Welcome A. L. Butcher
Author of Tales of Erana and many others.
(Links to where books may be found are at the end of this interview.)
Note: Alexandra prefers to utilise a mix of her book cover images etc. in place of an actual profile photograph. (She is not alone.)
Please tell us a little about yourself.
British-born Alexandra Butcher (a/k/a 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.
Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and the Tales of Erana lyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.
Her short novella Outside the Walls, co-written with Diana L. Wicker received a Chill with a Book Reader’s Award in 2017.
What first inspired you to write?
I’d been writing short stories, poems and role play game adventures for some years. I’ve written poetry and shorts for as long as I remember. The first novel was born from ideas for a game, a world I’d been creating for something else and grew as the work went on. I’d wanted to write a novel for a while, but I did need a lot of encouragement to publish it.
In what genre(s) do you prefer to write?
Mostly fantasy and fantasy romance but I also write poetry, short stories, horror and erotica.
How/Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
2 am in bed, in the bath…. Seriously though I often get them when I don’t want them or can’t do much about them. They just pop into my head, often spurred by random things.
Are you working on another book?
Of course. Currently, I am working on book IV of the Chronicles, a couple of short stories, two novellas and making notes for various other projects.
If your books have required research: What do you consider the best resources?
The internet! Best invention in the history of humanity (well except the wheel, electricity, sanitation, vaccines, modern medicine…). The short stories don’t often require much research, but the novels and novellas have involved me researching herb-lore, swamp flora and fauna, the air-speed velocity of dragons, some chemistry, historical battles, medieval weapons/armour, poisons, Roman and medieval cuisine, whether salamanders are edible, and mythology. I have a background in politics, sociology, classics and mythology so much of it was an expansion of this. I have various books on mythology, history and true crime all over the house so have resources to hand. Internet-wise Wikipedia is a good starting point, and Google is my friend. Mythic Scribes forum is a great place for fantasy resources, and there are several blogs I follow with useful info. Culpeper’s Herbal is handy for herb-lore.
I read a lot of history, crime, mythology and fantasy and the bibliographies can be a good writer resource. But I’ll say it again – Google is your friend.
Do you consider your books convey messages to readers?
The novels feature particular groups of people (elves and mages) being oppressed simply because they ARE elves and mages. There is a dubious historical reason but after centuries no one really remembers the specifics. So I guess there is a message about racism and hatred for the sake of it. Elves are much the same as the humans – they love, they fear, they cherish family and what is left of their culture and when it comes down to it they aren’t very different. There is also a message about ignorance – ignorance is dangerous. Blindly believing what the forces in power tell a person to believe is dangerous. That is how repression and tyranny become the norm.
Freedom is precious and worth fighting for, and love will conquer all.
What advice would you give to authors who are just starting out?
- Write what YOU want to write, not what might be popular today.
- Research the FAQs and TOS of the publishing sites (Amazon, Smashwords or where ever). Seriously. It’s not exciting but it is very useful. It never ceases to amaze me how many new writers publish on Amazon (for example) not having understood the contract, the royalty system, and the fact that Amazon does not market their book. There are always scores of newbies complaining that they are being ripped off, or their book is blocked because they didn’t take the time to learn the rules.
- Research what you need for your world. I write fantasy which gives me scope to come up with some weird stuff or bend the rules with magic but a sword still hurts if it pokes in you; gravity still works; a horse can’t gallop all day; a person can still only travel so far on foot. If you decide to fiddle with reality as the reader knows it then prepare to back that up. I don’t necessarily mean you need to go into specifics about how your star drive works, or exactly what magic is doing to the space-time continuum but do keep it consistent and believable (to a degree).
- Don’t expect the reader to know what you know about the world or the characters. Some explanations are needed. Work on that character building, and world building.
- Bad reviews happen. Deal with it. Not everyone is going to like your work. Do you think every book you read is wonderful? Nope. So why should Joe or Joanne Reader necessarily think your work is the bee’s knees? You can’t please everyone – there will be too much sex/violence/romance/teen angst/vampires/description or not enough in the same book for two different readers. Sooner or later someone isn’t going to like your precious and that’s fine. Move on and celebrate the next person who does. Don’t reply to reviews and never ever argue. That will do your reputation far more damage than a couple of one-stars on Amazon.
- Read. A lot. All the time.
- Learn the craft. Take a course on grammar, creative writing, world building etc. There are loads of style and writing guides available and some are cheap or free. There are plenty of low cost or free courses.
- Write because you can’t not.
Do you self-edit or do you think a book should only be professionally edited?
I self-edit for the short stories, but the novels I do hire an editor. I suppose it depends on your own skills. I think with editing you have to be more impassive and impartial – look for the flaws and errors, be picky and notice what doesn’t work (and what does), and of course be good at English. Many authors are able to self-edit, many aren’t. I do think it’s not always easy to see the errors in one’s own work. Personally, my brain sees what it thinks SHOULD be there, not always what is. I usually edit slightly as I go for obvious things, but once finished I will put the story aside for a while and work on something else. That will clear my brain so when I re-read I will hopefully spot issues. I’ll do several passes. I also have another couple of writer friends who will help, as I do for them.
An editor is a good resource, but often outside the budget of many, so ask around on forums and social media. Someone might be willing to help at a low cost, reciprocal work or beta read because they enjoy it. This is not ideal, but it is a start. I found my editor through another writer who had used her, and I know a few more now so I have maybe half a dozen options.
Even edited work contains issues (the last two books I have read have contained multiple errors and were traditionally published). Keep this in mind.
How do you go about marketing your books?
Marketing is the hardest aspect for me. I don’t like being pushy. It’s also one of those hit and miss things – what works for one person might not work for the next. Personally, I use blogging, Facebook, Twitter and a few other social media sites. I think Twitter and Facebook are useful. I am always open to trying new ideas. I use this site quite a lot https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/ and it’s very good value.
Goodreads is not the best resource for authors. It’s useful to add one’s books and for reviews but it is primarily a readers site. There are a lot of the forums that do not allow author promo and a lot of readers who really don’t appreciate it.
How important do you think reviews are?
That depends. It has to be remembered reviews are JUST a person’s opinion of a product. People have their own prejudices and ideas about what a story should be like – it can’t be helped – and if the story isn’t that many people leave an unfavourable review. That said many people do read reviews – looking for similar opinions, or getting some idea of something they aren’t sure about.
Take a look at reviews for Fifty Shades of Grey – they range from being the best book in human history to the worst. Personally, I don’t like the books at all but many folks do, and whatever else can be said about the trilogy, they have made reading erotica more acceptable. Anyway, my point is a book can have a multitude of reviews from one star to five and so it’s hard to judge on reviews alone. There is also the fact that the majority of readers don’t leave a review.
Do I review? Yes, mostly but not all. But I review for myself, to remind me about a book and because I like discussing books. Do I read reviews – not often, at least not for books. I do for other products.
If you consider reviews important, how do you go about obtaining them for your books?
Part one of this see above. Part two if I knew the answer to that I’d have more…
Do you have a preferred genre for when you read?
I read a lot – fantasy, sci-fi, true crime, historical, classics, historical fiction, mystery (usually historical), books on language and words, mythic. I don’t tend to read romance, religious, or biographies.
This is an age old question but one I consider of interest. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you like to have with you?
Complete Works of Shakespeare (maybe that’s cheating).
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Count of Monte Cristo
Please share with us links to where readers may obtain more information and insight into who you are.
Thank you Alexandra for sharing your considerable knowledge and experience with us.
Alexandra’s book ‘Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends’ has been reviewed in this website.