Interview with Alastair Rosie

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Stirling, Scotland in 1963 and we moved to Australia in 1964 where I spent close to forty years in and around Melbourne. I never finished high school and went on to work in factories and on building sites until 1988 when I enrolled in Box Hill TAFE to do a Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing. It was a two year course that took me through the entire spectrum of professional writing and some of my fondest memories are of sitting in cafes jotting down short stories in between classes. I had to work full time as well as do a full time course so I had very little social life. At the end of my course I went on to do a course in Small Business Management and went onto a government program for new startups. The business never made enough money but I managed to write one novel, The Boston Slasher that was eventually published in 2008. I moved from Australia to Scotland in 2003 and have been here ever since. People here think I'm nuts for leaving Australia and Australians were all saying "I wish I was going with you," so the grass is always greener over the septic tank! Jokes aside though, Scotland and the greater European landscape are a treasure trove of ideas for me. It's certainly enriched my writing!
How did growing up in Melbourne influence your writing?
I grew up in the shadow of the mountain, Mount Dandenong, which is to the east of Melbourne, so we had the city to one side and the bush to the other. Being so isolated, this was before the Internet and mobile phones, I had to make up my own worlds. We had no television and movies were too expensive. My parents were quite religious to the point of going over the top but while I rebelled against it I can see that being without a television and forced to read books strengthened my imagination.
In a more general sense of course living in Australia, especially pre-Internet days, we were isolated from the rest of the world. There's a loneliness to Australia that can drive you insane because everyone forgets about you until there's a major disaster or some entertainer cracks the overseas market. That isolation did improve my writing because I was writing to escape my situation. I think that's why I react against the maxim 'write what you know.' I looked around and I was bored with what I saw and to actually write about Australia while you live there would cripple my writing. I remember over the years I would actively seek out and befriend the 'ethnics,' which is a slightly derogatory term for immigrants. I wanted to know their native customs, some of their language, history and culture.
When did you first start writing?
I must have been about ten I think. I used to sit in the overflow section of our church with my best mate and write stories instead of listening to the pastor drone on and on and on and on. Nothing ever came of the stories and I did quit writing in my teens and didn't take it up until my father was dying many years later. Writing became therapy for me and probably still is to this day. Church, well that went the way of the dinosaur. Church wasn't a total waste of time though, some of my most evil villains have been good churchgoers!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
That's a bit embarrassing. It was a ripped off version of Mad Max that I wrote while on a binge. Thankfully I sobered up and burned it, although I read a few years ago that Stephen King did much the same thing so I guess I'm in good company. However the first story I wrote that I actually liked was Ridicule's Story, it was a short story told in allegorical form about a girl called Ridicule who travels through the kingdom of Mockery on her way to the Plains of Eternal Hope. Along the way she has to trade her clothes for food, the blouse of Shame and other items until she winds up um, naked and faced with the image of herself. It was a tale of female empowerment and I do recall reading that and thinking I can't believe I actually wrote this. From then on I accepted the fact that I am a writer, it's what I do. I may do other jobs during the day but in my spare time I sit in front of a computer and write until my eyeballs bleed.
You recently published your first book on Smashwords. What is it all about?
It's about a queen, Rhianna who's deposed by a brutal general, Bolksta. Driven into exile and rescued by the elves she has to fight not only physical wounds but the mental and emotional trauma as her kingdom reels under a major Bulkaran invasion. It was partly inspired by Tolkien and Lord of the Rings but I've always been fascinated by the concept of battle maidens and bringing that to the printed page. The cult of the she bear is made up of female warriors who fight just as fiercely as their male counterparts. I've long been tired of the cliched female heroines who are mere eye candy for some hulking alpha male and what female warrior fights in a bikini? I wanted women who could wield a sword, ride a horse and still manage to scrub off their warpaint and take on more feminine roles. It harks back to our Celtic and Northern European past when women fought alongside their men and hopefully goes some way to redressing the prejudices of the last two millennia.
Do you find it harder to write female characters?
