Alex Laybourne: Fabulous Author, Husband, and Father – The Next Stephen King
Maxine Owen: Greetings, Alex. Welcome to my blog. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me.
Alex Laybourne: It was my pleasure Maxine. It is an honor to be here.
Maxine Owen: Alex, as you know, I am a big supporter of your written work. I have both of your Highway to Hell books, and am currently reading your short stories. You have been compared to authors Stephen King and Dean Koontz. How does this make you feel? Is it a lot to live up to?
Alex Laybourne:I think it is one of the biggest compliments I could receive, and maybe, one day with a little bit of luck, and a lot of hard work I can reach those heights. It may sound big headed, but I believe in myself and that I have what it takes. It is the promotion and publicity side of things where my weaknesses lie, but I am working hard to rectify this.
Maxine Owen: Can you give us a brief glimpse into the Highway to Hell books, without giving too much away?
Highway to Hell is a novel that serves as the opening chapter of a trilogy of novels that will see our characters Die, journey through Hell, through Heaven and Purgatory, cross oceans of blood and unite war torn lands in an attempt to stop the seams of existence from disappearing.
In this first novel, I combine the old fashioned Christian view of Hell with characters whose sins are not wild and a the result of an evil life, but rather everyday issues such as a dislike of in-laws or being wasteful with money; for the large part mundane issues that we can all relate to on several levels.. Of course, their sentencing in Hell is unjust and that is what ultimately leads to their story beginning. As you read, you see six strangers become allies, and then friends, maybe even lovers. We meet angels and demons but have no idea which side we can trust. Maybe, just maybe, good is not what we think it to be. Maybe the good we so strongly believe in, is evil, controlling us for its ends. Of course this issue is not addressed until the third book.
Maxine Owen: Your genre is horror. Did you always know that you wanted to explore this genre? How old were you when you when you decided that you wanted to be an author?
Alex Laybourne:I have always written stories, from the first moment I could hold a pen. I remember as a kid, I wrote a short story about a man in a plane crash and how he survived the injuries he sustained. It was about 5 pages long, hand written on both sides. I couldn’t have been much more than seven or so when I wrote it. I wrote my first ‘novel’ – read random pile of words with no real grammar or structure to it, when I was about 15-16. It was a terrible piece of Urban Fantasy. That being said, one of the main character, the villain from that book is coming back as a kind of anti-hero in a YA Urban Fantasy series I plan to write.
Horror was not always my first choice of genre… or rather, it was, but in the beginning I had no genre. I kind of wrote and wandered for many years. Between 16 and 24 I just kind of wrote a lot of random crap. I started numerous novels or stories, wrote 10,000 words and then stopped. It didn’t fit or wasn’t right for me anymore. Then, one day I sat down and thought about it, looked at what I had in my head, separated the strands and voices into different novels and stories. It was then that I discovered the horror theme and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to fit me. It was the only time I have ever planned anything for my writing, but as a result I got Highway to Hell written and have 20 more horror novels or short story collections planned out in my head, along with a more serious 10 book series that I would love to write which centers on autism.
Maxine Owen: It can be difficult to find the balance between family, your full time job, and your writing career. How do you make it all work? Are your loved ones supportive?
Alex Laybourne: Um.. Yes, to a degree they are. They are supportive of the writing, but not so much with regards to any financial investment in it. Funds are often tight, and so to ‘waste’ money on promotion is in their eyes not allowed. That being said, I could not do this without them. I think the family of any writer can attest to how unusual we can be from time to time… you know, when we are awake.
My family is great, and if it wasn’t for them, I would probably be some recluse sitting away in an apartment somewhere, just writing all the time and not seeing anything of the world. J
In order to get everything done, I get up early, around 4:30 on weekdays and 5 in the weekend to get my writing done, and then use any spare second that I have to write, read or promote myself in some way. I have gotten very good at writing on the run, I can sit down at any time and just start writing; the process is always there and running in the background. I am lucky in the respect.
Having a young baby at home, and having always had babies around since I really started writing, (I have four children aged 6, 4, 2 and 4 months) I have gotten very good at typing with one hand.
Maxine Owen: Speaking of family, I know that you and your wife, Patty, have a child who is Autistic. When did you know that something was different about this child than with the other children?
