You are in for a real treat today. I’m very excited about this so I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
This year I’ve had a goal to do some author interviews. Doing author interviews really terrifies me. I think the reason why is because I see so many interviews online that are long and evolved wherein the blogger asks a wide range of thought provoking questions and the author answers in kind. I just don’t have time for that kind of interview, or the research it requires. I have a baby who demands a nearly constant change of scenery and a house to run. I don’t have time to think of long and evolved interviews with funny/thought provoking questions that span a wide range of topics. So, in order to achieve my goal I had to think about how I could do interviews that fit into my lifestyle. I decided the best way to do them is to ask about ten questions to an author about one specific topic.
Hopefully by focusing on one topic, or book, I can raise awareness of this book/topic/author.
The first author for me to interview (and thus, my “test subject”) is Alex Bledsoe and the topic is (mostly) about his book The Hum and the Shiver. I absolutely love this book. I just finished reading it a second time and realized that I had some questions I’d love Bledsoe to answer. Thankfully, he was kind enough to take time out of his busy life to do so.
A little about the author (you can find out more here).
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. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls, writes before six in the morning and tries to teach his two sons to act like they’ve been to town before. He is well known for his Eddie LaCrosse series, The Hum and the Shiver as well as Memphis Vampires.
1. Ihave only read two of your books, Dark Jenny and The Hum and the Shiver.I absolutely loved both of them but what really struck me was the absoluteshift in tone and atmosphere between the two books. Dark Jennyis a fun romping adventure with lovable characters set in a secondary world. The Hum and the Shiveris more serious, subtle, lyrical and set Tennessee. The diversity of these twobooks really shows how capable you are as an author. Is it hard for you toswitch gears like this?
One thing I learnedfrom writing short stories is that each story kind of dictates its ownapproach. For example, not every story(whether short or novel-length) needs to be written in first-person. Dark Jenny did, because the entire story is toldthrough the main character’s perspective. TheHum and the Shiver, however, switches among thecharacters. You simply couldn’t tellthat story if you limited it to the main character’s POV. So once I accept these differences, thewriting is no harder or easier. It’sjust writing, which is my job.
2. Theprotagonist, Bronwyn, is very multi-faceted. She’s stand-offish, but the readerautomatically feels for her due to all her inner struggles in regards to thewar in Afghanistan as well as her community. Her struggle is incrediblybelievable and has a really raw quality that really resonated with me. She’s acharacter I carried with me long after I finished the book. How did you manageto make her, and her inner torment, so believable? Was it hard for you toaccomplish that? Was there a reason you chose to make your protagonist asoldier?
Bronwyn is one ofthose characters who really appeared full-blown in my imagination. Once I decided her nickname was “TheBronwynator,” I knew exactly who she was. I was a little leery about writing a female protagonist, but this storysimply wouldn’t have worked with a man. So I just tried to stay true to her personality, which is sort ofindependent of gender (and sort of not, but that’s another discussion). As for being a soldier, she was inspired by,but not based on, Jessica Lynch, who went through a similar ordeal in the earlydays of the Gulf War. One of the firstinspirations for the story was the Melungeons, which I mention below, and whenI first heard about Lynch, a light went on and I thought, what if she were aMelungeon? The whole novel came fromthat conjunction of two unrelated things.
3. Despitethe fact that DarkJenny and The Hum and the Shiver are so different,there were some similarities, namely your focus on developing believable, wellrounded characters and your ability to create wonderful atmospheres. What aresome aspects of your writing, like characters and atmosphere, that you try tocarry through all of your books?
The most importantthing is to be honest about the world you create. Whether it’s faux Camelot or the Tufacommunity, you have to deal with the same questions. What are your characters’ roles in theirworlds? How do they interact? What do they do all day? One thing that bugs me about some fantasyworlds is that people don’t seem to have jobs or duties, they’re just therewhen the plot needs them.
An example: two ofmy heroes are writer William Faulkner and film director Howard Hawks, whoworked together several times, including on an epic costume drama called Land of thePharaohs. It was not asuccess; Hawks later said he couldn’t work with the material because, “I didn’tknow what a pharaoh did.” I try to make sure I always know what my characters do.
Atmosphere istrickier, because it’s hard for me to be objective about it. In Dark Jenny and the other Eddie LaCrosse novels,it’s easier because it’s all down to what Eddie would notice. In The Hum and the Shiver, though, I wasreally flying blind and trusting that the tone and atmosphere would come out ofthe characters and situations, if I did them right.