I'm glad you asked that! There are certain minor details where I do have to phone or email a friend of the female variety just to ask the question. Fortunately I've cultivated some broad-minded female friends who will answer some of the most embarrassing questions. There was one scene where my elves have to help perform an abortion after a vicious pack rape, they basically force the woman to miscarry the foetus. I had to email a friend and ask if she had any idea of the kinds of symptoms she might experience and although she'd never had an abortion, she was able to give me the basic scenario. I took her advice and rewrote the scene from scratch and it was so much better. On a much more general level I'm constantly sending chapters and entire books to women just to get feedback on the female characters. If something doesn't read right they'll come back and they're never afraid to tell me if something bothers them.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Angel of Mercy started out way back in 2008 as Who Wants to Live Forever. It began life as a Gothic horror, morphed into a vampire story with two distinct vampire races, werewolves, and elves and evolved into a vampire story minus the werewolves and elves. Along the way I think I've rewritten the novel a dozen times or more. The only characters who remain are Morganna, Elizabeth McIvor, Amalthea, Andraste (Anna) and Boudica, she was actually deleted several times but kept working her way back in. I found I had to revisit the Boudica stories and accounts to make the transition and I'm glad she persisted because she's an important part of the tale.
What has finally emerged is a type of vampire that is part vampire, part guardian angel. The eternal watchers who live and work alongside us and we will never know their true identity unless they reveal themselves to us. I had to cast off many of the traditional vampire stories and eventually stop reading vampire books and watching vampire movies because it was holding me back. You have to go out there and create something new and fresh. I really like these vampires, who I've called the Children of the Raven and divided into ten clans named after colours. Clan Grey Raven are the stars of this book.
What is Angel of Mercy all about?
Angel of Mercy is told in two parts by two different characters. The first part is written by Samantha Sullivan, a twenty one year old exchange student at Glasgow university. She relates the memories of her stepmother, Cat, a doctor, who married her father after Sam's mother died in childbirth. Cat is a natural mother and yet she hides her vampirism from her new family. When she has to flee vampire hunters, she fakes her own death and hands Sam and her father over to her friends in Chicago who belong to Clan Grey Raven. They finish the task of raising and supporting Sam and convince her to move to Scotland about the same time as evidence 'emerges' that the accident may have been faked. When Sammie is finally reunited with Cat, she discovers her vampire nature and that leads to part two where Cat relates her memories of the years 1285 to 1297 when the Grey Ravens came to Scotland to stay with Cat and her mother. Cat recalls her memories of medieval Scotland, the crowning of the puppet king, Balliol, the failed rebellion of 1296 and the rise of William Wallace and the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Along the way we learn of Clan Grey Raven's stand against the tyranny of Longshanks and the way they helped Wallace and Moray. This second part does have actual history in it and I've tried to be as true to life as possible, although the vampire aspect is of course entirely fictional.
Does Angel of Mercy have a website?
It certainly does and you can find it here.
It's the official Clan Grey Raven site and I've been putting up character interviews and articles about my vampires and their mortal companions. It's very much a work in progress as there are several books planned for this series so there will be many more interviews added.
Your idea of character interviews sounds interesting. Why did you decide to interview your characters?
Like many good ideas it came about by accident when I was writing background material for earlier versions and drafts. I'd written much of it in the form of interviews and articles. When it came time to release Angel of Mercy I had to cut a lot of extra fat from the book and decided to rework the journalistic pieces and put them on the website as actual interviews. It's really been an interesting experiment because part of the theme for the sequel, Nosferatu is the cult of celebrity and the associated media feeding frenzy around celebrities. With Elizabeth McIvor being such a high profile celebrity I felt it was a natural progression to use these extra pieces to help sell the book. Some of the things covered in these interviews are touched on in the book(s) but the interview gives the complete story. I may release these at some stage in the future as a free download if people are interested.
What are you working on next?
I've got the sequel to Angel of Mercy already in first draft form and it will be finished in the next few months, its working title is Nosferatu although I may modify that title slightly. It does feature Cat, Anna, Boudica (Hannah), Sean, Tom, Jana, Elizabeth McIvor, Morganna and some new characters. It's a crime story with political overtones and Nosferatu is not a vampire, he's a thoroughly detestable vampire hunter. I really went all out to create a twisted, psychopathic monster! After that I'm looking at the sequel to The Deepening Dark and I am seriously thinking of releasing some of my short stories in an anthology. There is also an erotic anthology I've been playing with lately along with other half finished novels but you get the picture, there's always something to work on next.
What is your writing process?
I try to write a bit each day. I have a goal of between 1000 to 3000 words depending on how busy I've been that day and a few other factors but I do try to write something. It doesn't have to be inspiring, it's often the opposite but it gets the creative juices flowing. After I've written a first draft I put it aside for a month or two just to let it sit while I work on something completely different. I do the same with that book and go back to the first and find that my perspectives have changed, the characters have moved on just a little bit and I have new ideas. The second draft is where things start to come together but I never publish a first draft just as is, for me it's about writing, rewriting and rewriting again until you've got it right.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
The blurb is the most important bit for me. I'm mature enough to realise that a beautiful cover doesn't mean the book is great. I've seen some fantastic covers but the writing was appalling and conversely I've seen some bad covers but the book really hooked me. The blurb tells me what I'm getting for my money so to speak. Sell me the story through the blurb and I'll buy it and oddly enough writing 200,000 words is nothing compared to writing the blurb. It's the hardest part of the book to write for many authors, this one included.
