Meet A. L. Butcher!
A. L. (Alex) Butcher has a background in ancient history, mythology, and classical studies – all of which have given her an interest in the fascinating world of monsters. Here Be Monsters is the fifth volume in her Myths, Monsters, and Mayhem series. In addition to her many short stories and the story bundles she’s curated, Alex writes The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, a series of adult dark fantasy romance adventures set in a world where magic is forbidden.
Here Be Monsters
Here Be Monsters is a collection of 19 tales of myths, monsters, and mayhem.
We love to fear them and fight them. Monsters come in many forms, from the monsters within to the monsters outside and under the bed. Dare you venture into the caverns and the castles? Dare you enter the darkness of an accursed soul?
An eclectic collection of dark creatures and those who fight them. You have been warned.
Here Be Monsters is the fifth volume in your bundle series Myths, Monsters, and Mayhem. What inspired you to create this series, and this volume in particular?
I love fantasy, and the total diversity of worlds, creatures, people and situations within. Fantasy is by far the widest and most creative of genres, and the possibilities are limitless. In my view fantasy is freedom. I love the old style myths, fairytales and bardic stories, and this series has a bit of everything. Our cultures are saturated with myth, legend and the fantastic – St George and the Dragon (see my blog for an article on the history of this); giants and fairies, even Santa Claus is a fantastical story. These are not only aimed towards children – there are 131 public houses called George and Dragon in the UK, 67 called Robin Hood (or similar), 59 called The Griffin, 51 called The Phoenix, 52 called The Unicorn and 31 called The Golden Fleece. Such tales remain popular, and most if not all countries have a mythic past which still appears in current life.
Here Be Monsters features the darker side of fantasy – those beings and beasties we all love to fear. Not all are bad – In The Stolen Tower (which features in the bundle too), two of the primary characters are Trolls – but not your usual bridge-lurker type of troll. The monsters in this one are taken from their past – at a time before the magical Fae Realm was sealed off, and should not exist in the world they currently inhabit. There’s an earth elemental too – a personification of the mountain. The Keres are nasty, nasty creatures – think harpies with an even worse attitude. But there are also human monsters, and creatures the humans fear which are the good guys.
I know some of the other stories have an array of nasties, but not always those creatures who we would assume are the monsters.
You’ve written a number of stories set in Erana, a fantasy world you created – including “Warrior’s Curse,” which appears in Here Be Monsters. What is it about the world of Erana that keeps bringing you back to it?
Erana is a world of magic – but that magic has been seriously beaten into submission. After years of war between elves, men, fae, trolls and various other magical creatures the fae realm is closed off, the elves fall to a mysterious plague that almost destroys their civilisation, the trolls retreat to the mountains and largely shut themselves off, and martial law is imposed. The Order of Witch-Hunters take charge and blame the elves and magic for the plague (rightly or wrongly – that will be explained in later books), and seek to obliterate magic, and enslave elves where ever they are to be found. Magic, however, refuses to abide by the laws of men, and appears in odd places, and people.
It’s a world of contrasts – magic is everywhere – albeit on the sly – but it’s usage and possession are punishable by death. A person doesn’t choose to be magical – they just are. Most people soon learn to hide what skills they have or pass them off as something else. There are temples to various gods – which not even the Order has the courage to forbid. Many people think the gods are real and it doesn’t do to take the chance they aren’t. Most of the elves live in hiding, or in Enclave (basically ghettos) and have no rights, and are owned by humans. But most humans are peasants and too ignorant, afraid or overworked to see the problems. It’s been that way for three hundred years, it must be the truth. Truth and freedom are relative terms.
Warrior’s Curse starts with some treasure hunters seeking refuge from a storm in a cave. They soon discover bags of shiny loot – but as with most things in Erana such treasure has a past, and is not what it first appears. One of the group (a Troll Past-Seer) recounts the history of the most rare and expensive item and decides she wants nothing to do with it. The menfolk are not so wise… The ‘story within a story’ is set in the past – for there are witches, monsters, and unholy magics – and none of the treasure hunters would even comprehend such things in a world where magic is illegal.
Erana draws me in time after time. It has a dark history, but there is hope for the future. The good guys are anti-heroes – they kill, steal and manipulate but for the good of others and a ‘cause’. The bad guys are bad – but many just don’t know any different or are following orders. Good and bad are not clear. But in many ways it reflects our world – there are oppressed and oppressors, the wise and the foolish, a history saturated with blood, and the indomitable spirit to survive, no matter what.
