Interview: Alex Bledsoe

Alex Bledsoe is a writer originally from West Tennessee whose background shows up in his stories about vampires in Memphis and fairies in the Smoky Mountains. All of his books in the urban and high fantasy genres feature smart characters and fast–paced action. Perhaps his best–known work is the Eddie LaCrosse series, which features a hardboiled P. I. who is also a medieval knight. The first book in the Eddie LaCrosse series, The Sword–Edged Blonde, was a finalist for the Locus Award in the Best First Novel Category in 2008. “White Hart, Black Knight” is one of Eddie’s later adventures.

Uncanny Magazine: You’ve been writing Eddie LaCrosse stories for quite a while. How did you originally come up with the concept of the noir detective in a medieval fantasy setting, and has the initial idea evolved as you’ve spent more time in that world?

Alex Bledsoe: I created the character back in high school when I was 17, but he was a much more traditional, Conan–ish fantasy hero.  Over the years I would pull him out, tweak him a little more, then put him aside.  It wasn’t until the late 90s that I had the idea to combine my love of detective stories with this fantasy character I’d been kicking around.

The idea has evolved in that I feel more comfortable in the world.  I still try to ground it with analogs to reality, because to me, that’s a big part of what makes it different. For example, that’s why in the second book, I had a persistent scribe following Eddie around just like a tough city reporter might stick with Philip Marlowe.

Uncanny MagazineWow, starting from the time you were 17 is quite a substantial chunk of your life! Does Eddie feel like family, or perhaps like an alter ego at this point? Does it feel like he’s grown as you’ve grown? 

Alex Bledsoe: It’s interesting. I’ve always seen the character as somewhere between 35–40. I don’t know why, except perhaps that’s how old my original paragon of heroism, Captain Kirk, appeared to be. <g> So he was quite a bit different from me when I created him, but by the time the first novel came out, I was older than that.  So now, he’s practically a kid. 

And I don’t consider him an alter ego; for one thing, he’s extremely competent, which is something I can’t claim for myself. And he has the superpower I wish I did, which is the ability to accurately judge people. But he is the kind of character I really enjoy reading about, and always have: tough, smart, and ready with a quip.

Uncanny Magazine“White Hart, Black Knight” takes a sharp turn in the middle, showing just how quickly senseless acts of violence can occur. What made you go in that direction? Was it always the plan from the moment you sat down to write this story, or did your characters surprise you? 

Alex Bledsoe: This particular story was inspired by an Arthurian tale from Le Morte d’Arthur. My third Eddie LaCrosse novel, Dark Jenny, was a rewrite of the main Arthurian tale, but of course that’s an almost inexhaustible source of stories. The sudden violence is in the original story, but the emotional context is entirely missing: it’s presented as a simple series of events, mainly to illustrate the “virtues” of chivalry, with no thought given to how the participants might feel about it. I thought it would be interesting to retell the story and make those emotions central.

Uncanny MagazineEddie is a hardened mercenary PI who’s seen just about everything, but one of the most striking things about this world is that, unlike in the traditional 1930s noir detective story, women are as likely to be street smart, capable, and physically adept as men. Was this a conscious and deliberate choice on your part to subvert older tropes, or is it more a natural reflection of the way you see the world you live in?

Alex Bledsoe: That’s one big advantage to making up your own world: you’re not bound to history. I wanted to be able to use the tropes of queens, damsels, tavern wenches, and all those other stock female roles, but make them an equal part of the world itself. In the original draft of this story the world–weary warrior queen was a king, as it was in the original tale, and the two knights were brothers for the same reason. During revision the editor, who was familiar with my other Eddie LaCrosse stories, suggested changing some of these characters to women to present a more balanced cast, and I did so without changing anything else about their conduct or personalities.

Uncanny MagazineGetting a glimpse behind the curtain is always fascinating. Do you find your work often changes significantly during the editorial and revision process? 

Alex Bledsoe: Oh, yeah, often very significantly. My stories go together like Frankenstein’s creature: the first draft is the skeleton, then revision adds the muscles and organs, and the final pass is the spark of life, so to speak. First drafts are always the hardest for me; they take forever, and of course they’re terrible when they’re done. But to use another metaphor, once the frame is there, I can start filling in the picture.

Uncanny MagazineFor the first–time reader who wants to read more about Eddie’s adventures after reading this story, where should they go next? Is it necessary to read all the books in order? And what about your other work? What would you recommend to a new reader?

Alex Bledsoe: I try to write all my books as standalones so that if a reader stumbles across any one of them, they can jump right in. If you like this story, the Eddie LaCrosse series starts with The Sword–Edged Blonde.  My other ongoing series, a contemporary fantasy set in Appalachia about people descended from Celtic faerie folk, begins with The Hum and the Shiver. Those are two good starting places.

Uncanny Magazine: Thank you for discussing your characters and your process with us, Alex.

Julia Rios

Julia Rios is the reprint fiction/poetry editor and an interviewer for Uncanny Magazine. She is a writer, editor, podcaster, and narrator. Her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in several places, including Daily Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, and Goblin Fruit. She was a fiction editor for Strange Horizons from 2012 to 2015, and is co–editor with Alisa Krasnostein of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, and the Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction series. She is also a co–host of the Hugo–nominated podcast, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, and has narrated stories for Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders, and poems for the Strange Horizons podcast. To find out more, visit www.juliarios.com.

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