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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Alex Bledsoe: Using Literary Skills To Walk Into His Destiny


by Cyrus Webb

Over the past eight years I have interviewed over a thousand authors, each with their own ability to tell a story that they believe in and hope readers will enjoy. One such individual who delivers time and again is Alex Bledsoe.

He is able to harness the talent he has and deliver what is nothing short of a work of literary art that will keep you flipping the pages, enthralled with the characters and attempting to see where he will take us next. In this conversation he talks with readers about the gift, why it is so important to be passionate about what you do and what you can expect next from him.


Alex, thank you for taking out the time to share with our readers. For those who don't know, I first interviewed you on Conversations LIVE in 2011 while you were promoting your book THE HUM AND THE SHIVER. I'm curious. When did you realize that writing was going to be the avenue that you were going to speak to the world?


You know, I really never thought of doing anything else.  My mom likes to take credit for it, since she says when I was a toddler, she'd drop whatever she was doing and read to me if I asked.  The earliest thing I recall writing was turning a Batman comic book into a prose story on my dad's old manual typewriter, the one he used to type up the minutes of the church session meetings.  I typed all the way to the edges of the page, and got in trouble for wasting so much ribbon.  And except for a brief flirtation with filmmaking in college, I never seriously strayed from the path.  I've worked a lot of jobs, but I knew writing was my career.

Looking back over your career so far and the way you have been received by avid readers and even your peers, has it changed your idea of what success is as a writer?

I think every unpublished writer considers publication to be the threshold of "success," and I was no different.  I mean, I was 44 when my first book came out, so I'd anticipated that moment for a LONG TIME.  And it was wonderful: getting the big box of books from the publisher, getting the first reviews, getting those first fan e-mails from people I didn't know.  Especially since my first book was kind of a genre hybrid, I worried that people wouldn't "get" it.  Finding out they did was great.

But I had an epiphany with my second Eddie LaCrosse book, Burn Me Deadly.  As I was reading the galley pages, I realized that the book in front of me was exactly the book I had in my head.  It's wasn't about "good" or "bad," that's for others to decide; it was the realization that I'd done exactly what I set out to do.  That hasn't happened since, but if I had to define the feeling of "success," that would be it.

I am always fascinated by individuals who are able to do something they love and are able to entertain as well as get people to think a little bit along the way. Do you see that as one of the by-products of the skill you have in your craft?

Ah, that way lie the dangerous shoals of pretentiousness.  My only job is to tell a story, and to use my skill and experience to tell it well.  The goal is to be honest to the story, and the characters.  For example, In my novels Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood, my vampires are not romantic, not endearing, and definitely not safe to be around.  They are pure nihilists, divorced entirely from human morality. So the story about them does not embrace that morality, either.  And I've caught some flack, because readers have been unprepared for that.  But it's true to the characters and their story.

Conversely, The Hum and the Shiver is about a smart, tough girl deciding that she'll accept the responsibility she's fled all her life, but only on her own terms.  Her morality is complex and subtle; I think that's why the character has gotten such a positive response.  And her story reflects that.

So if these stories do make people think (and it's really cool if they do), it's because I stayed out of the way of something fundamental and didn't screw it up.

Alex one of the ways you and I have been able to stay in contact since our time on the radio has been through social media, sites like Facebook. How has that helped you to interact with your fans as well as keep them abreast of what's next for them?

First, as both a writer and a fan, the idea that I can get a message from a reader, or easily send a message to someone whose work I admire, is so staggeringly different from the world of literature that I grew up with, it might as well be science fiction.  And to see comments on one of my Facebook posts from, say, both a longtime literary hero and an old friend from college, still makes me smile. 

Second, you can't be a contemporary writer without at some level embracing social media. I try to have reasonable goals (one Tweet update a day, one new blog post a week) so that I ensure I have time to do the thing that makes people interested in me in the first place, which is write the books.  Plus I'm the stay-at-home parent to two small boys, and that's a whole different type of "social networking."

Can you give us an idea of your next project?

This summer my fourth Eddie LaCrosse novel, Wake of the Bloody Angel, comes out.  In 2013 there'll be a fifth Eddie novel, so far untitled, as well as the follow-up to The Hum and the Shiver, titled Wisp of a Thing.  And I have a few new things in the pipeline.

I have asked you this question before, but I think it bears repeating here for our readers: What advice do you have for anyone out there who has a passion for something and aren't sure they should pursue it?

If you can walk away from it, you probably should.  You may be missing your true passion by insisting on something you think you should be passionate about, but really aren't.  You need to feel about your passion the same way Robert Mitchum does about Jane Greer in Out of the Past:  when she confesses that she actually did shoot her boyfriend, steal the money, and lie to him, Mitchum replies, "Baby, I don't care."  I know that, whether I'd ever sold a novel or not, I'd still be writing.  You need that kind of blind desire, I think. 

On the specific field of writing, don't think of it as "art."  It's a job.  Plumbers don't get "plumber's block."  And just as a star athlete practices every day to be ready for the Big Game, you should write every day to be ready for the Big Idea.  You may have the most brilliant concept in literary history, but if you lack the technical skills to develop it, it's wasted on you.  And you only get those skills the same way you get any skills: with practice over time.

Thanks again for this opportunity, Alex. It's always a pleasure. Let our readers know how they can stay in contact with you.

My website is alexbledsoe.com, and from there you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and all the usual suspects.  And thanks to you, Cyrus, for having me back to chat.

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