Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Alex Avrio

Alex Avrio is an author of fantasy short stories, novellas, and novels. The first two novels in the swashbuckling Merchant Blades mercenary fantasy adventure series are now available to buy. Her previous dark fantasy novella, the Dreaming Demon, is also for sale on Amazon.

The third novel in the Merchant Blades series, The Hidden Dragon, is due for release in late 2017.

Alex was born in Nottingham, UK, to Greek parents. She has lived both in Greece and England where she returned to study for an MBA at the University of Kent. She also has a PhD in e-business strategy management from the University of Kent. Alex has been writing stories from an early age and, after concluding her PhD, she decided it was the time to try to become a professional writer. Alexandra currently lives with her husband and their two cats in Newcastle upon Tyne, a place so far up north that if you go any further you’re south again. She would love to share with you her love of fantasy and adventures. She also has a book, bingo and dessert habit to fuel, so please help by buying her books!

Book sample:  The Alchemist’s Box – Fantasy Adventure

Five years ago she would have run him though with her saber. Now she must trust Kapitan Maximillian Jaeger, enemy in the recent bitter war, with her life. The mercenaries’ simple job: to retrieve the mysterious Alchemist’s Box from the neighboring Duchy of Pella.

But in Pella, a curse of a thousand years has resurfaced.

Where are all the court dignitaries? What does the Alchemist’s box contain that is worth killing, or dying, for?

Can Regina and Jaeger put the war behind them and work together to save everyone in the Duchy before it’s too late?

If you use a Pen Name why did you choose it? Alex Avrio is a pen name. I use it because most people can’t pronounce my Greek legal name. After going through a few ideas, I chose Alex Avrio because it’s short, memorable, and easy to pronounce. Avrio is the Greek word for tomorrow, so I like to think that it implies that I have a writing future.

Why do you write? Writing is like breathing to me. I can’t not write in the same way that I couldn’t not breathe. I have so many stories I would like to share with my readers. I just can’t type fast enough.

When did you decide to become a writer? I guess I always wanted to be a writer. I have recently plucked up the courage to start writing full time. I finished my PhD and thought that what I really wanted was to be a writer; it was now or never really, so here I am.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book? It depends on the book. Some are easier to write that others. Books are live entities, each one with its own distinct personality. Sometimes they are similar: a series of books is like a family, each sibling similar but different, or they can be wildly different from each other. I’d say on average it takes about six months to finish a first draft. Then it goes through rewrites, beta readers, editing, and then to a professional editor before it’s ready to be unleashed into the wild.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? I write during the day. I wake up, take my (very large) cup of coffee and sit down to write. I normally stop for lunch (and ‘cuddle the cats’ breaks) and finish around six in the evening.

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write? I have lots of playlists that help me get into the writing groove and various mood lists. My Enigma playlist is among my most valued writing tools.

What have you written? I am the proud author of the Merchant Blades series. This fantasy adventure series includes The Alchemist’s Box, Lose a Princes Lose your Head, and I’m currently writing the third book in the series, The Hidden Dragon.

I have also written a dark fantasy novella, The Dreaming Demon, and various other short stories. I have another novel about three quarters finished, with the working title Miss Silk and the Tomb of Menkare. This is an ambitious project and will be a real epic, with three parallel storylines from three different time periods spanning around 15000 years, which will all hopefully seamlessly intertwine to create something special. This one’s going to take a little longer to write and polish, and so it’s taken a bit of a back seat to the Merchant Blades series at the moment.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? Each book is a different entity, so it needs a different approach. Having said that, I have found that the ‘writing from the seat of my pants’ approach works best for me. I have an idea of the key points in the plot, so at the start I know roughly where I want it to be at different parts of the book, and that’s about it. I start writing and then I often get surprised by what my characters get up to. More than once I’ve started writing a scene and when the characters start talking they’ve said completely different things to what I originally had in mind, taking the novel in a different direction. I find that this flexibility keeps my writing fresh, and I have to finish writing the novel to find out how it ends! It’s like reading a book, only I have to write it to see what happens next.

Any advice for aspiring authors? Read a lot, write a lot, and don’t give up.

What is the current book you are promoting? I’m currently promoting The Alchemist’s Box, as it’s the entry to my Merchant Blades series. It’s a fast-paced quest-type fantasy adventure, with a strong female lead character, Captain Regina Fitzwaters, and a gritty leading man, Kapitan Maximillian Jaeger. They fought on opposite sides in a bitter war that finished several years earlier, and now they are both members of the Merchant Blades mercenary guild. They get thrown together on a quest to retrieve the Alchemist’s Box, and must try to work together, which doesn’t prove easy. They think they are over the war, but they still harbor deep-seated grudges that makes it a challenge to work together. They must battle through, trying to avoid getting killed by foes both human and magical, while trying not to kill each other!

