Ana: Alex, an excerpt from your novel “Service of the Crown” was submitted in the ABNA 2010 contest. You introduced us to Commander Savoy - an officer more interested in staying on the front-lines with his men rather than training green recruits in the safety of the capitol - and young cadet Renee who is struggling under a double-standard as the only woman in her training class. I really like how you deconstructed the issues that women regularly face in the real world: Renee has to be twice as better as everyone else just to “prove” herself - anything less and she fears she’ll be immediately sent packing. Can you tell us more about your novel and where it goes from the end of the excerpt? What sorts of themes do you explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience?
Alex: Wow, loaded question! Let’s take it in little bites.
Where does the novel go? Like you said, we meet Renee when she gets a heartbreaking letter – the military school she attends is putting her on probation. But she soon faces bigger problems, when the Vipers, a violent crime group, come to the capital trying to cow the new king. When the Vipers capture Renee’s mentor for their illegal gladiatorial games, she must leap from academia to the crime filled streets, pick up a sword, and weigh law against loyalty.
What kind of experience do I hope the reader will have? An entertaining one! But if you insist on themes... One theme you will find in "Service of the Crown" is the idea that there are two sides to each position. I introduce several grey concepts and try to give both sides a fair shot, leaving the reader to form her own opinions of who is right.
About the double standard... To clarify, sixteen-year-old cadet Renee De Winter (yes, her last name changed in the editing process) is not facing a “double-standard” - the Academy of Tildor has the same standards for boys and girls, with no leeway for differences in size and strength. What she is facing is that the fighting style the Academy teaches caters to larger men, so most girls and smaller boys end up getting kicked out. She has to work twice as hard to keep up, but, like you said, it may not be enough.
Ana: What was your inspiration when writing your novel? Were you influenced by a specific author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre?
Alex: I love Tamora Pierce’s writing. "Song of the Lioness" and "Protector of the Small" quartets are among my favorite books. Like Ms. Pierce’s novels, my story also features a girl in a fantasy world military school, although SOC is for a slightly older audience.
Ana: When I first read the excerpt for “Service of the Crown”, I was reminded strongly of some of Mercedes Lackey’s fantasy settings - you really seemed to nail the dialogue and characterization as being terribly real even within a ‘fantasy’ setting. If you could compare your novel to any other existing work, which one would it be and why?
Alex: I read Ms. Lackey’s novels and they certainly inspired my imagination, especially since I am a sucker for school stories. If I had to pick a single author whose work I hope to someday hold a candle to, it’s Tamora Pierce. She makes the world come alive with just a few phrases!
Ana: Is this your first or only finished work, or have you written other novels? If you have written other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?
Alex: SOC is my debut novel. I am working on a sequel, when I am not busy editing. It’s a long road from selling a book to publication, but I am fortunate to be working with an awesome editor.
Ana: I was first introduced to your novel through the Amazon Breakthrough Award contest of 2010. What prompted you to enter the contest, and what were your overall feelings towards the contest in general?
Alex: It was one of those “why not?” things! I had finished writing SOC some time earlier and was busy querying agents. Submitting it to ABNA seemed like a long shot, but what was the downside? Later, when I was in Seattle with the other ABNA finalists, I met some of the people behind the curtain and was blown away by the organization and professionalism of the contest. I highly recommend ABNA to other novelists.
Ana: Are you currently published or self-published? Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? If you’re not currently published, how can readers “sign up” to be notified when your novel does become available?
Alex: "Service of the Crown" does not have a release date yet. I will post news on my website, www.alexlidell.com. You can also follow me on Twitter (AlexLidell) or shoot me an email at email@example.com. If you email me, I’ll be sure to give you a heads up when the novel becomes available.
Ana: Alex, thank you so very much for being willing to participate in this guest blog interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Alex: Just a quick note to clear up possible confusion for my fellow ABNAers - you may remember "Service of the Crown" being posted under Alex Airdale instead of Alex Lidell. It’s all still me :) Sorry for mudding the waters! That’s all I got, Ana. Thank you much for the interview.