Friday, 14 December 2012

Interrogating Alex Hunter

And now to interview another author who know that to make a good book, you need to have a seagull in it.

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

I have always written about things that interest or inspire me, rather than with someone else in mind. Although I don't think I've ever set out to write for an audience, I suppose there have been times when I've resisted the urge to write something, and perhaps that was because I might have been the only person who'd have read it. The Testing of Archie Rathbone was the first book I've ever set out to publish, and having achieved that I can see that my writing might change as a result - I'd never intended to write a sequel, but I've had quite a few comments from people asking about possible sequels. In the end though, I can't help thinking that if I weren't writing something that excited me then readers would be able to tell.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

Oh no! The 'G' word! I've had a lot of trouble with attributing genres to what I write. I still don't know how to categorise The Testing of Archie Rathbone, and I'm afraid what I'm writing at the moment will go the same way! Although I love to read books that educate as well as entertain, there also needs to be a strong element of escapism, and I think those are qualities I strive for when writing too. I sometimes think that crafting a plot has a great deal in common with garden design - although I may be able to appreciate grand vistas and architectural planting, I feel much more at home in ancient gardens with labyrinthine hedges, where you can only ever see a 'room' at a time, and never know what surprises are waiting for you just out of sight.

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

I have a notebook (well, more than one actually) in which I jot down ideas. Sometimes they are just potential book titles (how some of my stories start out). Having said that, I don't think I've ever gone back to them when writing a story!

How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed

I've had problems with a minor invasion of those recently - the only way I can manage them is to write them down in my 'little black book', and hope that that keeps them out of harm's way until I'm ready to deal with them properly.

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with?

I don't think I've got much in common with any of the characters in The Testing of Archie Rathbone. The main character in the book I'm working on at the moment (The Watchmaker's Chain) is definitely not me, but I have indulged myself in that he shares some of my interests. Interestingly (for me at least - and I hadn't thought about this before) there is an elderly gentleman in the book, and I think I may unwittingly have based him on what I imagine I may become in thirty or forty years' time! Who would I most like to be with? Assuming he'd had a shower first, I think Gabriel (the tramp-like character from The Testing of Archie Rathbone) would be interesting company at the pub.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I like reading historical fiction, some science fiction, some fantasy, espionage, thrillers, crime, humour...
I have enjoyed writing, or would like to write in any or all of these genres. I also like writing children's stories, but suspect that my children's writing is hopelessly out of date for a modern children's audience - I wrote a children's novel a few years ago but decided not to try to get it published for just that reason.

As a child and adolescent I used to like 'undiluted' SciFi and Fantasy, but now there has to be something else (an intriguing plot, philosophy, strong characterisation, etc) to engage my imagination, and I have to be able to suspend my disbelief. In The Testing of Archie Rathbone, although I couldn't have told the story without the fantasy elements, those elements were never intended to dominate the book. The Watchmaker's Chain has an underlying layer of SciFi, but I almost don't want the reader to be aware of it most of the time. I have huge respect for writers of historical fiction and have read a great deal of it. The first novel I ever wrote was an historical novel based, in part, in ancient Egypt, but having read the books of Christian Jacqu, I'm not sure I'll ever be good enough to do the genre justice.

What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

To me, marketing is a dark and hidden art. I imagine that most indie writers find this side of self-publishing challenging, and I more than most! I read once that indomitable and unquestioning self-belief is an indispensible weapon in the self-publisher's armoury - unfortunately it's one I don't posess, so convincing readers of the merits of my writing doesn't come easily. Thankfully, the reviews my book has received have been quite positive, and some have been positively glowing, so I suppose I tend to rely on potential readers getting at least a little persuasion from those.

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

Embarrassed, and grateful! It's really important to me that what I write is well written and that there's as little as possible that might distract the reader from the story - spelling mistakes can do that, and for some readers they can completely spoil the experience. I suppose that some will inevitably make it past the editor's scrutiny, but really, even one is too many.

What do you like most about visiting KUF/forums?

I joined Goodreads at the beginning of the summer, and KUF a few months later. It never ceases to surprise me how friendly and supportive people are towards each other, and there's a real sense of community.

What is on your near horizon?

I started writing The Watchmaker's Chain last year, and am something like a third of the way through my first draft. Unfortunately I was made redundant in March, so most of my time is now spent trying to find a job (that pays). Even when occasionally I do have time to write, I've found it difficult to concentrate with the need to pay the bills hanging over me. I'd love to think that I'll find a job before long and that I'll be writing again soon - The Watchmaker's Chain is a story that really wants to be told.

Where can we find you for more information?

I have a couple of blogs (, and my author blog on Goodreads, and a third (with a link from the Blogger one) dedicated to Trenchfoote (a character from The Testing of Archie Rathbone). I have to confess that I've struggled to keep the updates going on these, not because of any lack of motivation on my part, but because there's been very little interest shown in them. That's probably down to my inexperience in choosing what to post, as well as not knowing how to make them sufficiently visible, but I'm hoping that when I get back into my writing again, I'll be inspired to start posting to my blogs too.

I also have a facebook author page which is probably the best place to get information, or to contact me.

1 comment:

  1. Thoughtful and insightful, just what I would expect from Alex Hunter