Alexis Marie Chute is breaking the career stigma of women only being able to do one trade. For decades I have been told I must choose: “Be a painter or a photographer or a writer." But she has not listened, Alexis is a visual and literary artist as well as an author, documentary filmmaker, curator, public speaker, and teacher. Above all, she is a mom and a wonderful human being. Alexis is the author of the multi-award-winning memoir Expecting Sunshine; A Journey of Greif, Healing, And Pregnancy After Loss. This novel speaks about her journey with coping with loss and dealing with her grief. She is also the author of Above the Star, Below the Moon (coming soon October 15, 2019), and Inside the Sun ( Also coming soon). The books are apart of an epic fantasy series called the 8th Island trilogy. Critics are calling Above the Star which is the first book in the trilogy, "A Wrinkle in Time Meets Princess Bride" I sat down with Alexis to learn more about her accomplishments, and how she's breaking barriers.
In your memoir, Expecting Sunshine, you speak about loss and how you grieve and persevere despite your losses. Tell me about how you personally persevered?
It was really hard to lose somebody that I loved and it took a little while for me to figure out that for me, I love using art as a way for me to help cope with loss. And it took me some time to figure that out so at first, I just pushed down my feelings and just tried to distract myself. But when I started to do art and I started to do creative writing, to help me figure out how I was feeling I really started to heal and find joy again in life.
Many of our readers are writers or aspiring writers. So if you can give them one piece of advice and inspiration to help them pursue this passion and continue to develop in their writing career what would it be?
I would say that it’s really important to write as much as possible so even if you just write a little every day, if you carry a journal around with you so if you have ideas you can write them down at that moment. I also think that being a reader is one of the things that has helped me be a better writer. So I feel like the more books I read, and the more I can learn from other writers and their books the better of a writer I've become. So even like Neil Gailman, he writes some really cool kind of futuristic fantasy books.
By reading his books I have learned so many things about writing styles and stuff. So I would say the more you read, and practice writing yourself the better writer you would be. Also, make friends with other people who like writing stories and then you can help each other, maybe you share a short story with your friend and then you can help each other see what you are missing. So it’s like oh you should have another character or there needs more action in this one scene. I would say those are my best pieces of advice.
What is one thing you want your readers to get out of reading your books?
I want people to read my books and realize they have all the bravery, strength, and magic inside themselves that they need to overcome anything and have a life full of joy. I like empowering my readers by showing them normally, flawed humans—like Ella, Tessa, and Archie in The 8th Island Trilogy—doing amazing things. Their love for each other motivates them and their belief in goodness allows them to come together, overcome their pasts, and do BIG things. I want me, people, to read my books and realize they have all the bravery, strength, and magic inside themselves that they need to overcome anything and have a life full of joy. I like empowering my readers by showing them normally, flawed humans—like Ella, Tessa, and Archie in The 8th Island Trilogy—doing amazing things. Their love for each other motivates them and their belief in goodness allows them to come together, overcome their pasts, and do BIG things.
Tell me a little bit about your thought process behind the Expecting Sunshine documentary?
So we live in such a visual culture, so people love movies, people love going to the theater, people love visual arts and we love looking at different kinds of artwork and being inspired. And while I love writing I am a visual artist and so I really wanted to take Expecting Sunshine and make it something that people who love visual things can look at and be inspired by. Even my own daughter. She’s nine and obsessed with Youtube. She makes her own videos and stuff, so I really wanted to reach a different group of people who are visual and creative and like to experience things that way.
How did you realize that writing was something that you wanted to pursue long term?
I am one of those crazy people that if you tell me I can’t do something I want to do it. I still remember the one summer I decided I was not going to get a summer job, and I was going to be a painter and a writer and do all my creative stuff instead. And I still remember my dad saying “you need to get a real job,” and I got so mad at him. So that’s one of those times, I’ve had people say to me “you can’t do this for work, this is a hobby and it's something you do on the side.” But I have always been so passionate about all the different kinds of art. I do like painting, writing, making films, and photography. I just can’t imagine not doing that with every part of who I am. So when people say I can’t do it I say “watch me!” You don’t think I can do it? “Watch me.”
