Welcome to A.L Butcher, also writing as Alexandra. OK so this is a bit self-serving as it is my blog but perhaps it is time my readers get to know me a bit better.
Where are you from and where do you live now? I grew up in the South East of the UK, in a small town and I now live in Bristol, which is in the South West. I moved as I studied Politics and Sociology at university in Bristol and as I now work there never left.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I write fantasy and fantasy romance with a hint of erotica. To date I have two novels – The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book I and The Shining Citadel, which is book II of the series. I am working on book III. I also have Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends, which features five fantasy tales in the form of mythic tales set in the same world, this is also available in audio.
I have poetry in a number of anthologies and some to come out in the next few weeks. I also have short stories in a number of other publications. The poetry doesn’t often get an airing, if I am honest but it is good that people enjoy it.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I like research, but it is easy to get lost in it all and half the time I’ll go off and look up something not strictly relevant. Although fantasy allows for quite a lot of creative scope I do think there are some aspects which really need to be researched, such as weapon and armour usage, terrain, food, herbalism and defence. For The Shining Citadel I researched swamp and mountain terrain, flora and fauna, whether salamander is edible, medieval weapon use and herbs used in healing. For my current book I researched mythic creatures, herbs, horsemanship and fishing.
I think accuracy is important, as is consistency. I hate reading a book where something is simply implausible, or plain wrong. If a writer changes something for his or her world, fair enough but they need to justify how that thing now works and stick to it.
Resources are predominately the internet, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, another herblore book, various books on medieval warfare and weaponry which we have in the house and the Mythic Scribes website, which often has good advice. I read a lot of history and have a background in Classical Studies so all off that helps. It is also great to research story-telling itself. Homer and the Greek classics, Roman mythology, Nordic tales, and sometimes further afield. People have been telling stories as long as humans have been sitting around a fire, sometimes to explain and sometimes to amuse. Creativity is goes hand in hand with humanity; humans need stories, the ability to escape and to understand the world and often this curiosity leads to more – to science and the sharing of knowledge.
Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…) Great characters, great world-building, solid plot, technically perfect. I hate books with weak characters and world building. If I don’t care about the characters I am reading about I don’t give a stuff what they do. I’ve read several books where the plot was a bit weak but the characters were fun enough that it didn’t matter. Typos and poorly written books are not just in the indie market – I read a book by a well-known crime author with 5 typos in the first few pages and she was traditionally published. I am not saying that is right, but I am saying it happens a lot and not just to indies despite what many people think. I’m fairly forgiving so a few misplaced commas or a stray typo will not make me stop reading but terrible characters or a distinct lack of world building will. That said ideally a book should be the best it can be. I have also read plenty of books with errors – did the errors reduce the reading experience? Yes if they were too bad.
I also appreciate within the indie market that many authors work within a very small budget and although not ideal I’d rather have a cracking story with one or two issues than a technically perfect book with no soul. There are a few of those around. That said I have seen indie books which are so bad as to be unreadable.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?
The Light Beyond the Storm – Book I is available as an e-book on all the major online retailers and in print on Amazon, Createspace and Barnes and Noble, it is also available in large print. Hopefully next year I may pursue it as an audio.
The Shining Citadel is available in all the above except large print (as it is too big and I’ll have to split it in half) and audio.
Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends is available as an e-book and audio.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? Yes, certainly. I think there is quite a lot of prejudice against indie authors. Why? Because some indie books are badly written, badly formatted and badly edited. Unfortunately once stung by a book like this many readers will assume all indie/SPA books are like this, which isn’t the case. Trad pubbed books are not necessarily well written, but are generally edited and formatted correctly. Some readers seem to think that a writer self-publishes because he or she has been rejected by a ‘real’ publisher. Whilst this is certainly the case for some, and I am not saying their books are substandard they are just not what the publisher wants at that time, it is not the case for all. Many authors like the freedom self-publishing brings, including a better royalty rate (generally) and fewer deadlines. It also depends what an author wants from his or her book. Is it a case that he or she wants to publish for a smaller audience, or isn’t so bothered about sales figures? In this case self-publishing might work quite well. Hopefully as the great Indie and self-published books are recognised the division will diminish.
Do you read work by self-published authors? Of course, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t. I buy a lot of books and these days more than 50% of my purchases are self-published. Some are good, some aren’t – the same as trad pubbed.
What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? Don’t. Generally authors commenting on reviews, particularly negative ones is bad and will lead to far worse. Reviews are a reader’s opinion – nothing more and there will always be someone who doesn’t like the book, for whatever reason. Look on Amazon at the reviews and I’ll bet most books have a mix. Yes the review might not say what the author wishes it said but reviews are for readers and people review in many different ways and for different reasons. This is particularly the case on Good Reads, there are a lot of reviewers there and many are extremely active. An ‘author behaving badly’ will only get him or herself in more hot water by bitching. Remember on the internet once something is said it can be very difficult to take it back, and it is likely to end up on someone’s blog, Facebook or wherever. Unless the review is personally spiteful or racist etc. I’d say let it go, if it is personally abusive then report it to the correct moderators. Most readers will pick and choose which reviews they take into account and an obvious hate-review will be just that – obvious but the flip side is those same readers are likely to notice an author getting upset/angry in the comments.
