Hump Day Interview - Anna Butler

It's Wednesday, it's Hump Day and this week we have Anna Butler in the Hot Seat, welcome Anna...

Do you ever abandon a draft partly written and just move on? Do you keep a file of plot ideas?

Yes to the first question, but I have a very thrifty mind—nothing is ever wasted! The 18k contemporary story set in a London coffeehouse, where a young man falls for an archaeologist working at the museum, was abandoned and left on the hard drive for years, but never entirely forgotten. Three years later, I went back to it. But the things that had held me back from continuing it then were still there. I mean, just how many contemporary coffee shop m/m romances are out there? What could I do with it to make it different?

The answer was make it steampunk. Not goggles and corsets, but an alternative world where aeroships and laser guns are just part of the scenery. So the coffee house owner became an ex-aeroship pilot and the archaeologist an Aegyptologist, mixed up within a society where the government is run by powerful, oligarchical Houses and assassination is common… and the steampunk, coffee house, adventure/mystery m/m romance Lancaster’s Luck series was born.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I almost always have a high-level outline of some kind. The mental process is usually: I’m starting here, I need to get over there… this has to happen and this, in that order… but oh, look, suddenly I’m taking a diversion around this plotty thing that my characters have decided to do and I wasn’t expecting… ooh, now that’s interesting, let’s see where we go with it, but we still have to get to our destination, so here’s how we work it in…

So a bit of both. I like to describe it by quoting something I saw on LiveJournal years ago, written by a fanfic author. Sadly, I can’t now find the post so that I can give proper credit where it’s due, but this sums up my process beautifully—“I have started my story. I have ended my story. I just haven’t middled my story.”

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Oh, I love, love, love research!

Partly for its own sake. It’s satisfying to learn when women athletes were first allowed into the Olympics (the second modern Olympiad in 1900 in Paris, as it happens) or who discovered and excavated the Osireion at the Temple of Seti in Abydos, or how interferometry might be warped to make a dispersion shield, or what is the deal with wormholes and faster-than-light technology? Mostly, though, I love it because it helps me visualise and describe the worlds I’m building, and because those worlds are stronger and more vivid from the details I’ve been able to add to them. I write mostly speculative fiction – pure sci-fi with the Taking Shield series, and steampunk with Lancaster’s Luck. Both need a lot of research to give me the telling details that, I hope, make the worlds both more realistic as well as more fantastic. Not to mention that it gives me masses of background material for my website and for blog posts. Terribly useful stuff, research.

So, I do a lot of research in advance, and always do more as I’m writing, although usually that’s shorter and more focused on a single issue that the writing (or editing) has thrown up. For instance, during the editing last autumn of the second Lancaster’s Luck book, The Jackal’s House, I had to do some fast research into the history of locomotives to come up with a name for a fairground ride.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Killing off my inner perfectionist, which likes to go obsessively over and over the chapter I just finished before moving on to the next. I am an appalling ‘tinkerer’ and I just cannot leave well alone. So it takes me months to draft a new book. I’m already a month late with the final Taking Shield book, it’s nowhere near finished and I’ve spent three weeks polishing and polishing one ruddy chapter. I really need to get that tendency under control, and if anyone has any tips for doing it, let me know!

Fanfic - Yay or Nay, if yay which is your favourite fandom? 

Oh, yay! Very definitely yay. There are some fanfics I reread more often than their original source.

It’s sad that fanfic is often sniggered at and derided, thought to be nerdy and for people who can't write their own worlds and must steal the work of real writers. That’s nonsense. At its best, fanfic is creative, transformative and inclusive, often far more inclusive and tolerant of difference than the original canon ever was (or could be, given the commercial restraints within which publishing, TV and film companies operate) and is a hugely important way for fans to express love of their shows/books or whatever.

Fanfic is written and enjoyed by countless thousands of people. True it’s sometimes done badly, sometimes very badly indeed, but is sometimes quite incandescently brilliant.

I still read in Harry Potter fandom (mostly Harry/Draco, but I do like other pairings depending on the writer) and some of my all time favourites are McKay/Shepard stories from Stargate Atlantis. My go-to comfort reads when I’m tired and cranky, though, are some of the many variants on Pride and Prejudice. You can’t get more romantic than Mr Darcy!

For your chance to win an ebook of The Gilded Scarab (Lancaster's Luck #1) answer this question...Fanfic - Yay or Nay? If yay, which is your favourite fandom?

The Jackal's House (Lancaster's Luck #2) - OUT NOW

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy…

Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case.

Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed. What begins as tricks and pranks escalates to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?

Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.

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  1. Yay! Although I haven't had time to read any for a long time. I used to read Professionals fanfic a lot.

  2. Thanks for the post. I'm a little behind on this, but I thought I'd answer anyway. I'd say Nay, only b/c I don't search it out much nor read much of it. I've read some and liked it, but I've only had time to read the professionally published work, and there's plenty of that to satisfy my tastes. Like your Lancaster series. - Purple Reader,
    TheWrote [at] aol [dot] com