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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Author Interview: Alex Beecroft

Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Alex Beecroft, whose newest book False Colors has recently been released by Running Press Book Publishers.

Alex currently lives in Great Britain with her husband and two daughters. Raised in Cheshire, Alex studied English and Philosophy before accepting employment with the Crown Court where she worked for a number of years. She's thrilled, though, to be doing what she always wanted to do-- living her dream of being a published author.

Many of Alex's novels are historicals, so most of Alex's research involves reading up on the historical era in which she's setting the story.

"I'll start with an overview – Wikipedia is good for that. That gives me a vague idea for what I'm looking for," she explained. "After that I will link surf until I have a better idea of the era and know what sorts of questions I need to ask. After that, I'll go to the library and start reading books on the era. If it's an era where there are relics or original sources remaining, I'll make an effort to go and look at the artifacts and to read the original writings. There's nothing like listening to the voices of the people of the time to help you to get into their heads."

Instead of historicals, though, Alex started out writing science-fiction and fantasy. "I'm a m/m writer and I didn't think at that point that there were any other women like me who would be interested in reading love stories between men," Alex told me. "So I attempted to push the relationships down and keep them under wraps. The result was The Witch's Boy – my dark fantasy novel – where there are half a dozen platonic m/m relationships straining at the seams and expressing themselves in unhealthy ways. (Sulien loves Leofwine, who is straight. Gunnar loves Sulien, who beats him up, Guy loves Drago, but they both die… It's very sad!) Eventually I discovered that there was a market for m/m, went 'oh, thank God!' and allowed my guys to express their love for each other openly and to go on to happy endings. They and I are much happier for it!"

"How do you personally distinguish between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography?" I asked.

"I primarily think of pornography as being a visual thing; films and pictures," Alex replied. "You can get erotic writing which is like pornography in that all the emphasis is on watching the body-parts and who really cares about the story or characters, but I'm not sure that I would call even that 'pornography'. Erotica shares with porn the belief that sex on its own is enough to be worth reading about, but at its best I think it engages the senses and the emotions much more fully.

"Erotic romance, I've been told, is simply romance that includes explicit sex scenes. The main point of the story is still the romance, rather than the sex, but the sex is fully included as an important part of the relationship."

Alex feels there are several authors who write excellent erotic fiction, including Z.A. Maxwell and J.P. Bowie. "Mallory Path (from the I Do anthology) writes the hottest short stories I know of, but I think Laura Baumbach is the master (mistress?) of the erotic in general," she said.

She feels the biggest misconception about erotica is that it's easy to write.

"It isn't," she said. "For me the sex scenes are the hardest thing to write and I admire anyone to whom it comes easily. There are a limited number of ways in which human bodies fit together, and to write numerous scenes in one book and make each one interesting, arousing and different from the last – that's a really difficult task.

"I think erotic romance is all about the story. I write sex scenes because the story needs them at that point; the characters are expressing something that they couldn't express another way. Which may be as simple as 'you're gorgeous, I don't really care that I have no idea who you are, let's get it on.' Or it may be 'I don't want to talk about this. I'll distract you instead', or maybe 'it will be OK. I'll look after you.' Erotic romance is all about the relationship between the characters. If I found myself writing sex just because there hadn't been a sex scene this chapter and I felt people would be expecting one – and for no other reason than that – then I would have to stop and wonder whether I was really writing romance at all."

One book she really enjoys and recommends is Standish by Erastes. "It's not only an erotic book—it's also a love story and a fantastic journey around Georgian Europe," she told me. "It's very steamy and there are some great characters. It's a great mixture of sex and angst and death."

"What does your family think about your writing?" I wondered.

"I'm very lucky. My family are all extremely proud of me for having got published. My sisters (I think) wish that I had chosen a more prestigious genre than m/m erotic romance and have not read my romance, though one has read The Witch's Boy and loved it. My mum and dad are proud to the point of boasting about me to their neighbours, and so are my children. I've had invitations from teachers to come in and talk about my writing which I've had to decline with a certain amount of embarrassment! "

If she were going to entertain a character from a book, she claimed she couldn't invite just one since she writes m/m.

"I'd invite John and Alfie from False Colors, because I am fascinated by the dynamic between them. John would be nervous and earnest and terrified that Alfie was going to say something improper. And Alfie would be charming and would smoulder in a shameless sort of way until John lost his temper; and then there would be raised voices and plate smashing and aggressive sex. And then John would be apologetic and Alfie would help clear up while smiling like the lion who got the cream."

On a personal note, if Alex could be anyone she would have liked to have been Cochrane, who she described as "a true naval hero and a reforming politician, who died in his bed of old age after a long and glorious life." She admits, with a wink, that Nelson would do in a pinch.

Alex doesn't view piercings as sexy. If she had to choose something to pierce, she would pierce the septum of her nose so she could put a bone through it...she said, "That would be quite funny." But, tattoos are another story altogether. "Round the upper arm, the wrist, the waist, shoulder, shoulderblade, calf, neck, thigh… anywhere," she told me. "Tattooing seems so much more sexy to me because it's art written into your skin."

"What is your most embarrassing moment?" I asked.

"I don't think I remember. I may have blanked it out," she claimed. "Maybe getting very drunk and singing Javert's part from 'Les Miserables' the musical, complete with cloak and gestures, at a dinner party before rushing off to throw up in the toilet." Thai green curry is her favorite food, but don't ask her to eat shellfish. Her response to that? "Ew!"

When Alex isn't writing, she does a lot of historical re-enactment, both Saxon and 18th century, and weekends are often spent living like someone from the past.

"This means I have an impressive range of pre-industrial skills, like being able to light a fire with flint and tinder, spin with a drop spindle, weave, make shoes, make wattle and daub walls and thatch a house…. That kind of thing," she told me. "I've also recently taken up morris dancing, which takes up an evening every week to practice, and we get invited to perform at numerous festivals over the summer. We have to make our own outfits for both the re-enactment and the morris, so I also do a lot of sewing."

Finally, I asked Alex, "If you could give a new writer one piece of advice, what would it be?"

"It would be 'don't give up.' I gave up on writing and trying to be published for 10 years, while my children were young," she said. "Now I look back at that time and think that I could have been so much more established now if I'd only kept trying. 'Don't give up' is also good advice for the writing process itself. It's very tempting, when you're five or ten chapters into a book and all the magic seems to have drained away and you hate it all, to give up and start something new. But then you end up with fifteen books started and none finished. Press through to the end and you'll discover that you do like what you've written after all, and it was worth it."

You can keep up with Alex on her blog,

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