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.
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/aldreaalien
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/314283805670626
Thanks so much, Aldrea, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What is your writing Kryptonite?
Aldrea Alien: Fight scenes. Which is kind of funny as there were a lot of them in this story. The first few chapters see Tracker fighting an armed group puppeteered by a mage.
JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
AA: Yes, Aldrea Alien is a pseudonym. I took it because, at the time, there was already an established author with my real name writing shifter romances and I didn’t want readers confusing the two of us.
JSC: How long do you write each day?
AA: It varies depending on where I am in the book and how much the Muse is willing to co-operate with me. I recently learnt I’m capable of hitting the 1k mark within two hours, but it’s generally about half that over the course of the day, in-between other tasks.
JSC: Do you reward yourself for writing, or punish yourself for failing to do so? How?
AA: I don’t punish myself for the days I don’t write, sometimes I’ve simply run out of spoons as other tasks demand my attention. I do, however, keep track of how many words I’ve missed (I like to maintain a daily minimum) and work to make that up either in the following day or sprinkled throughout the week.
JSC: What inspired you to write Tracking Trouble? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
AA: At first, it was supposed to be a little prequel novella that led up to the events where the characters met during In Pain and Blood. All of it from Tracker’s pov, but a lot of those scenes wound up in IPaB’s expansive rewrite.
So, the biggest challenge became that it wouldn’t settle on just what kind of story it wanted to tell. Tracker has forever had the habit of taking control whenever he’s in the narrative and he veered from my outline pretty quick, turning what would’ve been an almost “day in the life of a King’s Hound” into almost a character study of who Tracker was behind the charming mask he puts up during the original version of In Pain and Blood. That got mixed with a little action/adventure and a thread of mystery. The one thing it wasn’t supposed to be was a dark fantasy, but once I knew the story would touch on his past, there was nowhere else it could’ve landed.
JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?
AA: Definitely Tracker. I learnt a lot about his character whilst writing Tracking Trouble. It has also let me have more insight into the kingdom as the only other pov I had there was during In Pain and Blood where they were more or less a complete stranger. Plus, I get to show how his mage-hunting abilities work and just have fun running around with a character who was wholly confident in his abilities.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
AA: I can’t stand the texture of onions. Doesn’t matter if they’re raw or cooked, I hate the feeling on my teeth. I’ll only eat onions if the pieces are small enough that I don’t have to chew them.
JSC: What qualities do you and your characters share? How much are you like them, or how different are they from you?
AA: Most of my main characters share at least one of my traits. In the A Tale of Two Princes series, Darshan’s shockingly terrible eyesight is modeled on my own, whilst Hamish drew the short straw and wrecked me by claiming the suicidal depressive episodes of my youth.
When it comes to the Spellster and the Hound series… Katarina actually has my fascination for ancient history and weird facts. Marin shares my love of archery and Tracker my taste in weaponry. Dylan is, so far, the only character to share my sexuality. I actually was going through my own self-discovery at the same time I first wrote his bi-awakening story.
JSC: Would you rather be in a room full of snakes or a room full of spiders?
AA: Oh! I’m terrified of spiders. Super arachnophobe! Can barely stand to look at a picture of one. On the flip side, snakes are not native to New Zealand and actually aren’t allowed to enter the country alive (not even for zoos). So, I would love to see a python in the flesh, but I would have to travel to do it. Be worth it, though. Even just to see if they’ve the same weird reaction to me as reptiles do.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
After I finish the rewrite of In Pain and Blood, my plan is to write And the World Crumbled, which used to happen right in the middle of the old version of IPaB, but now that I’ve broken the storyline into two beats, it sits nicely at the end. It follows one of Dylan’s spellster friends, Henrie and his pov of events in the tower. My hope is to have that written by the end of the year, but we’ll see.
After that, it’s on to In Love and Death, which started life as the second half of the old version of IPaB. It’s also the piece that’ll be getting the most reworking done, so I’m not sure how long that’ll take me. The ending definitely won’t flow the same and there are likely other surprises waiting for me. And, of course, there’s the novella An Unexpected Gift to follow that.
