(Originally posted at MuseHack.)
I met Alex Beecroft in doing research on writers and geek civics. Now we’ve probably seen all sorts of writing, but Alex puts herself in the middle of many genres – she does gay, historical, fantasy, romance, and mystery. She explores the edges, because thats where the stories often really are.
1) So Alex first of all, you really like to explore places stories intersect – and that aren’t often covered. Tell us what you write.
I guess what I write is queer fiction. Sometimes it’s queer romance, where the focus of the book is a love story. Sometimes it’s queer fantasy, where the characters are gay, bi, trans, genderqueer, asexual or some other variety of MOGAI. They also may get romantic sub-plots, but in the fantasy they’re usually too busy saving the world for that to be their main concern. Fantasy has always had a place for queer characters – one of my three top books ever is The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin which as an agender asexual child myself I loved as being one of the very few places where I saw a whole civilization of people I could identify with. Robin Hobbs’ Fool is also a very beloved character for that reason.
I like to think of myself as being in that kind of tradition. Likewise in terms of genres, I don’t see why you can’t have both, or even all. I enjoy smooshing together genres and seeing how they cope with bouncing off each other’s tropes. Why not have a historical fantasy murder mystery ghost story that is also a queer romance? Why not have the Queen of the Faeries’ attempt to invade Earth be foiled by time-travelling World War II fighter aces and morris dancers? Particularly why not do it when you can end with an epic battle between fire breathing dragons and pilots in Mosquito bombers – which are, incidentally, made out of wood.
2) What kind of response have you had on your writing so far?
I’m not sure people know what to make of my inability to stick to one genre. When people thought they had me nailed down as a writer of historical romance, I got a lot of good press and good sales. But now I’ve messed everything up by adding fantasy and taking away romance. I don’t think I’ve managed to find my audience for that yet, but I’m sure they’re out there.
3) Your writing focuses on male/male romance – what’s your readership like, as I often find romance readers are broader than people think.
As far as I can tell my readership is very diverse – gay men, queer people of all sorts, straight women… I may even have a couple of straight male readers, though the only ones I can be certain about are my father and my local vicar.
4) Your stories focus on people that don’t belong – does that challenge you as a writer or in a way is it easier to throw off tropes?
That’s actually the easy part. I’ve never felt that I belonged anywhere, so I’m profoundly familiar with that feeling. However, you’re right to suggest that it makes it easier to throw off tropes – I’ve rarely met a trope that made a lot of sense to me either. I am curious and intellectually independent by nature, and by training (in philosophy) I’m logical and disinclined to accept things on the basis of authority. So a lot of tropes trouble me because they’ve been done so many times before and never really questioned. I like to subvert them. But sometimes I also like to un-subvert ones that have been so frequently subverted that the subversion has become the new orthodoxy. (Vampires as monsters, for example. I can think of plenty of reasons to be afraid of vampires that don’t involve a Victorian squeamishness about sex.)
5) In exploring areas often ignored, have you made any discoveries about writing that you can share?
My main conclusion would be that you can write about whatever you like as long as you take it seriously.
Whatever you want to write about, consider how people would really react – not how the tropes say they should – consider the philosophical, mental, emotional and practical repercussions of something like that happening. Then write it with honesty. You’ll often find out that things that look funny turn out being tragic, considered that way, and sometimes it can take the gloss off the joke, but if the readers know you’re being serious about [whatever] they will take it seriously too.
6) How do you promote your works? How does doing something different make it easier or harder?
I promote very badly and very little. In my experience the only things that have ever helped have been participating in chats held by yahoo groups for readers, and getting new books out regularly. But to be fair I don’t devote much time to promotion. I’d rather be writing something new. Don’t emulate me here, btw! I think I’m letting myself down in this respect.
7) What advice can you share your fellow writers to follow your path and publish?
I would say ‘hang out with authors and publishers of the genre you want to write.’ Don’t pester them, but do interact with them in a friendly sort of way. These are the people who are likely to share the next opportunity with you. They have information that you need. Plus they’re bound to be interesting people. Then, if you see a submissions call that you think you could submit something to, go for it. If you have something that’s almost perfect for that call, rewrite fast until it is perfect. Don’t think ‘well, that’s not quite right, and I couldn’t get it rewritten in time.’ Take the opportunity when it arises.
Even if you don’t see an opportunity, it’s still better to submit a manuscript to someone with whom you’ve discussed coffee and the skeleton war than it is to submit it to a perfect stranger.
– Steven Savage
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.