Happy Valentine’s Day lovelies!
I’m very excited to have Ali Williams on the blog today for the first ever edition of Author Spotlight. To tell you a little about my guest, Ali is an author, an academic, an editor extraordinaire and an absolute favorite person person I have the great pleasure of knowing. She writes steamy paranormal romance novels with ancient gods and goddesses and short contemporary erotic romances. Her The Softest Kinksters Collection, a collection of erotic romance short stories, is out in the world today! She was generous enough to bless me with an advance copy to read so keep watching this space for my gushing review. In the mean time, let’s chat!
Hi, Ali! Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for being here. First things first. How are you celebrating your release day?
Well, it’s Valentine’s Day as well as my release day, so we’re being utterly luxurious! I’m cooking Mac & Cheese and my partner N is cooking fancy steaks, and we’re going to wash it down with bubbly and watch The Hating Game!
Elevator pitch: Describe this collection in a few words.
Slice of life short story romances, where anxiety and neurodiversity intersect with kink.
What was your inspiration for writing these stories? Do you remember the moment when the idea first sparked?
The first one was written for an anthology based around one of my favorite tropes (Only One Bed), but I found that I loved writing in this style. No names, close third person, and a deep focus in on how people’s vulnerabilities help them connect with each other. And after that I was a little addicted to writing them and released one a month!
What was favorite scene to write? You can choose one per story, if you like.
Oh my goodness! There are so many moments that I love:
- Holding On – Probably the moment when she comes in from the rain and he doesn’t even ask her what the matter is; he just wraps her up in blankets and gives her a mug of hot chocolate to drink, and curls up with her on the sofa.
- Hanging On – This is definitely cloudspace! It was my first time writing hypnokink in a romance and I think I captured the emotions of that moment really well.
- Carrying On – Every time something goes wrong! And it goes wrong a lot in this short, but they laugh and keep going.
- Turning On – There’s a moment in this where she looks at her self in the mirror, plump curves spilling out around the rope that she’s been tied up in and she says “I look like art.”
- Hitting On – When my himbo librarian asks the woman in the library out, in the most bumbling awkward way possible.
- Catching On – The sexy times in the pillow fort! 😉
- Putting On – Probably the moment, right at the end, where she realises that wearing his shirt all day is a secret kind of aftercare all her own.
- Playing On – I love how enthusiastic he gets when she gives him puppy ears and a tail!
- Letting On – When they’re negotiating the fake kink relationship at the beginning.
Which character from this collection was the easiest and the toughest to write and why?
Interestingly, I didn’t struggle with any of these characters, because the deep third person pop makes it really easy for me to find their voice. BUT I didn’t realise that not giving names to characters in an f/f romance becomes really difficult when you have “her”s all over the place!
One song that fits the aesthetic of each story.
- Holding On – Love On Top, by Beyonce
- Hanging On – Loving You, by Paolo Nutini
- Carrying On – Clumsy, by Fergie
- Turning On – Work of Art, from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
- Hitting On – I’d Rather Be With You, by Joshua Radin
- Catching On – You’re My Best Friend, by Queen
- Putting On – Breathe into Me, by Marian Hill
- Playing On – Bad Things, by Jace Everett
- Letting On – I Touch Myself, by The Divinyls
If these characters were your friends, which of them would you choose in the following scenarios:
- To enjoy a warm, relaxing day at the beach: The Dom hero from Holding On, because they spend time at the beach together leading up to the date, and it’s just so joyful!
- To talk to in a moment of emotional crisis: The Domme heroine in Hanging On, because she’s so calm and comforting.
- To celebrate a festival or personal achievement: Probably the sub heroine in Catching On because she’d be the same kind of bouncy excited energy as me!
- Reach out to during an emergency: The sub hero in Letting On, because he’s the perfect best friend.
- To accompany you to a bookstore: Definitely the himbo librarian hero from Hitting On, because he’s got such great taste in books!
As writers we often straddle the line of making up new worlds as well as adding/subtracting from our present or past scenarios. In my case, for example, I have sometimes given characters a habit or trait that I or someone in my family used to possess. Which part of your personal life, if any, has made it into the stories?
My anxiety made it in, in a big way. Lots of these characters are dealing with anxiety or self doubt, and I found it really cathartic to explore that in this collection. Also, it’s been the first time I’ve written characters who canonically (i.e. stated on the page) have ADHD, and that was interesting to explore as I’m going through the process of being formally diagnosed myself.
