Interview with Alistair at We Love Quality Books

WeLoveQuality Books: Alistair, many Congratulations on the release of your book, “Dream Reaper”. Please tell us more about it.

Alistair Cross: Dream Reaper is about an angel on a mission to save a woman’s life. He ends up with amnesia after crash-landing to earth during a severe storm. As he tries to uncover his lost identity, his latent supernatural powers begin tipping the natural balance, drawing the attention of dark entities who want to harvest his soul – and wreak havoc among the townspeople while they’re at it.

WeLoveQuality Books: How did writing happen to you?

Alistair Cross: First, I have to say I really like the wording of that question, because that’s how it seems – like writing is something that happens to you. I love it.

To answer the question, writing happened to me after I’d come out of a very dark and difficult period in my life. It caused me to reevaluate my priorities and ask myself what would truly make me happy. I always knew that I wanted to do something artistic. I’ve never really been comfortable with classic male definitions. I’m not athletic, I can’t fix a car, and I’d rather read a book than watch a ballgame. So I’d already tried my hand in a few of the arts. But it always came back to writing for me. That was the only thing that allowed me full, endless expression. After taking a hard honest look at what I really wanted from life. I made the very simple decision to fully commit myself to writing.

WeLoveQuality Books: An urban fantasy must me a tough genre. What made you take up the challenge?

Alistair Cross: I never thought about it one way or the other. I don’t really “do” genre. Dream Reaper is an urban fantasy simply because that’s what “they” say it is. I don’t plot as much as some writers. I enjoy discovering the story on the page as I write it, so I never sit down and say I’m going to write a horror novel, or a romance novel, or any kind of a novel. I just sit down and let the characters tell me their story; I often feel more like a scribe than an author. I know that sounds a little ridiculous, but there’s no better way to explain it.

Book cover for Dream Reaper by Alistair Cross: The cover is a pale man wearing a black top hat with smoke billowing from his mouth.

WeLoveQuality Books: We have met some authors who hate reading while there are others who love it! Which category do you fall into?

Alistair Cross: I absolutely love reading and for me, reading and writing are mutually exclusive. My love of reading inspires me to write and my love of writing makes me want to keep reading. I’m not sure I could do one without the other.

WeLoveQuality Books: Who is your favorite author?

Alistair Cross: That’s impossible to answer. I have many favorites who thrill me in different ways. I love the beauty and darkness of Anne Rice, the atmospheric prowess of Tamara Thorne, the razor-sharp plotting of Michael Crichton, the horror of Stephen King, the psycho-sexy badass-ness of Laurell K. Hamilton, and the Oh-No-You-Didn’t shockers of V.C. Andrews, just to name a few.

WeLoveQuality Books: Did you have to do a lot of research for ‘Dream Reaper’? What were the tools that you used?

Alistair Cross: I did do a lot of research. Some of it was pretty tame, such as reading up on demonology and learning about rock collecting, guitar playing, and hairdressing, but some of it required a little more involvement.

In the book, there’s a nightclub called Mephistopheles, where antagonist Gremory Jones and his team of demons have taken up shop. Mephistopheles is a strip club that incorporates a lot of magic tricks into the shows. It allows the bad guys to show off their demonic prowess while seducing and corrupting the locals. To get the atmosphere of this club down, I spent a lot of time in strip joints watching performances and making friends with the dancers.

It felt a lot more like play than work and the best part was that I got to write off the money I spent as business and research expenses. It’s pretty tough being a writer …

WeLoveQuality Books: Who are the central characters of the novel ‘Dream Reaper’ and which one among them do you like the most?

Alistair Cross: Dream Reaper is a character-dense novel, but the core players are Madison O’Riley, a young business owner who wants a simple life despite the mystifying hand she’s recently been dealt; Nick Grayson, the new chief of police who’s desperately trying to outrun his past and change the course of his future; Beverly Simon, a recently-divorced psychic who finds herself on the battleground of good and evil; and of course, Alejandro, the handsome and unusually naive young man who has no memory of his past. Also, there’s Gremory Jones, a Victorian-attired door-to-door retailer who sells sin from a briefcase, spreading fear and breeding corruption while setting a sinister trap to ensnare the amnesiac angel, Alejandro. Of the many players in this novel, Gremory Jones and Alejandro are my favorites, for very different reasons.

