At what point did you know you wanted to write professionally? Describe the journey that led to your first published novel?
I’ve always written, but I decided to take it seriously and try to get published in the late 90s, and that’s when I started writing more seriously. In 2003 or 4 I had a novel make it to acquisitions at a couple of big publishers, but it never quite got over the line. In the end I self-published it in 2006, and that was REALMSHIFT, my first book. In 2008 I re-issued it along with the sequel, MAGESIGN. Then in 2010 both books were acquired by Gryphonwood Press. In 2013 I sold a trilogy to Harper Voyager here in Australia, which was the Alex Caine Series. So it’s been an interesting path!
I’m a huge fan of your Alex Caine trilogy. What did you have in mind when you created Alex as an MC and for the series in general? While being Urban Fantasy, it seems to develop in to something far more epic in scope.
I’m a career martial artist and I run a kung fu school, so I wanted to write a main character who was a martial artist. And the first Alex Caine book, BOUND, was originally conceived as a standalone novel. I wanted to take the old epic fantasy quest idea and make it happen in a single volume dark urban fantasy thriller. I did that with BOUND, but in the writing I realised I’d created a history and backstory that could be explored a lot further and it became a trilogy. All three – BOUND, OBSIDIAN and ABDUCTION – can be read as individual novels, but it’s best to read them all in order as the over-arching storyline is complete that way. There are still some threads that could be picked up and I might write more Alex Caine books one day, but for now it’s finished. I do love those characters though…
Over the past couple of years you have drifted from Fantasy series to standalone horror novels and short story collections. Was there a conscious reason for the change?
Not really, just a natural progression. I wrote REALMSHIFT thinking it was a standalone dark urban fantasy, but the sequel was in my mind before I’d finished it, so that became a duology. I wrote BOUND thinking it was a standalone but that became a trilogy. I was determined to write a standalone novel! So I wrote HIDDEN CITY and that’s very much a standalone dark urban fantasy which is complete as it is. But it was also darker. I’ve always enjoyed the horror aspects of dark fantasy, so I leaned more into that when I write DEVOURING DARK, which is another standalone.
You’ve gotten a great deal of critical acclaim for Devouring Dark. Describe the novel for new readers?
Yeah, it was nominated for all three major Australian genre awards, which is amazing. It’s essentially an urban horror crime novel. It develops from a short story I wrote called “Shadows of the Lonely Dead”, which won me an Australian Shadows Award. That story is reprinted in the back of DEVOURING DARK, in fact. The novel follows a man with a dark power which is killing him, but which he’s using to kill bad guys before it gets him. He’s a vigilante of sorts. Then he gets tangled up with an organised crime boss who wants to use those powers for himself. And then on top of that he meets a woman who has a similar power, but hers isn’t killing her. And things only get more intriguing from there! It’s also set in London, as I’m English originally, and I always wanted to write a London crime novel, so I scratched that itch with this one too.
What are some of the biggest influences on your writing?
By far the biggest is Clive Barker. I love that dark fantastique thing he has going on and it’s closely related to what I’m always trying to do. I was also heavily influenced by comics – Gaiman’s Sandman, Garth Ennis and Jamie Delano on Hellblazer, stuff like that. I’ve always been a big Stephen King fan too. With fantasy, people like Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Lovecraft… so many, I could go on and on.
How important is reader interaction to you? What’s your favorite way to get in contact with your fans?
Having readers is the most important thing. If people want to read but not interact with me, that’s fine! Equally, I love hearing from readers. I’m most active on Twitter @AlanBaxter but I’m also on Instagram as @warrior_scribe and I have a Facebook page and a Facebook Group that’s a lot of fun. More than happy to chat in any of those places. Find them all via my website at www.warriorscribe.com
You’ve self published and had traditional releases over the years..how have the experiences differed for you ?
They’re wildly different in some ways, but generally I always prefer to have a publisher do things for me. I’d rather just write. But I think in this day and age, the hybrid model is good, and I like having a few self-published things too. I’m just about to release a crazy new horror novella called THE ROO, as you know, and that’ll be self-published.
What takes up most of your time when you’re not writing these days?
I have a 6 year old son and I run a kung fu school. There’s really not much time for anything else other than writing!
You’ve written a large amount of short stories which you are rather well known for. Describe your newest collection Served Cold in brief detail for those that may be looking to try out some of your shorter works.
SERVED COLD is a collection of horror stories. Almost all are supernatural, and have that fantasy element too, but much more influenced by horror. My previous collection, CROW SHINE, is more of a dark fantasy and horror collection. I’ve had over 80 short stories published, but those two collections are a good cross section of my short fiction. Not including a small amount of sci-fi that I’ve written. I might self-publish a small SF collection one day.
How much of your real life persona makes it into your characters?
Who knows, man? Hard to say. All writing is at some level autobiographical, but the real trick is to push away from that as much as possible. Some characters are a lot closer to my own philosophical position than others. Alex Caine, for example, or Matt McLeod from DEVOURING DARK. But they’re also very much not like me as well.
What’s next for you in 20/20 and beyond?
THE ROO is out any time now, so that’s exciting. Crazy Australian gonzo horror in the outback. And I’ve just delivered a new novella to Grey Matter Press that might appeal to fans of 2018’s MANIFEST RECALL. Look out for that mid-year, but it’s not officially announced yet. And I have a standalone folk horror novel out on submission with my agent, so please keep your fingers crossed for me there.
What one piece of advice do you have for new and aspiring writers?
Read everything. Read voraciously, in and out of your genre. And do not quit.