SciFiChick.com was recently able to interview author Alex Bledsoe to discuss his Eddie LaCrosse series and recent release, Wake of the Bloody Angel. (Reviewed here.)
Can you tell us a bit about Wake of the Bloody Angel in your own words?
Like all the prior Eddie LaCrosse novels, this one is a mystery at heart. Eddie is hired by his landlord, the enigmatic Angelina, to discover what happened to the great love of her life, the pirate Black Edward Tew. He vanished twenty years earlier on his way back to her with the richest pirate treasure ever recorded. To follow this very cold trail, Eddie enlists the help of Jane Argo, another sword jockey who was once a pirate captain herself. They charter a pirate hunting ship, crewed by former buccaneers now barely on the right of side of the law. There are battles, horrors and surprises before the final revelations about the fate of Black Edward.
What is a sword jockey? How did you come up with this idea?
In my secondary-fantasy world, he’s the equivalent of a private detective. People hire him to find things out, to discover if other people are doing bad things, and to resolve problems. I invented the designation because there wasn’t an equivalent accepted term in fantasy. The closest would be “mercenary,” I suppose, but that doesn’t include solving mysteries or locating missing persons. I wanted something that had the same slang feel as “private eye” or “shamus,” but was particular to a faux-medieval world. “Sword jockey” seemed to fit.
The Eddie LaCrosse series has the feel of a detective novel or an urban fantasy but is set in a more traditional fantasy world. Was there a reason you went this unconventional route?
For years–and we’re talking at least twenty of them–I tried to write the story that became the first novel, THE SWORD-EDGED BLONDE, as a more traditional fantasy. It never worked, or rather, it never came to life. It was a compendium of tropes, all done better by other fantasy authors, and all failing to create the effect I was after. Finally I realized that, since I adored reading hard-boiled detective novels as much as I did fantasy, that perhaps combining the detective-style narrative voice with the accoutrements of fantasy would create something interesting. And it did. I just wish I’d thought of it sooner.
How do you see Eddie’s relationship with Liz progressing?
That’s tough to answer without giving away too much. I don’t see them having any sort of traditional marriage or family life, because they’re not traditional people. And children wouldn’t really work for them either. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have interesting ups and downs. Liz is a major character in the next novel, and I think readers will enjoy seeing their relationship move more to the center again, which it hasn’t since “Burn Me Deadly.” You’ll certainly learn a lot more about how they relate to each other on a day-to-day, non-crisis basis.
The thing I can promise is, Liz will not die to provide an excuse for a story. I think that sort of thing is trite, overdone and not something I would want to spend a year of my life writing. There are plenty of authors who enjoy arbitrarily killing off characters readers love; I am not one of them. I’ve lost too many people arbitrarily in real life.
How many books do you have planned for the Eddie LaCrosse series?
There’s no set number. It’s a matter of readers wanting more, and me feeling like I’m not repeating myself. As long as those two things are there, I’m quite willing to keep going. Eddie’s a great character, and writing about him is fun.
What’s next for you? What other stories are you working on?
The next thing hitting shelves will be WISP OF A THING, the second novel in my Tufa series after THE HUM AND THE SHIVER. It’s contemporary fantasy set in Appalachia among a secretive group of people with a magical connection to music. For Eddie LaCrosse fans, there will be a short story in the anthology THE NEW HERO, VOL. 2 that also includes Jane Argo from WAKE OF THE BLOODY ANGEL. There will be more e-chapbooks in my FIREFLY WITCH short story series, and a fifth Eddie LaCrosse novel, so far untitled but about halfway written. And I’m working on some new ideas as well.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in writing.
The first thing I remember writing is taking a Batman comic book and turning it into a prose story on my dad’s old manual typewriter, the one he used exclusively for typing up the minutes of the church session meetings. I got in trouble for wasting all that ribbon ink. I studied journalism in college, which in one sense was a mistake since I really wanted to be a fiction writer, but was persuaded I should channel my energies into an actual “career.” On the other hand, it taught me how to write quickly, and well, and to get to the point, which is one reason my books aren’t doorstoppers like a lot of fantasy novels. I piddled with fiction up until the mid-90s, when I realized I’d wasted a LOT of time and needed to get serious about it. The first short story I wrote after that decision was also the first one I sold, which I took as a sign; you can find a revised version of that story, “The Chill in the Air Wakes the Ghosts Off the Ground,” in the first FIREFLY WITCH e-book chapbook (e-chapbook? Is that a term yet?).
Of course, it still took me twelve more years to sell a novel. Even when I finally signed with an agent, Marlene Stringer, who “got” what I was doing (and she was my third agent, which just tells you that landing an agent isn’t a guarantee of success), it took her two more years to find a publisher for my first novel, THE SWORD-EDGED BLONDE. Not many agents will stick with a client without a sale for that long, but she did, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
What inspires you?
Depends on how you mean it. Each novel has a specific inspiration, many times musical: THE SWORD-EDGED BLONDE was inspired by the Fleetwood Mac song, “Rhiannon,” and a jumping-off point for WAKE OF THE BLOODY ANGEL was the Looking Glass classic, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).” BLOOD GROOVE, however, was inspired by a dream, and DARK JENNY by my lifelong fascination with Arthuriana.
Now, if you mean what inspires me to keep writing, I can only say that if I didn’t, the stories would chew their way out of my head. My sons inspire me, but not the way you’d probably expect: they’re my barometer, keeping me honest, because when I’m gone, my books and stories will be my legacy to them. I don’t want to write something I’ll be ashamed for them to read one day, even if it might be more financially successful.
Who are some of your favorite authors? What books do you love?
My favorite authors are Raymond Chandler, who gave the private eye a moral compass and a heart; Charles de Lint, who created the kind of fantasy I wanted to write; William Faulkner, who makes the Southern landscape a character; and Raymond Carver, who found drama in the everyday. And Shakespeare, because as cliche as it sounds, I learn something new every time I read or see one of his plays.
The books I love most, and by that I mean the ones that keep drawing me back even after great swaths of time, are: “Heart of Darkness” by Conrad; “Dracula” by Stoker;
“The Long Goodbye” by Chandler; “At the Mountains of Madness” by Lovecraft; “Memory and Dream” by de Lint; and “Go Down, Moses” by Faulkner.
I’ve also had the joy of helping my sons discover one of my favorites, “Treasure Island,” by reading it to them. Getting to do pirate voices is a parenting perk you don’t hear about enough.
What do you do when you’re not writing? In your spare time?
I’m not familiar with that concept. How does it work?
Seriously, when I’m not writing, I’m parenting; that’s pretty much how my time breaks down. I have one son in elementary school, the other in preschool, and between them they take up all my non-writing time. And truthfully, when they both get into school full time, I simply intend to write more rather than take any sort of break. I had a conversation with my wife about what I plan to do when I “retire,” and I explained that writers *never* retire. I’ve waited most of my life to be a full-time professional writer, and I never want to stop.
Thanks for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just a big, sincere “thank you” to everyone who’s read my books and stories. Without you, I wouldn’t be here answering these questions. I appreciate you, and I’m always glad to hear from you. I hope you keep reading, and enjoying, what I write. And thanks to you, SciFiChick, for interviewing me! Always a pleasure to talk to you.