Hi Alex Jane and welcome to Bayou Book Junkie. Alex lives in the lovely seaside town of Brighton, in good old England, and when not writing, could quite possibly earn her living as a tourist information guide (yes, we can prove this – but it’s a bit of a long story, so you’ll just have to take our word for it. Come on now, when have we ever lied to you?)
Alex debuted onto the MM scene in June 2016 with book 1 in her Alphas’ Homestead series, featuring werewolves Caleb and Jacob, both of who happen to be, yes, you’ve guessed right – alphas. Which is kind of unheard of in most werewolf novels, and shows a refreshing lack of trope-ism. These guys have already had their second tale, showing them living their HEA in the loveliest of ways, and will feature as background characters in future tales, so we have it on good authority. We’re pretty sure that book 3 is out around Christmas 2016-ish, and Alex has just released her first contemp MM tale, Tis The Season, which is heartwarmingly and heartbreakingly lovely (which sounds like a contradiction, but isn’t – read it and see) and which again ends in our kind of HEA. Which is not to say that we don’t want more of her latest leads, Aaron and Dylan, so yes, we’ll be grilling her about them. But now, as she’s our guest, it’s only right to hand things over to her.
BBJ: Hi Alex and welcome. Please tell BBJ readers all about yourself and about the lovely seaside town of Brighton, England. Oh, and about Brighton ‘rock’. Do Brits really go to the seaside and buy rocks to take home? Couldn’t they just take them off the beaches? 😊
Alex: Thank you so much for having me! I'm Alex, I write MM that is a little angsty, but always with a happy ending. I like writing about established relationships as much as new beginnings. I have no illusions of literary greatness, rather my goal is to write stories that will merely entertain for a few hours. And I much prefer a glass of rosé and cuddling up with my dog to piña coladas and walks in the rain, in case you were wondering.
As for Brighton, if you don't know already, it’s situated on the south coast directly below London. I think we can safely say it's the gay capital of the U.K. I've lived here 16 years and can't imagine ever leaving. There's always so much going on in terms of art and theatre and music, you don’t get time to be bored. Plus the beach is wonderful; from the tourist strip full of bars and fish and chip shops, to the quieter stretches with nudists to boot. The place teams with history and has some amazing modern architecture. You can come for the beautiful countryside walks, or the nightlife. There really is something for everyone. And yes, I think you can buy a Brighton 'rock' from some of the shops on the seafront. I think the council prefers that to people taking pebbles from the beach, especially as they act as a sea defense (oh, and it's illegal).
BBJ: So, we’ve stalked visited your website where rumour has it, there’s a rather naughty avatar of you (we can attest to the naughty part, but we’re not totally sold on the avatar part. Looks a bit too much like the real you, we think, but then again, what do we know? 😉), which you claim is not in fact you, but your...ahem…muse (we’re even less sold on this!). Fess up Alex - is that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you *deity*, or is the muse fashioned after the inner Alex not many get to see? You can tell us, seeing we’re all friends now!
Alex: Lol! Maybe twenty years and fifty pounds ago! I could only wish to be that glamorous : ) Although, I do like a fancy frock on occasion. No, the whole Muse idea came about when I got writer's block. I know a lot of writers say that's not a thing but, honestly, the little voice in my head that constantly goes on about "what if...?", suddenly stopped and I was completely inspiration-less. The crux of it was that I'd had an idea to write something that was extremely dark with no HEA and I didn't want to go there. So, I wrote something else, all fluffy and light, and it was so horrible I think it broke my brain and shattered my confidence. It was scary for a while, not knowing when or if I would have another idea again. In the end, I resorted to just trying to imagine what my Muse was getting up to instead of inspiring me, which went a little like...
My muse claims she has a migraine, so I'm twiddling my thumbs until she's done lying in a darkened room with a cold flannel on her head. Drama queen.
My muse is re-reading 'Heart of Darkness' looking for the gay sub text. It's probably going to take a while so I won't be writing today.
