Name: A.L. Butcher
Location: Bristol, Southwestern UK.
How do YOU define fantasy?
Fantasy – a genre where anything and everything is possible; be it magic, mythological beastie, impossible heroes, the folklore and legend that underpins our society and our storytelling.
From the earliest storytellers trying to make sense of a frightening, confusing and dangerous world, to the supreme world-builders such as Tolkien, to the escapism and humour of Terry Pratchett we’ve loved fairytales, magic, lore and legend for thousands of years.
It’s everywhere – from our national legendary heroes such as Robin Hood, King Arthur and St George to the names of our pubs, our libraries, our children’s education, to our language.
Kids read (or are read) fairy-tales, we have Santa Claus, the toothfairy, black dog myths, headless horsemen, the Loch Ness Monster, ghosts aplenty, Green Men, more saints than you can imagine – most of whom did something fantastical – witches, fairies, pixies, dragons, giants, pirates (including Blackbeard who it’s said drank at the Hatchet Inn) and much more. There are two giants that ‘lived’ locally to where I’m based (Goram and Vincent/Ghyston).
I grew up on fairytales, flower fairies, fantasy tales made up by my father, and later Greek and Roman myth, Tolkien and dragons.
Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be?
Well fantasy/folklore is hardly new. But I think with the popularity of certain franchises such as Marvel and Harry Potter, fantasy and sci-fi has become more ‘acceptable’ – in that a wider audience has found enjoyment in these. Games, movies, books in the fantasy/sci-fi genre are big business.
What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life?
A hero is someone who does what needs to be done to help/save others despite the risk to themselves, or at personal cost, or do something outstanding for the good of others. They don’t need special powers – despite what the books and films might say.
The doctors and nurses who risked their lives in the pandemic to care for others, a man who risked his life getting abandoned animals out of Afghanistan, a humble old man who walked 100 laps of his garden with his walking frame to raise £1000 for the NHS charity and ended up raising £30 million, the explorers who found new lands, and walked on the moon, the scientists who discovered things for the betterment of life – such as penicillin, aspirin, and chemotherapy, the authors, artists and musicians that defied convention to bring new work to us, to those who fought for equality and freedom.
Literary heroes are often (but not always) special – the son/daughter of a god, imbued with magic or superpowers, vastly wealthy, princes (or princesses).
How do you portray heroism in your books?
My heroes are very much anti-heroes – they kill, they steal, they commit crimes in order to help people who can’t help themselves.
Archos and Olek know full well they are not ‘good’ people by the standards of their society, and they do and have done unpleasant things. Yet they stand up for those with no rights and no voice – and try to help where they can and great personal risk.
Dii – I think she’s a hero – despite what has happened to her, and the way she’s been treated she is still kind, selfless and helps those who aren’t really worth her kindness.
How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy – does something need to be plausible to be believable?
It has to be reasonably plausible in the world in which it takes place – although not necessarily deeply explained. If there’s magic then it has to have limits, or at least be hard to use and dangerous. It doesn’t need to be explained WHY there’s magic – but it needs to be consistent and fit the world. If it doesn’t then I think it needs an explanation to the reader.
So, for example in my world of Erana magic exists – I suppose you could say it’s alive or at least has some sentience – people, animals and objects can be magical and exhibit powers or attributes that the mundane don’t possess. However, due to wars and a plague that mostly affected the magical use of magic is outlawed. Magic is dangerous, and tends to do what it wants if given free range. It exacts a price. A mage can’t indefinitely keep using it – the more powerful the more the mage has to pay – with blood, pain, even life. And, of course, if the Order of Witch-Hunters find out then the mage is in big trouble. Magic demands a price. The greater the magic, the greater the price.
I think with fantasy willing suspension of disbelief is needed. Sometimes things happen because they do….
It’s fiction – it doesn’t have to be true or real in our own world.
Science is magic – just magic we understand or accept. Religion is fantasy, just a truth to some people. Truth can be relative.
What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most?
JRR Tolkien, Homer, Mary Shelley, Janet Morris, Terry Pratchett, ancient myth, the tales my late father used to make up.…
Excerpt 1 –from The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book I
The Archmage rested: dozing, replenishing, and dreaming. Archos had spent an active day and night studying and trying to finish the spell he was creating. Even with his Power, something had unsettled him, so he had given up and gone to rest. As he dozed in a chair in what he called his “workshop,” the Mirror he owned began to sing. Pulled from his sleep, he rose and walked to it. “What is it that you disturb me at such an hour?” he murmured. The Mirror’s song began to wail the strange, haunting song of the Arcane Realms. Touching the edges of the Enchanted Silver frame, he watched as the Mirror shimmered, and the mists cleared.
Archos watched as the view of the chamber in the ruins flickered into view. The image was weak, so he channelled some magic into the Mirror, and Archos saw the other Mirror in the tower and a glimpse of something red as the image flickered out. “Damn you,” he muttered, “must be a weak one.”