Writing the character of Alejandro was unique because his role in this story (and the fact that he has amnesia), made it impossible for me to go digging into his past to figure him out. I had to deal with him in the present moment, learning about him as he made his way through the pages and allowing him to reveal his nature to me at his own pace. One of the first things I realized about him is that, above all else, he’s a hero – someone with such a fierce sense of right and wrong that he literally loses himself trying to amend the injustices he sees around him. This made him incredibly compelling to me because I think we all sometimes fantasize about taking justice into our own hands.

Another part of Alejandro that I love is his youthful innocence. Because he’s new to the human experience, when I stepped into Alejandro’s skin, I had to look at the world from a fresh perspective. I had to wonder what he might think of contemporary clothing, of modern architecture and technology. I learned that he loves television – especially reality TV singing competitions – and is baffled by cell phones and social media. He also isn’t fond of wearing clothing of any kind. I found these things enchanting, and writing Alejandro was a lot like going back to my own childhood and re-experiencing things for the first time.

My other favorite character is Gremory Jones. When I wrote this book, I really wanted to create something that would take the reader away from ordinary life, and if I succeeded in that, it’s because of Gremory and his gang of infernal accomplices. Gremory was created in a blaze of spontaneity about a year and a half before I began Dream Reaper. I knew right away what he was like and what he did. I knew he wore a top hat and a trench coat, shiny black shoes, and that he smoked from a long black cigarette holder. I also knew that he was a true lunatic and that allowed me to go wild, which I love. I wrote him with manic intensity, always eager to see the next trick he had up his sleeve – or rather, in his briefcase. But by the time I’d finished the novel, I felt I’d only scratched his surface and upon completion, I immediately began another book (a series of books, actually) that will allow me to dive more deeply into him.

Gremory is a trickster and, to me, he represents illusion. I also think he’s a metaphor for greed. He hails from the California town of Moonfall (the fictional setting for Tamara Thorne’s novel of the same name, which she graciously allowed me to incorporate into Gremory’s life story.) He looks human, speaks like a human and, at times, is even handsome and charming – but under the mask, he’s a monster. He’s both dashing and seductive and heinous and corrupt. This is because – as it is in the real world – fantasy and reality are very different things. You finally get what you want and it costs you everything you care about. You prick your finger admiring the rose. The sanctuary becomes the asylum. This is what Gremory Jones signifies for me, and as a writer, the possibilities of that are endless. There’s no way I could possibly contain him to just one novel.

WeLoveQuality Books: What would you say is the USP of your latest novel?

Alistair Cross: I’d say this novel’s unique selling point is its blend of fantasy, horror, comedy, and romance. At its heart, it’s a story about the battle between good and evil and while I expressed that in the most straightforward way (angels and demons) I wanted to surround that theme with more unconventional elements. Dream Reaper also deals in demons of the personal variety, such as alcoholism, envy, greed, and obsession. I set it in a quiet little tourist trap in California called Prominence, which I thought would be the perfect breeding ground for an outbreak of evil.

WeLoveQuality Books: How is ‘Dream Reaper’ being received around the world?

Alistair Cross: Overall, very well. There’s always some fear that when your book goes out to meet its audience, it will be received with negative – or worse, indifferent – responses, but I’ve been lucky with Alejandro. I’m grateful to have such kind readers. It’s always a risk when you draw outside of the lines and deviate from the proven formula – and Alejandro is a definite deviation – but I think it’s important to stay true to yourself as an author, regardless of how you think it might be received.

WeLoveQuality Books: Do you believe in Angels and Devils? And do you believe that there is a God watching over us?

Alistair Cross: This is a difficult question because it’s a complicated topic and no matter how I answer, I run the risk of alienating readers – so I have to start off by stating that my opinions on the subject are just that: my opinions. I respect all points of view and am not interested in influencing, demeaning, or challenging anyone else’s beliefs.

