I’m very excited to have with us today Alex Bledsoe.
Alex is the author of the vampire novel, Blood Groove, and the Eddie LaCrosse series, which includes the novels The Sword-Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly. (Be sure to scroll down for a chance to win a signed copy of Burn Me Deadly!)
Alex has also written a western short story, “Draw Down,” which can be read in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction; and two essays: “To the Batpole! Alfred Explains the Facts of Life” in Batman Unauthorized: Vigilantes, Jokers, and Heroes in Gotham City; and “Mal Contents: Captain Reynolds Grows Up” in Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays.
Alex has taken time out of his busy schedule to visit with us and talk about his novels. He also has some valuable information on writing techniques that he shares. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed corresponding with Alex.
I present Alex Bledsoe:
Your second Eddie LaCrosse novel, Burn Me Deadly, is due for release tomorrow (November 10, 2009). Tell us about Burn Me Deadly and your Eddie LaCrosse series.
Author Virginia Baker did the best capsule summary when she called it, “Sam Spade with a sword.” Eddie is a former mercenary who now works as a “sword jockey,” a medieval private investigator. The first novel, The Sword-Edged Blonde, was an epic that covered decades and dealt with the fate of kingdoms. Burn Me Deadly is smaller in scope, but the stakes are just as high, particularly for Eddie.
Eddie LaCrosse isn’t the standard fantasy hero. Rather than being a prodigy born with great skills, he’s just a guy trying to make a living, yet his actions and thoughts are incredibly heroic. Can you give us your philosophy on creating realistic heroes?
Eddie is a guy who lost his capacity for empathy following a tragedy, finally realized its value and now struggles mightily to hang onto it. To me that’s the core of his heroism. He’s not a mighty warrior, there’s no prophecy announcing his advent, and he has no elder/mentor figure advising him.
Thanks to Joseph Campbell as filtered through George Lucas, there’s a perception that all heroes must be Chosen Ones fulfilling some Prophecy by undertaking a Hero’s Journey. It’s so pervasive that even the new Captain Kirk is a Chosen One: he has a miraculous birth, for example, and is given a quest by his elder/mentor. At the risk of over-generalizing, the idea that someone could become a hero by virtue of hard work over time seems utterly foreign to the generation who grew up after Luke Skywalker.
With Blood Groove, you left Eddie LaCrosse behind and went straight into the horror genre.
Blood Groove began as a way to set down all the cool things I liked about vampires. I started it back in the 1990s and kept working at it over the intervening years. The central concept remained the same: an Old World vampire, who knows all the folklore secrets, meets New World vampires who only know what they are from the movies. But it took some different directions before I finally got a handle on it.
Baron Zginski was inspired by Count Dracula. It’s impossible to write about vampires in any meaningful way and not at some level deal with Stoker; that cape casts a long shadow. Even Steven King acknowledges that. But of course, I didn’t want to simply recreate or mock Dracula, so over time I took Zginski in some different directions. Ultimately, I think he has his own identity.
Why did you decide to set Blood Groove in the mid-seventies?
I wanted the popular image of the vampire to be pre-Anne Rice, and Interview with the Vampire came out in 1976. I also wanted a time when the simpler technology made it easier to set yourself up with a fake identity.
In both The Sword-Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly, you have an excellent grip on what makes fantasy novels fun, but your never lose the dark edge of noir mysteries. How do you manage to achieve a balance between the genres?
First, thanks for the compliment. The Sword-Edged Blonde went through a lot of drafts as I tried to strike that balance initially. Finding Eddie’s voice was the most important element, and once I had that, the rest came pretty quickly. And now that I’ve written about that world for a while, it’s much easier to slip into it. I still stray occasionally into pointless anachronism, usually trying to be funny, but cooler heads generally restrain me before it reaches the reader.
It is apparent in both your novels and your discussions about movies that characters are the crux of the story for you. When crafting your novels, what are some of the challenges you find in bringing your characters to life?
I’m very conscious of how people speak. The authors I admire are all masters of that: Raymond Chandler, Robert B. Parker, Faulkner, Hemingway. Elmore Leonard can write whole novels almost entirely in dialogue. When I feel I’ve captured the way a character talks, then I’ve got a handle on him or her.
I’m also focused on characters’ emotional lives, and feel that many of the tropes of traditional fantasy get in the way of communicating it. It’s one of the reasons I use fairly normal names in the Eddie LaCrosse novels. It’s possible to write meaningfully about a character named Fgh’tgu’tf, but as a reader I’m immediately distanced by this unpronounceable word. Name the same character Tommy, and I empathize much more quickly. Same thing when common objects are renamed: if it’s a horse, I’m going to call it a horse, not a “burden-beast.” The goal is to eliminate anything that interferes with the reader’s connection with the story.
All of your novels carry layered plot-lines, yet you never miss a detail at the end. Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline your novels before writing, and if so, do your characters sometimes surprise you by providing unexpected plot twists?
I’ve begun using outlines, because at this stage of my career publishers like to see the story in some form before committing to the book. I don’t feel constrained by it; it’s a challenge, just like learning to write to a deadline, or in a genre you’re not intimately familiar with.
And boy, do the characters surprise you. As an example, Lee Ann in Blood Groove was originally a one-scene, one-note character, but as I wrote she kept popping up. Ultimately she allowed me to show an unexpected side to Zginski.
So what’s next for you?
Eddie will return in Dark Jenny, set for 2011, and in 2012 in a so-far-untitled adventure. Zginski and the Memphis vampires will be back in May 2010 in The Girls with Games of Blood. And I’ll be introducing a whole new fantasy world in 2011 in The Hum and the Shiver.
After reading the Eddie LaCrosse series and Blood Groove, I’ll be watching for both Dark Jenny and The Girls with Games of Blood. If you want to read more about Alex and his new series The Hum and the Shiver, you can visit him at:
Alex Bledsoe’s Official Website: www.alexbledsoe.com
You can can fan Alex on Facebook at Author Alex Bledsoe where you can help Alex get his first 100 fans AND have the chance to win a signed copy of Burn Me Deadly! Go to Author Alex Bledsoe and spread the word!
If you haven’t had the opportunity to read Alex’s novels yet, I can’t recommend them enough. You can order Alex’s novels from Barnes & Nobel or Amazon. Once you’ve tried one, you’ll want to read them all – I did!
Thank you, Alex, and thank you all for stopping in to visit!