Alex London, of Mt. Airy, is the best-selling author of an astonishing 25 books (over two million copies sold) who was also a war correspondent in some of the world’s most dangerous countries. by …
by Len Lear
Alex London, 40, who lives in Mt. Airy (“I love this community!”) with his husband Tim, daughter Madeleine and 14-year-old Boston Terrier Baxter, is the best-selling author of 25 books (over two million copies sold) who put his life on the line as a freelance writer in the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo in 2001-2002, at the Sudan/Kenya border in 2004, in Kosovo and Bosnia after the 1990s' civil wars in those Balkan nations, at the Thai-Burma border and even in Iran, Israel and the West Bank in 2008.
What motivated London to want to go to those areas in which numerous journalists have been killed? “I wish I could say it was something noble,” London said in an interview last year, “I did use my research in advocacy for the organization Refugees International, for whom I was a research associate, but mostly it was a young man's curiosity and sense of adventure that made me want to go.”
When asked last week if he is likely to return to war-torn countries as a correspondent, Alex said, “With my family and, you know, the world, I think it's unlikely. I quite like my quiet writing life now. The life of a globe-trotting freelance reporter and human rights researcher was great in my 20s, less so in my 40s. I've no desire to sleep in a yurt or duck roving militias again.”
London's recent novel, “Black Wings Beating,” the first of a new trilogy, was called a “Best Young Adult Book of the Year” by Seventeen magazine and Kirkus Reviews, as earned numerous other accolades. “I was very fortunate to have such a good response to the book from the New York Times to the Today Show.” said Alex.
“Definitely a high point of my career. It was a great way to launch a new epic fantasy series, and, with the final book in the trilogy, 'Gold Wings Rising,' coming out on Sept. 1, I'm delighted the series is still finding new readers all over the world. It's a strange time to be publishing an escapist fantasy series about killer birds, but it's a strange time to be doing anything.”
Like so many other authors, London has had a lot of his book promotional events canceled.
“An early March appearance in Fairless Hills with best-selling author Cassandra Clare was the first cancellation I had, as well as several day-long visits to middle and high schools around the country,” he said.
“I earn some of my income from these visits and speeches, and they're all canceled for the foreseeable future, which stinks financially, but also going into schools and sharing my passion for reading and writing with young readers and igniting theirs is one of my favorite parts of this job.
“I've been doing Zoom visits with classes and online book festivals, like the recent 'Y'all Stay Home,' which had over 90,000 virtual attendees! They're fine, but there's nothing like that in-person human connection to readers. I miss it.”
Of his many books, which one means the most to London?
“This is an impossible question,” he said. “I have books that were deeply personal and books I wrote for the paycheck. I have books that have done very well and books that flopped. I poured pieces of myself into all of them and learned something from all of them, so I don't think I could rank them. Of course, what I think of them is also irrelevant. Books belong to their readers, and if one of my books meant something to even one reader, then for that fleeting moment, it's the most important book in the world.”
Born in Baltimore, London moved to New York to attend Columbia University. He graduated with a degree in philosophy and earned a master's degree in library science from Pratt Institute. He moved to Mt. Airy from Brooklyn after his husband got a teaching job here. What is the best advice London has ever received?
"Eyes on your own paper,” he insisted. “It's hard to take that advice sometimes, especially as a writer. It's easy to play the comparison game: who's getting more marketing attention? who's selling better or winning awards or getting that movie deal?
“But at the end of the day, writing the books I can write the best I can write them is about all I can control. I hope readers find them fun and exciting and impactful, but that's not up to me. I just do the work. I just keep doing the work.”
When asked whom he would most like to meet, past or present, in the world, London replied, “I fear one should never meet one's heroes, and I'd hate to have to explain to William Shakespeare why I keep looking at my phone.”
For more information, visit calexanderlondon.com. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org