A note about Alex Laybourne:
Alex is a young guy who is going places. He’s prolific, talented and completely enveloped by the business. I have met many writers and interviewed many talented people, but Alex Laybourne struck me as a guy who really has some special aura– some special style. Read on and meet the horror prince…
Q) Great to meet you Alex! Let me ask you– What was the first book you ever read?
A) I can only remember the title, I was young, around four or five years old and it was a book called the George Borrow. It was ironic because the writer of the same name comes from my area of the UK and there was a hotel I had to travel past every day to get to school with the same name, too. If I remember rightly it was a pirate sort of story. I also remember reading IT by Stephen King when I was about 10.
Q) Stephen King seems to be a big influence on your writing. Would you agree?
Definitely. Stephen King has been a huge influence on me, and I remember trying to write in his style for a long time before I found my own. I was also greatly inspired by the Books of Blood by Clive Barker.
So would you say Horror is where you feel most comfortable?
Oh yes, without a doubt. Horror is the genre that I feel most at home writing. I have several ideas for stories that are quite romantic, but then in the planning I somehow add horror elements without even thinking about it.
Q) But you’re not that crazy about the current “zombie” trend?
Yes and no. I have read some very good Zombie books recently– the Zomblog series in particular was a very find collection. However, it is not really a genre that appeals to me in terms of writing. I have penned a zombie short story, and may well dabble in it again, but I find that many people who write in that particular niche seem to stay there, and I couldn’t do that. Like all trends, they rise and fall. It is only inevitable that the craze we have for zombies will soon be replaced by something new.
Q) What do you see the new craze as?
I don’t know. I don’t think it is easy to predict, I mean look at sparkly vampires, I never saw that coming. I’ll be pleased to see it leave though.
I would like to see horror take a step forward and reclaim the genre. Too many books now are being classed as dark thriller, or urban fantasy, and that is because of the blood thirsty fiction that is out there. Blood and guts equal horror by today’s standards, and that is wrong. There is much more to it than that.
Q) So what do you consider your best work?
I think everything I have written has been my best. I have grown with every piece I have written. There are a couple of short stories I have that I think people will love.
Q) So what works do you have in print right now?
My first novel, Highway to Hell should be out in print before the New Year. I had published it before on my own through Amazon and Createspace, but it has since been contracted to a publishing company– MayDecember Publications. They also have the second story in the Highway trilogy.
Q) How are sales?
Before I pulled it from sale (on Amazon), a requirement of the publishing contract I signed, sales were ok. I didn’t have a lot of time to promote myself, but I sold enough copies for me to know I could do it if I studied up a little.
To be honest, I would love to hit a big opening day, something like 100 copies would be awesome, and I know my publishers have that as their next goal to achieve as a company, too. I would love to make that happen. You have to aim big, right?
Q) So, you decided to get an agent?
Exactly, it is the next step. I feel that being a traditionally published author was the first step, and now, with that extra level behind me, I can up my game, get an agent and start approaching some even bigger publishers with my new work.
Q) So, what are you looking for in an agent?
I am looking for a partner, someone who shares my dedication and passion, my belief in my writing and who is willing to aim high. I keep coming back to that phrase, or variation thereof. I have spent a long time being the person at the bottom of the ladder, and when you are down there, reaching for the next rung is your primary focus; but now, I am looking to buck that trend, to catch people off guard by launching myself to the very top. I know it won’t be easy, but I am willing to work hard to get there, and want an agent that will stand there with me.
Q) So, what’s your day job?
I work in an office, for a company based in Schiphol, that offer software and services for aircraft leasing companies. It isn’t my sort of thing, but it pays the bills and with 4 kids running around at home, they can get pretty high.
Q) You dream of writing all the time though?
Definitely, I am often making notes, or (shhhh) if my boss is not looking, working on my writing. I cannot turn it off, it is a part of who I am.
Q) Ok– let’s talk books. Who would you consider to be the greatest author of all time?
That is a tough one, because language and storytelling have changed so much. I mean, from Beowulf through to (Stephen) King and the current crop of indie writers around, stories have held many forms. I think that you would be hard pushed to be Shakespeare or Dickens. I remember reading The Three Musketeers when I was eighteen (I had read it as a kid, also). Dumas told such a wonderful story, I read the book twice in a row. Fitzgerald and Hemingway to Orwell and of course King, each one masters in their own right. There are so many books out there I still want to read, classics and modern, that I could not choose but one. English literature alone is filled with more wonderful names than I could ever hope to read.
Q) Do you ever want to write a classic?
I don’t know if I have what it takes to write a classic, if I am honest with you.
I want to write and reach the top spot, but to say I could write a classic is tough.
Q) Tell me– what is a classic novel to you?
A classic is something that can stand the test of time, that can move you and take you to places. The setting may age and date, but the effect the words have on the mind remain strong.
Q) You have what it takes to write bestsellers– are sales or prestige more important to you?
You hear so many authors saying, “I write because I love to write”. I, myself, have said it repeatedly; but we publish work to sell books. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to earn a lot of money and have my name on the lips of the reading masses. I am ambitious and won’t hide it, but at the same time I am humble, and if I cannot publish my work for any reason, I will still write. It is part of who I am, and at the end of the day being able to tell my kids that I stood up and chased my dream and didn’t compromise myself in the process is the most important thing.
Q) So, I take it you believe in success?
I believe we can make ourselves successful. I had limitations and labels– being told that I couldn’t achieve something, or that the odds are against me. I say f*ck the odds, I work hard and will succeed.
Alex broke off the interview at this point to continue working. He had an idea– a muse that had to be followed. I know this interview will continue another time, but when you are working with a guy like Alex, you have to catch him when you can!