What was the craziest thing someone ever told you about your writing? It can be good or bad.
Well, I’ve had both extremes. I’ve had one lady email me, I wrote this article at Christmas time about giving socks as Christmas presents and that was the first piece of hate mail I got. She emailed me about my Christmas sock article, I was shocked because who gets mad about a Christmas sock article? But I’ve also had people say that my works have made them come alive and have helped them in hard times, with my fantasy trilogy people say they see themselves in the characters, which is so beautiful. Any time I have feedback from people about my books I am so thankful.
Nowadays a lot of society still thinks that people, women especially, can only do one trade. How are you breaking that sigma, by being both a literary and visual artist?
Well, I am kinda breaking lots of stereotypes in lots of areas. Not only am I a writer and an artist but I am also a mom, and I’m a career girl. I just don’t like being put in a box. I like to just burst out. I grew up with a mom who works, I think she was a really good role model, and she was kind of a hero for me and she was kind of a trailblazer someone who doesn't take no for an answer. She tried to be a member of a golf course and the golf course said “only men could be members” and so she fought back, and she changed that whole golf course so women could be members at the golf course. So that’s the kind of role model I grew up having, so it doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, it doesn’t matter if you are old or young, it doesn’t matter what culture you come from, what you look like, if you put your mind to something and you work hard you can do it. So that’s kind of what I bring in to everything I do when I am passionate, about what I am working on you can’t stop me. I wake up in the morning with ideas, I can’t fall asleep at night because I am just so excited about it so I don’t think you have to be one thing. I think you follow you follow your passions and you let those guide you, and you have to work hard. In this day and age, nothing comes easy but if you believe in yourself enough I believe you can do anything.
If you could go back in time and tell your younger self anything what would it be?
It would be two things actually, I would tell myself to not care at all about what anyone else thinks of me. To not care about what they think I look like, to not care about what they think I am doing, to not care about it at all and to believe in myself 100 percent. I think I would also tell myself to not be afraid. I would tell myself to do and experience as much of the world as I can to get to know people, and not be scared and afraid of what they would think of me but just to know other people and have adventures. I really felt like that has given me so many things to write about and I kind of have this idea in my mind, that when an opportunity comes to me I say yes and it's like of like a mantra I have. That I say yes to live so when opportunities or friendships come up or whatever comes up if I am scared I say yes and I really learned it’s important to do things before you are ready. So I never got to the point where I sat down and said “I’m ready to write a book,” I just sat down and said, "I am going to write books.” And you learn by as you doing it. It’s the same when doing the documentary I learned as I went and it came out great in the end.
Are you currently reading any books? If so what book, and would you recommend it to our readers?
So I am reading finale by Stephanie Garber, and I’m reading Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. Her first book was so cool but I am not really that far into them, I am also reading a book called Disrupt Her by Miki Agrawa. It’s a nonfiction book, but it’s all about how we need to look at how we do life differently especially as a woman, so I find that one really empowering.,
If you can pick a song that describes your life perfectly what would it be?
Oh, that’s an easy one I love the song by Alicia Keys called “This Girl Is On Fire.”
Lastly, what’s the strangest thing you are afraid of?
I think the strangest thing I am afraid of is heights. I have always wanted to be on The Amazing Race one day. Like if they put me on top of a high waterfall and I try to bungee jump or skydive, or do zip-lining over a river or something I think I would probably pee my pants. I would probably cry and scream, to the person who is strapping me into the harness “don’t push me, get me away!” There’s a climbing structure in my city and my daughter, and I went and I think she was 8 at the time. We went at the top of this climbing structure and there was this thing you could jump off of, and she jumped off and I think it’s like three stories tall and I just stood at the top and I cried. And there were all of these people cheering me on, and I was so embarrassed but heights are just not for me.