Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interview: J.L. Avey

I know present my interview with J.L. Avery, alternate history enthusiast and author of An Alternate History of the Netherlands:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Not a whole lot to tell. Aside from writing, my life is full of working, dancing (plenty of that around Seattle) and sleeping, usually in that order. I try to put aside a day of the week to do some writing.

What got you interested in alternate history?

Back when I was in school, I used to draw maps instead of taking notes. All sorts of alternate campaigns and empires. I recall colonial America and Europe being the usual subject. I'd have Massachusetts  New York and Virginia build their empires, collapse into smaller states and fight their wars.

What is An Alternate History of the Netherlands about?

Simply put, it's a world where the Dutch maintained dominance of the world's oceans. It goes back to the Dutch Revolt, where the Netherlands were originally divided by sectarian differences; Catholic south and Protestant north. In the book, nationality overcomes religious differences and all the Provinces unite to expel the Spanish. With seventeen Provinces' worth of population and resources, that would put the Netherlands in a stronger position...provided they can keep religion as a private matter.

What inspired you to write the novel?

It all goes back to Europa Universalis II, where I played as the Dutch. First I kicked the Portuguese out of Brazil, then kicked the British out of India.

What sources were particularly helpful when researching for the novel?

As much as I don't like to admit it, I used Wikipedia for the initial research back in 2008. I sought out other sources on the Internet for population data and other statistics over the centuries.

Who designed the cover?

I did.

Do you have any other projects you are working on?

I have a few science-fantasy novels I'm going to eventually rewrite like I did with AHN. For alternate history, I'm putting all my effort into Moonlab. It's what happens if NASA had a bigger budget and the Soviet moonshot still grew strong. Instead of a space station in orbit (Skylab), NASA places a lab on the moon (Moonlab). Another idea is a book about the Great Lakes Front of the Great War, including the Battle of Mackinac and the Battle of Lake Huron.

The Great Lakes Front? Is this about an alternate history where the US is on the side of the Central Powers?

Yes. What I'm writing will focus on the two battles already mentioned, since the background of how the United States got in that position in the first place could take up a book or two.

What are you reading now?

Nemesis, I think it's #13 in the Horus Heresy. I just finished rereading the Chronicles of Solace, which explored the dark side of terraforming (and the author had very valid points on the subject).  I also have the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs sitting around on the table.

Do you have advice for would-be authors?

Other than don't give up? Well, I'd suggest doing what I did, and self-publishing. Printed books cost too much to start producing. You have to print them, bind them, and so on so forth. I worked in the printing industry for seven years, so I picked up a thing or two on that subject. As for book publishers, it's like they're all looking for the next Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter or whatever big hit is out there. If you hit it big in self-publishing, they might notice you, otherwise they aren't going to risk the investment.

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