It has been a while since I’ve been able to find a fantasy book series that built a world with it’s own religions and myths rich enough to seem almost real. I crave a new book series that creates a world like that of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I was lucky enough to come across Alex L. Butcher, Author of The Light Beyond The Storm Chronicles series. I was able to learn so much about her book series during our interview and I think I’ve found the next Tolkien!
Michael Pang: Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did your background influence the genre you write in?
Alexandra Butcher: I’m a Brit, I grew up in a town not far from London and currently live in the South West. My family are, or were, all great book readers – although with broad tastes from Westerns to fantasy to historical to nonfiction. My grandmother was keen on genealogy, and local history, my sister teaches English and drama, and we are all tellers of stories in one way or another. There were always books in the house, many on history and I was often happier reading than playing with toys when I was a youngster.
I have a background in history – mostly classical and medieval- politics, sociology, mythology, English Literature and to an extent philosophy. Certainly the history, mythology and sociology have helped in my writing. Research is an important aspect of any novel – and all my courses have involved some research, critical thinking and planning. That said I was always a bit of a dreamer, forever writing stories or creating worlds and characters in my head. This is especially true when I’m bored.
Why fantasy? Fantasy is such a versatile genre –the creation of worlds, or at least their manipulation gives so much scope. I love heroic fiction – the heroes of old, magic and mayhem, myth and the otherness of it. I suppose I first began to love fantasy when I read Chronicles of Narnia and saw the play of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I was enchanted – and that set off a love of both theatre and the fantasy genre.
I used to play and run Roleplay games; mainly Warhammer, World of Darkness, Star Wars and Dragon Age so writing characters and adventures and being immersed in those worlds really helped.
MP: I can definitely see how your background in classical and medieval history can be an asset to your fantasy novels. I had also fallen in love with the Chronicles of Narnia at a young age. That’s probably where my passion for reading really started. And then I got really hooked on those old Choose Your Own Adventure books. I think that my interest to write might have started because it made me thing of different paths that the protagonists could have taken and creating new storylines. Where and when did your writing journey begin?
AB: At school. I’m a poet too and often ended up writing either a short story or a poem for the school display. After that it was usually fanfic for Phantom of the Opera, Dracula or later, as mentioned adventures for games.
Recently – I’d say the novels came from the RPG ideas. I’d had an idea for a fantasy world and written some adventures for a separate game and the two came together. I write what I like to read and play.
MP: People always make fun of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and talk about how geeky it was. I find such games fascinating because it really allows your imagination to run wild and forces you to create a storyline and fantasy world in a very short timeframe. I think it really takes authors who have great imagination to create worlds that can draw us in and keep us engaged. Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
AB: Alexander Dumas, I LOVE Count of Monte Christo – which is perhaps one of the great books of revenge. Edmund Dantes is a real anti-hero; Tolkien with his master world building; Homer and the classical authors for their heroes and mythic tales, Janet Morris for her complex characters and her lyrical prose and her attention to detail; Ellis Peters for her weaving mysteries; Gaston Leroux and Bram Stoker for their suspense and terror; and Mary Shelley for going where, perhaps, no female writer had dared go before.
MP: Definitely a great list of authors! As a writer myself, I find it harder and harder to allot time for writing due to working full time and having young children. What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
AB: I work full time, so writing has to be done in the evenings and weekends. For some reason my boss gets cross if I sit at my desk writing stories. I’d like to say I write every day but that isn’t true. I try but if I am tired or stressed often I find I can’t, especially as I have a few health issues which exacerbate this. I do try and do something though – be it editing, reading, planning, promotion or actual writing.
MP: It is definitely a struggle to juggle and of theses things. How did you come up with the idea for your book series, “The Light Beyond The Storm?”
AB: Book I came from the idea I’d had for a game, and a world. It just grew really. The seed was there, and the characters evolved from other characters, and from other ideas. Much of the story created itself as I wrote. The later books came from the world and plot of the first – Book II follows the same characters, plus a couple of new ones, tying up loose ends from Book I. Book III follows a slightly different group, although Talfor, who is featured in book II is there, and it comes from the aftermath of book II, although the characters aren’t aware of that at the time. As the books progress the overarching series plot begins to be revealed, and the world begins to change.
