Author Interview – Anne Lyle


Full-time web developer and passionate writer of “dashing swordsmen and scheming spies”, to use her own words, Anne Lyle is the latest addition to the Angry Robot Books crew.

Her debut novel The Alchemist of Souls, part of the Night’s Masque trilogy, is coming out later this year in March and promises to be a downright cracker. The sequel, The Merchant of Dreams, will be coming out next year.

Anne was kind enough to do an interview with us for the site, so let’s see how it all went down!

Interview with author Anne Lyle

Shadowhawk: Let’s start with something unconventional: what’s the one thing above all others that you dislike about author interviews?

Anne: Being asked questions I have no answer for.

Shadowhawk: “When dreams become reality…” is a phrase that is mentioned here and there quite a bit where debut authors are concerned. What was your dream growing up and has it become a reality?

Anne: I guess I always dreamed of getting a book published and seeing it on the shelves alongside my childhood heroes’ work – and that’s about to become a reality!

Shadowhawk: The Alchemist of Souls turns Elizabethan England on its head and mixes in lots of different things to deliver something unique and endearing. How did you come up with the idea for this fantastic novel?

Anne: I love science fiction, especially stories about aliens and first contact, but when writing I tend to gravitate towards fantasy because I love history too. The Alchemist of Souls is my attempt to combine the two.

Shadowhawk: A down-on-his-luck swordsman and a young costumier boy who is really a girl in disguise, what made you go ahead with Mal Catlyn and Coby? What did your characters tell you about them as you wrote the novel?

Anne: The characters grew out of the story scenario I came up with, about a non-human ambassador and his human bodyguard on a visit to London. As for what they told me, you’ll have to read the book to find out :)

Shadowhawk: Your novel is one of the most talked about debut novels of the year. That kind of attention can be quite overwhelming, so how do you deal with it? Do you warn away the crowd with a BlasTech DL-44 or a finely-crafted rapier?

Anne: Not at all – I love being the centre of attention. Though in case any would-be stalkers get the wrong idea, I should point out that I have three burly Scottish brothers-in-law in the police force!

Shadowhawk: Being historical fiction, a lot of research undoubtedly went into the making of the novel. How was this experience for you and how did it change the final look of the novel?

Anne: I had a lot of fun researching this novel: I visited the Tower of London twice, and bought (and read) loads of books about the period. I think setting a book in a real historical period gives it a depth and resonance that you can’t get from an invented world, no matter how thoroughly developed.

Shadowhawk: What was it like to land a three-book deal with Angry Robot Books and how did you celebrate the occasion?

Anne: It was, unsurprisingly, awesome! I was really keen to work with them because they are so innovative and passionate about genre fiction. I can’t honestly remember how I celebrated, though – probably a bottle of champagne, knowing me.

Shadowhawk: What is one piece of writing advice you have taken away from the writing of The Alchemist of Souls?

Anne: Write with passion but also with discipline. Without passion, your story will be flat and lifeless; without discipline, it won’t be as good as you could make it. You need the book to be good on both counts or no-one is going to want to pay you money for it. And as Samuel Johnson quite rightly said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money”.

Shadowhawk: What has been the biggest influence on your novel and your writing over the years?

Anne: I think just the cumulative effect of wide and extensive reading, both fiction (within SFF and in other genres) and non-fiction.

Shadowhawk: What’s the best thing about writing genre fiction? Is the term “genre fiction” really as confining as some people make it out to be or is it really as expansive some OTHER people make it out to be?

Anne: I don’t find genre fiction at all confining. On the contrary, SFF is a genre where literally anything is possible.

Shadowhawk: The Merchant of Dreams, coming out in the second half of the year, is the sequel to Alchemist of Souls. What can we expect from it?

Anne: A large part of The Merchant of Dreams takes place in my favourite city, Venice – so expect lots more intrigue and swashbuckling action, and even more dark magicks and steamy romance :)

Shadowhawk: Your two favourite pieces of genre fiction (in two different genres) and why?

Anne: Lords and Ladies, by Terry Pratchett – it’s clever and funny and also a wonderful pastiche of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. If “classics” counts as a genre, then Persuasion, by Jane Austen – it’s the most romantic of her novels, I think.

Shadowhawk: Any favourites for writing music? How about music in general?

Anne: When writing I prefer to listen to instrumental stuff: movie soundtracks such as “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and music of the period, e.g. John Dowland. I don’t listen to a lot of music otherwise; I prefer peace and quiet.

Shadowhawk: You are a web-developer by day and a sword-swinging, play-acting writer by night. I’m sure there is a story with conflict of massive proportions here. Is it a Peter Parker/Spider-man story or a Bruce Wayne/Batman one?

Anne: Heh, not really. The sword-swinging and play-acting is all in my imagination – I’m more Walter Mitty than Bruce Wayne.

Shadowhawk: How important do you think is having a social media presence for authors and having a good rapport with book bloggers?

Anne: It’s not absolutely essential, but I think anyone who doesn’t get involved is really missing out. I’ve met so many lovely people online (and we’ve often gone on to be friends in real life), and in a world that’s increasingly isolated and impersonal, social media brings readers and writers together as never before.

Shadowhawk: Lastly, what would you say is the one event that has completely changed your outlook on life in general and writing in particular?

Anne: I honestly have no answer for that one. I’m not aware of any one life-changing event that’s changed my writing; it’s more an accumulation of decades of experience.

Shadowhawk: Anything else you would like to add?

Anne: Just that I shall be attending several conventions this year and probably doing some signings as well, so do pop along to my blog and check out the calendar – or sign up for the newsletter if you want advance notice of events.


And that’s all we have for now people! There will be some more author interviews in the future, with long-timers and newcomers alike. Stay tuned.

You can follow Anne on Twitter ( #!/AnneLyle ) or through her website ( ) or through her Angry Robot page ( ).

You can check out our review of The Alchemist of Souls here. It is a double review by Bane of Kings and me.

– Shadowhawk


Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.