Today we travel to rural Somerset in the UK to chat with A.L. Lester about how chickens, plotting, Kew Gardens, growing up on a horticultural nursery, making butter-lamps, Roobard and Custard, and an inability to quit come together as part of their past and current life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Ally and I write as A. L. Lester. I live in rural Somerset in the UK, on the edge of the Quantock Hills with Mr AL, our two children, a variety of chickens and animals and an unsuccessful permaculture vegetable garden.
In which genre do you write?
I write queer, paranormal, historical romance.
How many published books do you have?
Three, with a fourth coming out in April.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I’ve always written, but I didn’t hit my stride and find a publisher until 2017.
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
I’m not sure I have any interesting ones…I can never remember the difference between it’s/its and I loathe plotting. But they’re not interesting quirks, per se, more irritating ones, I’m sure my editor would say!
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
Dachshund. Morris the Emotional Support Dachshund is my real life mascot.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
Empty of people wanting me to brush their hair or find their socks or remember whether they’ve paid the gas bill.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading a really fab gay historical romance by Lillian Francis called Under the Radar. It’s set on a WW2 submarine and the details are amazing.
List 3 interesting facts about yourself.
· I can pluck a chicken in twenty minutes
· I have no sense of smell
· I used to run a farmer’s market stall selling eggs.
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
My most recent book is called The Flowers of Time and is a romance between a lady botanist and a non-binary explorer set in the Himalayas in the 1780s. The idea was jump-started by a picture of some 1920s plant-collectors from Kew Gardens. I grew up on a horticultural nursery, so I felt very drawn to the whole botanical thing.
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
I knit, I home educate my frighteningly articulate twelve year old, I care for my life-limited eleven year old.
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Dorothy Dunnett. I’d want to ask her about her historical research for the Lymond series.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
That I’m non-binary. The Flowers of Time is basically me working that through!
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?
I’ve got a really nice circle of online friends from social media.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?
Erm. I made my own butter for the butter-lamps in The Flowers of Time. I separated the milk, made the butter, clarified it and then used it with a wick for light.
At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?
Be less bothered about what other people think about you – just crack on and be yourself.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
Roobarb and Custard would probably be most realistic if I’m perfectly honest. Slapstick comedy and a dog and cat creating chaos.
Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?
Very much so. I believe very strongly in reincarnation and karma. Not karma in the ‘instant payback’ kind of way, but I believe that we get back what we put out, eventually, and that life is a series of learning experiences. If you don’t learn a lesson the first time the opportunity arises then you are presented with more opportunities to learn as you go through your life.
I think this is why I find questions like ‘what one thing would you change about your life if you could’ so hard. I wouldn’t change anything, really, not even the bad stuff, because it’s all shaped me in to the person I am and given me the life I have today.
If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?
· Why did you kill that chicken?
· Why do you keep digging a hole out of the corner of the garden and getting stuck down that badger hole?
· Why do you only jump on the bed when you’re muddy?
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
Probably my inability to quit, even when that would be the best thing to do. I just keep plodding on and a lot of the time it doesn’t occur to me that I could give up!
What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?
Rural places with lots of trees and streams. But I don’t mind too much where, so long as it’s in nature somewhere. I love Exmoor and the Quantocks, which is where I grew up. Similar places really resonate with me.
Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.
In the morning, sunny but not hot, somewhere I could sit outside in nature with a pot of coffee and write, without interruption.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a romance set in the 1970s between a disabled farmer and a disgraced stockbroker. I’m about ten thousand words in and I’m aiming to have it finished by the end of March.
Tell us about your most recent book.
The Flowers of Time is the third in my Lost in Time magical universe. It’s a paranormal-historical-romantic suspense set in England and the Himalayas in the 1780s. It’s a love story between Edie, a determined lady botanist and Jones, a non-binary explorer. They travel across the mountains searching for rare flowers and trying to work out what killed Jones’ father three years before. There are monsters and yaks and a dog and mysterious caves and kissing. You can find it on all the major ebook platforms!
It was great having you be a part of MTA, Ally! I listened to the clip of you reading a chapter, and what a lovely voice you have. Captivating! All the best to you! –Camilla
Jones is determined to find out what caused the unexpected death of her father whilst they were exploring ancient ruins in the Himalayas. She’s never been interested in the idea of the marriage bed, but along with a stack of books and coded journals he’s left her with the promise she’ll travel back to England for the first time since childhood and try being the lady she’s never been.
Edie and her brother are leaving soon on a journey to the Himalayas to document and collect plants for the new Kew Gardens when she befriends Miss Jones in London. She’s never left England before and is delighted to learn that the lady will be returning to the mountains she calls home at the same time they are planning their travels. When they meet again in Srinagar, Edie is surprised to find that here the Miss Jones of the London salons is ‘just Jones’ the explorer, clad in breeches and boots and unconcerned with the proprieties Edie has been brought up to respect.
A non-binary explorer and a determined lady botanist make the long journey over the high mountain passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? It’s a trip fraught with perils for both of them, not least those of the heart.
Where to buy Flowers of Time: https://books2read.com/flowersoftime
The first book, Lost in Time, is currently free for the next few days as part of a bundle the publisher has put together collectively for people stuck at home. They are mostly queer romance: https://www.jms-books.com/free-c-440/
Flowers of Time booktrailer:
A.L. Lester reading an excerpt of The Flowers of Time:
Find books: https://allester.co.uk/lost-in-time/
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