Xavier Axelson’s first novel, Velvet, was just published by Seventh Window. I decided to ask a few questions about the novel and Xavier’s writing process.
Tell us a little about how you came up with the idea for Velvet.
The last page of a fashion magazine inspired Velvet. There was a pair of velvet shoes accompanied by a write up about velvet, the 15th century, and how back then you could be killed for wearing it. I began doing research and discovered the laws of sumptuary, and the seed of a story was discovered.
The laws of sumptuary plays a pretty big role in Velvet. Can you tell us a bit about these laws.
The laws of sumptuary were enacted for a number of reasons, most involving the need to make clear the distinctions between levels of society. It was believed that if you couldn’t distinguish a peasant from a prince, moral chaos would certainly ensue.
The language in your books is strong and particular to each story and sets the tone while giving the reader an added sense of the surroundings. In Velvet, I feel this is your most lush use of language. How much thought do you give your word choices when writing? Does it just flow with the story?
It really just flows with the story. My brain tends to naturally gravitate towards the language tones in Velvet. I love the Elizabethan, and Medieval periods and find the language incredibly satisfying and lyrical. The characters also guide me. All I have to do is follow their lead and they usually give generously of their voices.
Some authors write one type of story stick with it, but you seem to bounce around the board. You’ve written a western, a pulpy police story, two paranormals (egads, a repeat!) and now a historical. Do you think this has helped you grow as a writer?
Well, to be fair, Velvet is historical in the sense that it is based on an idea in history, but I was sure to make the world a place out of time. I did not want to be held to the hard and fast rules of history.
I think everything I write helps me grow as a writer. With Velvet, I did learn to take control and not let the story become the boss. There were moments when I would tell myself, “Wait a minute, I’m writing this. I can fix whatever isn’t working, I can write my way out of whatever predicament I’ve gotten my characters into.”
Like in The Birches, there’s an almost magical quality to Velvet. Is this something we’re going to see more of in your fiction?
The idea of writing magically is unintentional, but apparently ingrained in my creative process, so I would have to say yes, it would be something that will pop up again in future writings.
All your titles (Earthly Concerns, The Incident and Velvet in particular) have a strong sense of story. Do you feel that story is more important than genre?
Genre is a myth. It’s like the idea you can only drink red wine with red meat. I wrote a zombie story called, “Cravings,” in between Earthly Concerns and Velvet, I’d never written anything in that genre before. I was stunned when it was accepted for publication. It was a challenge to see how far I could push myself. If a story comes to me, I write it, regardless of what genre it falls under.
Clothing plays a role in Velvet, do you pay attention to fashion?
I pay attention to design. I love architecture, art, fashion and the design process. I find fashion to be a facet of inspiration and expression, and I do read many magazines involving these interests.
What new projects do you have awaiting your fans?
A short story called “The Sons of Orion” will be part of the Tricks of the Trade anthology with Bold Strokes this January. I also have the first book of a trilogy submitted for publication and apparently, my column at examiner.com will continue its crazy journey with new interviews and fringe culture madness.