I’m pleased to announce our first official interview here at Fictional Fox! If you’ll look up at the menu bar, hopefully you’ll notice the new section entitled Bookpreneur. This section will not only have updates on my own entrepreneur adventures and DIY tips, but it is where I will be posting interviews with authors, bloggers, designers, and all the amazing people in the book world.
And an interview with Alexis Lampley is a fantastic way to kick this off!
Alexis is the author of The Onyx Vial, book one of the Shadow of the Nine series. She is also the creator of the recently launched bookish typography and art subscription service, Nerdy Post. I first discovered Alexis and her work via her Instagram account (@dropandgivemenerdy), and I’ve basically been a fan ever since. I’m so grateful she took the time to answer a few questions, despite being not only a bookpreneur but a mom as well. Needless to say, she is a busy woman!
Q. What is your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer or a designer?
A. I’ve always written and designed. When I was really little, I used to sit in my dad’s office for (what felt like) hours and use all his markers and paper drawing “signs” for him to hang in the proshop (he’s a golf pro. Like at a course, not a pro golfer like on TV). And when I got older, I used to do all the fancy lettering of numbers for the big tournament scoreboards. And of course I drew all the time, too.
In fourth grade, I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books. In sixth grade, for a brief time, I wanted to write and illustrate science textbooks! I quickly got over that, and realized by 8th grade that I wanted to be a graphic designer. I basically freelanced myself into a large portfolio of work before I ever even hit college. I knew no matter what I did, art would be the way I paid my way through. As for my writing side, in high school I read all the time but never really thought about writing a book of my own. I just flew easily through English classes and considered it a useful skill to not have to try very hard.
But when I got to college something shifted. I aced English 101 and never wrote a single rough draft. I started to see that it was actually maybe something and I wanted to investigate that further. About that time a story started brewing in my head that I knew I just had to tell. So halfway through, I switched majors. I graduated with a degree in English– Creative Writing– and was only two classes shy of a double major with Art (those two classes were art history; I regret nothing haha). I got a job a year out of college as a graphic designer and wrote my book on and off through college and those years I spent at my design job. In other words, I have always wanted to do both.
Q. You came out with your first book this year. How was that experience? How long did it take you to write it? What was the inspiration behind the story? When can we expect the next book?
A. It was actually kind of a mad dash to the finish line with it getting published. I set a date and was determined to stick to it! But the process of writing it took me years. I wrote the first two drafts in college, but I struggled with plot. My inspiration came one day as my mom and sister and I were on a road trip listening to Harry Potter on audiobook and I just kind of announced “I could do this.” And I pulled out my notebook and started generating ideas! The initial inspiration is now a major spoiler in the later books, so I can’t actually say yet!
So anyway, in the year between college ending and my job beginning I rewrote it again. It was still a mess. But I didn’t realize how (because it was a very subtle kind of a mess) until I pitched to agents. I took some time away from it after receiving a bunch of positive rejections with vague and useless feedback, most notably: “It’s not fresh enough.”
I had no idea how to rectify that. I still don’t. But there’s a quote somewhere about there only being 6 original stories in the world, and everyone else’s is just a variation on that, so I like to keep that perspective. A good story is a good story whether it’s fresh or not.
So after getting some space from it, I came back and worked incredibly hard to fix the kinks in the plot. I rewrote it. And then life got in the way and I stepped back from it while I dealt with some personal issues. When I got back to it, I was a different person, and I wasn’t as attached to things the way they were. I read through it and found all the parts that still didn’t work and it was so crystal clear how to fix them. I plotted everything out. And then I got pregnant and put it aside. But after my daughter was born, my husband said to me one day that he thought I should self publish and that he had faith that I would succeed that way. NaNoWriMo was coming up, so I dedicated that month to rewriting it properly. After that, I was so motivated, I set the date to self publish on my 30th birthday. It was a super tight deadline and I was pulling really late nights editing and reading/incorporating the feedback from my beta readers. There was a week toward the end where I think I got about 3 1/2 hours of sleep each night. I’m still not getting much sleep now that I’ve got Nerdy Post to design for, and all the other boxes and Klevercase that I’ve been designing for. I love it, but I’ve definitely had to put the next book on the back burner. I would love to have the next book out on my 31st birthday. If I have to push that date back, the second will probably release a year after I start selling paperbacks, which I hope to do by the end of July. I just have to finish the artwork for the cover!
Q. Tell us about Nerdy Post! Where did you learn your mad designing skills? What prompted you to start a subscription service? What has the process of getting started been like? What can we look forward to?
A. I discussed some of my design stuff earlier, but basically I’m self-taught. I read a LOT of lettering and design books, and eat up that category on Pinterest and IG.
As for what prompted me, back in the fall of 2015, I was trying to figure out a way to stay home and work full time so I could get my brand new baby girl out of daycare and spend these little years with her instead of stuck at a desk. I was building my brand on my Drop And Give Me Nerdy account but wasn’t happy with my options for how best to get my work out there to people. I love Fandom of the Month Club because I love fandom stuff, and I said it would be so neat to have that but with artwork instead of jewelry. And then I sorta dismissed it because I didn’t think anyone would be interested and I had no idea how I would figure out the logistics.
But then in February I was contacted by the Bookish Box to do a bookmark for the Villain box and something just clicked and my husband and I agreed this was something I could potentially do. So, not wanting to waste any more time, I announced it (much like I did with my book) so I couldn’t back out and I got to work!
The first box hasn’t even been shipped out yet, and I already feel like my life is finally coming together and this is what I’ve been meaning to do all this time. I stay up working till 2am most nights, but it never feels like work. I love it. There have been some business related mistakes, and I am so very thankful that I have my husband to help me so that they have only been small ones, but overall it’s been a great experience. We got triple the signups than we were shooting for, which was amazing considering no one has even seen what we do, yet. The fact that so many people have faith in my skill is humbling. As for what to expect, I got feedback from the initial signups and put together a top 20 fandom list from their suggestions. I’ve randomized it, but these will definitely be the themes for the first 20 months.
Q. You seem like a busy woman but you also have an adorable little girl! How do you balance pursuing your passions and dreams with being a mom?
A. Thank you about Madeline! She’s prettier and sweeter and happier and better behaved (most of the time) than I ever dared to dream. She’s awesome.
I’m not sure I always balance well, but I certainly try. I reply to comments and emails when I can, and post/set up shots & videos whenever she plays by herself or naps. She plays well alone, thank goodness! And often plays beside me while I work. I will say, I have never been more focused and driven in my entire life, and it’s because of Madeline that I am. I know that means sometimes I have to say ,”Let me just finish this one thing real quick and then we will play,” but I do this as often as I tell myself, “I’ll get to that later. Right now I want to sit here with her and read the book she brought over to me.”
I didn’t want to miss out on these years. I had a 9-5 design job with great benefits and awesome coworkers, but it wasn’t fulfilling anymore and I wanted so badly to be home with her for more than a couple hours before she fell asleep. My husband said,”Find a way to make just half of what you’re making right now and you can stay home with her.” So I did.
Thanks again, Alexis, for taking the time for us!
Alexis is a huge inspiration to me of what one can do when they put their mind to it. So my fellow book bloggers, writers, and dreamers, keep on trucking! You can make it!