Thursday, 2 November 2017

Coffee chat with award-winning Aussie author Alan Baxter

The coffee chats continue and this week's feature author is award-winning Aussie author Alan Baxter.

Alan Baxter is a multi award-winning author of supernatural thrillers and urban horror, and an international master of kung fu. He runs the Illawarra Kung Fu Academy and writes novels, novellas and short stories full of magic, monsters and, quite often, martial arts. He rides a motorcycle and loves his dogs.

I attended Alan's workshop "Write the fight right" at my very first Conflux Convention, in 2014 I think, don't quote me on the year. I didn't really have any idea about the workshop, but I went along because I wanted to improve my writing and while I wasn't writing action then, I might in the future. As a Kung Fu teacher, what Alan highlighted was how to write believable scenes of attack and defence. I found it refreshing that he focused on the reality of fighting off an attacker, how role playing a fight scene can add depth to the writing, and how impotent an untrained person could feel in any situation.

When he's not teaching or conducting workshops around marital arts and fights, he writes novels and short stories, co-writes supernatural and action thrillers, he's won awards and been a finalist for the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards several times, freelances, conducts writer workshops, and has featured on many panels at writer festivals and pop culture conventions. Just to name some of his writing achievements.

It's my pleasure to invite Alan Baxter into my virtual café for a quick chat.

DL: Firstly, since this is a coffee chat, how do you have your coffee? And what is your favourite time of the day to partake?
ALAN: I have my coffee strong, and with milk, flat white style. No sugar. My favourite time of day to drink coffee is any time I'm conscious. I usually switch to a good single malt scotch later in the evening.

DL: I love the 'ten commandments of writing' post on your blog. (link to blog post) I especially love the 'precious buttercup' reference to editing. All good tips. There also seems to be a culture brewing, where if you're not writing a million words a day, you'll be left behind or something. What do you do to keep yourself grounded?

ALAN: I think there's a definite push these days to write more to get noticed. There's some truth in that. Fewer and fewer people are able to write one book and have it take off, or build a career with one book every few years. The best marketing for your book is always to write another book, and that's how a career is built for most of us. But equally, you must always stay true to yourself, make time to write, and only write as much as you feel is productive. I've always maintained that if any book of mine fails, it won't be because I didn't work hard enough. So I'm always working, always writing, always trying to get batter at my craft and score better deals for my books. But with the vagaries of publishing and the large amounts of luck involved, all we actually control is the writing. So I focus on that.


"If any book of mine fails, it won't be because I didn't work hard enough."

DL: A while ago my mother gave me a bundle of old school report cards. Written under the English lesson section were comments such as 'Debbie has an active imagination', 'Debbie loves to tell stories'. I also recall one teacher writing 'your beginnings are too long'. If we were to look at your old school report cards, what sort of comments would we see next to your English lesson? And was there any piece of advice/criticism a teacher gave you that has stuck with you?

ALAN: Mine would talk about insubordination, and how I could be very good if only I would apply myself. I was never very good in school, but the only subject I ever excelled in was English. And the good advice I received harks back to my previous answer. My English teacher in high school, Mr Craig, once said to me, "If you put half the effort into your work as you do into mucking around, you'd do very well." I guess I'm finally applying that.

DL: I read on your Wikipedia page that you self-published your first novel, RealmShift, in  2006 (now published through Gryphonwood Press). You've also published the Alex Caine series with HarperVoyager Australia and internationally with Ragnarok Publications. What are some of the good and bad points of both the self and traditional publishing experiences?

ALAN: This is a huge subject and one that has different answers for everyone. Personally, I like the hybrid author model, which means having work with a variety of different sized publishers, and some self-published. More strings, not having all your eggs in one basket, etc. It would be great if I had the kind of following of someone like Stephen King, then I could pick and choose my publisher and let them do all the work, but most of us don't have that. Different publishers offer different things. Traditional does all the work for you and potentially gets you into bookstores, but you share a lot of your money with them for the privilege. Doing it yourself is lots of hard work, but you make more money back per unit sold. A hundred different things affect these decisions 

DL: You ride a motorcycle. I've got nothing against them, but I know from experience that people can, and often do dumb shit on a bike or people do dumb shit around them and the poor rider suffers. (2 brothers and 1 husband have all had serious accidents). What's the dumbest or scariest thing that's ever happened to you on your motorcycle? And have you ever used that fear/adrenalin in a story.

ALAN: I was riding through Sydney once, in the middle of three lanes. On my right was a taxi, on my left a bus. And the bus decided to move into my lane. I remember the horrified faces on the bus, right above me, I could see their mouths as they yelled at the driver. The taxi driver was leaning on his horn. The gap between the bus and the taxi was getting smaller, almost crushing me, and I was up on the foot pegs, about to jump onto the roof of the cab and let my bike go when the bus suddenly swerved away again at the last second. That was probably the scariest moment for me.

DL: And lastly, are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And what is your favourite biscuit/cake?
ALAN: I don't mind either, but I don't have a particularly sweet tooth. I do like a Chocolate Hobnob, but that's a British biscuit hard to find in Australia. 

DL: Thank you Alan for stopping by. I see you have a few entries in this year's Aurealis Awards, so good luck! 


ALAN BAXTER - Warrior Scribe
Author - Martial Artist - Zetetic
Amazon Author Page
Kung Fu Academy
You can also contact Alan to request workshops here
Published by HarperVoyager (Australia) and Ragnarok Publications (rest of the world).
Alex Caine is a martial artist fighting in illegal cage matches. His powerful secret weapon is an unnatural vision that allows him to see his opponents’ moves before they know their intentions themselves.
After a fight one night, an enigmatic Englishman, Patrick Welby, claims to know Alex’s secret. Welby shows Alex how to unleash a breathtaking realm of magic and power, drawing him along a mind-bending course beyond his control. And control is something Alex values above all else.

Click here or on the image for links to buy the ebook and print book. Available at all online sites or ask your local book stores.

Check out more of Alan's novels, novellas, short stories on his website and while you're there, why not sign up to his newsletter.

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