Beyond the Spellster and the Hound series… there are many tales left to tell within the Spellster Universe. I plan to dive into the past, starting with completing the Elven Migration pairing (the second of which has been a freebie for my newsletter subscribes for quite a while). A Vision of Doom is slated to be a novella and will follow Kahuj and Vala as they, along with the rest of the elves, flee the Vesuvius-like destruction of their homeland. It’ll also become the chronological start to the entire Spellster Universe.
And now for Aldrea’s latest book: Tracking Trouble:
For years, Tracker’s life has had two facets: Hunting spellsters and entertaining strangers in his bed. Few doubt he’s good at both, although only one is considered acceptable amongst the King’s Hounds. His trip to Toptower should be just another task in an endless string of routine. Take down any dangerous spellster he finds and send the timid ones to Demarn’s tower prison.
It is a role he was born to play. One he has grown weary of.
But there’s something off about the spellsters he’s encountering. The people he typically finds aren’t usually this powerful or anywhere near as lethal to a man immune to magic. It’s as if something, or someone, is releasing them with an eye to weaken an already harried kingdom. To what end, he cannot be certain of. History is littered with the dangers of magic running unchecked.
He must uncover the truth, and quickly. But with all leads pointing one way, will he be able to uphold the code of the King’s Hounds once he finds it?
This section kicks off from Tracker hunting down his throwing knives that the city guards absconded with after an attack. He just learnt that one of the guards was cut and poisoned.
The infirmary was less crowded than Tracker had expected. A few figures took up a handful of cots, including Rhiain, who appeared to have been left to absorb her current situation in silence.
The curtained section at the far end of the room was their goal. Beyond it sat a crude surgeon’s table, bearing a guard already stripped to the waist.
The medic turned at their intrusion. “Sergeant, sir,” he exclaimed, shuffling to stand between the woman and his patient. “I did not expect you—”
“To find out?” Folding her arms, she pinned the man in place with one of her infamous looks. “I ought to write the lot of you up for this,” she growled before looking over her shoulder at him. “Sir Hound? Your professional opinion?”
Before Tracker could move, the medic blurted out a garbled protest. “Is that truly necessary, sir? I have everything under control and I am certain the hound has more important matters than this.”
Tracker wasted no time with the medic’s babbling. If the man hadn’t administered an antidote by now, then he clearly had no experience with poisons. Wordlessly skirting the medic, he critically examined the poisoned guard lying on the table.
The wound in question was a shallow slice to the palm of his hand, likely gotten in an attempt to free himself. Few poisons possessed enough potency for the residue to render a man comatose. Please, do not beAerona’s Kiss. It was the deadliest toxin in his arsenal, one nick from a properly applied blade could drop a spellster in two heartbeats.
He drew back the man’s eyelids, exposing the bloodshot whites, and sighed. Of course it was Aerona’s Kiss. Fool. If the guard had waited until Tracker returned to the old storehouse, then he wouldn’t be in this state.
“Your guard is lucky to be alive.” The knife-edge must’ve carried no more than the ghost of a hint.
“Will he live?” Sergeant Ceri asked.
Tracker nodded. The quality of that life was another matter. “It will have affected his brain by now and those few who survive Aerona’s Kiss typically do not regain full function of their extremities. A mixture of stardew, dropweed and Elan’s hair will help reduce the tremors.” He didn’t bother explaining where to find the relevant herbs. Any apothecary worth their training would have them. “Your standard poultice should be enough to draw out the toxin.”
The sergeant nodded sagely. “Did you get all that, son?” she asked of the medic.
The man nodded, already scrambling to gather the required ingredients.
Grumbling under her breath, the sergeant flung back the curtain and stormed out of the room.
Unable to do anything further for the man—that wouldn’t end in putting him out of his misery—Tracker followed the woman back out of the infirmary. They parted ways in the corridor, Sergeant Ceri marching off to her duties whilst he returned to the debriefing room where the remainder of his knives awaited him.
