Friday, August 23, 2013

SUSAN: AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Connect Four w/ Alexis Hall

Today on “Connect Four”, I am OVER-THE-MOON to welcome Alexis Hall to discuss his debut novel, “Glitterland” (published by Riptide). "Glitterland" is easily one of BEST books I’ve read this year. So, I could NOT be more excited to have cornered this talented writer and pick his brain!  (I’m totally fangirling!) 

But first, a little about the book:

The universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand.

Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.

Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.

But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?


...Sounds AMAZIN', right?  IT IS!!!!  Anyway…without further ado (and before I totally embarrass myself): FOUR QUESTIONS (ya'll know I cheat, so yes, more than four) for ALEXIS HALL...

Alexis, WELCOME!

AJH:  Thank you for very much for having me.  

(*runs up to steal a hug*...)

So, since you’re new to the scene, can I ask you to tell us a little about your bad-self and how it was that this…*waves hands around in the air*…all came about?

AJH:  My bad-self is terribly dull. I live in the southeast of England, and have a perfectly ordinary job when I’m not writing.  As for the writing, that’s actually a fairly new development. I decided to have a go at it last year and I guess I got pretty lucky with Riptide. I actually sent them something unpublishable first time round – it turns out writing in modern English, rather than 18th century thieves cant really helps sell books – but they were super nice about it, so that kind of encouraged me to submit some other things. At the time they had an open call for lesbian fiction, so I sent them a piece of f/f urban fantasy and, while they were considering that, I sort of accidentally wrote GLITTERLAND.

("accidentally"? Wow...gotta love those happy accidents! :) )
Tell us about Glitterland. The blurb is above. But, what IS this story in your words, what inspired you, and what makes it compelling, in your mind, for readers to give it a go?  (I'm obsessed with the Essex, by the way...can't get enough!)

AJH:  GLITTERLAND, to me, is kind of just a love story. Sorry, as you can tell, I’m not very good at selling things. It’s kind of about stuff I’m interested in which, peculiarly, seem to be bipolar depression and Essex, so I’ve clearly gone for a niche there. More broadly, it’s kind of an opposites-attract thing, since it’s essentially about two very different people from very different worlds who sort of come together in defiance of all probability, expectations and basic common sense.

The vague inspiration behind the book is a UK X Factor contestant called Rylan Clark. He was a sparkly Essex boy who couldn’t really sing all that well, but so charming and enthusiastic and outrageously dressed that it didn’t really matter. There was a lot of backlash against him, both of the homophobic variety and the being the wrong sort of gay variety. So I decided I wanted to write a book in which the hero was somebody like that – the sort of person who normally would be portrayed as a comedy diversion. And since I wanted readers to be able to take him seriously, that led me to Ash, a bipolar depressive crime writer, very much in need of someone like that. 

(ummm...simple as that? ha! Well, they make a pretty awesome pair, I have to say!)

You review het romance books over at Dear Author (big fan of your reviews!!!), and write GLBT books. Is this a purposeful distinction…do you separate what you enjoy reading from what you enjoy writing or do they find a way to bleed into each other? Tagging on to this: If you could rewrite 2 het romance books you've read into GLBT books, which 2 would you choose? :)

AJH:  I really enjoy my reviewing over Dear Author, but I do try to keep it apart from my writing. I know it’s a little bit controversial but I genuinely believe reading and writing are separate skillsets. I did make a very conscious decision not to touch GLBT books at DA, firstly because Jane’s very concerned about conflicts of interest and I very much respect that, but also because I, too, wanted to keep a wall between those two aspects of my internet life.

I’m not sure I think het romance can, or should, be directly re-written as GLBT, but I do think a lot of tropes and ideas can be re-addressed in a queer context. I think I’m probably pretty interested in this in general, actually, and I’ll talk about it a bit more in the next question.

I’ve read a couple of paranormals that are set in extremely gendered vampire societies and I’d quite like to do a queer or possibly gender reversed take on that. I also read The Windflower which is, of course, a romance classic, and there’s actually a totally non-queer couple of side characters in there, the manipulative pirate captain and this beautiful under-age ex-prostitute cabin boy. Truthfully, I’d really like to do gay pirates. Because, like, pirates.

(Gay pirates would be AWESOME!!! Also, for 2 of my favorite of AJH's Dear Author reviews, see "Dark Lover" and "Bared to You")

You've got Iron & Velvet (book 1 of the Kate Kane series) coming out next (in December). This is a F/F paranormal book...kind of an unexplored genre. What made you 'go there' and how did you...ummm...research?  Any other stories in the cooker on top of the Kate Kane series we should know about?

AJH: I think what basically made me “go there” was kind of a concatenation of circumstances. I’ve always really liked those kinds of paranormal series where you have a central heroine who systematically shags her way around the entire supernatural community of whatever setting you’re in. And when I saw Riptide had a call for lesbian fiction, I thought it would be really interesting to try and do a gay version of that.

Talking about how much I like my own ideas makes me feel like a dick, but I think what I really liked about the concept was that it allowed me to work with some very powerful tropes, like the decadent vampire prince and the alpha werewolf, but also to re-gender them. Also, in a funny way, I thought the genre convention of everyone wanting to bang the heroine translated very well to a queer environment because it sort of meant I could make all the major supernatural power players lesbians without it seeming improbable or implausible. At least I hope it doesn’t seem improbable or implausible, but my feeling is it’s no less probable for all the powerful supernatural creatures in London to be lesbians, than it is for them all to be really hot guys who fancy this one specific woman.

By research, I’m assuming you don’t mean into vampires and werewolves. Obviously, I do run the texts past actual queer women to make sure I’m not being horrendously appropriative or offensive, but then queer women aren’t a monolith so I’m absolutely not giving myself points for representation or claiming that I’m some kind of expert on lesbianism. I think there are two ways you can approach writing queer texts: one is to make the text about queerness, which is obviously important and valid, and the other is simply to write another type of fiction in which the protagonists just happen to be queer. I very much see myself as writing the second type and, in the case of the Kate Kane series, because I’m obviously not a lesbian myself, I feel I very much wouldn’t be qualified to write the first type.

I’m very wary of talking about things I’m working on, partially for superstitious reasons, partly because I don’t feel confident building expectations about things that may never emerge and partly because I might talk about this thing I’m doing and then it’ll turn out nobody wants to publish it. 

(Ha! Well ok! I guess we can be sufficiently excited for Glitterland and Kate Kane...for now!)

Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting. I honestly could ask you 40 questions and it wouldn't be enough (yes, I'm gushing...). SUCH a HUGE fan!  

AJH: Thank you so much for having me, I’ve really enjoyed chatting, and you’re always welcome to ask me questions. Although maybe not 40 at once ;)

Alexis Hall will be starting his official GLITTERLAND BLOG TOUR on Monday, August 26th.  Click HERE for details!

About the Author:
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.

You can also find him all over the internet, on his website, twitter, and goodreads.

You can read an excerpt and, y’know, cough, buy my book, if you want, at Riptide Publishing.

Purchase Links:


  1. I just knew it! Rylan! I love Rylan and when I read the blurb for this book a few weeks back I pictured Rylan (yes he was huge news last year in the UK and I kind of adopted him as my pet 'celeb')
    Great interview Susan and Alexis, thanks for sharing ;)

  2. Fantastic interview. Loved Glitterland, adore Alexis and Susan! This book is going to explode!!