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: Amir Lane writes supernatural and fantasy with LGBT+ characters. From the frigid and mysterious land of Northern Canada, Amir is obsessed with loud music and black magic. They spend most of their writing time in a small home office or doing the circuit of local coffee shops. They live in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence, and they strive to bring that world to paper.
When not figuring out what kind of day job an incubus would have or what a necromancer would go to school for, Amir enjoys visiting the nearest Dairy Queen, getting killed in video games, and watching cat videos.
Thanks so much, Amir, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
Amir Lane: The characters definitely come to me first. It usually starts with a concept that I’m only half serious about (“Hey what if they were musicians pretending to witches but are also actually witches”) that I just run with. I get their backgrounds and personalities, and then build the plot around a problem they want to solve, but are woefully unequipped to solve.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
AL: I got an email a few years ago from an overseas teacher who shared one of my short stories with some of their students that they thought would appreciate that type of story. I screenshot that email so that I’d always have it. Every now and then, I come across it again, and I tear up a little.
(Okay, a lot.)
JSC: Where do you like to write?
AL: If I can pick anywhere to write, it’s a coffee shop. I know it’s cliché but there’s something about it that makes it so easy to write. I think it’s the idea that there’s only a limited time to be there. I want to get my words done so I don’t have to buy another coffee to justify staying there. Plus, if I’m at home, I’ve got all day to write! And then I don’t.
Though if I am at home, my favorite place to write is standing at the kitchen counter. I know that sounds weird, but I’m always surprisingly productive there. Standing is just a great way to keep blood flowing to the brain and being next to the fridge cuts down how much time I waste walking back and forth for procrastination snacks.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in A Riff on Retribution, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
AL: One of the things I wanted to do with this series is write a good representation of what it’s like to be a metal musician. I obviously took some creative liberties for plot purposes, but I listened to a lot of interviews with musicians talking about how they got into the industry and how tours work. I also did a lot of re-reading up on music theory that I haven’t looked at in way too long. I wanted to show the physical toll it takes and the impact of being away from family all the time. And I wanted to show how playing music feels like magic.
I don’t know if I exactly achieved it. Like I said, I took some creative liberties with the details. But I told a story that I enjoyed, so I’m calling it a success.
JSC: What inspired you to write this particular story? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
AL: There’s sort of a long story for how I came up with this series.
Many years ago, I was talking to my good friend NJ Ember about how being a black metal musician would be the perfect cover for a vampire. The conversation went back and forth for a few years. Eventually, we decided to write a series about heavy metal musician witches.
While I was writing those books, I needed a set of vampire hunters. I already had a pair of Swedish guitarists on hand. Since they were there anyway, I made them my vampire hunters. Of course, then I had to give them backstories, and it just escalated from there.
So now I have a whole series about Swedish heavy metal guitarist vampire hunters.
The biggest challenge was the amount of research I had to do. I’m a huge metal fan and I have a background in music, but I’m not a guitarist and I’m not Swedish. I had to do a lot of reading about guitars, theory, and techniques to make sure I sounded like I knew what I was talking about.
The same thing went for the Swedish thing. There’s a lot of cultural differences that you don’t really think about until you actually think about it.
JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?
AL: This is such a tricky question because there’s something I love about every single one of the characters in this book.
Hale, who is the main character, is such a deeply emotional character. He carries a lot of weight in this series from the things he’s done in his past. He’s trying to move forward and make the best of it, but he keeps getting dragged back into a part of his life he kind of wants to walk away from.
The two major supporting characters, who also have points of view in this book, are Aleksandr and Sterling. Aleksandr is Hale’s best friend. He communes with the gods, so I tried to give his chapters a bit of a surreal, ‘watching the world from underwater’ vibe.
Sterling, Hale’s boyfriend, is just the embodiment of a chaotic Rockstar. He’s so all over the place, and it made him so much fun to write.
JSC: Let’s talk to your characters for a minute – what’s it like to work for such a demanding writer?
AL: It is literally a nightmare. Every single time I think maybe, maybe I am going to catch a break, that maybe I can rest, this jerk has to throw something else at me. I just want to make music. Is it really too much to ask to be able to sit with a coffee for fifteen minutes without someone trying to start Ragnarök?
JSC: What action would your name be if it were a verb?
AL: To amir would definitely be to go off on a completely unrelated tangent. I’m physically incapable of talking about anything without going off onto seventeen different topics. “Sorry, I forgot what we were originally talking about, I amired again.”
JSC: What’s your drink of choice?
AL: I’m normally a coffee drinker, either black or with almond milk. But if I’m treating myself, I’ll go for an almond mint hot chocolate with coconut whip cream. Or a café mocha if I’m still needing the caffeine.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
AL: Right now, I am working on book 5 in the Heavy Metal Hunters series that A Riff of Retribution is part of. This one doesn’t have a title yet, but I am tossing some around. In this book, vampire hunters Hale and Aleksandr are back on the road for their European tour with Emperor Immortal, this time with Bloody Morningstar co-headlining.
Bloody Morningstar’s vampire act isn’t just an act.
That’s right, I’m putting the vampire hunters on tour with the vampires, and it is all sorts of anarchy. Plus, the’s still the whole ‘the world is ending’ thing to deal with..
And the next release is A Chant of Chains, book two in the Heavy Metal Hunters series, coming in August.
And now for Amir’s new book: A Riff of Retribution:
Dead men are filled with life.
Eleven years ago, world-renowned guitarists Hale and Aleksandr learned that monsters were real. Hale lost the love of his life, and Aleksandr lost his brother.
When the carnage was over, they vowed to make sure no one else had to suffer the same fate.
A few months ago, another band’s bassist has been killed at a festival, and she wasn’t the only one. Hale suspects a vampire was responsible, and that their drummer — the singer of his new band — knows more about it than she’s letting on. When a member of their new act is also attacked by a vampire, everything Hale has tried to keep in the shadows comes to light.
Hale has made a bargain with the gods for the power to heal. But he can’t save everyone.
The dead are rising. The gods are angry. And even they won’t be Hale’s biggest problem.