Author Alan Baxter has been called the love child of Jim Butcher and Stephen King–no faint praise for an urban fantasy writer. In this week’s Geek Speaks…Fiction! Alan talks about two of his passions, writing and martial arts, and how his Alex Caine series brought them both together!
Writing the Alex Caine series gave me the chance to indulge my two passions at maximum geek. Those two passions are writing and martial arts. I’ve studied various martial arts for 35 years and kung fu has been an integral part of my life for almost all of that time. Naturally that’s leaked into much of my writing and I’ve developed something of a reputation for writing great fight scenes. I’ve had a lot of fights (almost all in competition, of course) so it’s something I can draw on, and that whole “write what you know” adage has weight in this instance.
But with Alex Caine, I got to write a character who was first and foremost a martial artist, so while I still got write loads of cool fight scenes into the trilogy, I also got to explore everything else it is to be a martial artist. Alex Caine isn’t a version of me by any means, but he has had a similar upbringing in the arts and lives with a similar martial philosophy.
Martial arts is so much more than fighting. Someone once referred to people who study the traditional martial arts as “athletic nerds, except the ones who aren’t very athletic”. Which is a rather mean way of saying that there’s a lot of nerdery in traditional martial arts, in the best possible way. It’s not just about learning the physical actions of attack and defence. It’s about learning more complicated and advanced applications, it’s about remembering long and intricate forms of movement that can be repeated over and over to develop skill, and then used to teach others. It’s about understanding physiology, mechanics of movement, healing and rehab, mental focus and acuity. There’s as much meditation in the martial arts as there is action.
But it’s also about the philosophy–often referred to as mo duk (wu de in Mandarin), or martial virtue. This is where the philosophies of martial arts overlap into every aspect of life. The idea that surviving day to day is a fight in itself and it’s important to fight smart, not hard. The idea that respect, dignity, kindness, charity, calmness and more all come before the base acts of combat. The idea that excelling in martial arts is first and foremost an absolute outlet for self-expression and personal development before anything else.
With the character of Alex Caine, mired in an ever-increasing maelstrom of horror against monsters and evil men alike, I got to explore all these things with his character. And all the flaws he had in those things that he needed to overcome, battling himself along with those external enemies.
Among the best parts for me was the voice of Alex’s Sifu (his kung fu teacher) regularly in his head, as Alex remembered lessons that seemingly were about combat but which applied to every aspect of the daily struggle. And only moreso to Alex’s ongoing dramas with monsters and mayhem throughout the trilogy.
That’s what made these books so exciting for me to write, that greater depth of character and its implications for all of us. Hopefully, it makes the trilogy exciting to read as well.
Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes supernatural thrillers and urban horror liberally mixed up with crime and noir, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.