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Author Spotlight: Aldrea Alien

Aldrea Alien logo

Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.

Today: Aldrea Alien is an award-winning, bisexual author of fantasy romance with varying heat levels. Born and raised in New Zealand, she lives on a small farm with her family, including a menagerie of animals, who are all convinced they’re just as human as the next person. Especially the cats. Since discovering a love of writing at the age of twelve, she hasn’t found an ounce of peace from the characters plaguing her mind with all of them clamouring for her to tell their story first.

Thanks so much, Aldrea, for joining me!

J. Scott Coatsworth: How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Aldrea Alien: Most of the books finish with 250k words, so anywhere between one year and two. My last novella took six months, but much of it was me taking mental breaks in-between due to the grim nature of the story.

JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

AA: I used to be a full-on pantser but have veered more into plantser territory. As much as I try to be a plotter, my characters routinely throw me enough curveballs to skew the outline.

JSC: Name the book you like most among all you’ve written, and tell us why.

AA: You would think, because I go on about In Pain and Blood so much, it would have to be that. I mean, it’s a story I like so much I wrote it twice. But I do adore Someone Else’s Shoes, not only was my first lesbian tale, but it’s a short and sweet Cinderella retelling.

JSC: What were your goals and intentions in In Pain and Blood, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

AA: Being as it’s a rewrite, my first goal was to fix the worldbuilding contradictions between it and the A Tale of Two Princes duology which is set in the same world. Not to mention drastically cutting back the instances of Tracker saying “my dear [insert descriptor here]”. I did quite well there. Eliminated over half.

But I also wanted to make a lot of things clearer in the narrative in regards to Dylan’s bisexuality as well as the reason behind why he denied even thinking of the possibility. Later, that turned into making sure that whilst Tracker was the first to show interest, Dylan was the first to make a move, which in turn required the removal of a foursome sex scene and the shuffling of when they kissed. All in all, I think it was the better move, even if it did slow the relationship a notch.

In planning the first two points, I decided things would be easier if I added Tracker’s pov and that was partially true, but it did require a ton more new scenes and was how the outline for original version got split into three, or rather two and a half.

But the new pov also helped show just how different and constricting Dylan’s life was to even that of ordinary folk, as well as how feared and dangerous spellsters were perceived outside of the tower.

JSC: What was the hardest part of writing it?

AA: That would have to be keeping the newer additions and the old prose sounding the same. I published the original back in 2017, when the world-building hadn’t settled and I’d a less-familiar grip on the characters. It required a lot more reading and tweaking of the original content than I had planned to ensure everything matched and I wasn’t creating more plot holes.

JSC: Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?

AA: Maria Arteta, better known as MarosarArt on twitter, is responsible for the gorgeous artwork that graces In Pain and Blood’s new version. The process was pretty smooth, I’d already an idea of what I wanted (the scene where Tracker and Dylan met) and had a bunch of references for them. I guess it was thorough enough as, in the end, the options she gave me were just two different light placements.

JSC: What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about them.

AA: There’s a few I wouldn’t mind doing some slice-of-life pieces on, but Carwyn, the 75-year-old human owner of The Blade and Blanket Inn, was the one whose backstory took on its own life. He was meant to be a single-scene character, but after it came to light that he’d only one arm, which turned into him being a sergeant in the army where he lost both his arm and first husband in a spellster attack at 45. Afterwards, he was forced to retire so he bought up a rundown inn and found love again along the way. Him and his new husband wound up taking in an orphan elven boy who grew up, married and had a bunch of children… all of whom help their granddads run the inn.

His current life sounds so cosy that I’m constantly tempted to delve into it.

JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?

AA: Anyone who knows me probably isn’t surprised here, but that’d be Tracker. He’s been dealt a really bad hand when it comes to life and isn’t one to shy from doing the dirty work that’s expected of a King’s Hound, yet he’s still gentle with those who deserve it and often has an outlook on things that varies vastly from others.

JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?

AA: Kill? Authril, hands down. She knows what she did.

Fuck? It’s got to be Tracker again. The guy was once a high-ranking prostitute in a wealthy brothel, why wouldn’t I pick the one who has done it professionally?

Marry? That would be Katarina. Even if hedgewitches don’t typically marry, they do have a lot of knowledge and a desire to gather more. I wouldn’t mind travelling the kingdoms if it was with a cuddly, chatty sweetheart like her.

JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!

AA: I am currently in the middle of writing In Love and Death, the second full novel in the Spellster and the Hound series and the latter half of the old version of In Pain and Blood (the original really was a behemoth).

