Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight on British LGBTQ+ author Alexis Hall. I asked Alexis if he could please tell us briefly a little about himself and his writing, and this was his response:
I’m Alexis Hall, I somewhat glibly bill myself as a genrequeer writer of kissing books which I hope at least vaguely captures the idea that I write across multiple genres (I’ve got romances, mysteries, and fantasies out there) but that all of my books tend to have an LGBTQ+ and a romance element.
Alexis, where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
Definitely check Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester first! But in addition to doing that, all of my books can be found in all the usual places, and links for all the usual places can be found on my website.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I’m mostly on Instagram these days, having taken a step back from Twitter for the same reasons that a lot of people have taken steps back from Twitter recently.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
I worry this seems like a cop-out but I like the actual writing part. That is, the part where I’m actually making things up and putting words on paper that tell stories I haven’t previously told. Which sounds basic but the whole business of “being a writer” has so much peripheral work attached (especially in today’s world of social media) that if you let it the actual writing part of writing can wind up feeling almost like an afterthought. And I suppose in that regard my greatest lesson in the journey thus far is that I do actually have some control over the balance between the different aspects of my job.
If I wanted to expand that to a more general lesson that might be useful to other people, I suppose it would be that I’ve learned to essentially ask myself the question you’ve just asked me: to think about what I actually like about and want from writing, and to make sure I’m setting myself goals that lead to me getting more of the stuff I want and less of the stuff I don’t. It’s very easy, I think, to get swept up in the whole general mishmash and lose sight of the things you actually value.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
Slightly too much, honestly. Hot on the heels of the Glitterland rerelease I’ve got Something Spectacular, which is the follow up to last year’s Something Fabulous. It’s a light-hearted regency romp about a soprano, a genderfluid member of the landed gentry, art, music, identity and terrible poetry. Following that I’ve got Mortal Follies which is what I understand they’re now calling “romantasy”—fantasy with a strong central love story. That’s a sapphic romance, also set in the regency, but with ancient gods, terrible curses, and witchcraft. Then after that there’s Ten Things That Never Happened, which is set in the same universe as Boyfriend Material and is my take on the amnesia trope. Because who doesn’t love an amnesia trope? And after that it will be 2024 and we’ll officially be nearly halfway through the 2020s and frankly I’m not sure I can cope with that realisation.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
Short answer: it’s a desk. Quite a cheap desk.
Long answer: Something that’s very important to me as somebody who occasionally talks about writing in public is that it isn’t a mystical process. You don’t need to be in a special place, or to have special things, or to be a special kind of person to do it.
I realise that because writing is creative a lot of people like to have their rituals and their processes but (and perhaps this is just because I’m a chronic overthinker) I’m always very keen to emphasise that writing, more than anything else, should be accessible. People write novels on laptops on the sofa, on desks in their spare room, even on phones on the bus. I personally don’t like to have too much clutter around me, but honestly even that’s a preference more honoured in the breach than in the observance.
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
Depending on the people, either that I exist, or that most other people don’t know I exist.
To unpack that a bit, something I’ve found strange and a little disorienting about having a (relatively small) public profile is that the vast majority of people have simply never heard of me but that the small fraction who have, assume I’m rather more famous and influential than I actually am.
To speculate needlessly for a moment, I think it’s a consequence of the way we consume media in the 21st century. With ever-more-convenient, ever-more-flexible, ever-more-driven-by-algorithms ways to find stuff that you like, we all increasingly live in our own microtailored cultural bubbles but because our assumptions tend to change far less readily than our realities we still often act like we live in a world where everybody in America sits down at the same time to watch I Love Lucy, and we very much don’t.
And of course in the overall scheme of things “how famous is Alexis Hall” isn’t a particularly important question for people to agree about, but I do think it’s an interesting example in a microcosm of how different people’s perceptions of the world can be, depending on the circles they move in. And, well, that’s a phenomenon that’s got a whole lot of consequences.
What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?
Getting a character to go from standing by the door to standing by the window.
Not literally, obviously. But also sort of literally. The bits of writing people respond to tend to be the big-picture bits: themes, characters, ideas, what you might call the imagination stuff. And so people tend to assume that those are the difficult bits to write, but the thing about imagination is that it’s sort of instinctive by definition. It’s something that actual children are famously brilliant at. The thing that takes up way more of my time and energy than readers might realise is just coming up with ways to describe boring, mundane actions that are clear enough that the reader knows what’s going on, but not so dull that they seem flat but also not so far from dull that they draw attention to a purely functional piece of writing, and that don’t fall into repetitive patterns.
My go-to example of this is “X went to stand by the window” because there’s a bunch of perfectly adequate ways to express it but when I’m writing I’ll find that half of them sound clunky and the other half sound banal. An even better example—and this doesn’t come from my writing but from a twitter thread I saw long enough ago that I’m afraid I can’t credit the originator—is a story I saw about a writer spending hours trying to work out how to describe the action of buckling a seatbelt because they got hung up on what the thing you put the buckle into is called.
It’s unglamorous and unromantic, but I think in a lot of ways the hardest thing in writing is describing a mundane action that everybody would recognise but that people rarely describe in words.
Alexis, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. And good luck with your latest book, Glitterland!