Updates‎ > ‎

Interview with Alan Baxter

posted Jan 13, 2019, 8:17 PM by Grace Bridges

Alan Baxtera multi-award-winning British-Australian author of dark fiction, is a Guest of Honour at GeyserCon in Rotorua. Eileen Mueller interviewed him for GeyserCon...

GEYSERCON: With 7 novels, 2 novellas and a short story collection to his name (plus a further 5 novels co-written with David Wood), over 80 short fiction publications , a non-fiction book, and more than 20 years as a black belt in Kung Fu, Alan has vast experience to draw from.

You write supernatural thrillers, dark fantasy and urban horror. What is it that draws you to dark fiction and how do you maintain an upbeat attitude when working with dark material?

ALAN: I find dark stuff and horror to be the most honest in terms of fiction. It doesn’t shy away from the full experience. In stories we’re dealing with extreme circumstances and a lot of the time that seems sanitised to me when in fact it would be a lot darker in reality. I try to follow that darker path and stay true to the events in the story. Staying upbeat is easy because I get it all out on the page!

GEYSERCON: How did you meet David Wood and decide to team up for your two collaborative series The Jake Crowley Adventures and Sam Aston Investigations? What strengths do you each bring to the table? Do you have any fun anecdotes you’d like to share?

ALAN: We’ve known each other over a decade, since the early days of indie publishing. When Dave set up Gryphonwood Press and moved into publishing other writers, he took on my first duology, Realmshift and Magesign. We subsequently talked a lot about working together as he writes mainly action adventure thrillers and I write mainly dark fantasy and horror thrillers. We thought our two styles would combine well and it seems we were right! There aren’t really any anecdotes – we just talk a lot about the stories we want to tell and then get the work done! Dave is an excellent plotter, so we tend to talk in detail about the story, then Dave writes a very detailed outline. Following that, I write the first draft of the book from that outline (though we often revise it as we go along) and then we pass the book back and forth polishing it up until we’re happy with it. Finding someone to collaborate with is not easy, but Dave and I seem to work very well together.

GEYSERCON: It’s said that you write, you fight and you kick ass! How do you find a balance in life with a family, dogs, Kung Fu instruction and a motorbike that’s begging to be taken out for a ride?

ALAN: The bike tends to be the one that’s left out. I don’t get out for a ride nearly as often as I’d like. The kung fu school takes priority as that has classes at fixed times. Outside those hours my wife and I share parenting responsibilities and while one looks after our son, the other works. I write and she paints. It’s a good system, but it’s taken us a long time and a lot of hard work to build our lives this way.

GEYSERCON: You’re a black belt and Kung Fu instructor. How does your fighting experience inform your writing? What are the common mistakes writers make in fight scenes? Can you tell us a little about Write the Fight Right.

ALAN: The most common mistake is writing a fight scene like a transcribed movie fight. They never work well. Write The Fight Right is a response to exactly that. After running a workshop several times to help people pen better fight scenes, I put together the book to summarise all the main points. It’s a very short book, more like a long essay, but hopefully captures most of what someone needs to start getting realistic and visceral fights onto the page.

GEYSERCON: What’s your favourite world or universe you’ve developed as a writer, and why do you enjoy it so much?

ALAN: Most of my stuff is set in the real world, with secret worlds intertwined. I love to play in that sandbox and have magical or mystical environments hidden within the world we know. Or think we know!

GEYSERCON: If you were stuck on a desert island and could bring one of your characters with you, who would it be? Why?

ALAN: Maybe Silhouette from the Alex Caine Series as she’s a shape shifter. She could turn into a dolphin and take us home. Or Isiah, actually, from The Balance, as he can simply teleport.

GEYSERCON: How do you celebrate when you finish a novel?

ALAN: I enjoy a few drams of a good single malt scotch. I also celebrate that way whenever I sell a story or a book to a publisher. And again when said publication comes out. I just like to drink scotch, if I’m honest.


  1. Would you like to share an excerpt of your work?

ALAN: Sure. Here’s the opening section of my latest novel, Devouring Dark:

Matt McLeod knew the old adage, that light is supposed to push away the darkness. But he also knew it wasn’t true. Light sits on top, like a film of oil on water. The dark is still there underneath, deep, permanent, waiting. And usually it’s enough, that surface skein of brightness, to keep a soul from the yawning black abyss below. But once the cracks appear, the fall is inevitable. And the darkness devours.

Knowing this truth, Matt often wondered how long he had left. Though he was convinced time was largely irrelevant. He was already falling, had been for years. How much damage he could do on the way down, who he could take with him, those were better concerns.

He killed the engine of his battered old car and silence descended. The dashboard glow winked out leaving him in inky shadow, just the streetlights refracting through raindrops on the windscreen for company. Cold and wet, a classic London night. The alley across the quiet road glistened, like a throat ready to swallow. Sullivan would be along any time now.

Matt rolled a short, thin joint, just a sprinkling of weed to take the edge off. He didn’t particularly enjoy being stoned any more, but the process hurt a little less if he was buzzing. Not really high, that would dull his reactions too much. It was a balancing act, like everything in life. Just enough self-medication, but not so much as to cease being what they call a fully functioning adult. Whatever the fuck that really meant.

The bluish smoke drifted lazily around Matt’s head as he watched the alley, and then there Sullivan was, entering from the other end, parkland gloomy and dripping behind the silhouette of his bulk. Shit, but he was a big bastard. Not that size really mattered, muscles being no match for the dark.

Matt drew deeply of the spliff and it singed his fingers as it crackled away to almost nothing. Pressing the tiny roach into the car’s ashtray, he readied himself, then opened the door and stepped out. The cold and persistent drizzle bit instantly through his warm comfort and only on leaving did he realise how safe and embracing the car had been. Another metaphor for life right there. He headed across the street for the alley, aiming to meet his target halfway down.

John Sullivan, thirty-nine, single, worked by day as a used car salesman—which made him a scumbag already—but his extracurricular activity was of far more interest to Matt. And why Matt was here. Sullivan paid no attention to anything as he trudged through the rain, hiding under a flat cap, hunched in a trench coat. Large industrial bins lined one side of the alley, various detritus, rubbish bags, broken bottles, littered and glistened among the puddles on the rough asphalt underfoot. Sullivan tramped through it all. When Sullivan was in the shadows just over halfway along, Matt stepped from the eyes of the street into the privacy of this ignored corner of the city.

“Mr. John Sullivan.” Matt’s voice was strong, not showing the nerves that rippled through him.

The man paused, looked up quickly, a moment of shock passing over his face before he settled back to his default of belligerent bastard. “What? Who are you?”

“I’m your comeuppance, old son.”

GEYSERCON: What’s your favourite feedback from a fan?

ALAN: I heard once from a mother of a mostly non-verbal son. She said that he loves my books and whenever he’s read a new one he insists she reads it next, then they talk about it in depth. She wrote to me to say “thank you for the conversations”. That’s magic right there. I can’t imagine anything better than directly affecting lives like that.

GEYSERCON: What are you writing now? When will it be ready?

ALAN: Well, a completed new novel manuscript is out with my agent right now, so wish me luck with that! In the meantime, I’ve started on a new book which I hope I’ll have a solid first draft of by mid-year, and Dave and I will start the next Jake Crowley Adventure sometime soon and that should be finished by the second half of 2019 too. Always busy!