Q&A: Alexis Hall, author of “Something Fabulous”
Recently, The daily nerd had the pleasure of chatting with returning author Alexis Hall, whose new novel something fabulous, a hilarious yet tender regency game, is now available. We were able to ask Alexis about his new novel, his favorite regency novels and much more!
Hi Alexis! Thank you for joining us once again. How are you doing?
Thank you so much for having me back. Obviously things are a little up in the air when it comes to action, with Omicron the rapidly spiraling cost of living and being in a country where the biggest political question is whether a group of people getting drunk on wine is a party. or not (yes, even if you are the prime minister). But you know, I’m fine.
Now tell us about something fabulous! What can readers expect?
I’m really tempted to say they can expect something fabulous and leave it there, but I guess that’s cheating? And not very useful.
I will say, however, that the clue is quite in the name in that it’s a light and brilliant game (with some additional srs themes if you want to seek them out) set in an ahistorical, respectful regency homosexuals.
If you could travel back in time to the Regency era, what would be the first thing you would do/see?
I mean, I’m working class, so the first thing I would do would be to go back to a time when I had other options than domestic service or death in a factory. For example, I honestly have quite ambivalent feelings about the love of balls, pretty dresses, the wazoo image we have of the Regency, while being fully aware that in fact not only is it is a fictionalized picture of history, it’s a romanticized picture of the history of a tiny fraction of the people who were actually alive at the time.
Like, don’t get me wrong, I like bullets (please don’t take this out of context) and dueling pistols but I wouldn’t want to go back to the current Regency any more than I would like to be in a real duel.
I’d like to know how the waterfall worked in Vauxhall Gardens, although it’s a plot point in A Lady For A Duke, rather than Something Fabulous. I mean, I can roughly figure it out, but we only have speculation and a drawing that looks like this [adding drawing] so you can see why I’m curious.
Of course, I suppose if I went back to the Regency era, it would be a good opportunity to do some unprecedented historical research, especially (and this goes back to the whole “most people weren’t at the prom” above) into the kind of people whose lives tend not to leave much written evidence.
There’s this super classic feel to something fabulous (makes me wish the classics had been written so engagingly back then). What’s your favorite classic or regency-era novel?
Well, I’ll be honest… “super classic” isn’t the comeback I was expecting. Very stupid and ridiculously anachronistic, which is what I expected.
If by classic or Regency-era you mean “actually written in the early 19and century,” then Austen is, of course, the best choice, but don’t ask me to pick a favorite because I can’t. I mean, Persuasion is definitely the most romantic, but Emma is talking about a messy pew who loves drama, so can I understand? Plus I have a weak secret about Mansfield Park because it’s the one nobody likes (and I’m in the vanishing minority of people who definitely, definitely believe that Fanny Price shouldn’t have have with Henry Crawford).
That said, I think my favorite Regency novel – or a novel that was written during the Regency period – is actually Frankenstein. Partly because it’s awesome and partly because I think it’s really important to remember that the Regency era wasn’t just one thing, and while some women were written with social commentary incisive during country dances, others were all BUT WHAT IF ZOMBIES.
Plus, Mary Shelley was ALSO a messy bench who loved drama.
something fabulous was without a doubt one of the funniest books I have ever read. How was the writing process for you with this witty story?
Oh, I’m just effortlessly hilarious. It’s very simple.
Uh… of course it’s… it’s really a joke. I’m growing increasingly worried about how this interview is going to sound out of context.
I know it’s probably counter-intuitive but the writing process was, uh, basically very sad? Because it was 2021 and the pandemic was dragging on, and there was no end in sight, so I really wanted to…be somewhere else. I mean, part of it was just wanting an opportunity to be over the top and absurd. But the thing about Bonny is that he feels his life has been lived through the books and that’s how I was living at the time. So I wanted to express my gratitude for the escape that art can give you. But I also wanted to write about people going out and interacting with other human beings. So, you know, Bonny lived my dream for a while there.
