Today I am so pleased to welcome Alexis Hall to Joyfully Jay. Alexis has come to talk to us about his latest release, Prosperity. He has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving Alexis a big welcome!
Sympathy for the Devil
One of the most liberating things I’ve learned about writing these past couple of years, when it rather suddenly became a thing I was doing, is this notion of a core story. Basically, the themes, the ideas, the characters and concepts, writers and readers return to over and over again.
I like this idea: I’m not repetitive, I have a core story.
Something I come back to a lot, in much of what I read, and pretty much everything I’ve written is the unsympathetic protagonist. I think I’ve probably come on a lot since Glitterland but, looking back, I am quite pleased with the way Ash is essentially – to use a pair of loaded terms – both the hero and villain of his own story.
But, then, aren’t we all?
While humans are capable of doing unimaginably evil things, there are few people in the real world who can be unambiguously termed villains. Everyone I’ve encountered in my own life, even those who’ve treated me badly, have been depressingly human all told, motivated by the same fears and uncertainties that drive us all. It’s hard to really hate someone when look at them and realise they’re no better or worse than you. I think this is what part of draws me to unsympathetic characters: while fiction can gives us models to aspire to, it can also show us reflections of our most flawed selves, and I find this strangely comforting. Of course, it’s nice when nice things happen to nice people, but watching the selfish and bewildered and hurt and angry limp towards their own brand of happiness is a story I’ll never get tired of reading or telling.
One the many reasons I enjoy writing genre fiction is that you can tell this sort of story in really big writing. I think the central theme of nearly all romances is that whoever you are you’re worthy of love, but one of the pleasures of writing genre is that you can take this idea and stretch it to breaking point.
And that’s how you get characters like Milord.
I basically wanted to write a character who is utterly irredeemable and undeserving, who does not even understand love, but nevertheless finds someone who is willing to love him. Milord’s first significant action in Prosperity is to shoot the protagonist, and he never changes or repents. You learn more about him and where he comes from, but I very much wanted to avoid at any point explaining him or suggesting a causal relationships between his past experiences and his more recent crimes. I think, like Ash, it’s not always possible to sympathise with him but I hope, I very much hope, that you can at least understand him.
And – wanky as it may seem – of the characters I’ve written, Milord is the one I feel closest to. I should probably clarify at this juncture that I’ve never murdered anyone, nor do I run a criminal empire in the north of England, but I’m kind of nowhere person like he is, and for a very long time love wasn’t really on my radar. I think there are some people who seem to find love effortless, they give it and receive it, and never seem to fear hurt or loss.
I’m not like that.
Love leaves me humbled and bewildered and grateful and terrified. It’s not a particularly gracious or graceful thing. It’s undignified and needy, and sometimes I’m selfish, and sometimes I’m cruel, and sometimes I’m, honestly, not very good at it.
But that’s why I write characters like Milord: to remind that love isn’t something you have to deserve.
A breathtaking tale of passion and adventure in the untamed skies!
Prosperity, 1863: a lawless skytown where varlets, chancers, and ne’er-do-wells risk everything to chase a fortune in the clouds, and where a Gaslight guttersnipe named Piccadilly is about to cheat the wrong man. This mistake will endanger his life . . . and his heart.
Thrill! As our hero battles dreadful kraken above Prosperity. Gasp! As the miracles of clockwork engineering allow a dead man to wreak his vengeance upon the living. Marvel! At the aerial escapades of the aethership, Shadowless.
Beware! The licentious and unchristian example set by the opium-addled navigatress, Miss Grey. Disapprove Strongly! Of the utter moral iniquity of the dastardly crime prince, Milord. Swoon! At the dashing skycaptain, Byron Kae. Swoon Again! At the tormented clergyman, Ruben Crowe.
This volume (available in print, and for the first time on mechanical book-reading devices) contains the complete original text of Piccadilly’s memoirs as first serialised in All the Year Round. Some passages may prove unsettling to unmarried gentlemen of a sensitive disposition.
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the twenty-first 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 seventeenth 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.
Alexis has brought a print copy of Prosperity to give away to one lucky reader. Just follow the Rafflecopter link below to enter.
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