The world of Erana is a world where the use and possession of magic is illegal, but magic is everywhere. It’s a world of martial law but resistance is there, and a world where half the population is enslaved, but hope is there. It’s a world which is changing – whether its inhabitants like it or not. I suppose you could say the character can try and control the storms to come or be destroyed by them.
MP: Fascinating! What do you think sets your book series apart from all the others fantasy series current on the shelves?
AB: One of my reviewers described the series as ‘sex and sorcery’. Both feature strongly. The characters, particularly the mages, are passionate and there are…shall we say some very adult scenes. Hopefully these help to build the characters – Dii was a slave – she was treated very harshly and yet she finds a man who adores her, is kind to her and she blossoms into the person she should have been. Ozena is a shy, rather innocent elf raised in a small village in the forest – she knows nothing about the world. When she meets the worldly Olek she discovers more than just another way of life. Their relationship grows slowly, as opposed to Dii and Archos who are far more full -on and adventurous. The characters are important, as they should be and the world is reflected in them – Archos and Dii are magical – dangerous, passionate and misunderstood, Olek and Ozena – well one is the result of poverty and needing to do unsavoury things to survive and the other is from a town destroyed – they are all from a broken world but a world fighting back.
The elves in my world are the slaves – their civilisation is gone and their culture fragmented. The humans are the masters of the land – at least they like to think so. Elves are longer lived and many are magical but this doesn’t much help as magic is illegal. Dii is an elf and a sorceress, which is a dangerous combination. She’s a Forbidden.
The books are dark, heroic and sensual. A heady combination.
MP: That is very intriguing. Definitely sounds different from a lot of other fantasy series out there. I know that this will be a hard question, but I have to ask. Which character in your book series is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
AB: I’m not sure I have a favourite. Archos is complex, dangerous, and a bit of an anti-hero; Olek is stealthy, deadly yet amusing; Ozena is shy, curious and emotional, Dii is misunderstood, clever and kind. There are aspects of me in all of them, although I am not saying which aspects.;)
MP: You are such a tease! All right, I’ll settle for a different question. Which scenes in your book series did you have the most fun writing?
AB: Oh gosh, most of them were fun to write. The sex scenes are always amusing – it’s the trick of keeping them fresh but not crude and not overloading the book. The revenge scenes are fun – there is something deeply satisfying about the bad guy getting his just desserts. In Book II the scenes with Dii coming into her own are gratifying.
MP: Nicely played Alex! Just enough to get our interest peaked, but no spoilers! What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book series?
AB: I’d hope the books are enjoyable, and make the readers want more. Also I’d like the readers to think – perhaps about notions of freedom, prejudice and hatred – although of course many don’t. Most of all I’d hope readers to have fun on the adventure.
MP: Based upon what you’ve revealed so far, I’m sure it will be fun and adventurous! I’m very excited about it! What are your hopes for this book series?
AB: I hope people enjoy them and tell their friends;). I’m planning several more novels, plus short stories in my companion series – Tales of Erana. There will, hopefully, a game-world for the series at some later date, and the audio book for The Light Beyond the Storm will be out by the Spring. I’m planning audio editions for all the novels and short stories.
MP: Excellent! Please let me know what the game and the audiobooks are out! I will be there! What do you have in store next for your readers?
AB: Book IV is in planning, I’m writing a short story for the Tales of Erana series and there will be several more. Book IV will follow some characters from book II and ramp up the threat – after all who can they really trust in a world of lies?
As the series progresses the truth will be out. It won’t always be pleasant.
Besides my own series, I’m hoping to write some historical fantasy for anthologies, and am currently working on a children’s fantasy collection.
I’ve also just had a short fantasy story published in Heroika: Dragon Eaters, published by Perseid Press. The anthology is awesome – monsters, myth and mayhem in seventeen stories of heroes stalking their legendary foe. Winners eat the losers, although who is whom you’ll have to read to find out.
I’ve also just released Outside the Walls, which was written with my friend Diana Wicker – author of the Tales of Feyron fantasy series. That is currently being produced in audio by Melanie Fraser and The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles will be produced by Shakespearean actor Rob Goll in the next few months.
MP: Great! I am really looking forward to this book series! Thank you so much for sharing with us your story.
If you are as intrigued by the book series as I am, please click on the book cover below to check it out on amazon!