An Interview With Author Alexis Hall


Madison Tovey, Writer, Editor-in-Chief


As a young writer, I use my position on the Chipper for selfish reasons… 

I love getting different author’s perspectives on how to become a writer, and if they have any wisdom to impart on those aspiring to be like them. This past month I looked at the authors who adorned my shelves, and asked if any would be willing to do an interview; specifically, I emailed eleven different publicists and assistants. Now I do not mean to sound butthurt, but I would swear they have an outline for rejection: “Hi, Madison! *Insert author here* appreciates your interest and support. Unfortunately, they are busy writing their upcoming novel. Thanks.” 

That was until I heard back from Alexis Hall’s assistant saying he would be, and I quote, delighted to do an interview. I was extremely excited, not only from the reprieve of rejection, but also because I binge read their novel Boyfriend Material in less than a day in the 10th grade, and then this year read the sequel Husband Material in, yet again, a day. 

Alexis Hall provided a lot of insight into what it is like to be an author: 


What is the most gratifying aspect of being an author? 

Tricky one. Something I’m very conscious of is that I have a habit of giving very circuitous answers to fairly straightforward questions, but unfortunately I think this is going to be one of those answers. There are loads of things about writing that I find very gratifying in the moment, but which I hesitate to invest too much in. It’s always lovely when people respond well to something you’ve written, or feel that your book has spoken to them or helped them and I’m super duper grateful every time it happens, but I’m always very wary of looking for extrinsic sources of gratification in, well, anything really. I’m a big believer in doing things for their own sakes and so if it doesn’t sound circular the aspect of being an author I try to derive the most gratification from is the actual writing part because that’s the part I can control. I don’t really want to be in a situation where I feel like my work only has value as long as people are saying nice things to me because I don’t think that’s necessarily a healthy attitude to have, for me at least. 

So basically I try to enjoy the actual day-to-day doing of the actual day-to-day job. And most of the time, that’s the putting words on paper bit (although currently it’s the writing interview answers bit, and that’s cool too). 


If you could give any piece of advice to a high schooler that wants to pursue writing, what would that advice be? 

I notice you’ve already had the write and keep writing piece of advice, so I won’t repeat that. 

So instead I’ll say: try it. And since that probably sounds like it’s just the same piece of advice in different words, I’ll unpack it a little to: try it, and be prepared for it not to be like you expect. 

In a way, one of the most unfair things we ask of high schoolers is that we so often expect you to make these huge decisions about your future on the basis of essentially zero information. There’s this weird cultural expectation that you’ll somehow know at the age of fifteen what you want to be doing at the age of fifty, and that you’ll be meaningfully working towards it, and that’s not an expectation that I necessarily think is reasonable. 

If you want to pursue writing as a career, then my advice would be the same as my advice for pursuing anything else, especially for somebody still in high school: take opportunities when they come up, try as many different things as possible, and keep an open mind about all of them. I know so many people who discovered the thing that they actually wanted to do because they started doing it to support the thing they thought they wanted to do. 


Have you always felt an inclination to write romance novels, or did that interest develop along the way? 

A little from column A, a little from column B. In the UK “romance” isn’t actually anywhere near as well established as a genre as it is in the US, which makes things rather complicated. What I mostly wanted to write was LGBTQIA+ genre fiction with an emphasis on characters and relationships, and market realities made romance the best fit although I’ve actually worked in multiple genres. 


Who were your biggest writing inspirations growing up? 

I’m British and nerdy so it’s basically illegal for me not to say Terry Pratchett. And that’s actually really complex because I’ve been reading his work for so long that I find it very hard to disentangle my thoughts about his actual books from my thoughts about the person I was when I first read them. So I’m in this strange place where I know he’s had a profound effect on the way I think and express myself (there are some lines from his books that are so much part of my regular speech that I forget that they’re quotes) while also being uncomfortably aware that going back to his work today it will never have the same impact it had when I first discovered it decades ago. 


Who are your personal inspirations now, for writing or otherwise, and why? 

Another tricky one. At the risk of sounding churlish I’m not a great believer in being inspired by individuals because that can lead to putting people on pedestals and I think it’s super important to remember that everybody, no matter how much you like what they do or admire their work, is still just a human being who is making it up as they go along. 


What is your least favorite part of the writing process? 

The initial read-through of the first round of developmental edits. 

That might be a bit inside baseball, so to clarify the terminology here, editing a novel (at least the way I’ve done it, the industry is complex) usually involves several rounds of editing of which the first is generally called developmental editing, where you make large-scale changes to the text—that’s where you get feedback like “the ending isn’t working” or “it’s not clear to me what this character’s motivation is”—and it’s followed up by line editing and copy editing, where you do progressively deep dives into the actual words on the page to make sure you aren’t, say, using the word “moustache” three times in the same paragraph. 

And don’t get me wrong, editing is crucially important, cultural stereotypes about interfering editors ruining an artist’s beautiful vision are (in my experience at least) way overblown, and I have a great relationship with all of my editors, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a point in the process of publishing where it’s your editor’s job to send you an email with all the things they don’t like about your book. They’re always phrased in a super-supportive way and they usually include things the editor did like as well but it’s often so easy to focus on the negative that just running through that initial round of comments can be quite emotionally draining, even though it’s a necessary part of the process. 


Was there a teacher in school that pushed you to pursue writing? 

I’m afraid not. Irrationally, I always feel a little bad that I don’t have a cool inspiring story in response to this kind of question but actually in some ways I think it’s probably quite important that I don’t. 




If there is one thing I have learned from doing interviews such as these, it is that writing is about commitment. There is not one single path, not one thing someone could say to spark inspiration, or one moment that defines you as a writer; you just have to do it. 


Thank you again to Alexis Hall for participating in this interview. Having authors who include queer representation in their books is crucial, and it is greatly appreciated.