Alex Laybourne: I noticed it at around 18 months. He wasn’t at the same level as my eldest son, but he had been very quick with things, so we just thought that Logan was more typical with his development; speech for example. However, at 18 months I was playing with him on our bed, tickling him and the like. He was laughing like crazy, but I saw a look in his eyes that was just like… Ok, you’re not really looking at me. From that moment on I saw more and more autism indicators pop up. He would put his food in a row at dinner time before eating it, or would line up his toys. There was a lack of eye contact. It took a year of trying before we got the ball rolling, and he has been in full time school since February 2012. The changes in him are crazy. He doesn’t speak completely, but comes out with sentences, and a lot of words for things. He can count forwards and backwards in English and Dutch, sings songs. It is remarkable. There is a long way to go, but we accepted things at the very start, and if you can do that, then you will have no problems. I see many parents in denial, or who fight against it, but he is who he is, I wouldn’t change him for the world.
Maxine Owen: Raising a child with Autism is a whole new ball of wax, compared to raising a neurotypical child. Has it changed how each of you relates to one another? Does it affect your writing?
Alex Laybourne: It certainly keeps you on your toes, but if I am being honest, Logan is the easiest of them all. Ok, getting his diaper changed can be tough, and if he is in a bad mood it can be difficult and rather noisy when he is happy, but he is an angel. He loves to draw and does his own thing at home. He never causes trouble, like his older brother and younger sister. Now they are a real handful.
My wife and I have always been open and honest about everything, so I don’t think there has been any real change, because, as I said above, we just accepted it and looked for ways to help him advance and develop to the best of his abilities. It doesn’t really affect my writing. Having 4 young kids around affects my writing (smiles) but Logan and his autism as an individual component, then no.
Maxine Owen: What is your favorite or easiest time of the day to write? Do you have a special place in which to write?
Alex Laybourne: I love early mornings, when the house… the world is still asleep. I live in a small house and so have to write in the living room. It is not ideal, but all I have at the moment. I have plans to make a writing haven in our two story shed, but the money for that work is a long way off. I am lucky in so far as I can write anywhere, at any time. If I wake up with the kids at 2 am for some reason, as my kids are prone to do… hmmm… I can just sit down and start writing. I am always ready to go.
Maxine Owen: Your characters come alive on the page. Your insight into the human psyche is remarkable. Do your characters sit inside of your mind, just waiting to be discovered, or are you as surprised by them as are your readers?
Alex Laybourne: A little bit of both. The characters for Highway came to me, and then were fleshed out in the writing itself. I don’t like to plan my characters too much; I like them to develop their own personalities and the like. Sometimes they surprise me with what they say or do, as crazy as that sounds.
I just met a very interesting character, to give a hint at my next project (after the third Highway installment), is a homeless clown that lives under a bridge. He has a drink and mild drug problem, his make-up is smeared, faded and dirty, his clown costume ripped and filthy. He is an immortal demon clown cast out from his circus because he no longer wanted to eat the souls of children, as the circus did.
This clown, let’s call him Giggles (for now) will then team up with a human character and chase after the circus, to rescue this character’s friend / sibling / child, not sure on that front yet, and put an end to their tour of terror.
Maxine Owen: I have personally said that your books are the kind that make the reader afraid to put their feet on the floor. Does that kind of review feel like a home run?
Alex Laybourne: Without shadow of a doubt. As a writer, to hear that people have read and enjoyed my work is a wonderful feeling. I would feel guilty if they paid for my book and then hated every word of it. I find praise difficult to take, especially when given face to face, but at the same time there is nothing better than reading a review of your work that is full of such praise. Hold on… should I really be pleased that I terrify people…. Oh well, I guess so. I guess the more I terrify people the more time they will spend indoors and the more (of my) books they can read. It’s a criminal master plan if you ask me… oh wait, you did.
Maxine Owen: Could you give us some information on how to find your books?
Alex Laybourne:The links to all of my books, my website and social media haunts are all listed below. Of course, I understand the rush that there will now undoubtedly be for my writing, so expect some lag on the big sites when making your purchases. J
Facebook Profile: http://www.facebook.com/#!/alaybourneauthor
Facebook Pages: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Highway-To-Hell/123163161111961
Maxine Owen: Thank you again, Alex.
Alex Laybourne: Thank you for opening your blog up to me.