Monday, March 14, 2011

Welcome, Alex Beecroft

MM: Today, I have the distinct pleasure of having Alex Beecroft, author of historical m/m romance. Thank you for joining us today. So tell me, how long have you been writing?

Alex: Well, I’ve written for my own pleasure since I was 11 years old, which would be oh, 34 years. I’ve been writing professionally since 2007.

MM: Explain to us what the tagline on your blog means; Full Bodied Vintage Fiction with a Twist of Lime.

Alex: Hee! Thanks for spotting that J Well, after listening to much talk about branding from people who convinced me that I should be identifying myself with the things I was likely to do a lot of, I tried to figure out what I wrote most. This was more difficult than it might seem, because although I’m known for historical romance, I also love Fantasy and Mystery, and want to write in those genres too in the future.

I figured that I would always like history – so that’s the “vintage” part. “Full-bodied” is because I write the kind of Romance that calls a spade a spade, where sex scenes are concerned. “Fiction” because I wanted something that covered Romance, Historical, Fantasy and Mystery. “With a twist of lime” refers to the fact that I have gay heroes. “Lime” is a fanfiction term for m/m fiction which has some sexual content but is not as porny as “lemon.”

The whole thing was meant to sound like a tasty cocktail.

MM: What is your favorite subgenre to write?

Alex: That’s difficult because (as the branding issue shows) I actually prefer to work in more than one genre at once. The thing I loved writing most was The Wages of Sin, and that’s a historical m/m romance, murder mystery and ghost story.

The novel I’m writing at the moment, Under the Hill, is a rural (as opposed to Urban) Fantasy with a plot that’s driven by romance and a vital historical component. So I’d say that I prefer to write in a mixture of Romance+Fantasy+History, and I’m even happier if I can toss in a mystery too.

MM: Is there one that you haven’t tried that you see yourself doing in the future?

Alex: I would quite like to do a novel length mystery. It’s a genre that has a lovely rigorous structure, which means lots of pre-planning (you have to know who did it and how before you start so that you can put the clues in in the right places) but also means that you always know where you’re going in the plot. That’s refreshing for me, because normally my characters lead me a merry dance and I don’t know what’s going to happen until the end.

MM: I’m of the opinion that erotica doesn’t have to be real all the time to make a good story, what are your thoughts?

Alex: I agree with you in principle. However, in practice I tend to be the kind of reader who gets tripped up when something happens that I don’t think is possible or even likely. So for me real works more consistently. The writer has to be very good indeed to make me go “I know this wouldn’t really happen, but phwoar!”

MM: Who are the authors that you look up to?

Alex: In terms of all writers ever, it would be the holy trio of JRR Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin and Patrick O’Brian – superb world builders, all of them. In the m/m genre there are too many to mention, but they include Erastes for her style and ability to evoke emotion, Lee Rowan for her elegance, Charlie Cochrane for her charm, ZA Maxfield for the way she can make me cry for happiness, Josh Lanyon for his ability to combine amazing plots with complex characters, and Harper Fox for her lyricism. Oh, and Ginn Hale for her imagination. Give me a moment and I can name another seven just as easily J

MM: What are you working on now?

Alex: I’m working on a very long Fantasy novel called Under the Hill. (It may have to become two medium sized novels, but that would be OK as there’s a natural break in the middle anyway.) Here is a very rough blurb for it:

Who're you going to call? Dambusters!

When Ben Chaudry is attacked by elves he hopes the

Paranormal Defense Agency he finds listed in the phonebook

will sweep in and save him. Sadly they turn out to be a bunch

of UFO enthusiasts, lead by Chris Gatrell, who – while

distractingly hot – is also retired from the Air Force on grounds

of insanity. Chris thinks he's been moved forwards in time 70

years, and he's still mourning the loss of his WWII sweetheart.

Can this team of rank amateurs really protect Ben from the threat of kidnap by the Faerie Queen? What does she want with him anyway? And why, when Ben and Chris have the chance to build a new life together, does Chris start getting ghostly messages from his lost

love that warn of the Faeries' plans to invade and conquer the earth?

MM: When creating your characters, do you have models in mind or are they totally fictional?

Alex: My characters tend to come together out of nothing as I wonder about them. So they’re at least 99% made out of pure imagination. However, I’m not a very visual person. I figure out how their minds work, but I rarely get a picture of what they look like. These days, as soon as I’ve got a feeling for a character, I will go and look through the stock photo sites to pick him a face. There it’s a case of “I’ll know him when I see him.”

MM: As an M/M writer, do you feel that the trend is changing where it is becoming more mainstream?

