Welcome Alex Maher to the Book Country Member Spotlight! Alex lives in Australia with his family. His most recent project on Book Country is THE INVISIBLE PEOPLE, which was an October Editor’s Pick. Alex shares what drew him to writing horror, and the mistakes he made when he first started writing. Connect with Alex on Book Country.
Janet Umenta: What were your favorite books in school?
Alex Maher: Hmm, tough one. At school, we were forced to read all kinds of stuff that I was not interested in. I can’t honestly remember reading anything at school, novel wise. Home was different. I was quite a bookworm for fiction as a kid.
The first ‘real’ novel I read was LORD OF THE SPIDERS by Harry Harrison. I was about eight or nine. I loved it. I then went on to read other adventures/fantasy. Stuff like BATTLE CIRCLE and the big four ‘Tolkiens,’ but then I found SciFi. By age twelve, I was into Niven and Pournelle. FOOTFALL and LEGACY OF HEOROT come to mind.
As a gangly 14-year old, my dad gave me a book called TITUS GROAN by Mervyn Peake, a trilogy which will stay with me for the rest of my life. Steerpike is, to me anyway, the best of the best when it comes to being a villain.
But then I found horror. I’ll never forget the day. It was a hot summer day, and I had severe gastro. With nothing to read, I grabbed the first book off the shelf. It was James Herbert’s THE RATS.
You could say that it literally scared the crap out of me.
JU: What mistakes did you make when you first started writing?
AM: Since I only started writing seriously 11 months ago, I still consider myself starting out.
I guess the first piece I ever wrote was SOULWEAVER – it’s on here for you all to point and laugh at. I’m thinking the biggest mistake I made with it was taking on a project FAR bigger than I have talent for. I am still going to finish that one off – but I’m ‘gunna need me some learnin’ first before I tackle that bad boy again.
My SPaG is awful, and I have very little attention to detail. However, I have been told by more than a few that I can tell a decent story (once all of the SPaG issues have been ironed out). Also, I’ve been told that I can write characters that feel real. So I’ll take that as a win.
Fortunately, I’ve been in the creative world for a long time, and I have a pretty thick skin. The feedback I got from here was…well, lets just say that it made me stop and look at doing some study, which has been a very good thing.
So with plenty of encouragement, I’ve stuck at it with the hope that one day someone may read something that I’ve written and hit me with a “hey, that was cool. I liked that.” Then I’d be a happy little vegemite.
I’m not out to be the next King or Herbert. I’m just having fun trying to stay sane on a long train ride to and from work everyday.
AM: Well, after seeing the urban decay and the – nah look, to be honest I was at work, completely distracted and banged it together in the space of about ten minutes. It had about as much thought as making a cup of coffee. Sorry to disappoint!
It will more than likely evolve into something else as TIP evolves with it.
I find that when the writing muse is down at the pub, having a break, I’ll be doing something else creative be that recording music, shooting and editing video, or creating a cover for a story stuck in my head (looking at you Mr. Barone).
Actually for a bit of fun, here’s a link to a super scary short movie (with some fabulous action) I made with the kids last year.
JU: What drew you to write horror?
AM: After the great toilet incident of 94 (possibly more horrific for the plumber actually!), I read all the horror books I could get my hands on. Stephen King, James Herbert and Clive Barker come to mind.
I still love the cleverness of SciFi, but I’m not clever enough to write it and make it believable.
I’m too cynical for romance – my romantic couple would be walking along the beach at sunset and step in a dog turd.
Erotica… I know it’s a big market – thrusting off the climactic success of the novel that shall not be named, but seriously! “Take this throbbing love pump and…” No… just no…
I’ve tried a couple of times to do fantasy, but they just come out as pure cheese and comical. Plus, Mr. Martin has that genre covered.
Horror is just what came out when I sat down, sliced open a vein and started writing something that I would want to read and what I thought my wife and sister would enjoy. They are also both King fans. But I also wanted a distinct Aussie feel to it.
Following the advice of ‘write what you know,’ the opening Dan scene (chapter 2) in TIP, is a correct and accurate portrayal of what happened a few months back. I found that life around me was much more horrifying than anything I could think of, so that became the basis for the story. From that simple concept, TIP has kind of taking on a life of its own and I’m not entirely sure where it’s going.
JU: In THE INVISIBLE PEOPLE, Dan wins the lottery. What would you do if you won the lottery?
AM: Heh, I have no friggin idea. Stop sitting on the damn train every morning and evening for 2 hours each way would be the first thing. Upgrade this bloody laptop to get rid of this “F@#$ing rainbow spinning ball” would be the next.
Honestly, I think I’d try to help people – pay out my parents’ mortgage and get out of the rental house that we live in. Get all the family set up so that they will be all ok, then see what good I can do with whats left. Dan and I are very similar. Although, I’m not sure if I’d want to be in Dan’s shoes knowing what’s in store for him (but that’s all your getting for that – no spoilers here!).
About Alex Maher
Alex was born and raised in England. When he was sixteen, his family moved to Australia where he learned how to surf, joined a rock band and rode his motorcycle to shows. Alex currently lives with his wife of thirteen years, three beautiful kids, two dogs, three cats, several parrots and a fish tank. Connect with Alex on Book Country.