I’m super excited to have Alexis Hall here today on his debut launch day for GLITTERLAND. If you haven’t checked out this amazing book, you really should. I started hearing about it at RWA and of course, begged his editor for a copy. It was really shameless. But I’m so glad I did because I haven’t read a book that made me laugh out loud in the middle of sobbing in a *really* long time.
So without further delay…
Hello, and welcome to my first ever blog tour, celebrating Riptide Publishing’s release of my first ever novel, GLITTERLAND. Yay! Thank you so much to [RELEVANT HUMAN] for hosting me. And, to you, dear reader, for stopping by. If you’d like to come with me and keep me company on my virtual wanderings, you can find a full listing of when and where I am here.
There’s also some kind of contest type thing happening. The truth is – and already I reveal the rather limited scope of my imagination – quite a lot of the incidental things in GLITTERLAND have a little bit too much reality to them. In the sense that they’re, cough, in my house. Occasionally about my person. One of the things that absolutely isn’t about my person, and has always been solely decorative, is the peacock feather Venetian mask Ash has in his bedroom. I, too, rather admire the beauty of artificial things. If you’d like to win this slightly random souvenir, answer the three questions below (answers in the book) and drop me an email. I’ll announce the winner a handful of days after the end of the tour on the 3rd of September.
1. What other peacock feather themed item does Ash own?
2. What does Darian have tattooed on his hip?
3. What is the name of Chloe’s boutique?
“Essex is well safe,” said Gary, returning with a tray of drinks and passing them round. “Like there was this one time, right, when Darian fought he was being burgled […] So there ’e goes, creeping down the stairs at three in the morning, wif me on the phone and armed wif an eyebrow pencil—”
“It was well sharp,” put in Darian.
“And, y’know what, right? It’s a duck aht there.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Darian, “but it was obvs trying to burgle me. It was a bad duck.”
–Somewhere in the middle of GLITTERLAND
I have to confess, of all the things I thought people might possibly want to ask me about GLITTERLAND, what was going on with the duck, well, wasn’t one. But it is my honour and privilege to present here the never-before-revealed, 100% exclusive, uncut and unadulterated context to the duck story:
I sometimes miss being in my early 20s. It’s a time in your life when you can get away with stuff that the development of self-irony later precludes. So, yes, it was the early 2000s, and I’d just been dumped. I responded to this in what seemed at the time to be the absolutely correct fashion, which was to move out of the flat I was sharing with my (ex)partner, along with my no furniture and no money, and take a room in a dilapidated Victorian mansion by the river.
This building was later condemned. And, I suspect, it was available to rent at such a reasonable rate because there were only intermittent amenities and the landlord was a drug dealer. He was very nice, by the way, and my heart was ruined beyond repair, so I didn’t really see the need for running water, gas or electricity.
My room was red. Red like a lion’s tongue. Red like Victorian Madame’s, ah, smile. It had floor-to-ceiling windows that opened onto a ferine wilderness and the silver-grey river. The ceiling was pock-marked from where a vast chandelier must once have hung, and all the ornate moulding was spiralled in chartreuse-green damp.
I was enraptured.
The day I moved in, my (ex)partner – symbolically, I feel – gave me our bed. It was a vast baroque monstrosity of a thing, kinkily festooned with curlicues. So, I lay on it, smoking Gauloises, listening to Leonard Cohen, and being terribly terribly sad. In short, having a splendid time. However, when I realised I was basically visible to anyone on the river – boatloads of tourists, entire rowing crews – I decided I was going to have to make some concessions to domestic comfort. It turned out curtains, especially 8 foot long curtains, were expensive. So instead I brought swathes of aubergine taffeta from an off-cut place and, err, draped them over a rail I nailed into the wall. Caligula himself would have been impressed by the splendour of it.
Aubergine taffeta, even in vast quantities, does not make good curtain material. What it does make is a cinema of Lovecraftian awfulness as it transforms perfectly ordinary things, like trees, grass, and overgrown shrubs, into the writhing shadows of eldritch horrors.
And, one night, I was awoken by an actual shoggoth. In the garden. Shuffling around, making blasphemous, and possibly even squamous, noises, trying to get into my room.
I did what any gentleman would do under such circumstances: I pulled the duvet over my head and freaked the fuck out.
But still the creature malingered, its attempts at ingress growing ever more determined, its noises more inhumanly sinister. And every time I dared peek beyond the boundary of my bed, its vilely distorted silhouette seemed to grow larger, and yet more vilely distorted.
I realised I had no choice. I would have to face the beast. So I crawled out of bed and into my dressing gown, I seized a copy of A Dance To the Music of Time, which was the closest thing I had to a weapon, and I advanced to meet my doom.
With the sort of desperate courage that comes from being sleepless and neurotic, I tore down my taffeta in one bold sweep. I kind of hit of myself on the head with one of the curtain rails, but that wrecks the drama of the situation so we’ll pretend I didn’t.
And there, in the pale moonlight, staring at me with cold, dead eyes, was the monster.
“Quack,” it said.
I absolutely don’t write directly from life, because that would be kind of weird and uncomfortable-making, but I think there’s an extent to which writing, for me, is a sort of patchworking exercise. I haphazardly sew things, or fragments of things together, like some kind of deranged yet optimistic Frankenstein. And, sometimes, if I’m really lucky, I get a book out of it at some point. Which may contain odd stories about ducks. But I kind of think life is full of small strangenesses that are best spun into some kind of fiction, if you can possibly manage it. It all makes more sense that way.
And, anyway, ducks are nasty bastards. It’s not just that I’m prejudiced due to my personal duck-related trauma. It’s true. Studies have been done. You should never trust a duck. If one comes near you, run away. It’s probably trying to have its way with you. And they have lasso penises. Just sayin.
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 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.
Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.
Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.
But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?
You can read an excerpt and, y’know, cough, buy the book, if you want, at Riptide Publishing.