My muse turned up but she's wearing sweatpants and eating ice-cream straight out of the tub so I don't think we're going to get much done.
Anyway, that seemed to shake things loose but I ended up writing to someone that, "My muse has horns...and a long red tail, ending in a flint-sharp arrowhead that she flicks like a switchblade. And she's a hugger." I had in mind one of those lovely 1940's pin-ups, so I ended up drawing my own. It's just how I imagine her when she's whispering in my ear, or handing out assignments to the plot bunnies, or in those moments when I look at the words on the screen and wonder where in the hell they came from.
But I have to say, the writer's block was worth it in the end. I learned that she's a bitch and sometimes wants me to write things I'm not sure about but I need to always listen to my Muse. And she hasn't let me down so far.
BBJ: Could you tell us more about the ‘world’ in which the Alphas’ Homestead series is set, because for the life of us, other than it being 1870, we’re not really that clued up as to whether it’s an alternate reality or ‘historical with an Alex Jane twist, based on lore’? And, was the lack of alpha/omega or alpha/beta werewolf trope a deliberate decision on your part?
Alex: It's very much a hybrid in terms of world building. I certainly don't do enough research for it to be considered an historical, but I do research. I'm definitely aiming to anchor the story with historical facts and events but it's very much an alternative universe. So, for example, the part of Nebraska I'm imagining the town to be in wasn't settled until much later in the century, and the landscape was a lot more desolate. I suppose my thinking is that, the reality of that life in 1870 was unbelievably hard and unforgiving and not the kind of book I was looking to write.
As for the werewolves dynamics, the exclusion of the omega-type trope was deliberate. I like it, I've written it, but for this story it complicated things too much. Plus, I was really interested in exploring the pack dynamics of actual wolves, more than mpreg and knotting this time around.
BBJ: What inspired you to start writing, Alex, and in particular, why MM? And, we notice that Martha, Caleb and Jacob’s daughter, will be getting her own tale in early 2017 – why veer over to the other side, MF romance?
Alex: I'd always imagined stories. I’ve always had regular bouts of insomnia and would spend the hours lying awake plotting out movies in my head. When I first started to try to write one of them down, it was MF. And it was horrible. Only when I found fanfic and switched that story over to MM did story-building on the page start work for me.
There's probably a whole boat-load of psychological reasons why women write MM, but personally, I think it's harder to imagine a HEA for a MF as I have far too much experience to the contrary and just can't suspend my own disbelief.
And yes, Martha will be getting her own story and her own romantic adventure but it won't be an MF as such. The book will be from Martha and Caleb's POVs and as much as it's about Martha finding love, it's also about Caleb dealing with the fact his little girl is a now grown woman with her own mind and what that means for his relationship with Jacob. Martha's story is one of the main reasons that I decided to become an indie author rather than approach a publisher. I didn't want to risk a publisher to say yes to the MM stories but potentially denying Martha her moment. I feel it's important for Caleb and Jacob's story, and I hope important to the readers too.
BBJ: What three things do you think that you could technically get away with by claiming they’re writing-related expenditure *muffled sniggers all round* on your HMRC (UK tax return) form?
Alex: Crikey. Tea would be one. Not because I drink a lot of it when I'm writing, but because I seem to spend half my day throwing away stone-cold mugs that I'd totally forgotten about.
If I could get away with a full time masseuse, that would be on the list. Sitting and typing for this long certainly doesn't do a body any good.
BBJ: Nothing frustrates us more than being confused at the opening scene of a book. It can make you want to just close the book right there, and give up. How hard is it to write that opening scene? How do you know where to start the story? Are you more pantster or plotter?
Alex: I think I'm quite visual, so I suppose I try to open books in the same way that a movie would open, with something striking and emotive that intrigues and invites but without introducing too many complex elements at once. Also, I try to start in the middle of the story too, if that makes sense. So, for "Home..." , although it starts with Caleb meeting Jacob, that isn't really the start of Caleb's story, or Jacob's. I think I try to write what I like to read ultimately, so some explanation but lots of alluding to things that may have already happened that are gradually revealed over the course of the story.
