Write Now With Alex Thornbury

Today’s Write Now interview features Alex Thornbury, real-life alchemist and author of THE BRIDGE TO MAGIC.

Write Now With Alex Thornbury
Photo courtesy of Alex Thornbury

Who Are You?

I am Alex Thornbury and I’m an author of high and epic fantasy. As a modern-day alchemist by trade, I’m naturally drawn to fantastical worlds, governed by different rules from our own. My upcoming debut is a dark fantasy, The Bridge to Magic, which will be released on 21 February 2023.

What Do You Write?

I write what I love to read. Mostly, it is epic and dark fantasy, with immersive, complex worlds, fantastical beings and magic that will not be tamed. The darker, shadowy elements of fantasy are a particular draw to me. I am also a fan of 1800s and early 1900s horror stories, so my fantasy often drifts towards the horror genre. For me, no story is complete without some humour in it, for that is how we dispel darkness from our hearts.

I write every day, often for many hours, when time allows it. My writer’s block afflicts me when I feel like I’m falling into clichéd storylines or repetitive tropes. Though it is impossible not to be affected by the books and stories that came before you, I am very averse to retelling them.

When not writing, I am thinking about my characters, stories, and new realms. My desk is filled with hastily scribbled notes on ideas, concepts, and improvements to my current writing projects. There is an almost god-like feeling that comes with being a creator of your very own world and populating it with strange creatures and beings. I think that inside us all, there is a part of us that craves it. I set trials and challenges for the characters, but it is they who lead me on a journey through their realms. If I try to bend the characters to my narrative, they break away from the confines. Often, my story takes a different turn to the one I had planned at the start.

My protagonists are varied, for the worlds I create are varied. In The Bridge to Magic, Elika is a fifteen-year-old orphan trying to survive in a world on the brink of its final destruction. In this story, neither the might of kings nor the wisdom of priests can stop the approaching horror. Brawn, power, cunning and honour suddenly mean nothing to the survival of man. Only her inner courage and strength to make an impossible choice and take that step into uncertainty may yet save her.

Where Do You Write?

I have an office with a laptop and a giant monitor, set up next to a window so that I can rest my eyes by gazing into my rural Australian garden.

I use Word, though I’ve toyed with other software such as Scrivener and decided I would stick with the old-familiar. I use three different editing software, Hemmingway Editor, Grammarly and ProWritingAid, before sending out the polished manuscript to different human editors for developmental, proofreading, and copyediting.

When I travel, I always take my laptop and write where I can: hotel rooms, bed, coffee shops, planes, parks and woodlands. In the bath, too, but only with pen and paper. I also have a notepad and pen next to my bedside. Often, before I go to sleep, I may come up with an idea for a new book, an inspiration, a poem, a storyline, or a conversation. I scribble it down lest I forget it.

When Do You Write?

I am an early riser, so usually I am at my laptop by 6 am. As a part-time scientific consultant, I am lucky to have many spare hours I can dedicate to my craft. Given a chance, I will write all day.

Writing is my passion and not a chore, so I have no word count goals. I have had days where I write 10,000 words. Most days are not taken with writing, however, but with editing what I have written so far. Writing a fresh story is fun and easy. Reworking it into something I would want others to read is a very different, harsh beast. Word count does not matter then. It can take anywhere from a day to three weeks to re-write and mould the chapter into shape.

Typically, it takes 3-6 weeks to write the first draft of a book, working full and long days. After that, for me at least, it takes 2-4 years to edit it, chapter by chapter. Then edit it some more, before sending it out to other editors.

Why Do You Write?

As long as I can remember, I always had stories swirling in my head, like colorful clouds of candy floss, waiting for me to give them shape and purpose. I have been writing since the moment I could put my thoughts to paper as a young child. I crave the escapism of it.

There is something notable and perhaps a little romantic about stories outliving their authors. From a very young age, I read fairytales, legends, folklore, and later, classic literature written hundreds and even thousands of years ago. It was then that I began to dream of writing a book that would outlive me. But, as with everyone else, work and everyday life got in the way of dreams. However, ten years ago, I found myself between jobs and suddenly unfettered by daily worries. I sat down and wrote my first manuscript: an epic fantasy, The Sprite Catcher. It was both an achievement and a terrible mistake as far as my author career—but that’s another story.

My inspiration comes from my favourite authors, such as Hobb, Rothfuss, Martin, Tolkien and many others. They inspire me to pursue originality, great storytelling and the creation of unforgettable characters. I am my worst critic, for I seek not merely to write and publish, but to produce stories that will sit unashamedly beside other great fantasy authors. Have I achieved that? I cannot say; it is for my readers to decide.

How Do You Overcome Writer’s Block?

I guess the solution to a writer’s block depends on the reasons for it. It might be creativity issues, tiredness, stress, or simply not enough thinking time. Once I know the cause of it, then I work out the solution: take a bath, relax, take time off, garden, and find a quiet place to think.

I do not suffer writer’s block when envisaging new stories. There is a dreadfully long backlog of stories in my mind waiting for their turn to be immortalised on paper.

A writer’s block mainly assails me during the editing of my stories. If I dislike a chapter, a character, a scene, or a plotline going astray, I cannot move on, cannot abandon it or ignore it. I must rewrite it and perfect it, as much as I can.

The most effective solution I have when creativity hides away is drifting to sleep. There is a specific moment in your psyche between wakefulness and sleep, where your mind relaxes and taps into its creativity centre. It is a mental state that borders our dreams. Everyone will know it from where strange, dream-like imagery intrudes into your mind just as you drift to sleep. This is the wonderful state where anything is possible and where stories live. This is where you can solve any problem, discover new tales, fresh ideas, exciting names for characters, brilliant conversations and plot twists, and so much more. It’s why I keep a pen and paper by my bedside.

You can reach this magical, creative state before bedtime, or early in the morning as you awaken and your mind clings to the remnants of your dreams. Or during a mid-afternoon nap, lying in a sun-filled daze on the beach… anywhere you can close your eyes and daydream. This is the one cure, which never fails me, for writer’s block and lack of inspiration.

Bonus: What Do You Enjoy Doing When Not Writing?

I love reading almost as much as writing. I love fantasy, classics, horror, fairy tales and romance. My other passion is gardening. It is a wonderful way to relax the mind after hours of writing. I also love travelling, especially to places which put me in mind of fantasy worlds, such as castles and old towns strewn across all of Europe. I love exotic places and different cultures that absorb me into their own intriguing realm.

My thanks to Alex Thornbury for today’s interview.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!