Alex: I would have liked to think so, but my feeling is that it isn’t. The reason I’m so pessimistic about that is that my False Colors was launched in 2009 as an attempt by Running Press to bring M/M romance into the mainstream. They published False Colors, Transgressions by Erastes, Tangled Web by Lee Rowan, and Lover’s Knot by Donald Hardy, and tried to get them placed in bookshops next to the het romance. This caused a lot of shocked articles in newspapers wondering why on earth women would want to read such things. It also caused such complaints from the buying public that within weeks the books had been moved back to the GBLT shelves and the attempt to be treated equally with het romance was over.

I haven’t seen anything since then to suggest that it’s getting any better.

MM: Would you consider this a positive or negative?

Alex: I think it has to be a negative thing that gay love stories are not treated the same way that het love stories are. Love is love, so why the segregation? Could it be because the larger society is OK with gays as long as they stay in their ghetto? I want to see the day when the gender of the couple in a romance is considered unimportant, because everyone’s love stories are valued equally. I’m afraid we’re still a long way away from that.

MM: Do you feel that m/M authors are slighted by the big conferences and or organizations, like RWA? Do you see this changing?

Alex: As a Brit, I have to say that I’m not really aware of the doings of the big conferences and Romance organizations in the USA. I do know that you don’t have a hope of being reviewed in Romance Times if you have a M/M novel, even if you buy one of their adverts. So if that’s symptomatic then yes, we probably are. I’m sure it will change in the long term, but I think we’d do better to focus on attempting to make the larger society a better place for GBLT people than to worry too much about RWA.

MM: As a fellow fem in the genre, what is your stance on the difference between male and female gay writers?

Alex: Obviously, if a gay male writer is writing directly about his experience of something – the gay subculture that he’s been part of all his life – his account of it is likely to be more authentic than that of a female writer who has not had that experience. However, the moment he writes about something other than his direct personal experience, that difference is lost. I do not believe there is any difference at all between a man writing from his imagination and a woman writing from hers. Deep inside we are all human and the things we have in common far outweigh any differences due to gender.

Having said that, the female writer does need to realize that the world works by different rules for a man than it does for a woman. Assuming your male characters will react exactly like your female ones is to ignore millenia of social conditioning.

MM: I read a blog about M/M writer’s losing their imagination because they are writing the same subjects repeatedly, what are your thoughts?

Alex: *g* I saw that one at the time and kept well out of the discussion. I suppose I feel that in any genre there are tropes. How many cozy mysteries set in small villages have we seen? How many Tolkien rip-off fantasies? Yet people enjoy them, and a good writer can write anything at all and make it fresh and engaging. Shakespeare borrowed his plots wholesale from other people, but no one accused him of being derivative. I think we ought to be concentrating on encouraging quality rather than worrying too much about discouraging tropes. Too much striving for originality can lead to stories that are bizarre just for the sake of being bizarre. I don’t think that would be a better option.

MM: What is it about M/M that pleasures you to write it?

Alex: That’s another tough question. It’s nice to write about love, because love is the most important thing in the world – and one of the most interesting. But heterosexual romance squicks me out. If I was to write it, it would have to be sex-free. I have to look away from the movie screen when there are het kissing scenes, for example. I don’t get the squick factor with m/m sex, so M/M romance allows me to write about love without having to get over that feeling of irrational discomfort.

MM: Where can we find you on the web?

Alex: All over the place! This is my website, which has an attached blog that I update on Mondays. But you can find me on Facebook or Livejournal if you prefer either of them. I’m also on Twitter as @Alex_Beecroft

MM: Thank you for taking the time to spend with us today Alex and continued success on your work.

Alex: Well, thank you very much for having me, and for such interesting questions! Okay, hope that wasnt too much. It was great. Thanks!

Not at all, thank you so much Alex for the engaging interview.

Readers, here are a few more covers for Alex's books. Click on them to buy.


By the way, Manlove Monday is at Rawiya's today. Please go have a peek!


Rawiya said...

Thank you for stopping by Alex!

Alex Beecroft said...

Thanks a lot for having me :)

Erastes said...

Excellent interview - and if is such a shame that - despite the genre growing like a weed it's not made much inroads into the mainstream. I agree with you about RWA though, it's better to create a forum of our own, with people that understand the genre rather than shoehorn ourselves into a space which doesn't want us. Thank goodness we have allies in both literary and romance camps like Teddypig, Carina, Lethe Press, Dear Author and many many others.

Avril Ashton said...

This was an awesome interview, guys. Great questions and I loved the answers :)

Alex Beecroft said...

Thanks Erastes! I'm sure it will happen and the genre will go mainstream, but it's clearly going to be a longer term process than we thought. That's OK, I'm sure we've got the staying power, and we'll learn all kinds of valuable lessons on the way. We don't necessarily want to be immediately embraced and subsumed as we might have been if the welcome had been more enthusiastic :)

Alex Beecroft said...

Thanks Avril! They were great questions, I agree :)