How do you go about publicising your book?
I write a series of blog posts, exchange reviews with authors and post on relevant social media sites. To be honest I'm still learning how to market so there's definitely room for improvement and I'm always willing to look at new ways of doing things. Word of mouth is my all time favourite as you're having a conversation with another person about your book instead of posting a blurb or tagline. People are social animals and we'd rather buy a book from someone we know than a complete stranger, at least that's my experience anyway.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
For me it was all about taking control of my art. I have written to spec in the past, mainly articles and reviews but I've always been one to push the boundaries. I don't want to be pigeon holed as a fantasy or crime writer and I've done both genres. I need to go out there and try different genres without having to worry about what my publisher or agent think. On the down side the returns are much lower but you do have that freedom to write whatever the hell you want.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Apart from flying about in my starship? Um, I do a lot of reading, surfing the internet, watching movies and I do like getting out and just wandering through Glasgow or Stirling. I have a full time job as well, which takes up most of my week but the weekends are all mine!
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Hopefully being interviewed for real! Seriously I hope I'm still writing and have a couple of dozen books under my belt. It would be nice to be earning a little bit of spare cash from writing but that's not my primary reason for writing but having a few books behind me in my opinion would be quite an achievement.
Describe your desk
Organised chaos! I have two desks, one for the odds and sods, pens, rulers, a big yellow box for flash drives and the other desk for the antique monitor, pen drawers, a mini bookcase of dictionaries and style guides and shelving under it for more reference books, and then there are sticky notes, bits of paper, notepads and assorted chocolate wrappers.
Are there any tips for new writers?
Don't give up! In all seriousness, there are two evils I would caution you against, procrastination and delusions of grandeur. The first one will see you get halfway through a book and stop because you're bored, don't think it's good enough, nobody will read it and how am I going to find an agent? Write the book first and keep rewriting it until you've got it as good as you can get it. I can go back over all my work and see where I could have done better and technically I can, the technology allows us to do that but I want to move on and let my mistakes stay. Find the time of day when you're at your freshest. Turn off Facebook motivations, mute the phone and don't answer emails until you've finished your word count for the day. Facebook and Twitter will still be there in an hour or two and you'll have punched out two thousand words hopefully. You're a writer so get busy, you would never think to interrupt an accountant or nurse when they were working would you? The same rule applies to writers, get busy writing!
The second evil is delusions of grandeur. You are are not the next JK Rowling or Stephen King. Those parts have already been filled by JK Rowling and Stephen King. The marketplace can't take an A lister author every day, it takes around a decade for the next big author to come out. Aim low and keep working to make each subsequent book better than the last and by subsequent I mean more than one book, keep writing and publishing because as I've found out recently readers may not like your latest book but they might be tempted by something else you've written. You won't get rich on your first or your tenth but you will learn a lot about the craft of writing and gain valuable experience. If you only ever earn modest sums from your writing you're still miles down the track from the wannabe who stopped writing at chapter three.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I find Smashwords to be a great vehicle for building a profile as an author. Their publishing system is very easy and you're basically left alone to do your own thing. I know they're not as big as Amazon but that works in their favour because you feel as if you're interacting with people who actually care about you and value your contribution to the site. I've been involved with a lot of different self publishing sites and to be honest Smashwords is about the best I've seen so far. I know my books are secure with Smashwords and that means I'm free to go back to work and produce more books.
Published 2014-07-05.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Angel of Mercy
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 103,270. Language: English. Published: July 1, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Historical » Medieval
(4.00 from 1 review)
When my stepmom’s plane went down a part of me died, Cat was my world. In her place she left us to her friends, the Grey Ravens. Over the years I slowly came to realise her death was a mere facade. When we were reunited I learned the truth about Clan Grey Raven and her remarkable history. Some people will always love. Some people never lose hope. Some people never die...
The Deepening Dark
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 209,290. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: November 24, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
A shadow has fallen across western Tuath as proud tribes are broken beneath Bulkaran boots. Only in the east is their influence limited. Led by their enigmatic queen, Rhianna the horse lords of the northern plains are all that stands between Zavod and complete subjugation of Tuath. In the deepening dark hope is kindled and a heroine is reborn.