Alex Bledsoe grew up in West Tennessee an hour north of Graceland and twenty minutes from Nutbush. He’s been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman and lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls. He swears he doesn’t live under a bridge, though. He writes before six in the morning and then tries to teach his two sons to act like they’ve been to town before. His fourth Eddie LaCrosse book Wake Of The Bloody Angel just released from Tor. LaCrosse is a sword slinger detective. The LaCrosse books are noir in the tradition of Chandler et al. His other series include the Firely Witch books and the Rudolfo Zginski vampire novels. His short stories and essays have appeared in the anthologies Haunted, Serenity Found, The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction and more. Alex can be found online via his website http://alexbledsoe.com/, on Facebook or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@AlexBledsoe.
Alex Bledsoe: I sure didn’t inherit it; my family all looked at me askew for liking such stuff. Had one relative tell me he finished one of my books sitting on the toilet. That’s my family. But, for me, it goes back as far as I can remember, to the original Star Trek and Batman comics.
SFFWRTCHT: LOL The question is: did the book send him there? Don’t answer that. Instead, who were some of your favorite authors and how about favorite books?
AB: Favorite authors: Raymond Chandler, Charles de Lint, Andrew Vachss, Robert B. Parker. Favorite books: Memory and Dream by deLint, Heart of Darkness by Conrad, At the Mountains of Madness by Lovecraft.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you develop an interest in writing and how did you pursue that? Classes? Workshops? Learn on your own?
AB: I started writing when I was very young. The earliest thing I recall was turning a Batman comic into a short story. I got in trouble for using up all my dad’s typewriter ribbon. And I typed to the very edges of the paper, too. I taught myself to understand why and how stories worked. I learned to write as a journalist.
AB: I became serious about writing in 1995. I sold the first story I wrote, which I took as a sign. Then I sold my first novel in 2007. It was hard because I hadn’t mastered the form. At all. My first novel was a special case in other ways, too. It was an idea I’d nursed since I was a senior in high school.
SFFWRTCHT: What drew you to noir fantasy? And what are the key elements of good fantasy for you?
AB: I like noir because I like the Chandler hero: “down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean.” I thought that sort of hero would work well in fantasy. And as for what makes a good fantasy for me, it’s interesting characters in a consistent, alternate reality.
SFFWRTCHT: So what is the appeal for you as a writer to meld fantasy and noir as you do with Eddie La Crosse’s stories?
AB: It’s a way to get a level of emotional immediacy you sometimes lose when you go into pure fantasy.
SFFWRTCHT: Why do you think pure fantasy sometimes loses that emotional immediacy?
AB: At the risk of sounding facile, because sometimes authors worry more about world building than people building. I think it’s true of every form of good writing. Well, maybe not travel writing.
AB: I use something from the noir genre as a jump-off. i.e., Burn Me Deadly’s opening is from Kiss Me Deadly. Then I let the characters dictate their own path, with a very general structure in my head. No detailed outlines. When I try to impose a plot point, it usually doesn’t work, so I’m back to letting the characters tell their story. Generally, all the Eddie books have a core idea that everything works around. The Sword-Edged Blonde was the Celtic legend of Rhiannon, Burn Me Deadly was dragons as nuclear weapons.
SFFWRTCHT: Where’d the idea for the Eddie LaCrosse come from?
AB: He was a long time gestating. I first created him in high school; back then he was, “Devaraux LaCrosse.”
SFFWRTCHT: “Devaraux LaCrosse” sounds like the character belonged on Another World.
AB: Yeah, it wouldn’t have worked. But like a lot of things, the obvious can escape you when you’re too close. It would be in that grand tradition of strange fantasy names that Tolkien gave us.
SFFWRTCHT: I don’t know. Devaruax LaCrosse could be Eddie’s Monk-like eccentric cousin. The Mycroft to Eddie’s Holmes? He could be a great foil to Eddie, a spoiled rich cousin annoyed by Eddie’s choices.
AB: That’s an interesting idea. Except the great noir detectives (Marlowe, Archer, the Continental Op) had no sidekicks…
SFFWRTCHT: Do I hear wheels turning?
