Listen to the interview here!
Tell me a little about yourself and your writing.
I’m a 21-year-old British woman, I graduated from King’s College, London last summer with a BA in War Studies and History, and I now work as a Content Editor for Jane’s Information Group.
I’ve been writing for about ten years now, in which time I’ve amassed (and lost, sometimes) a lot of terrible juvenilia and, more recently, a novel (The Bone Queen) that I hope to submit to agents early next year. Two years ago I started writing short fiction. In that time I’ve sold stories to several magazines, including Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Electric Velocipede, Sybil’s Garage and Farrago’s Wainscot.
I’m currently working on several things: revising The Bone Queen; starting a novel about a war between humans and the so-called “water-people” in an alternate world based on Thailand, told in the form of various texts from the world; and I’m writing some short fiction.
Most of my writing tends to the fantastical, with some science fiction in the mix. I don’t apply further labels; I find them a waste of time.
Tell me about the story that you've created a soundtrack/playlist for.
I tend to have very few songs for a story, sometimes even one, not a whole soundtrack. Rather than give you the one song that I played a lot while writing The Bone Queen, I’ve compiled various songs that have either been mini-soundtracks or inspirations for three pieces of work.
The Bone Queen is about the deal that Beth, a gunslinger, gets involved in with a story-figure, Kaili, who requests that she steal a necklace from the Bone Queen in return for the information that the Bone Queen can rid Beth of the angry ghosts following her. Meanwhile another gunslinger, Jeckel, pursues a monster that desiccates towns; and Imi, a Professor of Oral History, pursues an old tale about a man with carpets for skin. It has storytelling magic, a monster made of squares and other fun things.
The second piece of work is a short story, “Tattoos of the Sky, Tattoos of the Days,” published in issue 5 of Sybil’s Garage and free to read online. It’s about unhappiness and finding love.
Another short story is “An Orange Tree Framed His Body,” which is about an eighteen-year-old boy doing two things: participating in a violent rebellion against the government that’s killing the semi-sentient plumbing of the city, and facing the pattern of suicides in his family. The story is set in an alternate world with fantasy elements, but with a technology level among the elites of the society that includes cloning. I finished the first draft of it in early August; it was a difficult story to write, it pushed at what I’m able to do as a writer, so the first draft was not very good. I’m hopeful that I can edit it into something strong.
What is your playlist?
DeVotchKa - La Llorona
DeVotchKa - Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny Of)
DeVotchKa - Tragedy
Cornershop - We’re in Yr Corner
Augie March - The Night is a Blackbird
Patrick Wolf - The Stars
Snow Patrol - You Could Be Happy
Augie March - Bolte and Dunstan Talk Youth
Augie March - The Baron of Sentiment
La Llorrona is the song that I often put on repeat to get into the right mindset for The Bone Queen. Something about it contains deserts, open spaces, a hint of the unusual. When not listening to just that song, I put on all my songs by DeVotchKa. Charlotte Mittnacht and Tragedy are two of my favourites. I also listened to Cornershop through some stretches.
The Night is a Blackbird inspired the opening of “Tattoos…”; it became the line “The night is a blackbird and it lives on Gemma’s arm.” The rest of the song didn’t do anything for the story, just that opening line. Then, a couple of months after I wrote it, the story was accepted for publication by Sybil’s Garage. If you take a look inside an issue of Sybil’s Garage, you’ll see that every story is presented with a song that it can be read ‘to the sound of…’ I spent the next half a year on-and-off thinking about what song I would choose. Though The Night is a Blackbird had inspired the story, it wasn’t a soundtrack for the story. And I hadn’t listened to anything in particular while writing it. I settled eventually on Patrick Wolf’s The Stars, because the words are appropriate -- there are stars on the wings of the blackbird on Gemma’s arm -- and, the more I listened to the song, the more I thought that its sound suited the story.
Snow Patrol’s You Could Be happy -- Now, this isn’t a very deep song. It’s about lost love: nothing remarkable. Except the sound of it, and just some of the lyrics -- You could be happy / I hope you are -- did something in my head, and the song fit with Au’s relationship (not a sexual one) with his father in “An Orange Tree Framed His Body”. The final lines of the song -- More than anything / I want to see you go / Take a glorious bite / Out of the whole world -- inspired how the story ended. I also listened to a lot of Augie March while writing this story; Bolte and Dunstan Talk Youth and The Baron of Sentiment particularly suited it.
What does music mean to you? To your writing?
Music can be an inspiration, an accompaniment. Music can make me stop and listen, think about something new or something in a different way. It’s something I need in my life, like flavoursome food and the countryside.
What kind of music do you like to write to?
Music with the right kind of sound.
That doesn’t tell you much, does it? It’s hard to explain. I mean how the music feels to me -- something that comes from the notes played, the lyrics sung (if there are any) and how it makes me react in my head. It can be for just one song, or for all of a band’s music. I write to music with a sound that matches the story.
If this story was made into a movie, who would you want to do the soundtrack?
I would love DeVotchKa to perform a soundtrack to The Bone Queen. Their music is very different to usual soundtrack music -- both orchestral compositions and pop music -- and I’d like that. Their music can be jaunty and whimsical, thoughtful and sad; they’d have no trouble capturing the range of moods in a story.
To learn more about Alex, visit her LiveJournal.
Next week, I interview author C.C. Humphreys.