language.
The Secret of Blossom Rise – A Ghost Story
The Watcher – A Tale of Jack the Ripper
The Last Forest – A Tale of the Wrath of Nature
The Last Dance – An Autumnal Flash Fiction
The Sleeper – A Yoyo Murder
So Many Nights, So Many Sins – A Vampire’s Tale
British-born A. L. Butcher is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as ‘evocative’. She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.
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