Back again with another interview, I gotta up my game. Once more if anyone who’s in the SPFBO (or indeed any author) and would like an interview, just get in touch and hit me up. Today’s interview is with K.M Alexander, author of “The Stars Were Right.” I have nothing witty to say this time (relying on coffee this morning to get through today), so let’s get right down to it.
Check out a selection of past interviews down below:
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Hey, first thanks for taking on such an enormous challenge. When I saw on Twitter, you wanted to interview all three hundred entrants I was intrigued and impressed. That said, I love the idea, and I appreciate you spending the time doing this for the community.
Okay, about me. My name is K. M. Alexander, I live and work in Seattle, Washington, and I write weird fiction. Most of my work tends to be a blend of genres. Right now I have three books out in my Bell Forging Cycle, and they are—at their core—Lovecraftian urban fantasy. But they are so much more! It can be hard to pin down, and I’m very comfortable with that. If I were being specific I’d call it a dark cyberpunk post-post-apocalyptic dystopian weird-western cosmic-horror urban-fantasy adventure—which is tough to fit in marketing material. Besides, Lovecraftian urban fantasy is more concise. It’s been fun.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I started out as a plotter—or as George R. R. Martin calls them, an architect. I would take and write copious notes, I had thick character sheets, and I wrote detailed outlines before diving into prose. However, after working that way for a few years and on several novels, I am slowly starting to allow myself more freedom. I’m now willing to let the story take me in unexpected places. Martin calls those folks “gardeners. (I’ve also heard them called “pantsers”—your mileage may very.) I think that makes me a bit of a hybrid these days. I rough outline, some of the plot I see as I begin a project, but I discover much of it over the course of writing the novel.
Tell us about your current project.
Currently, I am working on a weird-west fantasy. It’s been a departure from the neon-soaked streets of Lovat from the Bell Forging Cycle. It’s still very much a work in progress, but it’s been a book I wrote once before, scrapped entirely, and recently re-wrote from the ground up.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
Waldo Bell, call him Wal, is the main character in the Bell Forging Cycle. He’s a blue-collar caravan master who travels between the cities of the Territories and gets in adventures whether he wants to or not. He has a ravenous appetite, a can-do spirit, and a bit of a reluctant hero vibe going on. I’ve found him a blast to get to know.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
There are two elements I believe are critical. The first is to read. Read all the time. Skip social media. Skip the internet. Hell, skip television and movies. Read. Read books within genres you’d usually never consider. Read your favorites. Read books you hate. It’s important to read. Reading is rocket fuel for writing.
Second, like any creative skill, you need to hone your ability. So write. Write all the time. Write through different emotions. Write when you want to write and write when you’d rather be doing anything else. Write and allow yourself to stumble. That is so important. Learning to fail is a part of becoming successful. It’s all about honing that skill.
Oh, also ignore all advice. If something else works for you, great! There is no right way to do this. Writing is a very personal journey. What is habitual for someone might not be right for you.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong was a massive inspiration for Lovat—the central city in my novels. Kowloon was a densely populated neighborhood that existed in Hong Kong during the middle of the 20th-century. Thirty-three thousand people lived within 6.4 acres of space stacked atop each other up to a height of 140 ft. The result of this mass was an isolated, multileveled community, filled with all manner of individuals, organizations, businesses, schools, and unique cultures. Lovat is that but expanded to the size of a sprawling megalopolis.
What inspires you to write?
First and foremost, I want to tell stories. I want to entertain people. However, going further, I want to explore the messy reality of humanity through fiction. I think genre, be it science fiction or fantasy, is the perfect vehicle for those type of stories.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Each book has its challenges. For The Stars Were Right, it was really getting the tone down. I wanted the bleakness of Lovecraft to be present but not overpowering. So often cosmic horror doubles down on somber nihilism, and I wanted something different.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Chapter Four is probably my favourite chapter. It’s really where the story gets going, and the interplay between Wal and other characters was a lot of fun to write. There’s another chapter later on that I shall not talk about for fear of spoilers. It was a scene that I had planned from the very beginning, and it was a blast to write when the time came.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
Writing the rough draft is the easy part.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Reading helps a lot, reading history in particular and conflicting viewpoints. Learning empathy for other perspectives is a critical piece of writing realistic characters. Writers who work without empathy are pretty easy to spot, their characters are often dull and lifeless, the gray corpses of tropes with no vibrancy.
What are your future project(s)?
I technically have three projects I’m working on at the moment. Currently, I’m finishing that weird-west novel I mentioned earlier. I have a strange near-future urban fantasy political thriller I am kicking around. And, of course, there’s book four of the Bell Forging Cycle.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I do it already, along with writing, I’ve been a graphic designer for about eighteen years. I started out in print, moved quickly to the web, and found my place in software and interaction design. That said I still dabble in all sorts of design. It’s as creative as writing but uses a different part of my brain. It’s nice to be able to move between them on a regular day. They work great in tandem.
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
You can find out more and read an excerpt from The Stars Were Right, my SPFBO entry at: thestarswereright.com
Or just check it out on Amazon: amazon.com/dp/B00FJT7AMS
Otherwise, I’m all over the place:
My website: kmalexander.com
My blog: blog.kmalexander.com
My series: bellforgingcycle.kmalexander.com
Many thanks for the chance! Hoping you guys are enjoying them. I’m certainly enjoying the chance of interviewing as many of my fellow entrants as possible. I plan on getting the next one up for this weekend.