Alexis Hall talks There will be Phlogiston and There will Be Phlogiston ~ Blog Tour, Guest Blog, Rafflecopter Giveaway

Prism Book Alliance would like to thank Alexis Hall for taking the time to talk with us today.

There will be Phlogiston

Title: There will be Phlogiston
Author: Alexis Hall
Publisher: Riptide
Cover Artist: Simone
Genre/Sub-Genre: Menage/Poly, Steampunk

Blurb:

An instructive story in which vice receives its just reward.

Inspired by true and scandalous tales of the Gaslight aristocracy, we present the most moral and improving tale of Lady Rosamond Wolfram.
Weep, reader, for the plight of our heroine as she descends into piteous ruin in the clutches of the notorious Phlogiston Baron, Anstruther Jones. Witness the horrors of feminine rebellion when this headstrong young lady defies her father, breaks an advantageous engagement, and slips into depravity with a social inferior. Before the last page is turned, you will have seen our heroine molested by carnival folk, snubbed at a dance, and drawn into a sinful ménage a trois by an unrepentant sodomite, the wicked and licentious Lord Mercury.
Reader, take heed. No aspect of our unfortunate heroine’s life, adventures, or conduct is at all admirable, desirable, exciting, thrilling, glamorous, or filled with heady passion and gay romance.

Hello, and welcome to the mini blog tour for There Will Be Phlogiston (released: 8th December), a free novella set in the Prosperityverse. Many thanks to Prism Book Alliance for hosting me today!

About ‘There Will Be Phlogiston’

You can get a copy, and read an excerpt, over at Riptide Publishing.

There will Be Phlogiston:

To celebrate the release of Phlogiston, I’m also doing a little giveaway of any book from my backlist, which you can enter by entering the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the post

I’ve also got a scant handful of cover postcards left, so if you’d like one of those, I’d be really happy to post one to you wherever you are in the world. Send me a message via Facebook or Twitter, you can email me at alexisjhall@gmail.com.

Postcards Alexis Hall

And I’ll be hanging the Steampunk Flashgroup on Facebook for the next couple of days, talking about the book in more depth, and answering any questions. I hope to see you there.

Free to a Good Home

I guess a legitimate question you might be asking about There Will Be Phlogiston is … why is this 40k novella free?

I’ve done freebies before but they’ve been shorts, like Glitterland: Aftermath and Draconitas. Obviously, the personal or artistic value of a text is not directly linked to its length or how much you have to pay for it, but I can see it might look a bit inconsistent, especially when, for example, Sand and Ruin and Gold is only 10k words, and very much the opposite of free.

But in case you’re curious, here’s why this happened.

The thing is, Phlogiston was actually meant to be a short. There’s a scene in Cloudy Climes and Starless Skies involving Byron Kae’s half-sister, Lady Rosamond. She’s kind of an antagonist at that point, but my general rule of thumb for writing secondary characters (which I’m sure is everyone’s rule of thumb because how else you gonna do it?) is to write them as if they’re the hero/ine of their own book. Let the current protagonist perceive them based on their own preoccupations and prejudices, but at the same time try hold onto an idea of how those characters might perceive and understand themselves. And this was particularly true for Rosamond, perhaps more than any other character I’ve written, because there’s an absolutely enormous gap between how she acts and who she is.

She’s about seventeen years old in Cloudy and Phlogiston, newly returned from finishing school, knowing her only hope of success and happiness in life is to marry a rich, titled man, and that in order to do that she has to behave in a heavily limited, heavily prescribed way. Her father is largely indifferent to her, her mother is a laudanum addict, and she suddenly discovers she has half-Chinese, half-sibling who doesn’t define as a man. There’s no denying that she’s awful to Byron Kae in Cloudy:

Lord Wolfram’s daughter—Rosamond, she was called—tilted her head inquisitively. It was a charming gesture, harmless, artless, clearly practiced. “Are you truly half-Celestial? My mother says your mother was a demon whore.”

But … I confess, I loved her.

Byron Kae is too trapped and miserable to be able to recognise that Rosamond is just as trapped and miserable. All they see is someone wielding without mercy what power they possess – and it’s not entirely a habit Rosamond loses, even in Phlogiston. Power is important to her. Of course it is, she doesn’t have any. But she’s also terribly lonely, and terribly afraid: she essentially blackmails her half-sibling into “performing friend duties” (listening to her and spending time with her). This is obviously not even a little bit okay, but it’s the act of a desperate person, not the act of a cruel one.

I couldn’t leave Rosamond like that. I just couldn’t.

But I write for a queer press and Rosamond isn’t even a little bit queer, despite some boredom-fuelled experiments with other girls at finishing school. I should probably say at this juncture that it isn’t so much that queer presses selfishly exclude non-queer stories … it’s just that if you want to find non-queer stories they’re, uh, bloody everywhere, so there’s real value in centralising and showcasing more marginalised voices. And, equally, one does owe something to reader expectations: if someone is looking for a queer romance, and I give them an entirely het romance… that’s kind of a dick move on my part.

So, I talked about it with my wonderful editor, Sarah Frantz-Lyons, and we decided to include Rosamond’s story as part of the anthology Liberty & Other Stories as an extra that people could read or ignore at their own discretion.

