As many of you know, I’m a big fantasy reader, have been ever since I read Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Fantasy allows me to escape the hum-drum world of Earth and travel to a place where anything is possible. So when I meet a fantasy author I love, I want to tell you all about him/her. It’s my great pleasure to introduce you to British Fantasy Author A. L. Butcher. You may know her better as “Library of Erana”. She agreed to sit down with me for a candid interview. She reveals all sorts of sage advice and fascinating facts. Take it away, A. L.:
What book do you wish you could have written?
The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s a masterpiece of revenge, historical drama, intrigue and redemption. Fantasy wise – Soul Music, or Thud by Terry Pratchett. The late Mr Pratchett was a genius combining a rapier wit and shrewd intelligence with an easy style of storytelling. The Discworld is a parody of medieval Europe, and it’s cleverly done. I find there is a lot of humanity in the work, and a lot of ‘normal’ people becoming heroes. Only a true master could make the Grim Reaper one of the funniest characters in literature. Soul Music I love because it’s about the immortality of music and how it captives people. Music gets into the soul and makes us more than we were. It’s sad too – as Death appears (capitalised on purpose) and that even a good thing cannot last forever. The Discworld books deal with survival, courage, human emotions, life, death, politics, religion and so much more, all wrapped up in a world which is familiar yet strange.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Archos – Ian McKellan or possibly Hugh Jackman
Dii – Evangeline Lily or Emma Watson or Jessica Chastain
Olek – Chris Hemsworth or Chris Pratt
Ozena (she’s the hardest one for me to cast) – Keira Knightly or Emma Watson
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
- Finishing my degree. I was quite ill at university and various family members were also diagnosed with serious illnesses around that time so it was pretty stressful. I actually ended up studying part time for a while, but I worked as well so I had to manage study, work and deal with illness and depression. I was amazed I finished and delighted with the grade I got – I was expecting a much lower result.
- Publishing the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book I. Whilst I was writing my mother was in the latter stages of cancer, and my father becoming increasingly disabled. I managed to finish the first edition of the book and take a copy to my parents a few weeks before Mum passed away. Despite everything she’d gone through with ops, and chemo and the dreadful toll of cancer on her body and mind she was so happy and proud. That was the first time I’d seen her smile for a good while. As it took a bit longer to produce the print edition than the e-book she knew about it already and had told everyone. I mean EVERYONE – neighbours, family, friends, nurses, the doctor…. For a while she was happy. After she’d gone to sleep I crept away and cried as I knew she didn’t have long left but also because I’d made a dying woman, whom I loved very much, smile.
Have you always liked to write?
Yes of course. I think writing is like any other art form – either you can do it, or you can’t. Practice hones the skill, that goes without saying but the creativity is always there. The essence of the story is in you. Being a writer isn’t just something you do, it is what you are. Even if you never publish the story you are still creating that tale, that world, those characters.
I write poetry and short stories too. At school I used to get asked to write something for the school display. I wrote a lot of fanfic, adventures for games and short pieces when I was younger. I’m not saying those were any good but I wrote them more for myself. I played tabletop and roleplay games for years so coming up with adventures for those was a lot of fun. My first novel actually came out of a mix of an adventure I’d written for something and an idea for a particular world that I’d had for a while.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
- Keep writing. Even if no one reads it but you write it anyway.
- Write what you want to read and what makes you happy. Don’t confirm to something simply because you think you should, or someone tells you ‘romance is hot this month’. Forcing a book will be just that – forced and it will show. If you like something someone else will. Not everyone, but then that’s true of all art, but someone surely will.
- Grow a thick skin. As I’ve said not everyone will like what you write. Do you like every book you read? I doubt it. Some people like to say what they think and that is true for good and bad reviews. Suck it up. If you will get upset by reviews then don’t read them.
- If you do decide to self-publish then go for it but read the FAQ, TOS and forums BEFOREHAND. It will save you a lot of hassle if you understand the rules and restrictions of the particular site.
- Don’t expect to get rich quickly. Be realistic. You’d be amazed how many people go on the KDP forums whining about their book not selling a zillion copies in the first week. Why should it? Even if the book is amazing there are millions of books out there. You need to be a marketer, accountant, formatter, promotor and get a whole heap of other skills as well as being a writer. At least unless you have the money to pay someone else. Many books, especially self-pubbed books, don’t sell more than a few copies and don’t sell consistently. Some do, and some do very well but the vast majority don’t bring in a lot. This takes me back to point 2. Write what YOU want and for the love of it. Success is relative.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read them sometimes but I try not to obsess about them. Shit happens, people don’t like things. Readers miss something, or pick up on something random. Or there is too much sex/violence/world-building or not enough.
Every reader is different. What I like in a book (such as good world building and fascinating characters) might not be as important to someone else. That person might consider rich building as an info dump, or a ‘fascinating’ character as bloody annoying.
For every reader who likes your book there will be one who doesn’t. It happens. Try not to let it bother you.
