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An Interview with Alex Martello, author of Little Green Men

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Alex has been writing since the ripe ol’ age of 10, first cutting their teeth as a writer through fanfiction. A quarter of a century later, they have taken that love of fanfiction and branched out into doing their own thing. As a neurodivergent, nonbinary single parent whose child calls them “Mom,” Alex has been working on several novels—some nonfiction, some fiction—for years now, and wants to make their dreams of becoming a writer come true, despite their Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

Hilariously, I think writing was something we were just meant to do. My mom kept one of the very first stories we wrote in one of the kitchen drawers. It’d been about a snowman who came to life, and we wrote it when we were 9 years old. I don’t know if she still has it, as it’s been years since we moved out of that house, but…

We read everything we could get our hands on. We watched TV, too, and would make up stories about the characters. Eventually we started writing those stories down! We wrote fanfiction in school notebooks without even knowing that it was called that. They were self-insert stories, of course, as we wanted to help Helga get her act together and tell Arnold how she felt about him, already. CLEARLY the affection would be mutual—it was just so obvious that they were meant to be!

Just being in love with characters and wanting to tell my own stories was enough—but I do want to say that this was something my mother and my Aunt Angela both encouraged from a very, very young age. They both would present stories to me and listen to the tales I would create on the spot out of them.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

Little Green Men is partially inspired by fandom, partially inspired by the fact that we’d had this idea of the human race splitting its history between two different planets—and both planets being completely unaware of the other, by the time our story begins. Of course, this all changes when one Human Invader from the more technologically “advanced” planet Earth lands on the original Earth, and discovers there are humans there.

We absolutely love various tropes like enemies/rivals to lovers, belligerent sexual tension—and of course, it’s queer. Because we’re queer and we need more silly queer novels out there to exist.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Little Green Men, is, technically, a working title at present. Though we really like it as a working title, so it’ll probably stay as is once we’ve completed it.

The story for it is quite simple, though—we’re fans of the show Invader Zim. Which may or may not have been the fandom we very, very loosely based this novel on. Many members of the Irken race are short, green, and genderless, with big bug like eyes and antennae. While we clearly do not have such an alien race in the story Little Green Men, the reference to short, green men is made fairly early on in the novel.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Oh man, if our book had a soundtrack, it would most certainly include a good chunk of the Invader Zim instrumentals—including the theme song. At least, when it comes to Jazz’s POVs. He sees himself as this hotshot invader much like Zim does—though he’s a bit more self-aware. A lot more self-aware. Kinda. He gets there, eventually.

There’d also be a couple of Bo Burnham songs—particularly, “All Eyes On Me,” from his special Inside. And “Comedy,” as well, also from Inside. I’m a big fan of the idea of using our comedic voice (and our penchant for drama) as a way to create a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but does give the proper weight to certain topics.

Another one that might be on there would be, “I’m Just Ken,” from the Barbie movie. But only because the thought of either Kenji or Jazz singing this song amuses the heck out of us (Jazz tells Kenji his name is Ken, when they first meet).

Describe your dream book cover.

Okay, so—what I’m imagining might be a bit complicated for a book cover, but—the main focus would be on Jazz and Kenji. They’d have their backs to each other, a wall separating them both. Jazz’s side would include the sterile, “advanced” world he’d grown up in. Kenji’s would be more vibrant, with more color and plant life. Both would look pensive, and they’d both look out of place in their respective worlds.

The back of the cover would be the same split scene, but with Jazz twisted around to glare venomously at Kenji, with Kenji facing him with his hands up in a placating, “calm down,” kind of gesture. After all, it’s not Kenji’s fault he’s a human being and his planet is called Earth.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

We went to university for psychology, and then did absolutely nothing with our degree other than realize that maybe our mental health issues were more extensive than some PTSD and anxiety. But we’ve worked in retail, and in food service, as well as banking and as a billing specialist.

We liked correcting invoices and generating invoices to be the best of the bunch. Just sitting away, fixing problems, no direct interaction with clients. It was nice.

Something our readers wouldn’t know is that we were a military wife, way back in our early 20s. We split up with our spouse a decade ago, now, but when people get to know us, they’re always shocked to know that we’d been married to a Marine.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

We read mostly for comfort, though we do read some of our preferred genres for research purposes, as well. Our recent favorites have been Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, the Simon Snow series by Rainbow Rowell, and The Legendborn Cycle by Tracy Deonn. A queer romcom with enemies to lovers vibes, a young adult series that tackles what it means to be The Chosen One and how that is actually incredibly destructive and the pain of trauma (as well as enemies to lovers), and The Legendborn Cycle—a take on the King Arthur legend with enemies to lovers vibes in a modern setting involving magic and demons and lines of succession.

These books have amazing characters that stick with you long after you’ve read them, with unique elements to them that just make them stand out above the crowd. We may also have a bit of a weakness for the enemies to lovers trope, especially if the novel(s) in question contain queer characters.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

The one thing I hope readers would take away from reading my book is that things aren’t always what they seem. That sometimes your first impressions—your first instinct—is wrong. And that maybe, just maybe, you have to look past all the “truths” fed to you by your leaders and your history books. After all, the winners are the ones who write history. Who’s to say they’re even telling the story accurately?

My perfect reader would be someone who vibes with fanfiction and understands that human beings as a whole are generally problematic—and that humans being imperfect is what makes them human. They can learn and grow and change—as long as they’re given the information they need to do so and a compassionate environment that challenges their beliefs, while also validating that the cognitive dissonance is difficult to deal with.

I live for that learning and growing and changing. And our characters do, too. It’s why we keep coming back to them, again and again and again. Because we learn something new about ourselves along the way, in the process.

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