When she first started writing romance novels, Alexis James had to fit writing time into her busy schedule as a mother to two small children. She wrote longhand and squeezed sessions in while her son and daughter were playing, watching TV or sleeping.
“I've never been a good sleeper, so getting up at 3 or 4 a.m. and writing for a few hours was never a problem and still isn't,” Alexis said. “When they were little, I never kept to a writing schedule, it was more whenever I felt like it (not the burning need to write that I have now).”
She began writing in earnest a few years ago, when she started work on Losing Faith, a novel based, in part, on her own experience losing a best friend to breast cancer.
“I decided to write Losing Faith as a sort of tribute to [my friend] and those she left behind,” Alexis said. “It's a work of fiction, though many details are pulled from my own life and those around me.”
The book tells the story of Grace, a young woman whose friend, Faith, dies. It is a story of healing and, of course, love, as Grace finds “the perfect hot man” in the process.
Loving Emma, a standalone novel that features a character from Losing Faith, is about Grace’s brother Liam trying to deal with his own loss — the loss of the woman he wanted to marry.
"What I want is for my life to move forward. And every step I take it seems like I keep getting pulled back into that dark abyss by the chains of Faith’s memory."
— excerpt from Loving Emma
Although it might sound like her stories are tearjerkers, Alexis’ cousin and beta-reader Debra Turner says not to lose hope in a happy future for the characters.
“She is invested in happy endings for her characters, and she is very good about wrapping up all the loose ends,” Debra said. “Alexis never leaves a reader hanging or unsatisfied.”
Debra joked that the only problem with Alexis’ books is that they are “too sexy” for their mothers to read.
Despite the happy endings, creating a book is a long, emotional journey for the writer. Alexis said both books were very personal and she felt immense relief upon finishing them.
“I do remember feeling like a great big weight had been lifted from my shoulders once I'd typed 'The End' in Loving Emma,” she said. “I had a good, long cry after that.”
Alexis’ love of writing came from a passion for reading she developed as a young girl. Like many others, she devoured the Little House on the Prairie books, reading and re-reading them, she said.
“I read them cover to cover, again and again, and would probably go back and read them again too,” she said. “I think it was Wilder's writing, because when I was young she made me think I was Laura.”
Alexis' day job is as a customer service representative, and for most of her life, her family didn’t even know she liked to write — it was something they only discovered about six years ago.
“She was always so there for my brother and I when we were growing up and it always felt like we had her undivided attention,” Alexis’ daughter, Jordan Ingersoll, said. “Looking back at it now she was very selfless that way.”
Even her husband of 30 years, Mark Ingersoll, didn’t realize writing was a career path Alexis wanted to take for a long time.
“I don't really know when she first began writing,” Mark said. “She has been writing a very long time as a creative outlet, but I think she decided to follow writing as a career path about six years ago.
“I've been as big a supporter of her creative journey as I possibly can,” he continued. “I am amazed at her ability to run a household, work a full-time job, and still excel at creating.”
This amazement is something the whole family seems to feel toward Alexis’ writing.
“It amazes me that [Alexis] has this marvelous ability to create and convey whole worlds of people, circumstance and emotion from nothing,” Mark said. “The best thing about my wife being a writer is...that is what makes her happy. She enjoys her craft and takes pride in it.”
Jordan reiterated those sentiments, saying her mother inspires her to follow her own dreams.
“I love everything she writes,” Jordan said. “She is honestly so talented and I would tell her the truth if I didn't like her work, but I love it. She is an inspiration to me to do what I love no matter what age or how hard it seems at the time.”
Alexis’ mother, Carol Civiello, is one of her beta readers, someone Alexis calls upon when she has finished a book and wants honest opinions as to what works and what doesn’t.
“The best thing about having [Alexis] as a writer is that I have the honor of proof reading her books,” Carol said. “That they are in my favorite genre makes it even better.”
Alexis’ family is so invested and supportive of her career that I had to ask them a hard question — is there anything you don’t like about having a mother or a wife as a writer?
Jordan said there isn’t: “It's exciting for me to see that she is doing something that she loves,” she said.
Mark concurred. “I've come to the realization that I don't think there are any [drawbacks],” he said. “[Alexis] enjoys writing, she excels at it, and the entire family supports her in those endeavors. My hope is that her work becomes so recognized, respected, and distributed that I have something to put here if you ask me again in 5 years.”
Alexis is hard at work on more books; this time, she’s working on a five-part series which tells the story of a family of five siblings.
The first book, Saving Cruz, is about the oldest sibling in the family.
“[Cruz] is a driven, focused man who is filled with self-loathing due to a tragic event that took place when he was teenager,” Alexis said of the book. “He meets Mia, who comes to work for him...and [the] rest is history.”