Guest Post

Alexis Hall on Original Ideas | How to Blow It with a Billionaire

Be careful what you wish for . . .

Once upon a time there was a totally ordinary boy who fell for a cold, beautiful prince. Only it’s not a fairy tale, it’s my life. The prince is a billionaire called Caspian Hart. And we’re trying super hard to live happily ever after.

He’s everything I want, need, and can’t resist: a man who looks like a god and bangs like the devil. Except he’s still got his rules and he’s still got his secrets . . .

But if there’s one thing Caspian’s taught me it’s that you should never settle for less than you’re worth. And I’m worth his trust. I have to show him that I see him. That I’m not afraid of his passion, or his power, or his past. And that I won’t settle for less than everything.

Spankers & Blood Suckers

Y’know what’s overrated? Originality.

It’s probably not quite true that there are no new ideas. After all, the number of possible ideas is presumably infinite, although the lion’s share of that infinite potentiality would most likely be made up of nonsensical nonstarters like fire made out of eggs or a rock opera about the agricultural revolution set to the music of Fleetwood Mac. And every so often a new idea will turn out to be genuinely cool (I wouldn’t entirely want to lay money against someone making the Fleetwood Mac crop rotation jukebox musical work) but I think what’s always puzzled me is the notion that the merit of an idea should be assessed on the basis of its novelty rather than on the basis of its, well, merit. I mean, yes, there are certain things that I’m well-aware are a bit overplayed. I own enough zombie-themed board games that I am not in any especial hurry to rush out and buy another zombie-themed board game. But I don’t think I’d ever actually declare myself to be done with zombies.

I think one of the things I find most fascinating about writing is the way that people can tell essentially the same stories over and over again, sometimes for literally centuries, and how those stories find ways to speak to new and different audiences. To put it another way, you often hear people say that vampires are over and you more recently hear people say that bildoms are over. What I suspect may be less commonly observed is that, dude, bildoms are vampires. I mean, I accept that this is a little bit simplistic but you can genuinely trace a really clear and obvious line of influence from How To Blow It with a Billionaire to a party the Romantics had at Lake Geneva nearly two hundred years ago. Because, at that party, John Polidori wrote The Vampyre (which, yes, was based on other shit, but we have to start somewhere) and that inspired Dracula, and Dracula inspired a whole load of twentieth century vampire fiction of which the most pertinent is Interview with the Vampire. And that inspired a whole load of twenty-first century vampire fiction, of which the most pertinent is Twilight. And that really really specifically inspired 50 Shades of Grey which didn’t create the bildom genre but popularised it to such an extent that, these days, it pretty much defines it.

Which is basically why I never get sick of tropes.

Because, yes, you very rarely encounter a genuinely new idea. But what you encounter constantly are new ways to have an old idea. At their hearts, The Vampyre and Dracula and Interview with the Vampire and Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey and, for that matter, How to Blow It with a Billionaire are arguably about threatening sexuality. The 19th century stories are primarily about the fears 19th century men have about the sexual wiles of mysterious and seductive foreigners, and the susceptibility that an increasingly liberated class of women might have to them. Interview with the Vampire is an exploration of sexual taboos, but from the inside, and obviously this gets hella problematic because Louis, in the book, is in love with 1) a dude and 2) a child, and these things are taboo for very different reasons. The Twilight series gets a lot of flak from all sorts of directions but, as an extended metaphor for adolescent sexual anxieties it really, really works. As well it should because, as I hope I’ve outlined here, supernatural beings as metaphors for sexual anxiety have centuries of pedigree. From that point, shaking things up so that your brooding, distant, mysterious hero/villain figure is set apart by his extreme wealth and desire to spank your bottom, as opposed to his extreme longevity and desire to suck your blood is a surprisingly small and, in many ways, insignificant change. EL James’ seminal work puts the story of conflicted sexual awakening at a later stage in the heroine’s life but it’s the same essential narrative: kink is as great a threat to Ana Steele as actual vampirism is to Bella Swan or Lucy Westenra, and being kinky is as strange, alien and potentially infectious as being undead.

This brings me, rather abashedly, to my own small link in the chain. And to the topic I really wanted to talk about today which is how I approach working within established tropes. When I decided I wanted to write a bildom book I was very conscious of the context I’d be writing it in. These type of stories are always ultimately about a type of sexuality that is at once seductive and frightening. Sometimes the text comes to the conclusion that the seductive, frightening form of sexuality is something you should run away from at all costs (Dracula). Sometimes it comes to the conclusion that it’s something you should wholeheartedly embrace (Interview with the Vampire pretty much – I mean, Louis is very torn about his vampire status, but the series quickly moves to a Lestat Is Awesome space). What I wanted to do with my approach to the material was to take that central concept of frightening sexuality and to confront it with a protagonist who isn’t at all frightened. My hope in writing a bildom romance with a fundamentally sex-positive protagonist is that I would be able to explore social taboos and anxieties around sexuality in a way that could distinguish between things which are genuinely harmful and things which are just different.

I think a lot of my more regular readers were a bit surprised that I decided to write a straight-down-the-line bildom romance (well, okay, not that straight). But, to me, that was the subgenre in which I could most effectively explore the themes I wanted to explore in the series. Because, ultimately, the things I wanted the Arden St. Ives books to be about are the things that bildom books and vampire books have been about for two hundred years. And from my perspective the tropes and the trappings of that well-established narrative enable me to directly engage my readers (who are as a familiar with them as I am) in the questions I’m asking in the story I’m telling.


Alexis Hall is a full-time heel, a part-time book fairy, a some time blogger of Hugh Grant movies, and a many times Instagrammer of pictures of the world’s most malevolent duck. He also likes to write kissing books.

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