Look at a popular book – say 50 Shades of Grey. Now I gave up before I even got to the end of the sample I thought it was that bad. But plenty of people disagree and think it’s great. Look at any book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Smashwords and there will be a mix of reviews.
Don’t respond to reviews. It’s a BAD, BAD idea. The internet is at one and the same time very large and very small. A snarky comment to that negative reviewer will likely be shared with said reviewer’s friends, who may then share it on, or blog about that rude author. It’s not worth it. Comments typed in the spur of the moment, particularly angry comments, will stay around for ever. Nothing ever truly vanishes from the internet.
Many readers don’t want to engage with the author and don’t like authors commenting on reviews. Even just a thank you might be seen as inappropriate. It’s not worth it unless the reviewer makes a point of asking.
Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
Combat scenes. In the last couple of books there have been fight scenes between multiple combatants. So it’s working out who is where, who is fighting whom and with what, whether the fight scenes are actually realistic. I mean how DO you fight someone with a sword? How DOES a longbow work? The author needs to know realistic weapons, fighting styles, armour, anatomy and logistics. Heroic fights, with willing suspension of disbelief, are great but they can’t be too unrealistic. Poking a sword in someone still hurts. Battle is dangerous, people die or are wounded. It’s exhausting. Two of my main characters are magic users but that too needs to be limited. Magic demands a price and the more potent the spell the higher that price. The mages can’t just keep zapping away with no cost, that’s just stupid.
I think one of the hardest scenes I’ve written was the aerial combat scene in Of Blood and Scales in Heroika: Dragon Eaters. A warrior and his wing-man on griffin-back fighting a dragon, whilst trying to avoid being skewered by claws, snapped on by teeth and melted by caustic breath. I must have re-written that damn scene about eight or nine times. The editor didn’t run away screaming so I must have done something right.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
Let me see, I have three novels, two short story collections, a stand alone short story, and a few anthology pieces.
What are you working on now? What is your next project?
Currently I’m working on a novella for my Tales of Erana short fiction series. It’s the companion series for the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and set in the same world but featuring tales of lore, legend or side-characters. There is also a fourth novel for Light Beyond, but only just started that, and a couple of other short story ideas. At some point I’ve promised an historical short based during the time of Magna Carta so I have to research a bit more for that. Oh and I am planning a roleplay system for my world, but that’s a massive project so for now it lives in my WIP folder and gets added to occasionally.
Do you write naked?
Hahaha. Now that would be telling….
Do you drink? Smoke? What’s your vice?
I don’t smoke, and I drink rarely now. I used to drink a lot at college/uni – far too much really. My vice now? Books. I buy a lot of books, far more than one person can read. I like books. My partner says I’m a hoarder too.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
‘I told you so’, or possibly ‘if you can’t be a good example you’ll have to be a terrible warning.’
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Invisibility. I could have all sorts of fun with that.
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
A monkey. I love monkeys – they are clever, naughty and resourceful. Or possibly a squirrel. I was obsessed with them as a child. I even wanted to be a squirrel ‘when I grew up’, and my imaginary friend was a squirrel called Patch.
What’s on your bucket list (things to do before you die)?
Go in a hot air balloon
Finish all the books I have planned
Eat a real Chinese meal in a Chinese restaurant in China
Ditto Italian food
See the Aurora Borealis
Learn to sing properly
What were you like as a child? Your favorite toy?
Odd, lol! I was an imaginative child (see the answer about squirrels). I was often in trouble for daydreaming in the boring lessons at school. I was rebellious too. Nothing too awful, well I didn’t think it was awful….
My favourite toy? A squirrel called Silky (another imaginary friend in the squirrel colony). We had been to Bournemouth on holiday and there was this awesome toyshop filled with teddies and other stuffed animals. I remember vividly because the shop assistant wrapped him in purple tissue paper. I loved that toy so much. It went everywhere. I think he went on every holiday since I was about 4, he went to school sometimes – as we were allowed to take in a toy at junior/middle school at the end of term. He slept in my bed. I still have him, the poor soul has an eye missing, his fur is very threadbare and one of his ears is hanging off, but he lives on top of the wardrobe now.
Title: The Light Beyond The Storm Chronicles – Book I
Author: A. L. Butcher
Genre: Fantasy/Fantasy Romance/Sex and Sorcery
In a dark world where magic is illegal and elves are enslaved a young elven sorceress runs for her life from the house of her evil Keeper. Pursued by his men and the corrupt Order of Witch-Hunters she must find sanctuary. As the slavers roll across the lands stealing elves from what remains of their ancestral home the Witch-Hunters turn a blind eye to the tragedy and a story of power, love and a terrible revenge unfolds.
Available as an e-book in all the Amazon stores, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and the Smashwords associate stores.
Also available as a paperback on Createspace and Amazon.
Author Biography: A. L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles fantasy series, and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genres. She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys. Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as evocative.
Social Media Links:
Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alexandra-Butcher/e/B008BQFCC6/