If you were given the opportunity to take the Soft Kinksters world and combine, co-write new stories with another author, who and which series would choose?
If this collection was being opted for a movie or television series, what would be your dream cast?
I think I’d be interested in seeing who the casting director chose, because I deliberately kept some of the details vague. I’m a bit strange in that I don’t visualise my characters (or any characters) when I write or read, but settings? Settings I know vividly. It would definitely take place in Brighton, which is a seaside city on the south coast of the UK.
What do you hope your readers will get out of this collection? What feelings do you want to leave them with?
I want them to feel safe; I think that’s the most important thing. And maybe warmth. These collection is called the Softest Kinksters for a reason – the characters really are the softest!
As a reader who’s admired your work and a writer who has worked with you, it’s almost impossible for me to not ask a few craft questions here. What’s your favorite part about writing romance?
I love creating settings and worlds; imagining the spaces that the characters exist in. But really, for me writing romance is all about exploring how two (or more) characters get to a point where they feel comfortable being vulnerable with each other.
Do your characters, worlds tend stay with you after finishing a story? Or do you move on to newer settings and find it easier to close the gate on the ones that came before?
My characters always stick with me – it’s why I’m going back to write more himbo librarian short stories, to release in a special collection in November. And I never quite want to close the door, which is why all of my paranormal romances are interconnected.
What does you writing process look like? Are you a plotter, panster, do you stand somewhere in the middle? Do you cry when writing emotional scenes?
I usually know where I want to be at the beginning and at the end, and have a really vivid scene from somewhere in the centre of the book in my mind, but the rest of it usually changes as I go along. I started one book intending it being Enemies to Lovers, only to have them head over heels for each other by chapter three!! But I’ve started using tarot and oracle cards more to get a better idea of character motivations and arcs before I start, and occasionally to push me forward when I’m blocked.
As an author, editor and academic, you wear many hats in the romance community. Do you find that one role compliments and assists with the other? Is it distracting or helpful?
I think that they all kind of feed into each other, in a way that I find helpful, but the hardest thing is switching writing styles from writing academic theoretical work, to writing creatively.
I’m an ardent fan and supporter of your Romancing the Discourse lecture series which you so generously invited me to. It’s made me wonder if you feel a difference in the way you approach a text? Reading as a reader vs reading as a writer vs reading as an academic, and what it adds to your reading experience?
I really wanted that lecture series to be really accessible: to introduce some of the concepts and ideas that I’m exploring in my theoretical research, and then apply it practically to texts and readings. And the best thing about the series, is having discussions with those who attend – it has such a deliciously collaborative feel to it.
What does Ali Williams’ perfect writing/reading retreat look like?
I have two really.
One is a rented house somewhere – possibly New Orleans – with all of the writers who I write with on a daily basis – where we spend all day writing and having plotting parties and cooking and eating together.
The other is booking a cottage for a week in the Highlands, and travelling up there with my partner. Me writing romance and him writing songs during the day, and then long walks after lunch, and evening spent curled up, relaxing in front of a fire.
If you had to choose one trope and/or sub-genre to read and/or write for the rest of your life, which would it be?
One trope would be forced proximity, because it encompasses so much: forced to work together, only one bed, snowed in, etc.
Subgenre would probably be paranormal romance – but very high heat, kinky paranormal romance! 😉
Last but not the least. What’s your ultimate wish for romancelandia? Where do you hope this community will stand in say, ten or twenty years?
I would like us to be actively anti-racist, anti-queerphobic, anti-transphobic, anti-acephobic, anti-ableist and anti-fatphobic. But we’ve a long way to go, and that means challenging those perspectives, whenever they rear up, and not leaving it to the community directly affected to deal with.
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity and taking out to the time to chat with me! I can’t wait for the world to get a hold of these stories.
Thanks so much for having me! I’m so excited for this collection to be out in the world!
Connect with Ali Williams at:
Lovelies, I hope you enjoyed reading this interview. If you haven’t checked out Ali’s books yet, I hope you will do so now. Have a wonderful Monday! Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Perveen is a South-Asian Muslim, an introvert who daydreams about love-myths, monsters, and magic during my day job and occasionally binge-watch period dramas at night. Most of her time is spent reading, writing & talking to the cats in my backyard.