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Interview with Alex Beecroft

Read my latest in my series of interviews with authors- my latest guest author is Alex Beecroft

What originally triggered the idea for your latest work, and what challenges did you encounter in the process of writing it?

I was on a bit of a military SF TV-series bender, watching lots of Star Trek and Stargate. I’ve liked military SF for as long as the genre has existed. For some reason I seem to like military characters, though I would hate to be in the military myself. At any rate, it seemed to me that there were a lot of male, middle-aged Captains who were still seen as active, fully rounded, attractive people, and it hit me that I wanted to write a female middle-aged military captain. Perhaps going through a bit of a mid-life crisis. A woman who would be dismissed by our modern media as too old to be attractive and too unattractive to be interesting. A female character who would be allowed to inhabit the same sort of literary niche as James Bond. Capable, indestructible, badass – a bit of a power fantasy. So Aurora Campos was born. And everything else came from her.

Who would your three favourite authors be, but more importantly, why?

That’s easy! They are JRR Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin and Patrick O’Brian. They’re all absolute masters of world building and atmosphere. I grew up on The Lord of The Rings, from which I learned all my morality, and my ability to describe a landscape. In Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, I encountered the idea of non-binary gender for the first time, and I imprinted fairly hard on it, as the first time I’d seen people who reminded me of me. And Patrick O’Brian is the first author I encountered when I was fully adult and difficult to impress who blew my socks off with the beauty of his world, and the variety and complexity of his characters. I hope before I die I learn to write as well as him.

Do you listen to music while writing, or prefer silence? If you do listen to music while writing, what genres do you prefer?

I can’t write if there’s anything going on around me, which includes music. If music is playing, I will listen to the music instead of writing. So no, I need silence.

How important do you feel illustrations are in (a) writing for adults, and (b) writing for children and teens?

In the case of adults I would say they weren’t important but they are a very pleasant bonus and considerably increase reading pleasure. In the case of children – particularly when they’re first learning to read – they can be vital. When reading is a struggle, it’s often the pictures that hold a child’s attention and make them want to keep tackling the words.

Do you feel that there’s any sort of future for books (in any format) and for the art of storytelling?

Of course! I think that storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human. It’s how we tell our thoughts and our cultural assumptions to each other, how we teach the next generation and make ourselves content with who we are. Whether there will always be books as we know them, I’m not sure, but there will always be ways of telling stories, and writers will adapt to that.

Do you have any talents other than writing, which you’d like to tell us about?

I play the pennywhistle for a local morris dancing side, and I morris dance myself with two other sides. (‘Side’ is the correct word for a morris dancing team or group.) I play music for Coton Morris Men, and dance with Ely and Littleport Riot and Sutton Masque. That keeps me busy at the weekends, and also three nights a week!

Is there one single book in your life that stands out, or provided some kind of turning point, major change, or affected you so deeply in some way that it changed the course of your life?

I could say The Lord of the Rings, from which, as I say, I learned right and wrong. I also really wanted to be an elf, but since that was impossible, I decided instead to settle for being a Rohirrim – which inspired me to join Anglo-Saxon re-enactment society Regia Anglorum. Through that, I learned all kinds of things – such as how to light a fire with flint and tinder, how to spin and weave cloth, make shoes, clothes and embroidery, how to cut and shape timber with an axe, and how to stand in the shield wall and fight with spear and scramaseax.

So that was a major influence on my life. On the other hand, a poem by Cynewulf in a volume of collected Anglo-Saxon poetry converted me to Christianity. Cynewulf may get the prize there, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t have been studying Anglo-Saxon poetry in the first place without Tolkien and the desire to be a Rohirrim. So Tolkien still wins.

Finally, what new projects do you have in the pipeline / on the horizon? Which are the most important works-in-progress right now?

My newest release is Lioness of Cygnus Five, which is out on Kindle at the moment, and will be out in print as soon as I’ve wrangled the files – so next week.

Lioness

Aurora Campos's days of heroism are behind her. Deemed a shameful failure, she now captains Froward, a prison transport filled with criminals sent out to colonise new worlds for the Kingdom.

Bryant Jones, technocrat and falsely accused 'murderer', is not going to let his future be taken away by this low-tech luddite of a woman and her backward society. He’s staging a break out from Aurora’s brig when the Froward is shot down around them.

Cygnus Five is a failing colony. Starving convicts have taken over and found themselves a spaceship wrecker among the ruins of an abandoned alien city. The only way off-world is the Governor's launch, sealed in its silo beneath the convicts' headquarters. But as they team up to capture it, Aurora and Bryant discover love, institutional betrayal and the lurking remnants of a self-destructive alien civilization. Soon they have bigger problems on their hands than their own survival.

When they arrived, Aurora thought she had only her crew to rescue. As it turns out, she has to save the whole world.

After that, I’ll be putting out Buried With Him, a free tie-in story to 18th Century ghost-story-cum-murder-mystery The Wages of Sin. That’ll be out in mid October.

Then I have a historical romance novella called Labyrinth, set in Minoan Crete. That’ll be out from Riptide Publishing in November.

Labyrinth

Meanwhile I’m currently writing Waters of the Deep, which will be a follow on to The Wages of Sin, this time with fewer ghosts but more supernatural creatures.

Any links here:

For more news as it becomes available, check my blog or sign up for my newsletter (which entitles you to a free book from my back catalogue and weekly episodes of a newsletter-exclusive story.) Or you can find me @alex_beecroft on Twitter, and here on Facebook.


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