Do I believe in God? Simply put, yes, I do. I have to – and not because I’m afraid of eternal damnation if I say I don’t, but because, the world as I see it is too complex, too unlikely, and too precise to be explained away by any means other than something orderly and intelligent. Intelligent is a key word here because while I don’t subscribe to a religion of any variety, the critical part of my mind can’t accept that the universe ebbs and flows according to accidental, mindless energy that just so happens to operate so efficiently that it can support millions of forms of life. For me, it seems oversimplified – absurd, even – to think that our bodies, our minds, our lives and our planet are all just happy accidents.

As I see it, our very existence is proof of God, and if you don’t believe you’ve ever seen a “miracle,” learn about how your body works – it’s simply too remarkable to be uncalculated, or go stare at the sky and try to imagine what’s out there, where it ends, and where it begins. On a general basis, I take these things for granted, and that’s perfectly natural, but when I slow down and really look at what’s around me, I can’t help thinking there must be something behind the curtain.

As for devils and demons, no – I’m not a believer, and this is one of the difficulties I have with conventional religion. It puts far too much focus on evil for my taste. On one hand, they tell you, “Speak of the devil and the devil appears,” and on the other hand, they want to continually remind you that the same devil is lurking around every corner, eager to tempt you into the evildoing that will ultimately cost you your immortal soul. And that doesn’t hold with me for a few reasons. Firstly, to be honest, the concept of an incorporeal being who spends his eternal days vying for the souls of mortals is a little too silly for my sensibilities, and secondly, because I think life is daunting enough as it is, without the need for more created fear. And supposing the devil does exist, a fear-based life isn’t a life I want to live. So, if there is such thing as a devil, I have no relationship to him and no consciousness of him, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

In my writing life, however, it’s a different story. Angels and demons are wonderful literary tools because they represent the battle between good and evil which is a part of our history, of our daily lives. Personally, I measure good and evil according to a sense of inner-directed morality, and in my work, I’m able to tap directly into that well of emotional, spiritual, and psychological material through age-old symbols that are easily recognized by the masses.

WeLoveQuality Books: When you write, are there times the thought process makes you emotional? How do you handle the outburst of feeling?

Alistair Cross: I believe in writing by instinct and by going as deep as you can into whatever emotion you’re confronted with, and often, this leads to discomfort. I’ve written things that have made me emotional, yes, and sometimes it’s difficult to get through the scene. An example of this from Dream Reaper would be when my heroine, Madison O’Riley, is very nearly sexually assaulted by a local cop who’s developed an obsession with her.

I felt this scene was pivotal in order to turn the corners the plot needed to turn, but as I was writing it, I found myself uneasy about it. There are certain things I close the door on – things I won’t walk the reader through – and sexual abuse is one of them. A part of this is because I don’t believe people want to see these kinds of crimes up close and personal, but another reason is, very simply, because I’m not comfortable with it myself. As a writer, I try always to be bold and unflinching but there are times when I have to just kind of walk away and leave the details to the readers’ imaginations.

Another matter that can make an author emotional is killing off a character that they’ve become strongly attached to. When you write a novel, you spend a great deal of time in the skins of your characters and even though you understand logically that these people are fictional, you also realize that many of them represent parts of yourself and that in some way, you become them – or maybe they become you. Either way, in those cases, putting a character through something painful can be pretty emotional. The good news is that when this happens, it creates a sense of vindication in the writer – it propels him or her to bring about justice, which is always very satisfying to the reader.

Black and white image of author Alistair Cross

WeLoveQuality Books: Apart from writing what else are you passionate about?

Alistair Cross: There are a lot of things I enjoy – rock music, horror movies, cheese – but if there’s anything I’m truly passionate about outside of reading and writing, it’s my belief in the importance of following your dreams.

As someone who could have just as easily spent my life punching a time clock, I feel very strongly about identifying and utilizing natural-born talents. I believe we’re given our talents for good reason and I’m often curious about what the world would look like if everyone did the thing they knew they were born to do. Try to imagine a world where everyone followed their dreams and used their talents to their fullest ability. I think it would be a very different – and much better – place.

No matter who you are, you’ll never be good at everything, and you’re not supposed to be. But there’s something in this world that no one but you can do, and to deny that for fear of failure, laziness, the need for security or anything else is, to me, the ultimate shame.

