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. She is also another friend and colleague of mine, and I have had the pleasure to work with her and come to know her over the past few years. She has written the delightful The Kitchen Imps, a wonderful collection of humorous, clever little tales that explains a lot about what happens in your kitchen, laundry room, and other parts of your house when you’re not around. In addition to all that, she’s one great interviewer: not only does she interview authors — she interviews their characters, as well. So, without further ado, it’s my turn to put her in the “hot seat,” so to speak.
What and who are some of your influences and inspirations?
I read a mix of genres – fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction and non-fiction, true crime, classics, horror, erotica. I can’t really narrow it down to one or two influences – but I’d guess the epic storytellers of old like Homer; the epic world-builders like Tolkien; the historical writers like Dumas, or Hugo and the witty like Pratchett. Inspiration is everywhere, anywhere and always.
How and why did you decide to start writing?
I’ve always been a storyteller or enjoyed listening to and reading stories. I was raised in a household where literature, self-expression and creativity were important, and for that, I’m profoundly grateful. I’ve always written short stories, poems or scenes. For me it’s not when I decided to start it’s when the stories decided to pick me. A writer is part of who and what I am.
What genres and/or literary style do enjoy writing in the most?
I love writing fantasy. It’s a great genre with so much leeway – anything is possible and everything is possible. I’m not technical enough to write convincing sci-fi – although I like to read it. I may yet write science fantasy – who knows. I dabble in horror – more of the gothic or suspense style and I’m a poet. Erotica is fun to write too – especially with a friend….
Tell us about your latest published book, short story or novella.
The most recently published (aside from the audio) is Echoes of a Song. It’s a short story set after the events of Phantom of the Opera but adapted with a new take on things. A tale of tragedy and madness it follows Raoul – the young, rather foolhardy fellow who takes on the Phantom – but a dozen years later. Let’s just say it’s not a happy ending.
I’ll mention ‘The Watcher,’ too, which is featured in Boo! Fore! – a charity horror anthology. This one is very dark, and very bloody. It’s a tale of Jack the Ripper – would you expect it to be all fluffy bunnies and unicorns farting rainbows? No, of course not.
Besides the “entertainment factor,” what do you strive for in your writing?
I like writing exciting, and thought-provoking stories, and stories I’d like to read.
Would you say that your stories are more plot-driven or character-driven?
Both – sorry that’s not helpful is it?
If I may interrupt here for a moment: that's okay. Having read a number of your stories, I think I know what you mean. You strive for a balance between the two: action/plot define your characters, and your characters shape and move the plot forward. It's a nice balance. (JB)
What can you tell us about your latest work(s) in progress?
Currently, I’m expanding a short story in the Tales of Erana series – it follows the adventures of a minstrel who finds himself involved in a deadly situation, and needs to clear his name. Of course, it’s not that simple for him. Set in the world of my novels these short stories and novella follow the would-be heroes, the tales of lore and the legends. Poor Coel – when he thinks he is safe something else happens to trap him.
What are some literary goals you’d like to achieve?
I’d like to sell 3 million books and retire to a cottage by a Scottish Loch. That’s a way of saying I have no idea….Seriously though I’d like to be able to write full time. I’m planning a role-playing game for the world, at some point.
What genre of fiction have you not yet written for, but plan to in the future?
Historical – I’ve dabbled in short stories but I’d like to write a novel set in Roman Britain. That’s on my to-do list.
Name a few of your favorite literary characters and tell us why they are your favorites?
Odysseus – he’s brave, although rather arrogant, and he’s very stubborn. I love his adventures
Tempus – he’s deep, rather tragic and yet he’s a good man. He doesn’t shy away from doing what is needed and he never gives up.
Erik – the phantom of the opera – he’s an anti-hero. Clever, amoral, tragic and yet loves so purely.
Sam Vimes – again – he’s stubborn, determined and a good man in a world where good men often fail. He is always Sam Vimes – no matter what happens.
Jean Valjean – a survivor, a fighter, a hero and a good man in a world of chaos.
Heathcliff – a tragic, dark antihero. He’s wicked but because the world has made him so. In many ways he’s like Erik – he wants to be loved and respected but he can’t be: in Erik’s case it’s because he’s deformed, and in Heathcliff’s case it’s because he’s a foundling.
Granny Weatherwax – that’s one dame who takes no crap!
What are some of your all-time favorite films and TV shows?
Films – Silent Running, Lord of the Rings, Lost Boys, Dead Poets Society, Star Wars (IV-VII), Schindler’s List (the book is even better), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Rogue One, The Wrath of Khan, 300, Wall-e, 9, Mad Max (not the new one – eugh), Crocodile Dundee, Star Trek, X-men….
TV – Columbo, CSI, anything with Sir David Attenborough, decent history documentaries.
Tell us about your writing habits, such as: Do you outline extensively? Do you create your characters first, or your plot? Do you listen to music while writing, and if so, what kind?
I don’t plan – not much anyway. I usually end up veering away from a fixed plan. I have a loose plan in my head and lots of notes but often the story goes where it goes. Sometimes I have to poke it back on a suitable track but usually it’s right.
Plot comes out of characters and characters come out of plot.
If I listen to music it’s 80s rock, or classical.
Thank you very much for taking time out to answer some questions, and offer us some insight into what makes you tick.
You can find out more about A.L. Butcher, her work, and her own fabulous interviews at these “locations.”
Links to her books:
The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book I
Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends