Alan Baxter Interview
From humble (but rather excellent) self-published beginnings, British/Australian author Alan Baxter has established himself as a widely respected writer—and excitingly has a new series coming out from Harper Voyager in the next couple of months.
After reviewing his first two books (RealmShift and MageSign) recently, I have the good fortune to be able to give you an interview with the man himself, where we talk about—among other things—dark fantasy and how parenthood might (or might not) change how you write.
What drew you into writing in the first place?
Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve always loved reading and stories, always written since I was a kid. I can’t imagine not being a writer.
You obviously enjoy writing on the darker side of fantasy. What is it about this area that interests or inspires you?
I think the darker stuff tends to be more honest. There’s no patina of happiness in real life and even the best of times can be tainted with dark turns or haunted by darkness that came before. For example, when my son was born I was beside myself with happiness. But I was distraught that neither of my parents lived long enough to see their grandson. Wherever there’s light, you’ll find shadows. I like to explore those dim places.
The brilliance of your first two novels lies not only in a compelling plot and characters (especially the lead, Isiah), but in the fantastic universal theology you’ve created. Can you tell us a little about how these stories came about?
“Brilliance”? Wow, thank you. These books were born originally through the character of Isiah. I was travelling and he kinda popped into my head and travelled with me for months, slowly growing into a more fully realised hero. As he grew, the ideas for the plot grew along with him. I often find my stories grow from characters first. Not always, but often.
Was it intentional to explore the nature of religion as you have done?
Yes, it was. I find the concept of religious mythology endlessly fascinating, especially the way people can look at all these ancient myths and decide one is real while all the others are just stories. (Of course, lots of people don’t look at all the other mythologies and just stick with the first one they’re told about, but I won’t get a soapbox out now.) And really, it’s more the concept of belief than religion per se that I like to explore. Of course, those things are inextricably entwined.
Writers are notorious procrastinators, yet your back catalogue is impressive. How do you stay so productive?
I’ve spent a long time building the kind of career that gives me lots of writing time. That means I’m always poor and there’s nothing like poverty to motivate a person. I don’t have any particular routine, but my wife (who’s an artist) and I have a loose structure of taking turns with the baby and each getting studio or writing time. We also run a martial arts academy, so that has to factor in as well. We’re fairly busy people. I procrastinate as much as the next writer, but when I work, I work hard.
You’ve recently become a father for the first time. How has your writing routine changed to accommodate?
Like I mentioned above, it’s changed the way my wife and I manage our time. It’s also been great for cutting down on that procrastination stuff. I make a point of writing whenever I get time and if I’m in charge of the baby and he goes down for a nap, I write. I’ve trained myself to focus in short bursts. The first draft of RealmShift was written during my lunch hours at a 9 to 5 office job, so I got in early on making time to write, and making the best of it.
Has having a child changed your approach to writing such dark material?
So many people told me it would, but it hasn’t so far. People told me how I’d never be able to write horror involving children again once I was a father, and I’ve written two stories with terrible things happening to kids since my boy was born, so it doesn’t seem to apply to me. Maybe I’m a sociopath!
You’ve recently been signed to Harper Voyager for a 3-book deal. Congratulations! What can we expect to see from the Alex Caine series and when might we see it?
Thank you! Bound is the first book and it’s being published in Australia and New Zealand in July. Hopefully the series will sell into the other territories (UK, US, etc,) soon. Here’s the blurb for Bound:
Alex Caine is a martial artist fighting in illegal cage matches. His powerful secret weapon is an unnatural vision that allows him to see his opponents’ moves before they know their intentions themselves.
An enigmatic Englishman, Patrick Welby, approaches Alex after a fight and reveals, ‘I know your secret.’ Welby shows Alex how to unleash a breathtaking realm of magic and power, drawing him into a mind-bending adventure beyond his control. And control is something Alex values above all else…
A cursed grimoire binds Alex to Uthentia, a chaotic Fey godling, who leads him towards chaos and murder, an urge Alex finds harder and harder to resist. Befriended by Silhouette, a monstrous Kin beauty, Alex sets out to recover the only things that will free him – the shards of the Darak. But that powerful stone also has the potential to unleash a catastrophe which could mean the end of the world as we know it.
Hopefully that whets your appetite.
Each book in the trilogy is a standalone novel, but there’s an over-riding story arc that covers all three and comes to a big conclusion in the third book. I’ve left a few threads hanging in the hope that the books are successful and I’ll be able to write more Alex Caine novels in the future. And fans of my previous books might notice a little cameo here and there.
And finally, why fantasy?
Because reality can often be pretty shit!
But seriously, while that is true, I just love the scope that fantasy allows us. Anything goes, follow the rabbit hole all the way down and hopefully readers will come with you on that journey.
We would like to thank Mr. Baxter for taking the time to talk with us. You can read Fantasy-Faction’s reviews of RealmShift and MageSign here and here. You can learn more about his new Alex Caine series on his website or follow him on Twitter.