Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Welcome to Alex Kidwell and Robin Saxon

Now, I am by nature a solitary writer. Okay, okay I'm a diva when it comes to writing, I admit it. When I discovered my guests today not only write together but live together, well, I have to admire them. How do they do it without killing each other?

How did you both get started writing?
Robin: I started writing when I was eleven. A group of friends and I started sharing short stories over Yahoo Groups. By the time I was fourteen I spent all of my school days jotting down notes for movies and books that I wanted to write in my notepad. None of them were very good.

Alex:  Honestly, I can’t point to a place and time when writing started for me. I still don’t consider myself a ‘author’ so much as this is what I do. Its how I express myself, its how I think. Where some people might hear a song or see a sunset and put it in terms of a painting or a photograph or a sonnet, I think of stories and characters and worlds.

Was there a particular author or book that made you decide you wanted to write in the genre?  If so, who or what was it?
Robin: Rob Thurman. Alex got me hooked on the urban fantasy genre through Rob Thurman, Kim Harrison and Jim Butcher.

Alex:  I grew up reading Tolkien and Lewis. When I was set free in the library, my favorite past-time, I’d gravitate towards Asimov and Jacques. I liked covers with epic dragons, I craved stories that showed a world with more possibilities than the one I lived in. I was probably the only fourteen year old convinced that a hobbit was going to come and take them away on an adventure. When I write, I don’t think about genre, but inevitably I wind up telling fairy tales and stories about magic and vampires and werewolves. I think that, like science fiction, urban fantasy allows you to explore story lines and ideas that would be too hard to pin down in realistic world.

Robin: I grew up on Brian Jacques too. That, and Choose Your Own Adventure books, and horror books by Christopher Pike, R. L Stein and Paul Jennings.

Where do you write? Does your environment have an impact on what or how you write? Do you write together or separately?
Alex:  We definitely write together.  I have the handwriting of a spastic four year old, so everything is done on the computer. We’ll be sitting side by side on our laptops, typing away in google docs - it’s also great for when Robin goes home to Australia to visit, it allows us to keep working no matter what kind of distance. 

Robin: Alex said it well. I will add, though, that I would have been entirely unable to write a novel by myself. I just don’t have the staying power or the discipline, but writing it with Alex kept me inspired and I always wanted to work on it.

Alex:  Robin definitely made this fun.  Honestly, every line of the book is something that came from both of us.  The original concept was that I’d take Jed and she would take Redford and we’d write our own chapters, but pretty much the first page in we were finishing each other’s sentences.  Robin improves everything I write; if there’s a part of Blood Howl you particularly enjoy, I will bet money that Robin was behind it.

What do you love most about writing?  What do you hate about it?
Alex:  My favorite part is the creation process. I love world building, and developing new characters.  The universe Blood Howl is set in is very complex and much more than we got to show in the first book - I’m excited to get to reveal more as we write further into the series.

Robin: I love character building. It’s pretty much how we think up plots - we just start with two or more characters and go from there.

Alex:  Probably the only thing I don’t like about the process is the aftermath.  It’s extremely hard to put so much love and effort and creativity into something and send it out there without any real idea of how its been received.  I’m much happier when I can stay in my writing bubble.

Robin: I don’t hate this, but sometimes I find it hard to edit. I get a little petulant when thinking about the fact that I may have to take out whole scenes that I really like.

Alex:  Yes, that was a scary process for us, especially since it was our first time.  The Dreamspinner crew, though, was great to work with.  And we’re learning mistakes we made as first time writers; getting to fix those in future books is going to be gratifying.

How did you come up with the title?
Robin: When we first came up with the idea for Blood Howl, we wrote a really cheesy blurb for it. Really over the top, Movie Phone Voice announcer style. The very last line was something like “..and he found someone that made his blood howl.” We liked that so much that we went with it.

Alex:  Although the runner up was Jed and Redford’s Bodacious Adventures, which I still am a little sad we didn’t use.

Can you tell us about your main character?
Alex:  There’s two, Jed and Redford.  I guess I’ll talk about Jed, since he originally came from my brain.  Which is such a scary concept, really. 