How important are reviews? I wish I knew. Personally not that important as I tend to make the choice to buy a book on other factors but good reviews certainly can’t hurt and I know there are several book promotion sites that won’t even consider a book with less than 50 reviews. Because reviews are so varied and posted for so many reasons I am not convinced they are vital. Many disagree.
What are your reviews on authors reviewing other authors? I have no problem with it, if the review is genuine. Most authors are also avid readers and so why shouldn’t they. Yes sometimes there is a ‘If you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours’ type of attitude, which I am not keen on. When I review I’ll try and be honest. I don’t often find books I don’t like but it does happen. I’ll try and find something positive – good characterisation, a touch of humour but I will say what I don’t like, including if it is badly written. I tend not to be bitchy, as I am not that sort of person but I do think saying a book is wonderful when I don’t think it is won’t help anyone – not the author and not other readers. I can separate being an author and being a reader.
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? So I am a bit of a nerd, I do enjoy playing PC games, especially fantasy based ones such as Dragon Age and Skyrim but I do tend to think even the immersive ones are fairly linear. I like to imagine the world, the characters and such like in a book and I live the vivid descriptions which often don’t appear in a game. A book is truly immersive. I watch a lot of films, but again the people and the settings are laid out for the viewer and less imagination is involved.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?
Be realistic – you are unlikely to be a best seller overnight.
Read the FAQ/TOS and the small print. Please!
What are your best marketing/networking tips? What are your worst? Hmmm. Best – I suppose author interviews, both giving and receiving. It helps to build a network and authors generally are a helpful and reciprocal lot – readers like to know about an author. Also I use Facebook a lot, but it helps to check out what the promotional rules are for particular groups and don’t just spam your book, interact, hang out, post other stuff.
Worst –Twitter but that is probably because I don’t know the best way to utilise it. Personally it seems like a constant stream with no conversation or interaction and I, personally, have never bought a book via Twitter, although I have clicked on article links. I do know quite a few people who have a lot of success on Twitter – how I have no clue.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it?
The Tripods trilogy. I loved these books when I was younger and so this is a great journey back to my younger days. Before that I read a medieval romance called Creating Memories by Lisa Shea. I have read her work before and enjoyed it. Her heroine was a feisty lass and the love story built slowly with many twists.
I am currently reading a book about Lunacy and Mad-Doctors in Victorian Britain.
Can you name your favourite traditionally published author? And your favourite indie/self-published author? Too many to name, but picking a few – traditionally published – Gaston Leroux, Alexandre Dumas, the Brontes, Bram Stoker, Janet Morris, Tolkien, Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Colin Wilson, Terry Pratchett, HG Wells, Jules Verne. Indie/SPA – Walter Rhein, Lisa Shea, Diana Wicker, Janet Morris, JD Hallowell, Ross Harrison, Thaddeus White, Leeland Artra.
What are your views on authors offering free books? I actually did a blog post on the Mythic Scribes blog last year about this – leading a debate for authors and readers who were for and against this. My own view – it can work but needs to be handled carefully. Many readers download books BECAUSE they are free and don’t read them. It is not a guaranteed way to get reviews or more readers but it might work for some. As a reader I have read an author’s free book and then bought a follow up. Some readers assume that a free book will be rubbish – or why would it be free? I think it depends what an author expects from a freebie campaign – do they simply want to get their name out there and hope that a few people will take the chance and read the book, then tell their friends? I think exposure is the main reason for offering freebies. I download free books and I do read them but not as many as I used to. Smashwords has a useful tool – an author can offer a voucher to discount a book – which is handy for review copy or giveaway prizes. In my view that works better than a generally free book as it is easier to target.
Do you have a favourite movie? I have many, I watch a lot of films. Let me see – in no particular order: Dead Poets Society, Star Wars IV-VI, Schindler’s List, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Alien et al, Monty Python films, Silent Running, Dune (miniseries), Pale Rider, High Plains Drifter, Jane Eyre, Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman Begins, Dark Knight Rises, Star Dust, Bram Stoker’s Dracula….
Can you name your worst job? Do you think you learned anything from the position that you now use in your writing? I worked in a kitchen in my student days. I hated it. The money was diabolical, the hours sucked and some of the other staff were just plain nasty. I don’t think I learned anything from that job except to respect people in menial jobs – they get a raw deal.
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I’m Caulrophobic. I hate puppets too.
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Please see the side bar for links – but here are the main ones:
Light Beyond the Storm Amazon http://tinyurl.com/oxttl4y
Shining Citadel Amazon http://tinyurl.com/nek3zs2
Nine Heroes http://tinyurl.com/qzgre7x
Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends
Newest Release – Spectacular Tales http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spectacular-Tales-Collection-Collaboration-Presents-ebook/dp/B00N3SPH5O/