Out of Focus: the First Story from a Little Welsh Town
Enemies to lovers, a broken wrist, hurt-comfort and pining. A short contemporary gay romance set in a little Welsh theatre.
Hello everyone! Thank you Nell, once again, for letting me pitch up and ramble about my upcoming release 😊
This time I’m here to tell you about Out of Focus, which is a new contemporary novella that was released on 26thMarch. It’s a stand-alone story set in a little theatre in a small fictional town on the Welsh coast and is a new departure for me. Up until now, my stories have tended to be historical and/or paranormal. Even my series of contemporary short stories are myth retellings.
Out of Focus is a complete side-swerve. It’s not got any paranormal overtones or any historical connections. I began it because I was completely overwhelmed by the idea of writing the final book in my Bradfield trilogy—which is paranormal and historical, set in 1920. It’s got a lot of loose ends to tie up and I’m in a bit of a spin about it. Instead, my publisher suggested I have a break and write something else.
So I began thinking about where I could set something and eventually drew upon my own and Mr AL’s experiences of the theatre and conference technical industry. Mr AL was a lighting designer by profession for thirty years—although he’s retired now and we are both full-time carers for our complex-needs child. For a while there though, I worked with him, plugging things in and crawling underneath stages and hauling around cables.
When you go the theatre or you go to a work ‘do’ with speeches and meetings and an evening disco, do you ever think about the people behind the scenes who set all that sort of stuff up? There’s thousands of them (and incidentally the industry in the UK was one of the ones that had a really hard time during Covid because so much shut down). There are specialists for light, sound, video, rigging things in the roof, stage management and all its sub-categories like costumes, shoes and props, carpenters, scene painters and the people who drop in scene panels by ropes and fly people in the ceiling in big theatres. It’s a huge community behind the scenes. They work long and unsocial hours to fit around shows and the industry is full of lovely and unusual people.
It was a very enjoyable few years that came to an end because I started growing children—people seem to be very unhappy about heavily pregnant people climbing ladders and such, which actually came a huge surprise to me! It’s a background I know well with depth and breadth and that made it easy to write about—no having to stop to research historical detail or think about whether a particular spell or monster will fit in to the existing magic system! It was a huge relief to be able to concentrate on the romance aspect of the story rather than needing to weave it in among a massively complicated plot. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy doing that…but I think I was just too tired to even contemplate it back in January.
This is a lower-heat story than I usually write—and my stories aren’t high-heat to begin with—but in this one, poor Alex falls off a ladder on the first page and smashes his wrist and so he isn’t up for much. And Luke is too much of a gentleman to hit on him when he’s supposed to be looking after him. But the lack of paranormal sub-plot and my innate knowledge of the story setting gave me the freedom to just follow where the characters led rather than having to write them around monsters and paranormal obstacles and generally make them be scared out of their minds all the time.
I enjoyed writing it so much that I’m planning to write some more. There are a few secondary characters that I am already contemplating happy endings for. I’m not going to make it a series, just a set of stories that will interlock with side characters from other stories that readers will recognise if they’ve read them; but their appearance won’t be crucial to the narrative and people will be able to pick up anywhere in the collection. As per my usual writing style, they will be spread all across the rainbow spectrum, not just gay romance. I hope you’ll stay with me for them!
(Also, I was at Ofelia Grand’s blog earlier in the week with some more about how I created and named the town and the theatre if Welsh place-names and drowned saints are of interest to you!)
For now though, here’s some more about Out of Focus and an excerpt for you at the end.
Out of Focus
Alex has never quite believed he’s good enough. Not as a person and not as a lighting technician. He hates that however hard he tries he can’t get his boss, Luke, to like him. In the two years he’s been in the job it’s become a Thing with him and he’s got a huge crush on the man. He needs to move on for his own sanity and his career and he’s just about to accept a job at a bigger theatre when one of the volunteers he’s bedded and dumped pushes him off a ladder.
Luke likes Alex a lot and has done since the day he walked through the door of Theatre Fawr two years ago. He doesn’t date his staff though, or do casual—and Alex is the epitome of casual. So Luke keeps his distance despite Alex’s constant flirting.
Will Alex’s injury give Alex and Luke the push they need to open up to each other? Or will Luke’s inadvertent discovery that Alex has a secret job offer push them further apart?
A 17,500 word short story in the new Theatr Fach universe.
About A.L. Lester
Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some poultry. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.
Excerpt from Out of Focus
Luke was furious. Bloody furious. His theatre. His crew. Alex.
He’d got back after a leisurely look round a potential new supplier of scissor-lifts and harnesses followed by a pub lunch with the business owner to find the theatre in uproar. Alex had tipped over on the zargees…which was bloody ironic given it was the approaching new height restrictions about using ladders to rig that had sent Luke on his errand.
He’d gone straight to the hospital and found Alex about to check himself out against the doctor’s advice. Bloody Alex, as well.
Alex had been a thorn in his side since he’d started in post two years ago. It was a tiny theatre and the chief technician was responsible for anything with a plug on it as well as showing the film programme and doing the lighting and sound for shows. They’d done a panel interview and Luke, a couple of members of the board and Lacey the theatre manager had seen half a dozen people. Alex had come out head and shoulders above the rest.
He’d walked in on his first proper day on the job and looked at Luke from underneath his ridiculously long eyelashes and smiled and said something perfectly professional that Luke hadn’t heard, because he was gone. Gone, gone, gone. His heart had given a big thump, he’d flushed from his chest to his hairline and he’d taken an actual physical step back because otherwise he’d have done something stupid.
Everyone on the circuit knew about Alex Tilsom by reputation. Not his professional reputation, although that was solid. His unprofessional reputation, as Luke privately thought of it.
It was a small industry.
Luke had seen whole companies explode because people fell into bed with each other and the detonation when they fell out of bed again meant they couldn’t work together. He’d been at Theatr Fach for a long time now and although there were no actual rules against it, his personal tenet was to keep his professional relationships professional.
So he let Alex’s good natured flirting roll over him, he didn’t respond like he wanted to and he never, ever commented or ribbed him like the others did about his latest conquest. It was worse because strictly speaking he was Alex’s boss. He tried very hard not to be the older creep who letched on his staff.
Newsflash. In this case he did not always succeed.
It made him feel uncomfortable and itchy inside his own skin. Alex was a funny guy. He worked hard, he was good at his job. He charmed passing crew and volunteers into bed and out again with no drama before or after. He’d be gone in two or three years…he was the sort of person who saw Theatr Fach as a stepping stone to something bigger and more challenging.
All Luke had to do was hold on to that thought and not smile back.
He’d thoroughly fucked that up in the last twenty-four hours, hadn’t he? It was his job to go and see what was going on at the hospital. And he supposed he could argue it was his job to stay with Alex overnight if no-one else could, if the stupid arse wouldn’t stay in hospital like he should have.
It wasn’t his job to mostly fail to sleep in the armchair in the corner of the man’s bedroom and creepily watch over him all night. Or was it? Was that on the right side of the line? Fuck it, who knew any more.