Jed is an asshole.  That’s pretty much the best way to describe him.  He’s a gun-for-hire, former special ops, and he lives the life of an emotionally stunted teenager.  He enjoys rough, anonymous sex with older, preferably married men, and the only way he knows how to connect with anyone is through sex or violence. And he likes it that way.  One thing that we explore in Blood Howl, and that continues to be an issue on into the next book we’re currently writing, is Jed’s disconnect between his emotions and his actions.  Sure, he falls hard for Redford, but he’s kind of clueless when it comes to what that means in his every day life. 

He was very fun to write - he babbles and curses and is distracted easily by shiny things.  He also loves his explosions and has no issue at all shooting first and ignoring the question part entirely.  Meeting Redford changes a lot for Jed, but I don’t think even he realizes how much.

Robin: Redford is someone who has been kept in isolation for the majority of his life. He knows little about the outside world, due to his grandmother keeping him inside her house, away from people. He’s very naive, very innocent, but there is also something very weary about him because of living the way he has. I’m not entirely sure if I should give away spoilers here, the book’s only been out a couple of weeks!

Essentially, he’s very much the opposite of Jed. Where Jed is loud and confident, Redford is quiet and nervous. Where Jed is very rough-and-tumble, Redford is overly cautious. During the course of the book, he becomes his own person more and more, rather than the shadow that he was living as.

How did you develop your plot and characters?

Robin: Redford was originally inspired by a documentary I watched about feral children. Feral children are a nickname for children that have been kept in extreme isolation for all or most of their lives, and when they are rescued they have little knowledge of the outside world. I wasn’t going to write about such a horrific abuse case in a romance novel, though, because the question of consent would be very, very dubious, given that these feral children don’t develop mentally.

Instead I took the isolation idea and went with that. Redford had contact with his grandmother, if not the outside world. He developed regularly, but there are definite side effects from being kept inside for most of his developmental years.

The plot mostly came from ‘what happens when these two characters run into each other’ with a dash of ‘evil other character’.

Alex:  What I wanted to do with Jed is have a character who is very rough, very cocky, and very settled in his ways on the outside.  He lives his life, so he thinks, exactly how he wants it, and he answers to no one.  All of that hides a very broken interior - one that you only begin to see glimpses of in Blood Howl.  We never intended for that book to give all the answers.  In fact, we kept a lot of things purposely vague, simply because of the structure of the story.  If we’re lucky enough to get to do the series we have planned, more of Jed’s background will come into play, along with a lot of the mythos of the world they’re in.

What are you working on at the moment?
Robin: Currently we’re working on the next in the series. Blood Howl was always intended to be the first of the series. As Alex just said as we’re talking while writing this, the next book is kind of like The Empire Strikes Back. There’s a lot more world-building, many more things are explained. Of course, there are also new questions that come up.

Alex:  Two minor characters also come into their own in the next book, which we’re excited about.  It was always kind of supposed to be Jed and Redford’s world, but these two characters fit alongside that so well, and we love them so much, that we’re exploring and fleshing them out more.  Not that it’s going to be an expected journey with them.  There are some things that happen that, we hope, will show a different side to a common story.  We enjoy looking at things in an unusual way, and sometimes that means that we don’t get a typical ending.

To date, what has been the best advice or words of encouragement you've received?
Robin: The best piece of advice I ever heard was ‘don’t edit until you finish writing’. If I tried to begin editing previous chapters when I was only halfway through something, it would never get finished.

Alex:  Yeah, definitely.  A good friend told me, ‘Write with fire, edit with ice,’ and that’s really the motto we stick to.  We write without looking back, without self-editing or doubting what we’re doing.  Which is probably one of the hardest things to do, as a writer, but it’s the only way we get through it.  Only after we have the first draft done do we let ourselves go back and start very critically looking at what we’ve written.

Robin: It is a hard thing to do - writers are more critical about their own books than any outside reader is.

What are three things about you both that would surprise your fans?
Robin: I’m a pretty boring person, really. Most of the interesting things about me are already on the web - I’m a nerd, I’m a New Zealander. I think in another interview I wrote about how I’m a huge fan of metal music. Power metal, death metal, black metal, I love it.