Concentrating, he channelled another small bolt of magic into his own Mirror. These artefacts had many uses, if a mage knew the correct spell, one of which included finding other such Mirrors. It was almost as though they spoke to one another, communicated in the Arcane Realm. They fed on magic, although Archos was not sure if “fed” was the correct term. Demanded, needed, or desired were perhaps more accurate. His Mirror could be fickle, but it was old. It had cost him a good deal some years ago, but he smiled as he caressed the silver. He saw the image flicker back up and as it did so, a bolt of magic, of pain, of Power, and of the most intense desire shot down his arm and right across him. Suddenly his head spun, for just a moment, and the Power made him drop gasping to his knees.
“Gods, what was that? Such Power! That cannot have been from the other Mirror!”
He had never felt such intensity as the Power of the woman who called to him across the vast Magical Realms. Breathlessly, he gripped the edges, surprised and deeply intrigued. As he pulled himself back to his feet, Archos saw her: the flame-haired elf woman touching the Mirror in the ruins. He watched as she ran her fingers down the glass and murmured something. Again, he cursed that he had never been able to get the thing to transmit sound. Archos gazed, transfixed, at the beautiful young mage. She could not be more than twenty-five summers, although with elves, it was hard to tell. It had taken him years to learn Mirror magic, yet before him stood this young mage activating an old, dying Mirror.
The image faded, and he snapped at the Mirror, “Show me. Do not play games.”
The mists swirled, and he tried to reach through the unyielding magical fog. “Damn you, so be it!” Archos continued, glaring at the Mirror.
Excerpt 2 – from The Stolen Tower – the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book III
Kherak Var knew her days were numbered. As a Shaman of the Trollkind, she was granted an inkling of when she would go to serve at the feet of the goddess she favoured. To say she was unafraid would not be the truth, for only a fool does not fear death, and Kherak was not a fool. The visions, which were also a gift of her magic and her kind, had become more intense and more disturbing of late, and these played upon her mind more than the matter of joining her forebears. All paths lead to war. That was what she had told the Magelord Archos, Lord of the Storm, who also had the favour of the Goddess Ethnii’a, Lady of the Sky. It was true, or at least that is what the visions and her scrying Arcane Opal informed the old Shaman, and she was rarely mistaken in her interpretations. All paths lead to war, but the paths themselves could be shortened. Those paths more suited to the skills of her more nefarious allies would remain in shadow until such times as those who controlled the shadows brought them to bear on the greater darkness which held the land of Erana beneath a fist of iron. Could shadow and light working together dispel such an entrenched regime as the Order of Witch-Hunters and their divisive laws? Kherak truly did not know. Magic was not yet gone from a land in which it was forbidden, despite the best efforts of the Order to make it so. This would be an unequal war, and the victor was far from certain, but there was hope, and wars had been fought with less.
The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book I
In a dark world where magic is illegal, and elves are enslaved a young elven sorceress runs for her life from the house of her evil Keeper. Pursued by his men and the corrupt Order of Witch-Hunters she must find sanctuary. As the slavers roll across the lands stealing elves from what remains of their ancestral home the Witch-Hunters turn a blind eye to the tragedy and a story of power, love and a terrible revenge unfolds.
Universal link https://www.books2read.com/Lightbeyondstorm1
The Shining Citadel – The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book II
Who rules in this game of intrigue where magic is forbidden, and elves enslaved? Journey where beliefs shatter like glass, truth is unwelcome, and monsters from ancient times abound: share the romance and revenge, magic and passion, and the wages of greed in a world of darkest fantasy.
Universal Link https://www.books2read.com/ShiningCitadel
The Stolen Tower – The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book III
What stalks the land cannot be, but is.
Where magic is outlawed a troll Shaman calls from her deathbed to her heiress, Mirandra Var, daughter of the storm. Mirandra vows to find her missing kin, sort friend from foe, and claim the dangerous secrets guarded by unthinkable creatures. If she succeeds, she will become the leader of her tribe. If she fails, there will be no tribe to lead.
Universal Link https://www.books2read.com/StolenTower
British-born A. L. Butcher is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as ‘evocative’. She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.
Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and the Tales of Erana lyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror, including the Legacy of the Mask series. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.
She also curates speculative fiction themed book bundles on Pubshare – for the most part – the Here Be Series
Alex is also proud to be a writer for Perseid Press where her work features in Heroika: Dragon Eaters, Heroika Skirmishers – where she was editor and cover designer as well as writer – as well as Lovers in Hell and Mystics in Hell – part of the acclaimed Heroes in Hell series. http://www.theperseidpress.com/
Outside the Walls, co-written with Diana L. Wicker received a Chill with a Book Reader’s Award in 2017.
NN Light Book Heaven awards:
The Kitchen Imps and Other Dark Tales won the best fantasy for 2018
Echoes of a Song – one of her Phantom tales – won the best fantasy in 2019
Tears and Crimson Velvet won the best Short Story category in 2020
Dark Tales and Twisted Verses – won the best Short Story Category in 2021
Blog tour organised by Writer Marketing Services.