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser? I’m currently writing book three of the Merchant Blades series, working title The Hidden Dragon. Regina has to take Max back to her home in Merrovigia to meet her somewhat dysfunctional family. As usual, Max’s Eressian charm does nothing to smooth over the difficult relations between the two Empires. You’ll meet a lot of the characters from the first two books again, as they get sucked into both political intrigues and tackling more magical monsters!

Who is your favorite character in your book and why? That’s like asking me who my favorite child is. I like all of them. At the moment I especially enjoy writing about Regina Fitzwaters and Maximillian Jaeger. Regina is a clever and independent woman trying to wade through all the sexism and favoritism in her world. Max has good lines and is hard done by but still tries to do what he thinks is the right thing.

Do you have any fur babies to brag about? We have currently two cats, Sooty and Ray. They’re litter brothers but they’re quite different. Sooty is super cuddly and sits on my shoulders when I write (it’s more comfortable than it sounds) while Ray is more reserved. They’re both writing cats in training. We had a silver tabby, Mickey who sadly passed away last year. He was an excellent writing cat and helped me write my first book.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing? You shouldn’t have asked that! I have a lot to say on the subject, as its related to the topic of my PhD. Deep breath. Here goes.

I think traditional publishing is considered by many to be the ‘proper’ way of doing it and traditionally published authors are considered ‘real’ authors. While traditional publishing will be with us for a long time, and the delight of the smell of a freshly printed book isn’t going anywhere, times are already changing. Thank goodness for that! In my opinion traditional publishing has far too many gatekeepers. Agents, people who wade through the slush piles, more people who read what has been selected by the first round of readers. Then there are trends and fashions that the publishers consider, what they think people will buy. Even then, if your book miraculously makes it through all the hoops, it has a small window of opportunity to make it. Bookstores have limited space on their shelves; if the book isn’t selling over a period of about six weeks they send it back to make space for one that might do better.

We have all heard the stories of how now famous writers amassed piles of rejection letters. Makes you wonder that seeing as writers such as J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and James Patterson received dozens of rejections, what chance do the rest of us have?

Now, with the thriving self-publishing market, an author stands a good chance of bringing their work to the public without having to jump blindfolded and backwards through fiery hoops.

Personally, I think that’s wonderful, for readers and authors alike. Traditionally published books often take years to reach the bookstore shelf from authors’ keyboard. Most ‘traditional authors’ release maybe one book per year, and it can be a pain waiting for the next book from your favourite author to come out. No more. Self-publishing can help to fill this gap. What’s your poison? What do you love to read? You can find whatever genre and subgenre you enjoy reading, a plethora of authors, and they tend to publish far more often, some even five or six books a year!

For authors it’s great news as well. They write the story the want to tell and can immediately put it out there for the readers to find. No jumping through hoops any more, no receiving hundreds of rejections. What’s more, the financial terms are better and the author gets to keep most of what they make.

Self-published authors need to be careful to ensure the quality of their work, making sure that they put out the best version of their work that they can. One of the problems with self-published books these days is the editing. Poorly edited books risk giving self-publishing a bad name. Sometimes, in their enthusiasm to get a book out, authors put out work that could do with a few more rounds of editing. Books full of typos and grammar mistakes. I understand that not everyone can afford professional editing (which I highly recommend, by the way – it’s an expense that pays for itself). If paying a professional editor isn’t an option, authors need to find trusted family members or friends prepared to take the time to beta-read thoroughly, to spot typos and grammar mistakes, and provide brutally honest feedback – these types of friends aren’t always easy to find, but are essential, as after a while when you read your own manuscript typos become invisible. A fresh pair of eyes does wonders.

What do your readers mean to you? The readers are the life and soul of books! I like to think of my readers as very special friends.

How can readers discover more about you and you work? You can sign up to my newsletter at www.alexavrio.com. All people who sign up to my newsletter will shortly receive a free Merchant Blades short story, set between books 1 and 2 of the series. My website also hosts my blog where you can find out my latest news between newsletters, and you can also read for free some of my flash fiction stories there.

Many thanks Alex for chatting with us! For more about Alex, her work, and to get yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon / CreateSpace / BookTrailer / YouTube