Tag Archives: Alan Baxter

In conversation with Alan Baxter

To celebrate the release of Alan Baxter’s trilogy (the Alex Caine Series), I asked him a few questions about this funny old game called writing…

How does your background in martial arts affect your writing?

It’s taught me discipline and focus. I’m slowly making notes for a book on the subject, in fact, as the parallels are legion. But being good at anything requires dedication – that’s focus and discipline above all else.

Over the course of your writing career, you have experimented with numerous media, from game writing to podcasting, and different distribution models, from self publishing to big name publishing. What are some of the differences you have noticed? How important is it for writers to be flexible and open to different methods?

There are so many differences, it would take an essay just to touch on them all. But in short, there are all kinds of pros and cons with all of them. No one way is perfect. I think, especially in this day and age, that it’s important for a writer to be open to different methods. We’re seeing more and more people achieve success with the hybrid model (which means some traditional publishing and some self-publishing). I definitely fit into that model and think it’s been valuable for me. It’s also important to consider a variety of different income streams to make a career. If you score a good deal with a big publisher, that’s fantastic, but if that publisher goes down they can take your career with them. At least if your career is diversified over various publishers, various media, you can always have protection if any one thing stops working. And stuff is slow in publishing, so a variety of things means hopefully always having something happening.


Are there some things that stay the same, or relevant, across the board?

Quality. Regardless of what methods you choose, the simple fact of the matter is that you must have a quality manuscript. You must put out your best work. Of course, we all know about the really successful utter shit that gets published and makes its author a squillionaire, but the simple fact is that while the thing may be subjectively (or even objectively!) terrible, there’s something about it that works for readers. There’s a reason it’s doing so well, and while it may not be quality the way we perceive it, it is perceived value for all those fans. So whatever you’re doing, don’t worry about anyone else’s stuff, just make yours as good as it can possibly be.


How important is social media, or has been, to your success?

It’s very important these days. You can make a career without it, but it’s getting harder and harder to do that. And even if an author isn’t very active on social media, the activity of that author’s fans and readers is essential to continued growth. People are paying more attention to recommendations via social media than pretty much any other source now, so it’s important to be in it in some way. BUT! If you don’t like it, if you don’t enjoy it and can’t act like yourself, don’t do it. There’s no point in forcing yourself and faking it, because people see through that in an instant and you’re wasting your time. I really enjoy the engagement of social media, so for me it’s fun and it definitely helps.


What’s one mistake you’ve made as a writer that you would warn new or upcoming writers against?

Only one? Man, that’s a tough question. I don’t want to admit to any mistakes! I’m sure I’ve made plenty, but thankfully nothing so far that’s been devastating for me. I think it’s just important to always work hard, to always learn and try to get better, to always be a decent person to work with. If you constantly strive for those things, everything else should slowly fall into place.


Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s the award-winning author of several novels and over sixty short stories and novellas. So far. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter andFacebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.

Paying for Our Passion – Alan Baxter

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know. First cab off the rank (and what a great post to kick off with!) is Alan Baxter.

Writing and Making a Living

For me, it’s been a long journey and it’s far from over. More years ago than I care to remember, I decided to take this writing gig seriously. I’ve always written stories, but I wanted to be a professional writer. At the time, I was working nine to five and, as I’m a martial artist and martial arts instructor, training six to nine, five nights a week, and weekends. My days were pretty full. I had no time to write. But I wanted to be a writer. So I made time.

My first novel was written in my lunch hours, Monday to Friday. I took food to work and every lunch break I would make a sandwich, go back to my desk, and work on the novel for about an hour. I wrote a whole book that way, and most of a second one. I also started working on mastering the art of short fiction, mostly in note books whenever I found time, as I had no home computer back then. I carried my novels around on a 3.5” floppy disc!

BoundAlong the way, I decided I needed to turn my life around. I hated the nine to five office drudgery – I was all about Kung Fu and fitness and writing. Then an opportunity came up – I was offered a redundancy. This coincided with another bit of luck – my father gave me a couple of grand as he’d had this big share dividend through his work and wanted to share it. Very decent of him! So I accepted the redundancy (which didn’t subsequently happen for nearly a year), and, before that salaried work actually came to an end, I used the money from my dad to put myself through night school and got my qualifications as a Personal Trainer. I was already fairly highly qualified as a martial arts instructor. Night school meant sacrificing some training time in the short term and I had to study a lot on weekends, but by the time my day job ended, I’d got my full Cert IV certification and I had a few grand of that redundancy payout in the bank to see me through building up a new business. I was taking a hell of a risk, but knew if it all turned to shit, I could fall back on office work again.