I definitely plot—I usually decide the number of chapters, what scenes will be in each chapter, how each scene will break down, and think about what the scene actually does in terms of character and plot development, so I can get the flow and story arc right—but it's very flexible and vague as plotting goes, because only once I start writing do I really get a sense of how the story is going to play out.
BBJ: So, Aaron and Dylan – how did these guys come to you, and what made you want to write a RL contemp tale, after the Alphas’ Homestead series? Was it inspired by a certain fave Xmas movie of yours with characters called Clarence and George? And, will we be seeing more of the guys, please?
Alex: I wanted to write a Christmas story because I love Christmas stories! And actually, most of my unpublished WIPs are contemporary so that wasn't so much of a leap for me. I had intended to do a follow up to the Daniel/Elliot story Something Beginning with 'V" this year but the more I thought about it, I realized that I couldn't do justice to my idea in a novella and I didn't have time to write a longer story. Then I was listening to The River by Joni Mitchell, and the scene on the bridge just popped into my head. I was thinking of it from Dylan's perspective and I have to say I bawled my eyes out. So, I figured you guys might like it. It wasn't until I started writing that Aaron's circumstances became apparent, which was when I started to worry that it was too sad for a Christmas story. Needless to say, I was persuaded otherwise.
I hadn't intended to write any more about them but if you keep your eyes peeled there might be a short Dylan-POV freebie appearing on my website over the holidays, and I have a very clear scene in my head that might end up being a whole other book at some point. Maybe. If you don't end up on the naughty list.
BBJ: If you had the chance to make one of your books into a film, which would it be and who would you choose to play the leads? We’re fans of all of your guys…so think carefully, ver-eee carefully Ms Bond…Jane!
Alex: I think Home Is Where You Are would make an epic mini series, don't you? In my mind, Caleb has always been Tom Hardy (the Bane/Bronson version not the Inception version). He's just got such a presence, and that quiet, sexy...thing about him, and I think he plays the internal emotional turmoil thing very well. Plus, that voice...gah! As for Jacob…I honestly don’t know. I have a picture that I found of a model, which is how I imagine him looking, and when he smiles and is cheeky I’m definitely thinking of Jared Padalecki but I can’t see him playing Jacob. People who sign up to my newsletter get access to an area of my website that has some pages I’m working on where you can see my inspiration for the characters and the books in general. You can see Jacob’s picture there if you’re curious.
Can I offer a prize? One of my ebooks to the person with the best suggestion of an actor to play Jacob?
BBJ: How open are you able to be with friends/family/co-workers about writing MM romance, Alex, and what have their reactions been?
Alex: It's tricky. I tend to take the attitude that the people who matter won't mind and the people that mind don't matter, but sometimes things aren't that simple. My mum has been reading my stuff for ages, even my fanfic. She's very supportive but I think she'd like me to write something other than romance. I've told a few friends and they're bemused that I've ended up doing this—though, quite frankly, so am I!—but everyone's been very supportive and encouraging. Mostly, I only tell people I write romances novels when I really have to, mostly so I can avoid the “so when are you going to write a proper book?” question. But also, I have a child who's asked me to use a pen-name and not be too public about things for their own reasons. I have to respect that and I really hope other people do too. I'm certainly not hiding what I do or who I am, but you won't see my picture online anytime soon.
BBJ: Finally, Alex, what makes you happiest? Saddest? Angriest?
Alex: Happiest, my dog. She's the best. Hands down. Of all the dogs, she's the very best one. No contest.
Saddest...I think simply the state of things. There's so much good happening right now but it's getting drowned out by the negative stuff. And I'm still not over Bowie.
Angriest, hmm. There are things that get my goat but let's not dwell. I think if we could all be a little kinder, a little more patient and understanding, and listen a little better, there'd be a lot less of that emotion flying around. And it doesn't take much. Just a little.
