Sunday, July 25, 2010

Talking with Alex Beecroft

Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?

There's not much to tell.  I'm a person whose fantasy life is a lot more interesting than their real life, thank goodness!  I have several genres that I enjoy – Historical, Fantasy and Mystery.  I've also written a contemporary and a ghost story.  In fact, other than Horror and Western, I don't think there's a genre I wouldn't attempt if you asked me to.

What comes first for you when you sit down to write a book? Plot or Characters?

Characters, definitely.  I often take the first five chapters or so to find out who my characters are and what they want, and only then do I sit down and figure out what the plot is.  The characters have to be alive and kicking before they can start making the decisions which lead to the plot.  This method often means that I have to go back and re-write the first five chapters once I know what I'm doing, but it's worth the extra effort.

Do you "cast" your characters using pictures or actors to help inspire you when you're writing?

Yes.  I'm not a very visual writer.  I don't see pictures in my head when I write, so if I didn't find a photo to use as a visual reference, I would probably not know, myself, what my characters looked like.   I usually start off by "casting" actors to play my characters.  Peter Kenyon from Captain's Surrender, for example, is played by James D'Arcy and John Cavendish from False Colors by Simon Woods.

How long does it take you to finish a book from start to finish?

It depends on the length and complexity of the book.  I would say that a novel length book, 80,000 words or more, takes me not less than nine months and sometimes a year.  I do three drafts and a final polish, and an awful lot can change between drafts.  Usually the more I think about the book, the more ideas I get for how all the different pieces can be tied together.  My first drafts are terrible!  Almost all the good stuff gets added in during my revisions.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

My latest book is called Shining in the Sun.  It's a holiday romance between a rich yachtsman and a poor surfer.  They both have terrible lives (in very different ways) and react by running away from them for one month of freedom every year, but this year they run into each other and discover that together they're strong enough to turn around and start facing their problems.

I was inspired by my own summer holidays, which I spend in the same village that I write about in the book.  It's such a lovely place that I wanted to wrap it up with a bow and give it to everyone, so that they could have a Cornish summer holiday too.

How much does reader reaction mean to you as an author? Do you read your own reviews?

Reader reaction is hugely important to me.  I read all the reviews I can find, and when they're good I feel that this slaving over a hot typewriter is all worth while.  Good reviews definitely make me want to write more.  Bad ones do make me want to give up, but – fortunately for me – the impulse rarely lasts more than a week before I pick myself up again and go on regardless.  But I treasure all my positive reviews, and keep them to re-read when I'm feeling down and depressed.  They always cheer me up.

What are you working on now? Anything you want to tell us about?

At the moment I'm writing a very long Fantasy novel called Under the Hill.  It may even end up being two volumes.  It's a quirky tale of a group of amateur ghostbusters and how they bite off more than they can chew when they find themselves going up against the Faerie Queen.  It was inspired in part by the ending of Torchwood.  I had enjoyed Torchwood when it was fun and slightly silly, rather than when it became very slick but dreadfully depressing.  So I wanted to do a story about a paranormal investigation agency myself, but to keep it fairly lighthearted and romantic and avoid laying on too much angst.

What books are currently on your nightstand/bedside? Anything coming you are dying to read?

At the moment I'm absolutely swamped in research.  I'm reading all about World War Two for a historical romance I mean to do after I've finished Under the Hill.  So I'm enthralled by Enemy Coast Ahead by Guy Gibson, and Bomber Boys by Patrick Bishop.  And for light relief I'm reading the Inspector Barnaby books by Caroline Graham.  I can't wait for my copy of Counterpoint by Ruth Sims to arrive from America, though.  That will trump everything, when it gets here.

If someone hasn't read any of your work, what book would you recommend that they start with and why?

I would say False Colors because it's the book I'm best known for.  It's also more representative of what my writing is normally about than Shining in the Sun.  I am very proud of Shining in the Sun, but partly I'm proud of it because it's the sort of book I didn't think I could write – I'm not a contemporary fan in general – and I don't know that I would be able to do it again.

If you could have been the servant to any famous person in history, who would that be and why?

Because there is a straightforward example of a man whose life made the world a better place.

What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?

I'm sure that ebooks will go from strength to strength.  Once I got my ebook reader I became a firm convert to the idea of having a library in my pocket.  As far as publishing goes, however, I hesitate to guess.  It seems clear, though, that reading is not going to go away for a long time, so I don't think that writers are going to become obsolete quite yet.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

It's as hard to choose which character you love most as it is to choose which of your children you love most.  You love them all equally, though sometimes for different reasons.  I love John Cavendish from False Colors because of his delicacy, and Garnet Littleton from Blessed Isle because nothing phases him at all.  I love Darren (also known as Ryan) from Shining in the Sun because he's such a foul-mouthed vulnerable mess, and Jasper from The Wages of Sin because he has suffered and been made stronger and more compassionate by it.  

