Lisa: We’re so pleased to have author Alexis Hall joining us today, on the tour for his newest novel, Looking for Group.
Hi, Alexis, and welcome. I’m going to start right off with a question I’m sure you’ve been asked over and over again, but if you’ll indulge me… How does it feel to be addressed as RITA Award winning author Alexis Hall? Will it ever get old?
Alexis: Um, well, actually I’m technically not RITA award winning author, Alexis Hall. As far as I understand it, my official title is Alexis Hall, author of the RITA award winning novel, For Real. Basically, books win RITAs, not people. Which is one of those things is superficially unintuitive but actually makes quite a lot of sense. But I’m pretty sure author of a RITA award winning novel isn’t going to get old any time soon. For starters, it’d have to feel real first and I’m only just getting to that point now.
Lisa: Ah, got it. Sort of like winning the Oscar for Best Picture, then. So, apart from the obvious win for diversity and inclusion in romantic and erotic fiction, what do you see your award—as well as Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen’s—meaning for the future of the LGBTQ+ genre?
Alexis: That’s a really tricky one. I think with anything like this it’s really important to recognise that you’re talking about a process not an outcome. While obviously I’m completely overjoyed that two LGBTQ+ romances won RITAs this year I’m very apprehensive of making that too totemic. One of the glib, pithy phrases I overuse is that the difference between zero and one is no bigger than the difference between one and two: that is to say while it’s great that we had two LGBTQ+ books winning RITAs this year (and one last year) we could very easily go back to having zero next year and the year after that and the year after that.
Basically what I hope this means is that the RITA judges, the RWA and the romance reading community in general are starting to accept that romance is romance, no matter who the protagonists are. But, firstly, it might not mean that. And, secondly, even if it does the key word is starting. I talked a bit in a recent blog post about the difficulties inherent in talking about LGBTQ+ romance because, on the one hand, one wants to use inclusive language but one also wants to avoid using language that claims to include people who are de facto excluded. Because while it’s true that two LGBTQ+ novels won RITAs this year and that’s huge, it’s more accurate to say two m/m novels about cis gendered dudes won RITAs this year. It’s definitely a massive step forward for m/m, it’s not necessarily as much as a step forward for diversity in romance in general.
Lisa: Let’s turn the focus towards Looking for Group for a minute. How do you find your approach to writing a New Adult novel differs from sitting down to write a novel such as For Real, for example? Do you find yourself staying “in character,” so to speak, to make sure the voices are as authentic as possible?
Alexis: I’m not sure it does, really, especially since Toby in For Real is the same age as Kit and Drew in LFG. I suspect Kit & Drew do read as a lot younger which I think is a function of the university setting. I think when one reads a story in which all of the viewpoint characters are of a certain age it’s more likely to read as a story about Being That Age, whereas if you have a story with multiple viewpoint characters, only one of whom is a particular age, it’s more likely to just read as a story about people.
Basically I try to write all my books in a voice that is appropriate to the character whose viewpoint I’m writing and obviously age is part of that, but it’s not necessarily the most important part. Authenticity is a very tricky concept in general because it’s so intensely personal. The closest you’re ever going to get is something that individual people feel is reflective of their individual experiences.
Lisa: If you could spend some real-life time with one of the characters from the book, who would you choose and why?
Alexis: Embarrassingly, it might actually be Jacob/Ialdir because he’s, well, closest to my age and is clearly just a really nice guy. Also we have similar taste in video games. I think Kit would be respectful of his nerd elders but I don’t think Drew would have much time for me.
Lisa: And on the flipside, who would you least get along with? And why?
Alexis: Weirdly, it might be Drew. I mean, he’s a sweet kid but he’s just very different from me, actually. He doesn’t really play games or think about them the way I do, and I have zero desire to be on an ultimate Frisbee team.
Lisa: If I were to ask Drew and Kit to tell me a little bit about you, what sort of inside scoop would they give me?
Alexis: Drew is not the most perceptive of people, so he’d probably be like he’s just some guy who wrote some books. Kit’s is quite a private, both for himself and on behalf of other people, so I think he’d probably find a polite way to evade the question.
Lisa: Okay, let’s shift gears a bit. You have the choice between being a superhero or a supervillain. Which would you choose, and why?
Alexis: Villain all the way. Not only would it clearly be more fun, but I think you can make a genuine case that it’s also just the morally better choice. I’ve watched far too many superhero shows where the good guys spend their entire careers essentially locking members of the general public in tiny boxes without the benefit of trial. More broadly, the role of a hero (or superhero) is to reflect and affirm the values of your society. The role of a villain is to question them.
Lisa: What would your superpower be?
Alexis: The really nerdy answer to this is that it depends a lot on the subgenre. Since I’ve already picked supervillain and if we go for the most generic interpretation of the brief, I think I’d like to go the Lex Luthor route and just be very good at my job and have access to significant resources, social, political and financial. And, when you think about it, it’s a bit weird that you only ever get supervillains like that. Even the Bruce Waynes and Tony Starks, who technically could save the world by leveraging their wealth and fame, instead to choose masses of resources into building themselves a tools so that they can go out and punch individual criminals on the nose. Although I suppose if you did have a comic book who tried to change the world for the better by working within the existing social, political and cultural framework it would basically just be The West Wing in spandex. Then again, I would watch the shit out of that show.
Lisa: If you could travel back in time, with your years of accumulated wisdom and life experience intact, what advice would you give your teenage self?
Alexis: “You’re a dick, but you’ll mostly get over it. Also it turns out time travel will get discovered within your lifetime.”
Lisa: If you were to sit down and write it today, what would the title of your autobiography be?
Alexis: Alexis Hall: The Musical.
Lisa: Thanks so much for taking the time to hang with us today, Alexis. It’s been fun! Any final words you’d like to say to us readers?
Alexis: Thank you so much for having me and asking me nerdy questions about superhero stuff. To anybody else who’s reading, just, um, thanks for sticking with me.
About Looking for Group
So, yeah, I play Heroes of Legend, y’know, the MMO. I’m not like obsessed or addicted or anything. It’s just a game. Anyway, there was this girl in my guild who I really liked because she was funny and nerdy and a great healer. Of course, my mates thought it was hilarious I was into someone I’d met online. And they thought it was even more hilarious when she turned out to be a boy IRL. But the joke’s on them because I still really like him.
And now that we’re together, it’s going pretty well. Except sometimes I think Kit—that’s his name, sorry I didn’t mention that—spends way too much time in HoL. I know he has friends in the guild, but he has me now, and my friends, and everyone knows people you meet online aren’t real. I mean. Not Kit. Kit’s real. Obviously.
Oh, I’m Drew, by the way. This is sort of my story. About how I messed up some stuff and figured out some stuff. And fell in love and stuff.
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 did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.
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.
To celebrate the release of Looking for Group, one lucky winner will receive their choice of 3 ebooks from Alexis Hall’s backlist. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on September 3, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!