Alex:  We have no idea what we’re doing.  Seriously, we’re just a couple of geeks who really enjoy writing and we’ve been lucky enough to find a publishing company who believed in our story.  We’re learning how to do this as we go along, and we rejoice over every single person who reads our book.  That still blows our minds.

Also, we’re comic book dorks.  We can go on and on about Marvel vs. DC, it’s kind of embarrassing.

Robin: Oh yeah, we can talk for hours about comic books, and the characters and plots therein.

Where can we find you on the web?
Robin: We have a lot of different places that you can find us. We’re both on Facebook (under our names) and Twitter (@Robin_Saxon and @KiddingAlex). Our blog is at:

Alex:  We’re very friendly and talkative!  The most fun part of this whole publishing process, I think, has been getting to know people who are in this writing world or who are interested in our book.  So definitely, come check us out, even if it’s just to tell us that Knievel should get her own spin-off.  (We know, we think so, too.)

Blood Howl is available from Dreamspinner.
Blurb: Gun for hire Jed Walker doesn’t figure it for a difficult job—a simple smash and grab retrieval—except his new client doesn’t want money or goods. He wants shy, gorgeous Redford Reed, a man who turns Jed’s world upside down inside a day. He is in no way prepared to fall hard and fast for his newest assignment.

Redford Reed lives his life locked in his grandmother’s house, haunted by a terrible curse and watching the world pass him by until Jed shows up, sent by a man who will stop at nothing to claim Redford as his own. Teaming up with Jed is Redford’s only chance at survival, but as the violence escalates, so does the tension between them. Even though they each finally have something to live for, now it’s going to take all Jed’s skill and every bit of courage Redford has just to stay alive.

Son of a bitch.” Slamming the Jeep into reverse, Jed skidded them backward, reaching behind him in the same motion to yank out the pistol he carried at the small of his back. Good thing his driver’s side window was gone. Saved him the trouble of having to roll the damn thing down. Leaning out, he started firing, grim and in control even as the Jeep lurched in reverse, winding drunkenly down the street.
The front left wheel was gone. Sparks were flying from where the rim was scraping along the concrete, but Jed just pushed the gas harder and bared his teeth as he sent another two bullets in through the advancing garbage truck’s windshield.
“Get down,” he barked at Redford, sparing half a glance in the rear view mirror. Shit. “Scratch that, get ready to jump out. Three. Two. Move your ass.” With a huge shove, he kicked Redford’s door open and unceremoniously dumped him out onto the pavement. Jamming his foot onto the gas with as much force as he had, he grinned manically at the driver. Fil had clearly sent them a welcome-home present. Jed had to return the favor; it was only polite.
Just before the Jeep impacted the gas pump, Jed jumped out, breath leaving him in a grunt as he rolled. With no time at all to feel the wrench in his shoulder, he was up and moving, running in the opposite direction.
The blast was a lovely thing. He stumbled a little when the edge of it lapped at his heels, but Jed managed to keep moving, only collapsing once he’d dragged Redford into an alley. “Always alleys with you,” he panted, sinking to the ground with a grimace. “I think you have a kink.”

Alex’s Author Bio (from DSP): Alex Kidwell, confirmed geek and bibliophile, lives in the middle of corn country, with partner Robin Saxon.  Alex relaxes by slaying dragons in MMOs, listening to music that can be sung along with in the shower, and enjoying BBC programming. 

Other than writing, Alex enjoys knitting and is currently attempting to learn how to knit in the round. There are plans for a future of cat hats, which Alex is certain will go over well with household-running felines, Starsky and Hutch.  Alex also indulges in too many cooking shows, while only owning one pan.

Visit Alex's blog,, Alex's Facebook,, or e-mail Alex at

Robin’s Author Bio (from DSP): Robin Saxon, born and bred in New Zealand, lives in the midwest, with partner Alex Kidwell. When not writing or daydreaming about ideas for more stories, Robin is usually found playing MMOs like World of Warcraft, reading, drawing, and fussing over their cats Starsky and Hutch.

In the rare times when they are not being pestered by their cats, Robin also listens to heavy metal music and enjoys everything from classics like Chaucer to urban fiction, as well as cooking vegetarian meals and inflicting them on Alex.

Visit Robin’s blog,, find Robin on Facebook, or e-mail Robin at

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