But then a couple of things happened. These were, in order:

1. Lord Mercury

2. …About 36 thousand more words than I had intended.

I knew almost from the moment writing her what kind of partner Rosamond would want and need – probably someone from outside her world, someone who would admire and understand her for all the reasons she’s not the most naturally sympathetic person in the universe, someone who was comfortable enough in himself to dismantle her power games without being hurt by them. And, with a nod to the romancenomics of Jane Austen, somebody very, very rich. Knowing more about secondary and barely mentioned characters than a reader could ever be arsed to once again paid off: no sooner had I figured out what sort of person Rosamond would like than I knew exactly who she needed to meet. On the first page of Prosperity there’s a throwaway mention of the Phlogiston Baron, who had made his fortune from the sky and then bought himself a house in Gaslight’s Golden Quarter.

Yep. That guy.

Anstruther Jones.

It was pretty obvious that he would need some manner of ‘in’ to Gaslight high society, so I introduced the character of Lord Mercury, one of the city’s aristocrats, of late fallen on hard times. Jones restores his fortune in exchange for tutoring, social introductions, and respectability. From the first scene I wrote between them, I knew they were fucking. I knew Jones was comfortable with this—and I knew Lord Mercury wasn’t.

It was meant to be background only. Something that troubles me about romance is the way the central relationship will sometimes only be seen as valid if it exists in splendid isolation from all other connections in a person’s life – so I like my characters to have sexual partners, friends, people they parted from amicably, people they parted from badly. At least, if they’re not a seventeen-year-older Victorian virgin with no friends. It’s obviously more difficult, then.

I was also indulging an opportunity to present a sexually fluid character more directly than is usual for me. Not all my characters are purely homosexual, but one of the major problems in portraying sexually fluid characters in fiction, especially romance fiction, is that you’re trapped between two unsatisfying extremes. Either you set up the sexually-fluid person in some kind of polyamorous arrangement, thus implying that someone who enjoys all the genitals can’t be happy in a relationship unless they have direct access to said genitals— [which is, of course, nonsense, because love is about love, not about bits. It’s not like you wake up one morning and are all like “I love you darling, and I know we have a completely fulfilling relationship but I seriously can’t go on without some boobs in my life.”] —or you put the sexually-fluid person in a standard pairing, whereupon … their sexuality suddenly becomes defined by the gender of the person they’re with at that moment. Which is also nonsense, but—nevertheless, a genuine erasure problem in life as well as in fiction. Bisexuals don’t stop being bisexuals just because they’re in a monogamous relationship, but it’s easy to forget that.

And that was when I realised: hey, wait a minute, if Anstruther Jones is bisexual, then surely I’m still writing a queer story, even if he ends up with a straight, cis-gendered woman. Except it really doesn’t work that way, does it: queerness and straightness, in the romance genre, are entirely defined by the gender-identity of the partners involved, not the sexuality of the protagonists.

I’m honestly kind of troubled by that, but it’s a rant for another day.

So there I was, ten thousand words into a six-thousand-word short, and once again bitten by the secondary character problem. I realised how much I cared about Lord Mercury. Yes, I’d only introduced him for the sake of context, but – like Rosamond – he was lonely, trapped, and miserable.

And I couldn’t just leave him like that, either.

Aaaand 40k words later: my 6k het short was a 40k MMF novella.

Sarah and I put our heads together, and thought about what to do with it, and eventually we decided to keep it as a slightly outlandish freebie. MMF is a thing that not all romance readers are into, and for whatever reason, there’s a strong contingent of m/m readers who aren’t comfortable with too much, um, F in their MM. And, ultimately, whatever I might feel personally about the choices people make, I believe very strongly in their right to make those choices.

But here’s the other thing. The Prosperityverse is what it is: it’s weird steampunk with magic and krakens and airships and Victorian pseudo-science, and the first book is, y’know, actually written in dialect. I’ve done my best to make it entertaining and accessible but … God … I’m very aware that it takes effort to sink into that kind of thing. More than that, it takes trust; it takes trust that what I’m asking from you as a reader is worth it. I mean, you could be spending your time on a story that isn’t drenched in 19th century thieves cant.

So … Phlogiston is my thank-you.

Thank you for giving Prosperity a chance.

Thank you for sticking with it, despite the language.

Thank you for letting me tell these stories of my heart in the way I felt they needed to be told.

I hope you enjoy it.

About the Author:

Alexis HallAbout AJH

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.

 

Author Links:

You can also find him all over the internet, on his website, Facebook, Twitter, BookLikes, and Goodreads.

Tour Stops:

December 8, 2014 The Novel Approach
December 8, 2014 Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews
December 9, 2014 Love Bytes
December 9, 2014 Prism Book Alliance

Buy Links:

Riptide
All Romance eBooks

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Phlogiston Tour Banner Riptide

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

Brandilyn
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Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews.  The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.

15 thoughts on “Alexis Hall talks There will be Phlogiston and There will Be Phlogiston ~ Blog Tour, Guest Blog, Rafflecopter Giveaway

  1. I’m loving There Will Be Phlogiston! Though, admittedly, I’m such a fan of the whole Prosperityverse that Alexis could write a story about sky krackens getting together and I’d STILL devour it.

