10 questions: Alys Earl, author of Time's Fool

Today's fellow Unbound-signed author is Alys Earl. No shilly-shallying today, it's straight on with the interview:

AK author pic.jpg

1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

I am Alys Earl, and my book – Time’s Fool - is about what happens when the supernatural invades the normal, or, perhaps, when we’re so hungry for something different that we invite those things into our lives.

More specifically, it’s about Steven and Sophia - two young people who experience a coming of age when they befriend a mysterious stranger, and about a monster who still remembers what it was like to be a man. It’s about what happens when those two storylines cross.

2. Why should folk read your book?

Because, as well as being a dark, gripping horror novel, it also captures that moment in early adulthood where the future is entirely uncertain, when you are still carrying all the dreams of childhood, but are suddenly aware the world is a much larger and more uncaring place than you’ve ever realised.

3. What’s the appeal of your book?  

It’s a love-song to the Gothic – but it is not an uncritical one. Time’s Fool has all the concerns, themes, and atmosphere the Victorian supernatural fiction, but it questions the place of those things in the modern – and postmodern - world. Plus, it’s spooky and a bit sexy, and that’s always fun.

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy? 

Currently, it’s fully funded and in editorial development with Unbound – which means you can still pre-order it, and be listed as a supporter, on their website www.unbound.com/books/times-fool. However, it will be available to buy online and in bookshops in the autumn.

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

I wish I could make this sound exciting and glamorous! Basically, I get the kids to school, tidy up downstairs, make a cup of tea and then shut myself in the box room to tap out words or do admin until it’s time to pick them up again. I tend to sort out all the plot problems on that second walk, and then can’t work on them at least until my partner gets home, or the sprogs are in bed. That’s the ideal conditions – though I’ve been known to write literally anywhere and on anything I’ve got to hand.

Some days I write a lot - others I just stare at the screen for hours on end wondering why I chose to do this to myself, but either way, I still prefer it to the admin.

Back before I was a parent, I used to write in the evenings with a glass of wine or whisky, or pull an all-nighter if I got into the zone. I miss that sometimes.

6. Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

This is going to sound terrible, but I don’t read books about writing. I’ve always been of the opinion that for every opinion about it, there is an equal and opposite opinion that has just as much in its favour. Besides that, I am really argumentative and hate being told what to do, so I used to get very frustrated, and it was just better for everyone that I stopped. What I do like, though, is writing which deals with creation thematically – so I’m going to go with Baudolino by Umberto Eco, which is an absolutely wonderful book about the power of lies.

7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

I don’t think any book has ever had so profound an effect on me as Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber – it’s justly famous, so I probably don’t need to go too deeply in to why, but it simply showed me what could be done language, by story, just by everything. It’s an entirely perfect collection of short stories.

On a similar note, I read Poppy Z Brite’s Lost Souls at exactly the right age, and it was like a punch to the face, to be honest. I don’t think I’ve ever read another book – besides those two – that have actually taken my breath away. I just sat there, staring at the page thinking, “Is fiction allowed to do this?” So, the Carter was possibility, but Brite was permission.

And, finally, going a bit further back, Robin Jarvis’ The Wyrd Museum series – especially the final book, The Fatal Strand was really what set me on this path. I already wanted to be a writer, I have done since forever, but I wanted to do it like that. I wanted to give people the kind of nightmares that gave me – I wanted to make that rich, glowing sense of magic and dread that pervades his work. I still read the series periodically, and it still has that power over me.

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

Nooo! My idea of hell is not having many, many books available at all times! But the ones I couldn’t live without?

Little, Big by John Crowley – people don’t seem to know this one so well as they should do, and it’s really hard to do justice with words. Part myth cycle, part generational family saga, part apocalyptic novel, almost part philosophical mediation, it is a book I could go back to endlessly and never tire of. It tells of the interactions between the Faerie Court and the descendants of a visionary architect, in New York State over the course of the twentieth century and if that sounds really bizarre, then you’re partway to understanding how strange and wonderful this book is. Plus, Crowley’s prose is gorgeous, which is always a plus.

A much more recent one is A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. This one goes right to the heart – AI and genofixing in an imperfect galaxy, a novel about rights, identity, family, and home. I don’t think another book has ever moved me so much.

Then, American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Everyone knows about that now so I don’t need to tell you why it’s so brilliant, but it’s still my favourite book.

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

I nicked this from Jane Casey, because she said it to me. Stop apologising for your work.

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

M R James for the student loans generation – what happens when you leave it to the Arts and Humanities students to face the vampires.

Social media contacts:

@alysdragon on Twitter and AlysEarl1 on Facebook

Unbound URL: unbound.com/books/times-fool/

Previous publications:

Scars on Sound – a collection of illustrated ghost stories with a folk horror theme. Available here


Huge thanks to Alys for playing along. Anyone who recommends Eco's Baudolino is alright by me. Hopefully, you find Time's Fool intriguing, and you'll get yourself a copy. The book can be pre-ordered here.   


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