BBJ: And now, the quick-fire round:
Describe yourself in one word. - Writer.
What’s your favourite food and drink? - Papaya and coffee...not together
What’s your superpower, Alex, and your Kryptonite/Wolfsbane? - Oh, I don't know about a superpower but my Kryptonite is definitely social situations. I one hundred percent suck at those.
Brighton, England, or Copacabana beach, Brazil? - I love Brighton...I've never been to Copacabana...but right now, huddled next to the electric heater, I wouldn't say no to a trip to Brazil.
What’s the best thing about being an author? - Apart from the massive relief when someone reads your story and doesn't hate it, I'd say writing the first draft, when I get to find out about the story for the first time. I hope that sense of fascination never leaves me.
Thanks for popping in, Alex . We hope you had fun visiting and we’ll be impatiently waiting for Longing For Shelter. Oh, and please may we have first dibs on an ARC? Pretty please, with sprinkles on? 😀
Thank you so much for having me. This has been really fun. And as for the ARC...I'll have a word with Santa and see what he says about that naughty list.
Published - October 21st 2016
A story of grief, sadness, and letting it go; and finding love when you least expect it.
Aaron has spent the past ten months alone. When he meets a sad, yet strangely familiar man on a cold Halloween night, he impulsively invites him home. But the intimate connection they share lasts only until morning. Aaron wakes up alone—wracked with guilt and devastated to have lost his chance.
Or so he thinks.
Thanksgiving brings Aaron another shot at happiness, but letting go of an old love and accepting a new one isn’t as easy as everyone keeps telling him. And by the time Christmas Eve rolls around, it becomes clear that Aaron’s not the only one struggling to let himself love again.
Christmas miracles are all well and good, but it’s going to take more than the Holiday Spirit for Aaron to get his happy ever after.
Aaron didn't look back. He shook off George's gentle grip when he got to the end of the bed and quickly shucked his jeans and shirt before he had a chance to change his mind. When he turned finally, George was just staring, his lips parted and wet. Aaron instinctively drew his arms up to cover his chest, even though he was still wearing a t-shirt—he wasn’t brave enough to face him in just his boxers. He knew he wasn't much to look at anymore. Not that he’d ever been much of a gym bunny but the last twelve months had seen him lapse to not much more than a couch potato.
He cleared his throat to apologize, to tell George that they didn't have to go through with it, maybe it was a mistake after all, but George took a step forward, coming so close, Aaron could feel breath on his cheek when George asked, "Can I kiss you? I—I really want to kiss you.”
Aaron thought he might burst out laughing, he felt almost hysterical at the formality of the request. No one had asked him that before. He managed to keep it together and nodded, saying awkwardly, "Um...okay?" He didn't have time to berate himself for sounding like an idiot—why in the hell did that come out like a question?— because George leaned in, pausing just before he made contact, then ever so gently pressed his lips against Aaron's.
This is a short, sweet and pretty much Mary Poppins tale - Practically Perfect In Every Way.
It's a tale of a couple of guys who've lost someone - one's not that long ago widowed and is still coming to terms with it, and the other has been dumped on, and dumped by his ex-cum-boss, who's rushed out to replace him with what seems to be a younger model.
There's the tiniest, tiniest connecting thing between them (not a connection, just something...) that makes the tale work and that provides just the right bit of angst. The tale is about moving on, about not wanting to let go of love and also about wanting to experience happiness again. It worked beautifully with the leads AJ created and I believed in them, in their HEA and that perhaps an angel called John was looking down on them.
ARC courtesy of the author for my reading pleasure.
Wannabe novelist with an even more implausible job in real-life, Alex finally got around to writing down the stories she had spent most of her life crafting in her head, under the shadow of a significant birthday. With only a one-eyed dog and a horrifyingly muddled music collection to help her along, her stories focus on finding love and keeping it. And if her characters have to go through Hell to get there…she’s okay with that. Alex lives, works, and is probably writing right now in Brighton, UK. She’s currently a member of the RNA (Romance Novelists Association).