Who are you, just in case anyone here hasn't encountered you before?
I am Alex Beecroft, genderqueer, asexual (hetromantic) professional weirdo, long-term SF/F fan, mother of two. Best known for writing historicals, such as False Colors and Captain's Surrender mainly because the first few things I published happened while I was on an 18th Century kick.
I like historicals, but I like them for the same reason I like fantasy – the sensation that you've passed into a different world.
Your new release, Too Many Fairy Princes: what is it with you lately and fairies and/or princes?
I know it looks like I've just decided to be all about fairies, but the truth is that it was the historicals that were the temporary fluke, and I've been all about elves all my life. I don't remember when I first read The Hobbit, but I do remember being seven and acting out scenes from Lord of the Rings with my little friends. When they grew out of it, I just carried on playing with the ideas on my own, by writing them down.
I think that there are two different sorts of people in the world – the ones who don't get elves, and the ones that do. The ones that do know as well as I do that the land of Faerie is perilous and baffling and beautiful beyond anything else in life. Once it's got you, it doesn't let you go.
Princes, I can take or leave ;)
How do the otherworldly politics of Too Many Fairy Princes differ from those in Under the Hill?
Under the Hill was a very long book. So long it had to be split into two volumes to be published. So I had time and space to do something a bit more complicated with the elven politics. I also wanted it not to be exactly clear from the start who was the good queen and who was the evil queen. I've often thought how interesting it is that the alfar – the Scandinavian type elves who entered British mythology through the Saxons – are slightly different from the Tuatha de Danann of the Celts, and I wondered if that caused some friction and racism in their society. All of which figured into Under the Hill.
Too Many Fairy Princes is a very different prospect. UtH is heavy and serious, while Too Many Fairy Princes is a light hearted, humorous romp. I really wanted TMFP to be a sort of fish-out-of-water story, where the politics are less important and what we're really interested in is Kjartan and his reaction to 21st Century London. As a result, it's a much less complicated, more fairytale set-up, in which the king's four sons have to go on a quest to determine which one of them will inherit the kingdom. Which of course leads to murder and mayhem and the Queen of England gunning down goblins in her bedroom.
What else can you tell us about Too Many Fairy Princes?
If Kjartan is a fish-out-of-water, my other hero Joel is a reaction against the increasing prevalence of gritty anti-heroes out there. I guess I don't think a person has to be morally dubious in order to be interesting. Joel is genuinely a sweet guy who tries to think the best of everyone. If that means that his boss leaves him with a failing business and a loan to pay back to some very nasty characters, well so be it, but he doesn't have to let it make him bitter.
Would you like to share an excerpt?
I certainly would. This is the first point where Kjartan (here calling himself Kai, because everyone knows you don't give out your real name, right?) makes himself useful.
"I asked to see the paperwork." Joel's words came out in a breathy rush from having to be forced.
Drake smiled again, more shallowly, with a hint of irritation in the corner of his mouth. He reached into the inside pocket of his big coat and drew out a contract, folded lengthways, legal style. Joel took it with the feeling that he was being played with, read it and despaired.
Fishing his wallet out of his jacket, he counted the two thousand, three hundred pounds out into the loan shark’s kid-gloved palm. Opening the till, he brought out the float he had left in it overnight, another six hundred and sixty-seven pounds. Two thousand, nine hundred and sixty-seven pounds in total. He turned to the small change, and Drake gestured again with that brusque wave that cut through everything he did and made it stop.
"You will need the change"—Drake handed back fifty pounds, folded the remainder of the notes and tucked them into his top pocket—"if you are to continue to trade."
"That’s..." the generosity, or perhaps the mere practicality, startled Joel, "...kind of you."
It was a very small smile this time, but there was genuine humour in it. Black humour. "How else are you to raise the seven thousand and thirty-three pounds more you owe me?"
"What?" Okay, okay, he'd be lying if he said he hadn’t exactly expected this, but he’d expected it the way—when he was a child—he’d expected the monster to come out from under the bed. He’d expected it without actually believing it would happen.
Evidently his horrified look was hilarious, for Drake's smile expanded into a delighted grin. "I'm sure you’ve read the fine print—it's my right to change the interest as I please, as long as I inform you of it and give you a reasonable chance to pay up.”
"But I..." I'll starve. I'll get thrown out of my flat. I'll—
Drake dropped the smile as though it was no longer of use to him. He leaned forward, elbows on knees, and speared Joel with a look. "You sent one of my boys back to me broken, Mr. Wilson. You sent them both back humiliated. Now admittedly, they're not my best boys, because this was a trivial little debt in which I took no personal interest. I do have..." He made a gesture that would have read as examining his fingernails, if he had not been wearing gloves, flexed his fingers to make the leather creak across the knuckles.
"I do have something of a business empire to run. But you courted my attention, Mr. Wilson, and now you have it. You must pay for it, one way or another."
Joel hated the break of hope in his voice when he asked "Another?", if only because it made Drake smile like that—smile like a cat when the mouse is trapped beneath its paw.
"Seven thousand by the end of the week, or I could waive the debt and you could do me a favour."
"What kind of—"
"He wasn’t my best boy, but he wasn’t my worst. I find it impressive that you wrecked him so easily. I could use a man with such a talent."
Another glorious spring morning was flooding the gallery with light. The glassware and the glass shelves around them sparkled, smearing the pale oak floor with rainbows of colour. Joel was offended, actually offended that Drake could sit there in the centre of such radiance and try to cast his shadow over all of that.
"I'll get you the money." He rose to his feet, despite the gun, defiantly angry. "All of it. Now get out of my shop. You disgust me."
Drake stepped down from his pedestal like a statue come to life, eyes as stony as lapis lazuli. He pushed his face right up into Joel's, until their noses were almost touching, until Joel could smell the Givenchy and salt scent of him. Then he laughed and gave an odd, precise shrug of his left shoulder.
He stepped back, his left arm lashing out simultaneously. Joel registered the razor gleam, hurled himself backwards. Must have lost his grip on reality because suddenly something silver was sliding along all the reflective surfaces of the room like a snake in water. A whisper of pressure along his cheekbone, and then Kai was there in the centre of the room, lips drawn back into a snarl and a spear of light bursting from his palm straight into Drake’s face.
Joel had time to register Drake's unguarded look of shock before the white light hit something an inch away from Drake's skin. He recoiled, driven back to the door, his face twisting, making to speak. Kai screamed on a note of fury and frustration, drew back his hand to launch another fiery spear, and Drake closed his mouth with a snap, retreated through the door and slammed it shut behind him.
His footsteps drew away outside. Joel turned back to find Kai looking at his hands as though they'd betrayed him. Joel took in a great breath to try and smother the whoop of victory, the half-hysterical laughter he could feel bubbling under his breastbone, and a bone-deep ache of agony bloomed out of nowhere on his face. Trying to lick his lips, he got a mouthful of blood.
Kai was in front of him at once. Cold fingertips pushed at his cheek. He leaned in and breathed crackling ice along the side of Joel's face, and the hot, deep throb of it eased into numbness.
"What?" Joel asked, laughter dying away into a sick, shaky cold. "What...?" He remembered suddenly the razor in Drake’s hand, the featherlike touch, painless and fleeting, he had felt before Kai charged in like the white knight he was. "Let me s... Let me see."
He pushed forward, trying to get to the staff bathroom, to wash away the blood he could feel trickling warm over his collar and splashing onto the floor.
"There’s no need." Kai still had one hand on his face, was watching it intently as though the fingers—which seemed motionless to Joel—were performing some kind of intricate task.
Joel had edged into line with the display of crystal in its mirrored cabinet, caught sight of himself and stopped as if he'd run into a wall. It looked as though half of his face had fallen off—a long, precise cut over the cheekbone and then a tear on either side, so deep he could see the glint of teeth inside. "Oh my...oh my God!"
What's in the pipeline, writing-wise, and where might we find you hanging out next?
Well, I have The Reluctant Berserker coming out in in February from Samhain, which is a historical set in Anglo-Saxon England:
Manhood is about more than who’s on top.
Wulfstan, a noble and fearsome Saxon warrior, has spent most of his life hiding the fact that he would love to be cherished by someone stronger than himself. Not some slight, beautiful nobody of a harper who pushes him up against a wall and kisses him.
In the aftermath, Wulfstan isn’t sure what he regrets most—that he only punched the churl in the face, or that he really wanted to give in.
Leofgar is determined to prove he’s as much of a man as any Saxon. But now he’s got a bigger problem than a bloody nose. The lord who’s given him shelter from the killing cold is eyeing him like a wolf eyes a wounded hare.
When Wulfstan accidentally kills a friend who is about to blurt his secret, he flees in panic and meets Leofgar, who is on the run from his lord’s lust. Together, pursued by a mother’s curse, they battle guilt, outlaws, and the powers of the underworld, armed only with music…and love that must overcome murderous shame to survive.
Warning: Contains accurate depictions of Vikings, Dark Ages magic, kickass musicians, trope subversions and men who don’t know their place.
I've just finished a contemporary novella called Blue Eyed Stranger, about a romance between a morris dancer and a re-enactor. That's out on submission at the moment.
As is The Glass Floor, a plain Fantasy (by which I mean a Fantasy without any more elements of romance than you would see in a mainstream fantasy.) It still has GBLTQ characters but they're too busy saving the Ottoman Empire for romance to be more than a subplot.
Keep your fingers crossed for me on those two :)
I'm currently writing a contemporary m/m romance set in a fictional English town of my invention. That's half way complete and I hope to have it finished by Christmas.
Which of your characters would you trust to help fix a water leak?
This makes me realise that most of my characters are not handy at all. Alec from Shining in the Sun would arrange and pay for a plumber to come in. Most of my 18th Century characters would send a servant, who would have no clue what to do with modern plumbing. Kjartan would mend it with magic, as long as the pipe contained no iron compounds, but there would probably be a slight danger of sea serpents afterwards.
Michael, from the book I'm writing at the moment would fix it up in no time, because he's a total DIY genius, but he probably doesn't count because he's not published yet.
And which would you trust to cook supper?
None of them. My characters don't cook. Largely – I suspect – because I hate cooking and therefore also hate writing about it. However, they all order in a mean meal, whether that be pizza delivery, getting their servants to whip up a five course banquet, or getting the head chef of the local restaurant to send something over. Otherwise, they survive on pot noodles and toast.
Kangeroos or Koalas?
Kangeroos. I had a stuffed Koala when I was an infant and it scared me to death with its beady little eyes and claws.
Anything else you want to tell us?
I would like to show you the cover of Too Many Fairy Princes, because it's pretty!
Also to say that if you want to know anything more, feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out my website on http://alexbeecroft.com
Thanks so much for having me!