Newsmaker: Ali Hazelwood

Author and neuroscientist on becoming an online sensation

January 2, 2024

Newsmaker: Ali Hazelwood
Ali Hazelwood Photo: Justin Murphy/Out of the Attic Photography

Romance author and doctor of neuroscience Ali Hazelwood saw her 2021 debut, The Love Hypothesis, become a New York Times bestseller and go viral on TikTok. Readers praised the book—derived from a piece of Star Wars fan fiction Hazelwood had written—for its classic tropes and STEM themes. Though she is most known for novels set among the halls of academia, her forthcoming novel, Bride (Berkley, February), is a step into paranormal romance. American Libraries spoke with Hazelwood about internet fame, her inspirations for Bride, and what role libraries play in her life.

What is the inspiration behind your new book, Bride?
Paranormal romance raised me. This book is very much an homage to Nalini Singh, J. R. Ward, Kresley Cole, and Christine Feehan. I read all their books when I was a teenager, and I love them so much. Most of their books have a nugget of the trope of the fated mates [characters brought together by destiny] in them. That was always, to me, the most romantic and the most larger-than-life trope that I could think of.

Bride by Ali Hazelwood

My readers know me as someone who writes contemporary romantic comedies with STEM themes. Who knows if they will follow me in the paranormal and fantasy worlds? I’m really excited about it, and I hope people like it. I know it’s different from what I’ve done before. Fingers crossed.

What’s the importance of setting your books in STEM workplaces?
Most of my life has been spent in academia. When I started writing, it served as a creative outlet. More than wanting to represent women in STEM, it was about writing my own lived experience and making it more interesting. [Academia is] such a rough environment that it’s fun to try and see it as something that you can make fun of.

What was your reaction to going viral on TikTok with your debut?
I remember not fully knowing what TikTok even was when my friend was like, “Did you know that The Love Hypothesis has 2 million views?” There were these influencers who found the book and they were amazing. That was just a stroke of luck, being at the right place at the right time. It really speaks to the strength of #BookTok as this grassroots movement where people just like something and they will start talking about it, and then their friends will see it and love it too.

What motivates you to keep writing?
Usually, when I am writing one book, I get an idea for another book, and I cannot wait to get to the point where I can write the other book, because that [becomes] my main interest. I get very inspired by the things I watch and enjoy. I’ll watch something, and there will be a specific piece of plot that really tickles me. My friend calls this shiny object syndrome, where I’m always chasing a new plot bunny.

What do you make of the recent wave of book challenges and bans?
It’s so concerning, and it’s very scary. It’s very arbitrary. As I read about it, most of these banning efforts are by very few groups that are incredibly active and obviously have agendas that are clearly, even if not explicitly, trying to hurt marginalized communities.

These are books that are going to save lives. Young people are trying to figure themselves out. [It makes] a difference for a young queer person to have access to literature about people like themselves that says, “It’s gonna get better. You are valid.” It truly shocks me that people who are [banning books] do not look in the mirror and think, “I am the villain in this situation.”

What role have libraries and librarians played in your life?
The library was everything for me. I grew up in Italy, and I remember I could literally walk to my library. The librarian knew my name. I felt seen. I’m still a very big library user. I feel like librarians have so much impact on people, and especially young people, who are trying to figure out what they are, what they like, and what they want to do.


Episode 80: Reading Romance

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Celebrating the romance genre with a look at love in books

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