AB: Well, since I’m plotted out two books past Wake, if he does show up, it’ll take a while.
AB: Not really. I wasn’t aware of Garrett until I’d written the first Eddie novel.
SFFWRTCHT: How/what elements do you use to make noir relevant for today, not mid-20th century?
AB: The relevance comes from the emotions of the characters, or at least I hope it does. That’s timeless, which is why it works in fantasy and science fiction. The idea of the cynical outsider who becomes emotionally involved is powerful. As well as the idea that every story is a mystery. Jim Thompson says all stories boil down to: “Things are not as they seem.”
SFFWRTCHT: Sword-Edged Blonde was the first of 3 novels with Eddie. How’d you get the story idea and how did it take to write?
AB: Yes, it all started with the Fleetwood Mac song. And the hot new teacher my senior year of high school. I wanted to impress her, so like the dweeb I am, I wrote her a story. Only I never had the nerve to show it to her. I did dedicate the book to her, though.
SFFWRTCHT: I’ll bet she’s impressed now.
AB: She was, thankfully. I was still nervous, all these years later, telling her about it.
AB: She’s still a very nice lady, and yes, still very attractive.
SFFWRTCHT: What do you think are the essential elements for a SFF noir?
AB: Same as any noir: a detective figure, a mystery to solve, a world filled with shadows, and an air of cynicism. By “detective,” I mean the role in the story, not the job. Mildred Pierce is the “detective” figure, for example.
SFFWRTCHT: Ok, you chose the medieval setting but use contemporary names for your characters. Why?
AB: Again, to help emotionally connect with the characters. Weird fantasy names put me off as a reader. Tolkien did it first, and got away with it because he was a linguist and the names meant something. But way too many times they’re weird and unpronounceable just for their own sakes.
SFFWRTCHT: How hard was it to find a publisher? I know you started out with Night Shade and now are with Tor?
AB: Oh, man, it was difficult. Even with an agent, it took two years. Mashups weren’t very popular back then.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you use Scrivener or other “writing software tools”? Write to music? Any rituals?
AB: No, only Pages. No particular rituals, just the usual: panic, terror and stories burning out of my head.
SFFWRTCHT: Traditional noir isn’t particularly woman-friendly. How do you address/avoid/transform that in your books?
AB: That’s actually something I do think about a lot. Wake has a very strong female lead, but her relationship with Eddie is professional and platonic. If you read it, I’d be curious what you think of her.
AB: I start about 5 AM and, since the kids are home for the summer, usually go until about 10 AM.
SFFWRTCHT: The latest book is Wake Up The Bloody Angel, a pirate noir novel. I know this is a dream come true- noir and pirates, right?
AB: Eddie is hired by his landlord Angelina to find her old boyfriend, who vanished 20 years earlier with the greatest pirate treasure ever. He recruits former pirate Jane Argo to help him. They hire a ship, and…you’ll have to read the book to find out the rest.
SFFWRTCHT: Have you written short stories in the universe of these novels or do you have plans to do so?
AB: Yes, one (“Finger Stakes”) will be out in an anthology called The New Hero, Vol. 2 next year. Artist Gene Ha did the cover, and the figure of Eddie he drew is the closest anyone’s got to my idea of him.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you approach the writing of short stories differently than novels? If so, how so?
AB: Yes, they’re like racquetball and tennis: they look similar, but the skills are completely different. Short stories focus on a single point, a single effect. Novels tend to start from a single point and expand out.
AB: No, stand-alone. That’s deliberate: I want to make it as easy as possible for new readers.
SFFWRTCHT: The novels also work that way, which is great. Best and worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
AB: Worst: “Write what you know.” Best: “No work of art is ever finished, it is only abandoned.”
SFFWRTCHT: Last question, What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?
AB: A 5th Eddie LaCrosse next year and a sequel to The Hum And The Shiver, Wisp Of A Thing will be out next June. Here’s the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVQITTmFliM. Also more of my Firefly Witch stories.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.