While I’m not exactly old, I’m not really young either, and if I could go back and say anything to the younger me, I’d tell myself that fear is a liar – that no matter how impossible something seems, if you have the guts to go after it, your needs will be met, the teachers will appear, and the doors will be opened. It’s all very cliche, and for good reason, because it also happens to be true.

WeLoveQuality Books: Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, how did you get over it?

Alistair Cross: I can honestly say that, no, I’ve never experienced writer’s block, and my best guess as to why is that I’m always too interested in the story I’m telling to stop and think about how I should tell it. For me, writing is all about trust. Trusting the process, trusting the characters, and trusting your instinct allows you to unconsciously connect the dots that will ultimately create a cohesive, compelling, and finished novel. The subconscious mind is amazingly efficient – it wants to work your story out – and while I’ve never experienced it myself, my guess is that writer’s block is the result of the conscious mind having gotten too involved in the process.

WeLoveQuality Books: Please tell us about the other novels that you have written apart from your latest one?

Alistair Cross: As Thorne & Cross, I’ve co-authored three novels so far with bestselling horror author, Tamara Thorne. We intend to continue working together ’till the end of our days. Our first release, The Cliffhouse Haunting, is a classic ghost story that also merges with high comedy and murder mystery. I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun writing anything as Cliffhouse; there were some serious laugh-until-your-nose-bleeds moments in that one.

Our next venture, ‘The Ghosts of Ravencrest’, is unique in a few different ways. First, it’s a serialization, which means that new installments are released about every six weeks. Once the story arc is completed, it’s compiled into a full-length novel. We’re currently wrapping up the second full book in the series, The Witches of Ravencrest. We expect it to be out this summer. The other thing that’s special to us about Ravencrest is that it’s very much a gothic (which Tamara and I both teethed on). It complete with an innocent governess, the enigmatic handsome millionaire who employs her, a hostile head housekeeper and, of course, a very old and very haunted manor. Ravencrest allows us to explore the mysteries of existence, which is something neither of us can get enough of.

Our third novel ‘Mother’ is a little different because it’s a straightforward psychological thriller. Rather than ghosts and the supernatural, Mother deals with human monsters – specifically the monsters that you look at every day, the ones you don’t realize are monsters until you get too close. We wanted Mother to be a deviation from the supernatural because we felt that it was important to establish early on that we intend to write in a variety of genres. We’re currently making plans for our next psychological thriller, which will likely feature Father Andy Pike, one of our favorite characters from Mother.

Later this year, Tamara and I will release a vampire novel called ‘Darling Girls’, which serves as a sequel to Tamara’s novel, ‘Candle Bay’, as well as my own novel, ‘The Crimson Corset’.

A ghostly woman hovering over a lake in front of a log cabin
Book cover for The Book of Strange Persuasions by Alistair Cross: A cracked handheld mirror with 3 hands coming out of it, 2 hands and arms reaching into the mirror, and 14 shadows of hands reaching up toward the frame to escape.

As a solo author, I’ve written two books aside from Dream Reaper. The first, of course, being The Crimson Corset, which is my take on vampires. The Crimson Corset is very special to me, not only because it was my first solo publication, but also because I absolutely love the story. Under all the fangs and blood, The Crimson Corset is about life and death, love and hate, good and evil, obsession and addiction, downfall and redemption, and family ties. As a side note, The Crimson Corset introduces Nick Grayson, who plays a significant role in Dream Reaper.

My second solo contribution is a collection of poetry called ‘The Book of Strange Persuasions’ which, after years of swearing I’d never allow, was published in 2016. Strange Persuasions is a compilation of poetry that I began writing many years ago, and is broken into four parts devoted to topics like relationships, horror, and sex.

WeLoveQuality Books: This is very interesting! Where can we get your books from?

Alistair Cross: The best way to find everything in one place is at my website: You’ll find all the books on the “Library” page, lots of writing tips and tricks under “On Writing,” and on the “Thorne & Cross” page, you can check out the guest list featuring each of the authors we’ve interviewed on our horror-themed radio show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about my work. I enjoyed it very much.