4. The Hum and the Shiverlargely focuses on music, instruments and the like. Are you musical? Do youplay instruments? If not, how did you learn enough about the instruments andmusic in this book to be able to write about it?
You know the oldsaying that rock and roll is “three chords and the truth”? I know two chords and some gossip. I don’t play anything well enough to do it infront of people, but music has always been important to me. A well-turned lyric is as hard to do as abrilliant line in a novel. And music hasthe advantage of going straight to our emotions in a way prose justdoesn’t. For example, if I were to setout to write a story of three generations of hillbilly lawbreakers, startingwith moonshining, then bootlegging, and finally pot farming, it might take me150,000 words. Steve Earle does it inless than five minutes in his song, “Copperhead Road.”
As for the technicaldetails, I’m fortunate enough to know a lot of musicians who have been generouswith their time and expertise.
5. Youmanaged to make the Tennessee mountains seem mystical, magical and incrediblyvivid for the reader. However, Dark Jenny was written in a secondary world. Wasthere a reason you chose to set The Hum and the Shiver in our modernworld?
The influences andinspirations for the story were all modern, so I never really consideredsetting it anywhere else. Besides, Ithink one of the most interesting things about the story, certainly one of themost interesting things about writing it, was finding ways to show the magicalin the mundane. In a world of kings,queens and wizards, magic is a given. It’s much less common among tractors, convenience stores and small-townchurches.
6. Youmanage the Tufa very mysterious, which keeps the reader turning the pages tolearn more about these secretive people. Due to their fantasy and mythologicalaspects, I’d be very interested in hearing a little about what possiblyinspired you to create these people.
They were inspiredby stories of the Melungeons, a real group of people who still live in parts ofEast Tennessee. I’ve always beenfascinated by them, and wanted to do a story about them, but when it came downto it, it seemed a better idea to make up my own isolated group. Not only can I then do anything I want tothem, but using the real Melungeons as characters just seemed…rude.
7. Yourbiography says that you’ve been a reporter, photographer, and door-to-doorvacuum salesman. How have these previous jobs, as well as the job of being afather and husband, influenced your writing?
I think the years ofmenial jobs, along with the economic situations that accompanied them, havegiven me a solid understanding of human nature and the things people do to getby. It’s the kind of thing you can’t getfrom writing classes, no matter how well-taught, and it’s something thatfantasy especially needs, since you’re already working with things that don’thappen in the real world. I mean, evensome fantasy classics are missing this. What are the job prospects for graduates of Hogwarts, for example? Or, who provides the basic infrastructure forHobbitton?
8. Youseem to enjoy toying with themes. You write the Eddie LaCrosse novels, The Hum and the Shiver,and two books about vampires in the ’70s. Are there any other gear-switchingworks in your future?
Right now I’mworking on the second Tufa novel and the fifth Eddie LaCrosse book. Depending on how quickly that goes, I do havesome other ideas for different genres, although there’s probably an element ofthe fantastic to everything I write. I’dlike to try full-blown horror in the near future, too.
9. Isthere anything you’d like to say to your fans and readers?
Mainly, thankyou! I wrote for a lot of years withlittle or no encouragement, worrying that my take on things was too weird anddifferent for anyone else to “get.” NowI know others do “get” it, and I’ll always be hugely grateful for that.
Thanks so much fortaking the time to answer these questions! I really appreciate it!
Thanks for havingme.
Great interview! I've heard of Bledsoe but not read any of his novels. This interview has intrigued me enough to add him to my ever-growing TBR list.
I also did my first author interview (Gail Carriger, who was an absolute delight!) earlier this year, so I totally understand the "terrified" feeling you mentioned. Hopefully now that you've got the first one under your belt the next will be easier!!
I've not read any of Alex's books (I own Sword Edged Blonde). I mentally rejected the idea of reading Hum and the Shiver as "not my thing"
However, listening to the Squeecast today, I might have to reconsider that stance, since it really does sound intriguing. Your interview here dovetails with what Lynne was talking about.
I'm yet another reader who's not read anything by Alex. This is not through want of trying – I've just never seen any of his novels in a bookstore! (I don't know why I don't just order them from Amazon, come to think of it…) I'm a Brit, so the fact that he doesn't have a UK publisher (that I'm aware of) can explain the lack of copies over there, but I've spent a lot of time in the US since July, visited more bookstores than is probably healthy, and yet have STILL not seen a single copy of his novels on the shelves!
What's up with that?!
Great interview, too. 🙂