K. M. Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native and novelist living and working in Seattle. His work explores non-traditional settings within speculative fiction, bending and blending genres to create rich worlds and unique approachable characters.
CONNECT WITH K.M.
Welcome to SPFM, K.M.! Since we already have your bio, describe yourself in three words.
Writer. Explorer. Gadabout.
Summarize your book, The Stars Were Right, using one gif.
If you could recommend three self-published books, which would you choose and why?
RADIO by J. Rushing is a jazz-infused, opium-soaked, historical fantasy set in 1920s Paris that everyone should read.
We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson is probably cheating a bit since a traditional publisher picked up the series, but I found it a refreshing dark fantasy that began its life as a self-published novel.
Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike is a hilarious take on traditional fantasy. Not generally my thing, but Pike takes it to some refreshing places, and I appreciated that.
What is your favorite part, and your least favorite part of self-publishing?
I love the control I get with self-publishing, selecting my cover design, deciding the interior layout, even picking where I focus my marketing efforts. Going traditional means you surrender a lot of that control. If you have a solid vision from start to finish, then going indie can help you achieve what you have in mind. The opposite side of that coin is that in the end, it is all on you. The book succeeds or fails based on your decisions—you hired your team and made the decisions. That can add a lot of stress and pressure to the process.
What’s the first story you ever wrote?
I’ve been telling stories in one way or another since I was a kid—so this is tough to answer. But the first prose story I can remember writing was Star Trek: TNG fan fiction I wrote when I was in fifth or sixth grade. I don’t remember much about the plot or characters, but I remember it was very violent and incredibly gory. Neither of which are typical of TNG—honestly, thinking back to that, it’s probably no surprise I ended up working in dark urban fantasy and cosmic horror.
How did you know you wanted to write this genre?
I wanted to write a good story, and I chose not to confine myself to the idea of genre—which I realize sounds arrogant, but I don’t mean it that way. I love genre fiction. What I mean is, yes, my book closely conforms to the style of urban fantasy or supernatural suspense, but I also don’t like rigidly conforming to a single genre. I want to blend. My favorite fantasy stories exist on the periphery of something else. I’ve jokingly said that my books are “dark cyberpunk post-post-apocalyptic dystopian weird-western cosmic-horror urban-fantasy adventure,” but as much as I joke, it’s true. I found myself inspired, and I let myself run with ideas, eventually borrowing elements for each of those genres to create the world of The Stars Were Right.
How do you approach worldbuilding?
It’s got to serve the story—at least in the prose. Weaving it into the narrative takes a deft hand but, if done correctly, can create a rich experience for the reader. Too much of this, and you run the risk of info-dumps taking the readers down tangents that don’t matter to the plot or the character’s development. Keeping that worldbuilding tight and focusing on what is necessary to explain the world and advance the plot around your characters is critical.
That said, I think there is a place for worldbuilding outside of the story as well. Maps and illustrations are something many fantasy fans expect, and both can add to a world. But I believe there are many opportunities to do exciting stuff that expands a setting into non-traditional areas. The bookmarks, stickers, and buttons I make with each launch are designed to develop bits of the world. Beyond that, I’ve been trying other ways to worldbuild. In the last year, I started creating a series of looping animated vignettes I’m calling “Old Haunts” (Link: https://kmalexander.com/my-books/the-bell-forging-cycle/reader-resources/old-haunts/), each one focuses on various parts of the city of Lovat (the central setting in The Stars Were Right.) Viewing them isn’t necessary to enjoy the stories, but they can add a little something extra for readers who want more.
Describe a tavern that would be found in your literary world.
You found the place to be a narrow slice of tavern built out over the edge of Level Four above a vast market that crashes below in a cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. It’s easy to miss being nothing more than a scuffed door below a single shingle with the name “The Marsh Bed” burned into the wood in block Strutten. No windows. No exterior lights to indicate if it’s open. Even the next-door laundromat with its flickering neon “Sid’s Suds” sign appears livelier. Pushing through the entrance, you’ll find the interior as unassuming as the exterior. There ain’t much here. The scent of spilled beer and dried fish assails your nostrils. Orange clamshell sconces caked in grime are the only source of light for patrons. A single bar runs the length of the confined space, a door in the back covered in stickers and graffiti most likely leads to a bathroom. A tired jukebox sits just to one side. The jazz tune that warbles the damaged speakers sounds muffled as if the music was coming from another room. The cephel behind the bar clacks at you in its native tongue. Its huge eyes follow you as you step inside, and it gestures with one of its six arms the stools that line the single bar—the only seating in the place. The bartender is far from the watery world of the Sunk but is seemingly at home among the bottles of liquor and oddly shaped glasses that hunker in cabinets suspended from the ceiling. You sit in the gloom and order a drink. A whiskey seems like the most straightforward choice. Down a few stools, stoops a haggard dimanian with horns that curve from his cheeks like tusks. He nurses a flat beer and fiddles with a puddle on the bar counter—not the person you’re here to see. Beyond him is another figure, one with glowing virid eyes that emanate from a being more shadow than corporeal. The umbra leans back from around the dimanian hulk and raises a glass in your direction. Even in the darkness, you can feel its sly smile.
How do you celebrate when you finish your book?
Indie publishing is a succession of endings. You finish your rough draft. You finish your edits. You finish the final cover design. You finish the layout. I try to celebrate all of those. The rough draft is a big one for me—and usually, I get a fancy bottle of scotch and enjoy a dram or two before delving into rewrites. When I finally hit publish, that’s another big finish—something like that calls for a nice dinner out or even a weekend trip. Also, taking a few weeks for myself and not drowning in the story is beneficial.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Chasing other’s successes. That can manifest in a lot of ways. One would be comparing your book to someone else’s—every book is different, and that book’s journey will never be the same as another’s. It can take time to find the right audience. Just because it worked one way for one person doesn’t mean it’ll work the same for someone else. I also see people try to copy another writer’s process to the letter. Therein lies madness. There is no one way to write a good book. Everyone does it differently. Be willing to try anything and adapt as you go along. Glean what works for you. Discard what doesn’t. Finally, you have your own voice. Don’t cling to the style of another writer you admire. By all means, let yourself be influenced by the things you love, but also be willing to relax and write what works for you and serves the story you want to tell.
About The Stars Were Right (The Bell Forging Cycle #1)
Caravan Master Waldo Bell didn’t expect to return home a criminal. He just wanted a relaxing month off between jobs so he could explore the city of Lovat, enjoy a soft bed and a few decent meals. Instead, he’s arrested—accused of killing old friends and hacking off body parts.
Escaping custody and on the run, Wal becomes a citywide fugitive fighting to clear his name. As the body count rises, a shadowy assassin emerges as the true killer, and the trail begins to grow more and more bizarre.
The Stars Were Right combines mysteries and monsters, chases and cults, and an ancient evil in a world that is similar but not quite like our own.