Where the series itself follows Tracker and Dylan as they travel across the kingdom in an attempt to get Dylan somewhere safe whilst catching feelings along the way, and trying to deny it until it comes to a head, In Love and Death is where the romance portion really starts to gather some speed. It makes a very confusing time for Dylan, he’s not only discovered his home is destroyed, but he likes men and it doesn’t help that one of his other travelling companions is growing more hostile or that there are other people looking to kill him.

It’s been both a fun and frustrating thing to write/rewrite. Doing a lot of the former really as this new version diverts drastically from the old. They’re in more danger than last time and more of the main cast gets stabbed because of it.

In Pain and Blood - Aldrea Alien

And now for Aldrea’s latest book, Spellster and the Hound book one: In Pain and Blood:

He’s unleashed. Unprepared. And thoroughly screwed.

Dylan’s life in the spellster tower has everything he should want: magical knowledge, safety from the King’s Hounds and frequent clandestine affairs with women. All at the cost of his freedom. So when the chance to leave the tower—even as a leashed weapon for the King’s Army—arises, he seizes it.

When his first scouting mission goes awry, Dylan is left alone in a hostile world with the tower a distant beacon of safety. Only the flirtatious Tracker, an elven man whose very presence awakens Dylan’s long-repressed desire, can help him return to his old life before the crown discovers his unleashed status.

But the risk of being branded a deserter may be the least of his concerns as whispers of an armed presence in the North threatens his home. Dylan must rely on Tracker to protect him even as everything he thought he knew begins to unravel around them.

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This section is from when Tracker and Dylan meet and became the inspiration for the cover.

“There you are,” someone snarled from the shadows.

A hand grabbed Dylan before he could face them. He hit the alleyway wall, the back of his head thumping against the brickwork. His vision blurred, leaving him disorientated.

“Do not think about taking another step, you will not get far.” The figure pinning him to the wall spoke with the vaguely similar smooth accent of Dylan’s old roommate, the words tumbling off their tongue much like rocks down a hill, catching occasionally on a soft trill or hiss.

Dylan blinked, trying to refocus. The back of his head tingled as his innate healing hurried to fix whatever damage had been done.

The dagger was the first thing that came into clarity. Curved and sharp. In the lantern light illuminating the alleyway’s entrance, the blade bore an insidious purple sheen. Infitialis. Wielded by someone who was either an alchemist or who had stolen it from one.

Barely daring to breathe, Dylan followed the blade down to the bronze hand and onwards to the elven man glaring up at him.

Was he being mugged? “If you’re after money,” he managed, the words warbling out. “I have none.”

“Money?” An amused huff warmed Dylan’s chin. As well as sharing a similarity in accents to his old roommate, the man was quite tall for an elf. Not as much as Sulin, but the top of the man’s head easily reached the base of Dylan’s neck. “My dear spellster, do I look like I need your paltry coin?”

“I don’t—” They knew he was a spellster? That could become problematic if the man also knew of a hound in the area. He kept his hands flattened against the wall, careful to ensure his palms faced away from the elf. “Look, I really don’t want to hurt you.”

Laughter hissed out the man’s lips, chill enough to prickle Dylan’s skin. “Hurt me? It has not occurred to you that attacking me will do you no good?” He pressed closer, the palm of his hand slapping against the wall. “I will make it clear for you, yes? You try and you will be dead well before myself.”

His gaze dropped to take in the man’s armour. Hard to tell with the man so close, but it looked well-made and leather. Not a common thief, then. A mercenary, perhaps?

Something about the armour’s style nagged at him. He’d seen it before, as far back as the tower. Not on the guardians, but on a single other. The hound, Fetcher, might’ve been human and a woman, but her armour was almost a perfect match.

“You’re a hound,” he breathed, amazed he could say a word when it felt like his heart had abruptly relocated to his throat.

The man’s lips twisted into a humourless smile. “Not entirely without wits, I see. Yes, I am a hound. One who has been following you for days, I may add.” The dagger’s point returned to his neck.

All the stories Dylan had ever heard about the hounds, the tales of what they did to those who fled the tower, flooded his thoughts. Did they really drink spellster blood? He closed his eyes, biting his lip to hold back the whimper tightening his throat. The hounds will hunt you. His guardian’s words echoed in his ears. He was safe in the tower. Safe with a neck banded in metal. But to venture outside whilst being unleashed? Practically a death sentence. Any spellster rumoured to have fled the tower was never heard from again.

What are you doing?” the hound asked.

“Aren’t you going to kill me?” He dared to open one eye enough to peek out from between his lashes. “That’s what hounds do.” It was also a hound’s job to bring spellsters to the tower, just as they’d done with Sulin, Launtil and countless others who’d been born outside the walls.

He didn’t think this one was about to offer that sort of assistance.

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