Captain Owen lingered in the room, fiddling with the few knives Tracker hadn’t claimed previously. He jumped as Tracker entered, placing the weapons back on the table much like a child caught thieving from a grocer’s stall.
Tracker collected the last of his weapons, all whilst under the man’s watchful eye. The man wasn’t being overt about it, but Tracker had been the subject of many a gaze over the last two decades. He had learnt how to pluck the charge of sexual interest from the air.
Ensuring each knife was properly sheathed, he nodded his thanks to the guard captain. “I must be off.” He needed to send a message to the capital confirming Chaser’s demise as well as that of the spellster who’d taken his life. Then it was an early night, a quick tour of the old slave market and away to wherever else he was needed. As always, everywhere across Demarn required a hound’s attention. There just weren’t enough of them to be everywhere all the time.
Owen regarded him with a shock of panic. “You cannot linger for a while? Maybe long enough for me to, say… buy you a drink? You deserve at least that much for getting rid of that monster and bringing everyone back alive.”
Tracker chuckled, waggling a finger at the guard captain to warn the man off. There was definitely a keen gleam in those eyes—the colour an almost storm-cloud grey that was especially striking. “You are cute and a drink is tempting, but I truly must be on my way.”
“Cute?” Owen echoed. “Not saying a handsome being like yourself is a poor judge, but come on.” He gestured to his face. “Really? Obviously I am no patch on…” He trailed off, indicating Tracker’s whole body. “All that,” he eventually managed, his voice a little huskier. He stroked his jaw. “Does the beard not, at least, grant me a certain ruggedness?”
Caught off guard by the jabbering, Tracker planted himself before the man. “That has to be the worst attempt at fishing for compliments I have ever been subjected to.”
Owen gave him a crooked smile. “And I bet a man like you has heard his fair share.”
He had. “You are attempting to chat me up, yes?” And doing a terrible job of it of he was truly after sex. Tracker wasn’t sure if he should take pity on the guard captain or leave before the man completely embarrassed himself. A small part of him even found the blundering charming.
“I did offer a drink,” Owen pointed out, his smile turning sheepish.
“That you did, my dear man. But I have imbibed many times in pleasant company without it leading to more carnal acts.” Those times were few and far between nowadays, but they happened.
“Maybe this could be one of those times when it does?” The man’s brow twitched into a worried frown.“That… It is not illegal for you, is it?”
“It is not.” Their mistress forbade intimate relationships only when there was a chance of it becoming permanent. In response, most hounds veered towards celibacy.
Tracker couldn’t imagine being one of them. He certainly hadn’t tried since his early teens. Wintervale had plenty of brothels willing to accept a gangly elven youth with inexplicable amounts of coin without questions.
He examined Owen anew. The man wasn’t too bad in looks. That didn’t mean much when it came to experience in bed, but a great many faults could be forgotten during a good time and the guard captain had the physique to suggest an extremely fun romp.
“Come to the Broken Sail and Haft at sundown,” Tracker finally offered. If he was entertaining anyone, he would need time to tie up loose ends here and make himself presentable. The rain might’ve washed all traces of the fight from his armour, but he wanted, at the very least, to be out of this wet leather and into some dry street clothes. Being able to get the thick, curly mass of his hair dry would also be welcomed, even if such a task took half of the night.
The man’s smile became a little more confident.
“But you are buying me two drinks. And breakfast.” He grazed his fingers under Owen’s chin, silently luxuriating in the faint scrape of the man’s stubble. Such a shame elves couldn’t grow facial hair. “I will have earned it.”
A blush blossomed across the man’s cheeks. “Sundown,” he echoed on the wings of a giddy chuckle. Grinning boyishly, he stumbled his way out the door.
Tracker couldn’t help but smile a little at the man’s departure. Perhaps this place did have the potential for some pleasant memories. Even if it was just a night of them.