by Timothy Pike
For a long time, award-winning author Alexis Cunningham didn’t know she was a writer. How is this possible? Even though she’d spend hours every day writing stories and posting them online, she simply thought of herself as someone who liked to tell stories. “I’d be writing stories all the time, getting super involved in fan fiction,” she says. “It took me years to realize how much I love to write.”
But after a while, Alexis started to crave a deeper understanding of what makes a good story. “I had trouble knowing whether I had the skills to really make it, and how to get into the business,” she says. “I ended up doing a master’s in creative writing to learn the tricks of the trade.”
Alexis lives in the East Anglia region of England, which, incidentally, is also home to musician Ed Sheeran and British folk hero Boudicca (“Although not at the same time,” she clarifies).
In her former life, Alexis worked as an auditor in social care, making sure that homes for the elderly were providing care in line with the standards of the National Health Service, a job she held straight out of college. “It was kind of a big U-turn for me when I decided to quit to pursue writing as a career,” she says.
Today, drawing on her education and her love for the urban fantasy and paranormal thriller genres, Alexis is hard at work on The Gods’ Own, the first book in the fantasy series she envisions.
“The plot revolves around a group of demigods, or ‘scions,’ who possess a piece of a god’s soul, giving them special powers,” Alexis explains. “My protagonist, Yasha, is a thief who falls under suspicion of being a scion, attracting attention from a lot of unsavory elements in the magical underworld, but the truth is, he’s even weirder than anyone imagines.”
Alexis painstakingly designed every detail of the world her characters inhabit. “I’m hugely invested in world building,” she says, “and figuring out the logistics of magical elements in my stories.”
But as fantastical as her imagined realms are, Alexis insists they have more in common with our own world than you might think.
“I’m working on the first novel in a fantasy series set in a magical world that parallels our own contemporary society,” Alexis explains. “The series I’m writing now is something like the fifth iteration of a basic premise I’ve had in my head for the last few years. Every draft is a step on the way to unearthing the ‘perfect’ version, a bit like chipping away at a block of marble to reveal the statue within.”
While her persistence is admirable, Alexis admits to occasionally feeling self-doubt. “My biggest fear is that I’ll never make it,” she says, “and I’m ruining my future pursuing a pipe dream. So, you know, no biggie.”
But so far, it’s been anything but a pipe dream. The Gods’ Own won the Fan Favorite Award in the most recent 10K Novel-Building Challenge, and Alexis is determined to finish writing it and publish it as soon as possible.
If only it could happen faster. “Impatience is something I struggle with,” she says. “My greatest weakness is giving up before I start. I like to see the impact of my actions in the real world so I can figure out if my tactics are correct or not.”
Rejection letters—the very reason many writers have thrown in the towel—are actually what Alexis is most proud of.
Fortunately, Alexis’s resolve to succeed as a writer far outshines any of the doubts that frequently plague her. “I’m always thinking, ‘You should quit. This is never going to work. You don’t have what it takes,'” she says. “Truth is, I don’t quit because my desire to write is greater than my fear.”
And the very reason many writers have thrown in the towel—rejection letters—is actually what motivates Alexis the most. “My biggest sense of accomplishment came from my first batch of rejection letters from literary agents,” she says. “To me, the fact that these agents wrote back to me with a ‘thanks but no thanks’ was tangible evidence that I’d done something to push my dream forward.”
As Alexis continues to build her reader base, one of her fans in particular stands out in the crowd. “My dad has been my biggest supporter, ” she says. “He believes in me when I don’t. He’s the one that tells me to trust my skill and keep going.”
With the little spare time she has left, Alexis has recently taken up baking. “It’s a little like my writing,” she says about her new hobby. “Sometimes it works out great and sometimes it’s an almighty mess, but I learn something each time.”
Thanks to her bold approach to life and writing, rest assured you’ll be seeing more and more of Alexis’s work as time goes on.
“In my mind, every time I put myself out there,” she says, “it’s something to be proud of.”
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