Remembering Warriors is a story bundle you organized as a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the First Armistice Day. A percentage of the royalties goes to the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes, two charities that support wounded and ex-service personnel and their families. What inspired you to create this collection?
This one is easy for me to answer. My father served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was wounded in action in 1959 – he lost the sight in one eye. My mother served in Queen Alexandra’s Army Nursing Corp (fortunately she came out unscathed). The Royal British Legion helps ex-veterans and their families in a number of ways. My father currently resides in a British Legion nursing home, and all the residents there have served in the forces.
Help for Heroes is a more recent charity which also promotes rehabilitation and help for those wounded in action.
2018 is the centenary of the end of World War One – the Great War which decimated Europe and led, it’s argued, to the Second World War and the horrors there. In the last century war has continued, although thankfully not a global scale, and men and women return damaged (those who do return). I firmly believe the Great War, and World War Two shaped modern European history, and such horror should never be forgotten. There were villages in England where every man between 16 and 50 was lost. It’s very easy to disassociate oneself from war – which for most of us is fought far away against people we aren’t very familiar with – and we can become blase to it. But these soldiers, no matter whose side they might be on, are someone’s child, sibling, parent or friend. I have seen the price war can exact – and how it changes lives.
The slogan for the Royal British Legion is Live On – that is an important message as those who remain CAN live on, and those who suffer injury can now have worthwhile and valuable lives. We must as humans, as descendants, as free people remember the sacrifices some pay for freedom. I set this bundle up to try and raise awareness of these charities, to stir a thought for the soldiers past and present. The Great War was known as the War to End All Wars – sadly it did not.
In The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, you created a world where magic is forbidden and elves are enslaved. The series starts with Dii, an elven sorceress, fleeing for her life. How did your background in politics and mythology help you craft this series?
One only has to look back on human history to see parallels to the world of Erana – Despotic government, rule by fear, divide and rule, blaming a particular group of people for society’s ills and the list goes on. Politics doesn’t change much, oh yes new leaders and parties come and go but the machine rumbles onward nonetheless. No party/leader will change the system which got him or her elected (assuming they were in fact elected), and no party is likely to radically change the status quo. In many ways it’s a case of better the devil you know. That said there have been uprisings – the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution to name a couple, and there have been individuals and groups who have made a difference but they are few and far between. Certainly with many revolutions the common man or woman has not noticed a great deal of difference to his or her life. And many folks are content with that. Change can be frightening. But also there is always someone willing to fight for the little guy – to stand up and say no more. There is always hope and the human spirit to fight on, to live and to discover a better world. Sometimes it’s so much bullshit, but not always.
Much of the background lore for Erana is similar in form to our own mythology – and of course in myth anything is possible – from vast flying lizards, to demi-god heroes, to the lowliest beating the greatest. It doesn’t have to be true, but it does have to show us the best and worst in ourselves, and that people can be greater than they imagined. The allegories of myth hold moral, and symbolic meanings.
You have a background in politics, sociology, classical studies, ancient history, and mythology. How does your interest in and knowledge of these areas influence your writing?
I love the old Roman and Greek tales and I read a lot of history. Erana is mostly a medieval society, with a few tweaks. As I said earlier myth and storytelling are really important aspects to our modern society – although it’s not obvious at first. I like reading myths, fairytales and the lore-laden fantasy stories and try and style my work in that way. Sociology and politics teach one about societies, relations between classes, people and countries – how government is run, and more importantly how people THINK it’s run – which is vastly different.
How did you select the stories included in the Here Be Monsters bundle?
Some were from authors I was already familiar with, and some I read the synopsis or the look insides and decided the book was a good fit. Authors can refuse to join a bundle if they feel the vision doesn’t match their work.
You’ve put together a number of story bundles, and have more planned. What do you enjoy about creating these collections?
The Bundles are a lot of fun. They are also a GREAT networking tool. The idea is that readers get a bundle of books for a bargain price and find new authors and the authors get ‘cross-pollination’. I’ve found some great new authors and books to read.
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?
Currently I am working on Book IV of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, an Erana novella (currently which is stuck), an historical fiction for an anthology, and a ghost story. It’s all fun – I love creating stories. Except when the story won’t tell me where it wants to go – then it’s annoying.
About the Author
British-born Alexandra Butcher (aka A. L. Butcher) is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as evocative. She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.
Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and the Tales of Erana lyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.
Her short novella Outside the Walls, co-written with Diana L. Wicker received a Chill with a Book Reader’s Award in 2017.
She is also the curator of a number of exciting book bundles on Bundle Rabbit and frequently works with other authors.
She activity supports nature, wildlife and veteran’s charities.