  2. Alexis, you’re actually thanking us for reading Prosperity? Wow, that is so… You’re so cute. But, but… this is so… What? Listen, I am so, so grateful that you wrote Prosperity and that I could read it. I feel like I should be thanking you, every day. And I would, too. But I guess you’d block me after a while for being a creepy stalker fangirl.

    Thank you for sharing how Phlogiston came to life. That was really interesting. And thank you for giving Lord Mercury a happy ending. I’m quite fond of him 🙂 Also of Jones and Ros, of course. I have not read many good books with 3 people in a relationship, as I’ve mentioned on FB, but Phlogiston was so very rewarding. I was very happy for them, and I think this was lovely, and I can see this work.

    Thank you for writing such awesome books and being awesome yourself.

    • Steampunk is just an incredibly niche genre, especially steampunk some idiot thought would be a good idea to write in cant 🙂 So I’m grateful for the support of every creepy stalker fan 😉 Not that you come across that way at all, silly 🙂

      I remember having the chat with on Facebook about multi-partner romance and I can definitely see all the concerns. While I don’t think relationships have to be monogamous to be valid or successful, I can’t really imagine sitting down to write a triad or a ménage – this was just sort of happened, and felt right 🙂

      • Writing Prosperity in cant was the best ideas of all, silly 😉 Although I have to say that I read the text passage on your website where you show how this developed from the first stages, and I am grateful that you published the newest, less canty version, because I might have been lost otherwise. But the cant… I absolutely loved that. And I think it’s a pity that not more authors have the guts to do such a thing (or write an accent like the Essex). And you can point all sceptics to me and I’ll tell them that I as a non-native speaker not only was able to read it, but enjoyed it immensely. Yes, I am quite proud of myself 😉

        I may not come across as a creepy stalker fan, but as I said, I refrain from telling you every day how much I love your books and your posts and well everything. But I guess my friends can’t hear it anymore (because, I have to tell someone when I’m all excited…) and I’m sure they already snicker behind my back. I am spamming their update feeds every single time I read a book of yours. Yes, okay, not only then…

        The triad felt right, yes 🙂 And that was my only complaint about other books that I had read, that it didn’t. But I have not read that many, really. I know there are good ones out there.

  3. I’m not finished with Phlogiston yet, but I love Rosamond. Love her to pieces! She is so terribly frustrated with the rigid societal constraints upon her, at the same time enjoying all of the benefits of said society. She’s amazing! Best historical heroine I’ve read in a long time.

    • I’m so happy to hear you love Ros. I very much loved writing her, because she’s at once a good and a terrible person. Not very nice at all, but strong and – in her way – compassionate.

      Hope you enjoy the rest of the book 🙂

  4. I have Prosperity and love it. I downloaded Phlogiston the other day and haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m betting I’ll love it even though I don’t usually read menage. 🙂 Thanks!!

  5. Wow, I can’t believe I actually forgot to comment on this. In fact, I realize I must have got distracted halfway thru the reading somehow.

    First of all, I adore this “ten thousand words into a six-thousand-word short” 😉

    Thank you, so much for the amazing gift of Phlogiston. Hee, sounds a bit weird 😉 We should probably be really careful with that, right, so we don’t blow ourselves up? But in all seriousness, I just finished the book, it’s beautiful & funny & sexy & moving & more. Who else but you could reduce me to tears over the color of a silk waistcoat? Twice? And there were a couple of scenes that made me so *proud*, of the characters & of you for writing it that way, felt like crying & stand up to cheer at the same time. So, I think this book is perfect; it’s exactly the length it was meant to be. And every character feels utterly necessary. So, the fact you’ve given it to us! It’s just the most amazing, generous thing. But Prosperity itself was already a gift. Er, yeah, well yeah, we did pay for it 😉 But, I mean, the gift of your heart. And nothing could be more precious. So, as Mel says, I feel like we should be thanking you. And we could give you our hearts in return . . . but of course, we already have <3

    Also, I haven't read a lot of MMF, but I've read some & this is definitely the most love-centric one I've ever read. Typically, seems to me anyway, the central point of these dynamics seems to be the just the hawtness of it all. And while this is certainly all that (wo-ow!), it's so much more than that. But then, naturally, you would never write anything typical! And we wouldn't want you to 🙂

    And wow, thank you again, as I think I accidentally just wrote a major part of my review in this comment 😀

    • I can totally see where the focus on hawtitude comes from: I think, perhaps, it’s easier to understand the sexual dimension than the love dimension. I mean, I’m the same: we’re inculcated into the idea that love is for two people (ideally a man person and a woman person) pretty much from birth. So in writing a ménage – or rather a triad – I really wanted to make sure that you could understand what these people might give each other outside the bedroom. Why they were stronger as three than two. And probably it ended up being 40k words because I really wanted to establish the the whole web of connections: Ros and Jones, Jones and Arkady, Ros and Arkady.

      I probably wouldn’t lightly try to write that again – it’s complicated! 🙂

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