I have absolutely no experience with ballet which is why
when LB Alexander reached out to me last year and asked
me to read their novel Swan Lake I was intrigued but also
nervous about whether I'd be able to sink into a book about a
topic of which the extent of my knowledge was the movie
Black Swan (and that movie was terrifying). In the end I was
so glad to have read Swan Lake because because it was such
a captivating read that covered emotional topics such as
eating disorders and blended it seemlessly with darker topics
such as the BDSM lifestyle.
In the end what really drew me to LB's writing was the way
the writing really made me feel. I wasn't reading about the
characters... I was the characters.
When LB reached out about my reading their upcoming work-in-progress, a novella set in the same world as Swan Lake, I decided that I'd do that and get them to answer some questions about their personal life.
So, for an interesting dive into LB's personal ballet experience, their favorite writing spot (and the most interesting one, oh my gosh) and the steps they took to becoming a published romance author, keep reading.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: How did you get started writing romance novels?
LB Alexander: So, I've been writing stories for-ev-er, all the way back to my elementary school days when I would scribble ideas in my notebooks. But it was probably around age 12 that I discovered my first trade paperback romance novels on the bookshelves of the family I used to babysit for...and I was instantly hooked. I read absolutely everything "romance" I could get my tween hands on, and that's when my own stories started to reflect this newfound love of happily ever afters. I kept actively writing throughout high school and college, published a small handful of short stories on a few online platforms, but i never considered myself an "author" per se. It was always a secret hobby of mine, a private passion I would always treasure, but never pursue professionally. I studied English and Neuroscience in college, but it wasn't until my senior year that I realized one of my plot bunnies about a ballerina falling in love with a sexual sadist had evolved into a full 100,000 word narrative--and that's the story that would eventually become Swan Lake.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Do your loved ones know you write romance? Are they supportive of your writing career? And... have you ever based a character on someone you've known in real life?
LB Alexander: I'm super fortunate to have family and close friends not just fully aware of me writing romance, but also supportive of it! My mom didn't just read Swan Lake--she bought ten copies and shared them with her best girl friends! My dad however is a different story... given the heat level of Swan Lake I told him he's not allowed to read any of my romance novels (which, let's be honest, he's probably grateful for!)
As for basing characters on real-life... it's definitely my personality to be a perpetual student and that translates very well for writing. While I've never based a full character on a real person, there are definitely "pieces" of people I know in real life who have absolutely inspired corresponding aspects in players I craft.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What is your ideal writing environment? And what's the weirdest place you've ever written?
LB Alexander: I'm not too picky about my writing environment, but one huge requirement is that I need to be alone, even if it's a quiet corner in a library. I'm a true Libra which means I've overly gregarious. If I'm around people I have to socialize which means no writing will get done!
The weirdest place I've written also happens to be one of the most educational! I knocked out about 5,000 words while sitting in the lobby of a full-fledged BDSM club where a friend of mine was working.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Have you always had an interest in ballet? What inspired you to write a romance series based on the Swan Lake ballet? And what sort of research did you have to do in order to ensure that your portrayal of ballerinas and the world of ballet was accurate?
LB Alexander: I trained in classical ballet for about 14 years, so it's been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember. I love all kinds of dance, but ballet will always hold a special place in my heart. I had to stop training seriously when I was 19 due to knee injuries, so now I just take occasional classes for fun (and to keep in shape!).
Because ballet is so naturally evocative--inspiring powerful feelings in an audience with beauty, music, drama, and movement, and all without words--I always wondered if that type of theatrical story-telling could be translated into a novel. I wanted to craft a story that felt like the visceral experience of visiting the classical theater, a narrative with high stakes, high drama, lavish settings, and of course, deeply passionate love and romance. I relied on a lot of my own experience with ballet (Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, specifically) for accuracy, but I also read this fantastic book by Jennifer Homans called Apollo's Angels, which is basically a "history" of ballet as a culture, for additional accuracies from an academic perspective.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Do you enjoy writing from the heroine's perspective or the hero's perspective more? What has been your favorite character to write so far?
LB Alexander: My stories have thus far been M/F couplings, so forgive me for using heteronormative language. I honestly love writing both POVs, but for different reasons. Writing from the heroine's perspective gives me a chance to dive deep into my own sense of womanhood and feminism, which can sometimes be therapeutic--but also at time exhausting. Writing from the hero's perspective, however, is more of a fun challenge--it's a puzzle I need to figure out. I try to be very sensitive to nuances in voice and perspective when I'm writing in first-person, and it's definitely harder to do when the point of view happens to be the male gaze. Thankfully I have a very patient boyfriend who helps me out with keeping my "man-think" and "man-speak" authentic.
And I promise this isn't a cop-out, but similar to the above, I've enjoyed writing about April and William equally! As characters, I think of them as antitheses to each other, and I definitely use different parts of my brain when writing each one.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What are you currently working on? What can your readers be excited to see from you in the future?
LB Alexander: Right now I'm working on the next two installments of the Swan series: a high-heat novella to be released in December, and a full-length novel in Spring 2021. Also on my calendar for next summer is a brand new romantic comedy--a sexy, contemporary, gender-swapped Pretty Woman about a powerful female executive and her handsome male escort.