On the eve of his first book signing, I interrogate Alex Roddie when he's not up a mountain.
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 used to struggle with this, but now I tend to write more for myself, because I know that my passion will shine through and make a better story. I don't believe in changing my ideas too much to make them more commercial. Let's face it, fiction based on mountain history isn't the most mainstream of subjects--but it has found a small passionate following.
What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.
The history of mountaineering is my oxygen. To me, mountains are poetry, music, challenge, heartbreaking beauty, danger and romance all wrapped up into one perfect package. The history of mankind's exploration of the Alps is one of the most amazing tales ever told. Climbing is a wonderful metaphor for human experience and the human condition, and it's not just for climbers either--the stories and legends that keep me awake at night can be appreciated by all.
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 record everything. Pictures I find online go into Pinterest (which I think is a great writer's tool) and everything else goes into Evernote or Pocket. When travelling, I keep extremely detailed notebooks filled with notes about everything I see and do.
How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed like...er...bunnies)?
I examine them and measure their value. If I can use them, I invariably do, because I'm not very good at plotting in detail before writing the book--part of the fun is making things up as I go along! Any unused plot bunnies go into Evernote along with everything else...
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 think a lot of myself has gone into my characters ... perhaps more than I realise! O.G. Jones is the man I would most like to be: courageous, stubborn, willing to go to tremendous lengths to overcome his own limitations. A new character I'm working with, Thomas Kingsley, reflects very modern fears: worries about job security and debt. A common theme shared by both of these characters is redemption through self-discovery.
Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?
Sometimes! My girlfriend Hannah is very supportive, and luckily she's almost as enthusiastic about the 19th century as I am.
What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?
I tend to be a very focused reader, preferring books that fuel my writing. I read a lot of 19th century classics and mountaineering literature, but I also enjoy science fiction, travel and landscape writing, and humour.
What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?
Well, I'm considering hiding the first printed copy of my book in a geocache somewhere up a cliff in Glencoe as a publicity stunt! I also regularly venture into the mountains dressed as a Victorian climber, which has proven very popular amongst readers.
How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?
What do you like most about visiting KUF/GR/forums?
Compared to the climbing forum I frequent, KUF is very relaxed and friendly. It's the most positive forum I've ever contributed to.
What is on your near horizon?
I'm working on an ambitious project called "Alpine Dawn." It's a novel about the birth of Alpine mountaineering seen through the eyes of three very different characters: Kingsley, a failed journalist who suffers from depression; Smith, a showman who turns his adventures into popular entertainment for the stage; and Forbes, the world's greatest living explorer who is now dying and yearns for one final mountain voyage. The book begins in Victorian London, features the French Revolutions of 1848, and take the readers on a journey through the largely unexplored hinterland of the Alps--a region that, only a few years before, many had believed was the home to dragons and goblins!
Where can we find you for more information?
My book, The Only Genuine Jones, is here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Only-Genuine...B009R2BBN2