I met Alex Bledsoe a few months ago when he came to a local RWA meeting. He had the honor of not only being the only man there, but also (because he was the only man there) being drafted to assist Kelle Z. Riley with her self-defense program. (Yeah, he got beat up…not REALLY, but that was basically the role he got to play.) He took both in stride.
His debut novel, The Sword-Edged Blonde, received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, and Alex agreed to stop by and chat about it.
Q.) First tell us about The Sword-Edged Blonde.
AB.) It’s a heroic fantasy novel written in a 40s hard-boiled style. Eddie LaCrosse, a “sword jockey” with a dark history, is hired by his old friend King Philip to find out if his wife Queen Rhiannon really did kill their infant son. The search takes Eddie into his own past in unexpected ways, and ultimately deals with gods and the mysteries of belief. It’s also got romance, action and I hope, humor. “Raymond Chandler meets Raymond E. Feist” is how Publishers Weekly defined it, and that’s pretty accurate.
Q.) Why 40’s noir?
AB.) I stopped reading traditional fantasy because, frankly, I felt that the emphasis changed from people and story to what is now called “world building.” Societies, geography and history were worked out in excruciating detail, and then two-dimensional characters with unpronouncable names and utterly predictable stories were set loose in them. Yet there is something fascinating, almost primally so, about a warrior with a sword and a princess in danger. I wanted to find a way to write about those archetypes with the emotional immediacy I found in the great novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and current practitioners like Andrew Vachss and Robert B. Parker. So I transposed the style, gave my characters normal names like Eddie, Cathy and so forth, and told a fantasy story with all the traditional magic and adventure.
Q.) I love the title. Can you tell us the significance?
AB.) It refers to the character of Queen Rhiannon, who has two distinct sides, both of which put the hero in danger, like the twin edges of a sword’s blade.
The impetus for the title came from my publishers. Originally the book was simply called “Rhiannon,” after both the character in the story and the Fleetwood Mac song that indirectly inspired it. They felt it was too Fleetwood Mac-y, and rather than imposing a title, asked if I had any alternatives. I wanted something that said both fantasy and mystery, and The Sword-Edged Blonde seems to do that.
Q.) As a debut author you go through a lot of emotional ups and downs. How have you found the trip so far? Have you learned anything new about yourself?
AB.) It’s happened very quickly: my book was sold this past February, and the editing was very light, which I took as a compliment. Now I’m doing my first interviews (like this one) and scheduling readings and signings. I suppose the biggest change is just the knowledge that something that is really important to me and says things I think are valuable, is now out “amongst it,” as my family in Tennessee would say, in stores and libraries and people’s hands. And it now has to stand on its own merits, and be judged in ways I can’t anticipate. It’s probably good practice for when my sons grow up.
Q.) Night Shade Books is your publisher. Can you tell us a bit about them?
AB.) They’ve been in business for about a decade. Based in San Fransisco, they started by doing reprints of classic SF, horror and fantasy that had gone out of print, and have eased their way into publishing hardcover and paperback originals. They’re incredibly well-respected among genre writers, and they’ve been absolutely wonderful to work with, too.
Q.) You also have an interest in writing a paranormal romance. Do you have anything in the works? What type of paranormal romance do you enjoy reading?
AB.) I’m currently working on an erotic thriller, based in Madison, WI, where I live, about a woman who has a mystical and sensual connection to the area’s ancient spirits. The contrast between modern and ancient, and a woman who’s closed herself off to one in favor of the other, seems interesting territory for romance, thrills and eroticism. Reading-wise, between my own writing, raising a toddler and having another one on the way, I’m far behind on my library stack, although I did just read Kelle Z. Riley’s “Dangerous Affairs.” Not paranormal, but definitely romance, with a gritty edge.
Q.) Anything else readers should be on the look out for from you?
AB.) You can find an exclusive Eddie LaCrosse short story, “Things That Flit,” on my website at www.alexbledsoe.com .
I have a critical essay, “Mal Contents,” in Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon’s Firefly, available now from BenBella Books. Next summer I’ll have a humorous piece called “To the Batpole!” in a collection on Batman from the same publisher. And the second Eddie LaCrosse novel will be out in October 2008.
Q.) Thanks for taking time to answer my questions. Where can readers find you on the web? How about The Sword-Edged Blonde?
AB.) My website is www.alexbledsoe.com, and I’m also on MySpace at www.myspace.com/alexbledsoe.
The Sword-Edged Blonde is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders, or direct from the publisher at www.nightshadebooks.com.
And thank you for having me, Lori.