I don't hate any of them, but I pity Captain Edwards in Captain's Surrender and Darren's father in Shining in the Sun because they are so self-centered and self-righteous that they will probably never understand how hateful they've allowed themselves to become.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her/it/him when she/he/it refuses to inspire you?

I don't think I actually have one.  I have a strangely personal relationship with my characters, who come to life and often refuse to do what I think they should.  I'm always very happy when they surprise me, because it means they have become their own people.  But I don't think I have a muse in addition to them.

When I'm feeling uninspired I just wait until something comes along that interests me, and I go with that.  Sometimes the interest fizzles out, and sometimes it gets stronger for feeding – the way the WW2 idea has.  When it carries on getting stronger and starts becoming an obsession, I know I have my next idea/setting for a book.

If there was a soundtrack to your latest novel, what genre/songs would be included?

For Shining in the Sun, The Boys of Summer by Don Henley, definitely.  Also lots of Trance music – Sunset on Ibiza, God is a DJ, Southern Sun, Rapture by Armin van Buren, that sort of thing.

Which of your characters would you most likely fall for if they were real?

Either Jasper or Alfie (from False Colors), I think.  They are both uncomplicated, sensual, sunny characters who enjoy life and are well able to cope with anxious, nervous, self-sabotaging partners like me.  Jasper would be better for me because he doesn't have Alfie's temper and would stay calm when I yelled and threw plates. 

Having said that, though, I would have to be a gay man first, because falling for any of them would not do me any good in my present state.

Besides the bedroom, what's the sexiest part of your home in your opinion and why?

The garden – it's enclosed and surrounded on all sides by climbing roses, honeysuckle and jasmine, so that in the evening it's cool and full of scent, and none of the neighbors can see in.

Where can readers find you on the ‘net for more information on you, your books and other fun stuff?

I have a website here:
but I'm most often found hanging out on livejournal
Or, if you are in the UK, come along to the m/m meetup in Ely this September and meet me in person:

Sneak Peek into Shining In The Sun:

Footfalls gently whispered across sandy soil and grass.  He was turning when Ryan's arms slipped about him.  His shoulder collided with the yellow skeletal fish on the front of Ryan's T-shirt, which gave him a quizzical look. 

The kiss that must have been intended for the crown of his head landed on his temple.  It might have been the clapper and he the bell, the way he rang with it.  A sweet shock vibrated through every particle of him, echoed in his chest and trembled into silence at his finger ends.

"Ah!" he said, thought whiting out in sensation as Ryan shifted behind him to align himself better, chest to Alec's back.  Alec's buttocks nestled into the curve of Ryan's groin.  He could feel the press of his own thin linen slacks and Ryan's numerous pockets and zips, keys and change and the hot, smooth bulge of his swelling prick.

"S'OK," Ryan murmured into the nape of his neck, breath stirring the little hairs there, making him shiver all over.  "You don't have to do that."  His hands burrowed under the blazer's rough wool, stroking over Alec's stomach.  Splaying out wide, they pulled Alec gently but inexorably back against him.  There must be electricity in the palms of them: the fingertips poured out gentle sparks of need into each millimetre of skin over which they slid.  Ryan touched his lips and then his tongue to the back of Alec's neck, and harbour path, sea and sundial swam into steel before him as his eyes unfocussed and slid shut.  "You don't have to do anything."

Oh God!  Alec's life unravelled under Ryan's hands.  His own cock stiffened, needy and demanding, and Ryan's hand slid slowly down his belly to cup it, heat welling through his palm.  The firm slow press filled Alec's backbone and belly with writhing prickly pleasure.  Summer was here, beating on his back, boiling in his veins and balls. 

All at once, he thought of his father, his share portfolio.  Whist foursomes, wedding plans, his mother's tears and hopes for grandchildren rose up to blot out the sun.  He thought he stiffened with realization, but instead found himself pushing into the hard encircling fingers.

"The car!  Oh, God, I… oh… I never called back for the car!  And they'll be…"  A kiss just beneath his ear, the laving press of Ryan's tongue down the side of his neck and the words skittered away.  He groped for them as if they could shield him from this – oh – this glory.  "Shut.  They'll be shut now."

"You can stay with me."


Anonymous said...

Great interview Alex. Thanks for being my guest. I love the sound of your garden. :)


Alex Beecroft said...

Thanks for having me, Dawn! Those were some great questions, and I enjoyed answering them :)

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