Valentine and Bonny deliver all the goodness of the grumpy/sunny trope in this novel! Their dynamic works so well. What shenanigans do you think they would be up to if they were dropped in 2022?
I mean, the way things are going, they’d probably be housebound because there’s a very real risk of Omicron spiraling out of control. Although given their social class, there is also a reasonable chance that they will get angry in a backyard with the Prime Minister.
I love how weird this novel is! Positivity, the flippant presence of queer characters in every part of the story, and the stunning depiction of demisexuality you offer readers. Without giving too much away, was there a favorite scene to write where Valentine realizes how rare heterosexuality is?
Oh thanks, that’s kind of you.
Honestly, it’s a bit of a cheap gag (okay, the whole book is cheap gags) but my favorite “hang up, could these people be gay” moment is the whole section with the “poor single ladies living alone together in their cottage in the countryside.” It was partly, of course, a nod to the Ladies of Llangollen, but I really appreciated that Valentine condescendingly took pity on and was totally oblivious to these clearly happy and successful lesbians.
Last year you mentioned in our interview that you were “trying” to be a writer and that you really enjoyed it. We hope this is still the case! What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
I will definitely try again.
I think I always say my favorite part of being a writer is, well, the actual writing? One of the things I think about a lot is that “being a writer” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and involves a lot of jobs that aren’t writing. Being a writer is kind of like being a combination of small business owner, social media influencer, data entry clerk, and, since you’re doing it from your own home, office cleaner: and all the world does it in different proportions. Probably, in fact, I should spend more time cleaning.
But at the end of the day, the part of the job that I feel most comfortable in is the part of the words on paper. Not that I use paper, of course.
2022 also marks the year of your return to Olivier and Luc in husband material! What do you expect readers to discover about this sequel?
Let them not put a dog there.
Just kidding, I’m afraid they’ll find out.
Seriously I have to drop this but there was a brief version of the cover with a cute dog on it and everyone was super excited about having a dog and I didn’t plan on them have a dog in this book so now i’m really scared everyone is “no dog DNF”
I’m sorry there is no dog. It didn’t seem right to them at this point in their relationship.
With something fabulous will be released soon, are you already working on a new project? If so, would you like to share a tidbit about it with us?
So one of the weird things behind the curtain about editing is that everything happens with a huge delay, so I’m probably writing at least one more book between the end of Something Fabulous and now. And, actually, because of some weird planning quirk of the new project I did after Something Fabulous was actually Murder Most Actual which was released two months ago because Kobo and I both had gaps in our schedules. Do not hesitate to consult it, if you have not already done so? Like Something Fabulous, it’s an original game, but it’s a cozy mystery rather than a regency. Also: check the audio if you can. The actor they got for it (Remmie Milner) is amazing.
As for what I’m writing physically, it’s Something Spectacular which, as you can see from the title, is the sequel to Something Fabulous. This is Peggy’s book, for anyone who knows what it means.
Finally, do you have any book recommendations for our readers?
Um, well, I’m reading Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft right now, because I was at a game store and haven’t bought a D&D book in ages. But I think it’s probably a niche interest. Also, the plot isn’t great and the central romance is problematic (sorry, this joke will only make sense if you’re an old school D&D fan).
I’ve actually been lucky enough to read some fantastic ARCs recently: a few books readers should really have on their radar for this coming year are Lex Croucher’s Reputation (another Regency game probably best described as Regency Mean Girls), Ashley Herring-Blake’s Delilah Green Doesn’t Care (an absolutely gorgeous Sapphic romantic comedy about a cynical artist returning to her hometown for a wedding and falling in love with a single mother who owns a bookstore) and, for those who, like Leonard Cohen, want it darker, there are two surprisingly hardcore YA needs to come out. Gina Chen’s Violet Made of Thorns turns flawed protagonists from enemies to lovers to, like, not even eleven? Maybe 25 million? Vanessa Len’s And Only A Monster is a magical flight of murder in time that barely scratches the surface.