So I kept training, and teaching, and I built up a Personal Training business, and I wrote whenever I could. As the PT business began to pay for itself (thankfully just before the redundancy ran out!) it meant I was able to structure my time better. And this is what a large part of the decision had originally been based on – making time to write. I saw PT clients in the mornings and lunchtimes, I taught Kung Fu and saw clients in the evenings, and I had large chunks of time between clients and classes (mid-morning, mid-afternoon) to be a writer. It was tight living – still is! – but I made it work for me. I work my butt off at everything I do (as does my wife) and it just about keeps us going.

alan-2011-500x500-bwWhen my parents died, I got some inheritance, and that allowed us to move from the city to the country. I would much rather still have a family, but it meant we were able to pursue our dreams and lifestyle here. If that hadn’t happened, we’d probably still be doing the same thing in the city. So now I run my own Kung Fu Academy, a small school in a small town. If I concentrated on it 100%, I could make it bigger and make more money. But I want to be a writer, so I concentrate half my time on the Academy and being a PT, and the other half on writing. We never have enough money (my wife is my assistant instructor and a damn fine artist – www.halinka.com.au ) but we’re doing what we love. There is always the temptation to jack it all in and get a “proper job” – we’d have a better, regular income, but we’d be miserable.

We have a one year old son now, so we take turns looking after him. When we’re not teaching or training clients, we write and paint. Nowadays, we each have half the writing and painting time we used to, because we take turns looking after our boy, but we still have the same priorities: we run a martial arts school, we practice our arts and we look after our son. There’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into that lifestyle, but we’re making our lives what we want them to be.

Without the help from my parents along the way, things might be very different. Or not, I have no way of knowing – I would still have made those same decisions around the redundancy. But I certainly recognise that they helped me get to where I am now, and I’m very grateful for it. I’ve also worked my ass off along the way and will continue to do so. And until one or both of us makes it big, we’ll always be sacrificing luxuries for our arts – martial, visual and literary – but we’re okay with that.

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.

He is the author of the dark urban fantasy thrillers, Bound, Obsidian and Abduction (The Alex Caine Series, HarperVoyager), and the dark urban fantasy duology, RealmShift and MageSign (The Balance 1 and 2, Gryphonwood Press). He co-authored the short horror novel, Dark Rite, with David Wood. Alan also writes short fiction with around 60 stories published in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US, the UK and France. His short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Postscripts, and Midnight Echo, among many others, and more than twenty anthologies, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror (2010 and 2012). Alan also writes narrative arcs and dialogue for videogames and wrote the popular writer’s resource, Write The Fight Right, a short ebook about writing convincing fight scenes. He has twice been a finalist in the Ditmar Awards.

Alan is represented by literary agent, Alex Adsett, of Alex Adsett Publishing Services.

As well as fiction, Alan is a freelance writer penning reviews, feature articles and opinion. He’s a contributing editor and co-founder (with Andrew McKiernan and Felicity Dowker) at Thirteen O’Clock – Australian Dark Fiction News & Reviews, and co-hosts AuthorCast with David Wood, a thriller and genre fiction podcast. He’s a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association, International Thriller Writers, The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association and a full Active Member of the Horror Writers’ Association.

Alan is an International Master of Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu and runs the Illawarra Kung Fu Academy.

Wednesday Writers: Alan Baxter

Fired up by the my first short story sale, I decided it was time to join a writers group. The first online one I found was the AHWA Crit Group and one of the names on the mailing list seemed a bit familiar. Turned out one of the other writers was on the TOC of that anthology as well! Talk about a small world! Thus, I met Alan Baxter.

Alan wears many hats. From prolific short story writer, with credits in some Australia’s most prestigious anthologies of recent times, to a leading exponent of social media, he also podcasts and has self published an excellent book on writing fight scenes. I really don’t know how he finds the time, to be honest! But, that makes me all the more grateful that he found the time share this article on the importance of working with others.

Beware – Harsh truth approaching: We are not good enough.

None of us are. Sure, we can get good. Good enough to be published, in fact. We can continually get better, assuming we have that desire and constantly work at our craft, which we all should. But, on our own, in our little bubbles of imagination and twisted ideas, we’re not good enough. We need to be better than we’re capable of being on our own. For that, we need the unbiased, critical eyes of others.

It’s fine to stay in a self-contained cave of writing and slowly improve, but I would suggest that even if a person does manage to train themselves up to heights of great achievement and score really sweet publications, those stories could still be better with the help of critical input.

As writers, we work alone. It’s part of the job and it’s one of the things I love about it. I also love the community I’ve gathered around myself over the years, online and in real life. This would be a thankless endeavour without them, because for every success, there are many failures. And it’s with all those failures that the doubt creeps in. And that’s where we need our writerly friends.
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