Author Interview & Giveaway: Alex Beecroft
Welcome to the Alex Beecroft Interview and Giveaway.
Today, I am interviewing an author who, for me, represents history coming to life, beautiful prose, and incredibly memorable characters. I would like to extend a warm On Top Down Under Welcome to author Alex Beecroft.
Kazza: For those who may not have read Alex Beecroft before, could you please elaborate on the types of books you write?
Alex: Well, first of all thank you for such a lovely welcome. Um… well, I write all sorts of books really. I’m known for my historicals because that’s what I started out in publishing with, but I also do fantasy and contemporary and keep intending to do mystery as well. It depends on how the mood takes me. I think of myself as somebody who likes the exotic, and that’s most easily found far away, either far away in the past or far away from this planet.
Kazza: I like to think of myself as someone who knows a little bit about a lot of things, but before I picked up Blessed Isle I had never heard of Age of Sail. Since then I have read False Colors and both are on my list of favourites. Could you please elaborate on what Age of Sail is? I suspect a heck of a lot of research goes into these books – the ship, the uniforms, the class system, the law etc., etc. Having said this, what made you decide that this was something you wanted to write about? I imagine it takes a lot of work per book and a lot of passion.
Alex: Age of Sail is anything set during the long 18th Century (ie it also includes some early 19th Century stuff and some late 17th Century) that heavily features tall ships and the people who work on them. My specific interest is in the British Royal Navy of that time and its officers – people like Admirals Nelson, Cochrane and Rodney.
I’m really not sure what drew me to this era. I can pinpoint the exact moment it happened – I was watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. At the very beginning of the film, when the bow of HMS Dauntless looms out of the fog, for some reason I sat up, transfixed, and went “OMG, tall ships!” I never got the interest in pirates, because I was too busy reading everything I could lay my hands on about the Royal Navy. I think I may have a thing for microcosms – small societies of people (particularly military people) trapped together in some kind of vessel – because I felt similarly about Lancaster bombers when I found out about them. I love my big war machines.
Kazza: I have read The Crimson Outlaw which is an historical novella set in Transylvania in 1720. The life, the people, and the customs all meticulously written. It is just a little different to anything I have read of late. I was wondering what the inspiration for The Crimson Outlaw may have been? For Vali and Mihai?
Alex: Sadly, it all started with vampires. I was writing a fantasy novel called The Glass Floor (no romance at all) and wanted to take vampires back to where they started when they were monsters. So I began to read up on Romania – both Wallachia and Transylvania. What I found simply made me fall in love with the country. Their history is so much longer than ours – they were civilised when the Romans arrived – and so much stranger than anything I’m used to from a European country. For many centuries they were part of the Ottoman Empire, but they really didn’t want to be. For them, Vlad Dracula is a folk hero, for example, another one of the many Christian martyrs who attempted to free them from distant Islamic overlords.
So basically, after I’d learned a bit about all the interesting things in the country, I felt guilty about the fact that I’d only ever associated them with vampires, and decided to write The Crimson Outlaw to show all the other wonderful things that were there.
Also, I have to admit, I found myself shipping my hero from The Glass Floor with one of his old retainers, and I desperately wanted to write their backstory. I couldn’t, so I wrote something like it, instead.
Kazza: I came across a recent blog of yours re: writing male characters and ideas about men. How there are varying and interesting viewpoints about what constitutes a man or a male character. By the way, I rather like the sound of the ‘domestic god!’ I’ll say that as a reader, as someone who is older, I must have diversity in my writing, as in my life. It is true that some people can hold on to certain gender roles, certain expectations. So…what do you think is the hardest thing writers’ face because of reader expectation, or gender stereotyping, when writing men in books? In fact, do you find it easy to say ‘damn the torpedoes, these are my characters and this is simply who they are?’
Alex: I do find it easy to say exactly that. I don’t pay attention to people who are perpetrating stupid reductive gender stereotypes. I mean, you can’t live in this world for long without realising that everyone is assumed to understand men. All our media is about what men think and feel. We are encouraged, even required to, identify with male heroes, understand what they’re going through and why they react in the way they do. At home, as a matter of course, we pay attention to our sons’ and partners’ and male friends’ expressions and moods and thoughts, what they say, how they move, etc, and we figure out what they’re thinking and feeling from a combination of empathy and deduction.
The idea that we can’t do the same thing with characters that we ourselves have created – it’s ludicrous.
The one thing I have realised since I began to hang out with more gay men, was that my characters were very straight acting. That’s not a bad thing for the kind of characters for whom it would be their thing (military men, for example), but there really ought to be more of a place for gay characters who dare to be more femme. Because that’s very brave in real life and ought to be celebrated. So these days I have relaxed about the need for my lads to all conform to possible readers’ expectations of some manly ideal. If my characters want to defy gender stereotypes a little, I go ahead and let them.
Kazza: What books are on the near, or far, horizon for Alex Beecroft? Would you kindly share a little about a book or books of yours that we should look out for over the coming year?
Alex: Excitingly enough, I have a new historical coming out later this very month (on the 25th of February to be specific.) That’s called The Reluctant Berserker, and is set in another new historical period – Anglo-Saxon Britain in the 9th Century AD. I say a ‘new period’ but it’s an old friend to me. I studied Anglo-Saxon art and archaeology at university and spent twenty years re-enacting the period at weekends. So this has probably got more research behind it than anything else I’ve written.
Wulfstan, a noble and fearsome Saxon warrior, has spent most of his life hiding the fact that he would love to be cherished by someone stronger than himself. Not some slight, beautiful nobody of a harper who pushes him up against a wall and kisses him.
In the aftermath, Wulfstan isn’t sure what he regrets most—that he only punched the churl in the face, or that he really wanted to give in.
Leofgar is determined to prove he’s as much of a man as any Saxon. But now he’s got a bigger problem than a bloody nose. The lord who’s given him shelter from the killing cold is eyeing him like a wolf eyes a wounded hare.
When Wulfstan accidentally kills a friend who is about to blurt his secret, he flees in panic and meets Leofgar, who is on the run from his lord’s lust. Together, pursued by a mother’s curse, they battle guilt, outlaws, and the powers of the underworld, armed only with music…and love that must overcome murderous shame to survive.
Warning: Contains accurate depictions of Vikings, Dark Ages magic, kickass musicians, trope subversions and men who don’t know their place.
My thanks to Alex for the interview and giveaway, including an excerpt of her new book, as well as the author spotlight and book excerpts. Simply leave a comment below by the Sunday, February 16th before 12 midnight (US EST) for a chance to win an Alex Beecroft e-book of your choice.
** THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED **