Today’s 7 Questions are with author of paranormal historical romance, A L Lester. When they’re not writing and spending time with their family, they are keeping geese and making beer! They’ve taken some time out from their hectic schedule (and school holidays) to chat books and badgers with us!
1. So, let’s start with the most important thing, tell us all about your childhood badger.
My childhood badger was, in fact, my mother’s badger, before I was born. The law in the UK changed to protect badgers in 1973, but before then, farmers dug up their setts and killed them. Back in 1960s, a chap who was sweet on my mother saved her a cub from a dig. It’s mother was killed and Mama stepped in and raised it. It had a large pen in the garden and spent a lot of time in the house. Apparently they used to have to wear wellington boots at meal-times because it liked to play under the table and nip people’s toes to make them jump. They used to go for walks together on moonlit nights and catch worms moon-bathing, where they lie half out of their casts at night. Eventually Stripey spent more and more time away from home and must have got a mate. She never settled completely in the wild though and would come back and visit, once when she had a broken jaw that she needed to recuperate from. I am really sad that I was born after she left and sometimes think I would like a pet badger myself, but of course they are much better left in the wild and protected from people killing their parents.
2. Two and a half degrees? What about these inspired you to become a writer?
I think studying the past- my first degree was history and archaeology- gives you a good grip on humanity, if you do the right reading. I was always more interested in the day to day stuff about how people in the villages lived rather than politics. And I’ve always been interested in sci-fi and fantasy, so that led to the courses I did as a mature student. And I’ve always written. So it was more a process, building toward having the confidence to show other people and the time to actually finish things. I think reading probably pushed me in to my academic choices rather than the other way round. I discovered Dorothy Dunnett in my teens and the meticulous detail of her books definitely pushed me both toward history and toward writing.
3. What is it about historical fiction that appeals most to you?
I like playing in worlds that aren’t my own. Historical fiction is just another fantasy world, when it comes down to it. Writers mostly don’t tell stories about syphilis and being cold and hungry and afraid because the Vikings are coming to burn your house and you might die in childbirth. Or if we do, as romance writers it’s definitely in passing, setting up the premise for a happy ending. It’s a pre-made world to play in. I like learning about other cultures and writing and reading historical fiction allows that, if it’s done well. I hope I do it well- I try and be as accurate as possible in my historical world-building so that I can go bonkers creating impossible portals to other worlds and having monsters pop out and non-cis, non-straight people having innocuous happy endings.
4. Do you prefer writing about men, or has it just turned out that way?
It’s just turned out that way for these first two books I think. In retrospect, Lost in Time and Shadows on the Border seem to be part of my journey to working out that I’m non-binary, exploring my own concept of masculinity. Plus writing about men in a 1920s police environment is more straightforward than writing about women detectives- there were so few. And I knew that I wanted to write about the different experiences between someone who had fought in WW1 and a contemporary-era person of a similar age who travelled back in time (CLUE: THEY’RE HUGE DIFFERENCES). The MCs of one of my current works in progress are both born women, and one is non-binary. And in a further sequel to Shadows, Fenn, one of the MCs, is non-binary, although in an elfy, alien-being kind of way rather than a human one.
5. What can we expect next from you?
I’m working on a few things all set in my Lost in Time universe. I’ve got two main works in progress on the boil at the moment – a sequel to my short story The Gate, which I’m serialising every month in my newsletter and aiming to turn in to a full length novel and publish when I’m done. And a book set in the Himalayas in the 1780s between a female botanist and a non-binary archaeologist who are trying to work out how the archaeologist’s father died with the working title The Flowers of Time. I am learning a lot about both the era and the area and am doing things like making my own butter and my own lamps and pressing flowers as hands on experiments.
6. Describe your ideal sandwich?
Gluten-free! I rotate between sausage (with red sauce, please), crisps and butter (chips, for you US-ians), and a pie. You take a pie (usually a Cornish Pasty) and you place it between two slices of bread and VOILA! a pie sandwich. Food of the gods. Please don’t judge me.
7. Which of your books are you most proud of?
Crikey. Erm. I honestly don’t know how to answer this one. I have rubbish Imposter Syndrome and tend to think everything I have published is just an accident because the relevant acquisitions editor wasn’t concentrating when they read the manuscript. I guess I feel immensely proud of anything I actually manage to finish- managing my own health issues and caring for my daughter and actually having some sort of family life around all that leaves me very little time for writing. So being able to type ‘the end’ on anything is a huge achievement.