Today’s 7 Questions are with Author and historian A. L. Lester.
A. L. Lester likes to read. Her favourite books are post-apocalyptic dystopian romances full of suspense, but a cornflake packet will do there’s nothing else available. The gender of the characters she likes to read (and write) is pretty irrelevant so long as they are strong, interesting people on a journey of some kind.
She has two and a half degrees, a BA in Archaeology and History; a MSc in Geographical Information Systems; and a few half-arsed courses as part of a Science and Science Fiction undergrad. In galaxies long ago and far away she has coded GIS, taught computing skills in the community, was a very expensive secretary and worked as an audio-visual technician. It came as a great surprise when health and safety got upset about pregnant people climbing ladders to do rigging; and so she gave all that up to breed poultry, bees, plants and children.
Now she has a chaotic family life and has become the person in the village who looks after the random animals people find in the road. She is interested in permaculture gardening and anything to do with books, reading, technology and history. She has stress-related seizures and lives in a small village in rural Somerset with Mr AL, two not-quite-teenage children and various animals and birds. She is seriously allergic to both rabbits and Minecraft and struggles to find time to write, but manages anyway, because it’s what keeps her going.
1. Tell us about your new book
Edie, a lady botanist, and Jones, a non-binary explorer, travel over the Himalayas in the 1780’s.
Jones is determined to find out what caused the unexpected death of her father whilst they were exploring ancient ruins in the Himalayas. She’s never been interested in the idea of the marriage bed, but along with a stack of books and coded journals he’s left her with the promise she’ll travel back to England for the first time since childhood and try being the lady she’s never been.
Edie and her brother are leaving soon on a journey to the Himalayas to document and collect plants for the new Kew Gardens when she befriends Miss Jones in London. She’s never left England before and is delighted to learn that the lady will be returning to the mountains she calls home at the same time they are planning their travels. When they meet again in Srinagar, Edie is surprised to find that here the Miss Jones of the London salons is ‘just Jones’ the explorer, clad in breeches and boots and unconcerned with the proprieties Edie has been brought up to respect.
A non-binary explorer and a determined botanist make the long journey over the high mountains passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? It’s a trip fraught with dangers for both of them, not least those of the heart.
2. Are you a dog or a cat person?
We have one of each, but I definitely prefer the cat at the moment because he isn’t peeing on our bed.
3. Pet couture, yes or no?
No. Absolutely not. Why do you need any explanation for someone rejecting this abomination?
4. What’s your favourite sandwich?
Has to be toasted cheese-and-something. Gluten free for preference, which I accept isn’t ACTUALLY BREAD, but it’s the next best thing.
5. Who or what inspires you?
I’m not sure these days. Mostly the desire to have a nice fantasy life, maybe? I seem to like writing characters with emotional repression and subject them to lots of angst. Plus I think writing The Flowers of Time allowed me to work out some of my own gender/sexuality stuff.
I started off writing it with two side characters from a previous novel and it was going to be set in the 1920s. I read an article about plant collectors from Kew and other botanical gardens and it seemed really interesting. Plus my Mama is a professional horticulturalist who went to a Crazy Lady’s Horticultural College ™ in the 1950s and I grew up in a botanical sort of household.
When I began writing though, it turned out that the characters really didn’t sit in the 1920s so I changed the location and time to one I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT. This seemed a super idea the time, but it actually meant I spent ages diving down research rabbit holes and the whole thing took aeons to write.
6. If this book was an animal, what would it be?
Ferret. Twisty, pretty looking but with vicious teeth.
7. Where can we grab a copy of your new read?
I haven’t got a pre-order link for The Flowers of Time, but if you sign up for my Very Infrequent Newsletter (once a month, usually) it’ll keep you posted. https://www.subscribepage.com/allester
You can catch me on Twitter & Instagram as @CogentHippo and FB at https://www.facebook.com/ALLesterAuthor/. I interact most on Twitter.