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, Antonia Aquilante – Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent – they all end in happily ever after.
Thanks so much, Antonia, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Antonia Aquilante: I’ve always wanted to write, or at least I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up stories. When I was little, I would draw them or imagine the stories like a movie in my head. As I got older, I started writing them down too. I was twelve when I decided I wanted to be an author. I took a writing class that year in school, and I loved it. I was constantly writing after that and dreaming of being published. I never stopped writing, but it took me a while to seriously pursue publication.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
AA: All of my published work so far is fantasy romance. I love creating and exploring fantasy worlds, and I love populating them with characters who get to fall in love and find happily ever after.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
AA: My first published work was The Prince’s Consort, which was published by Dreamspinner Press in October of 2015. It’s a fantasy romance and the first book in the Chronicles of Tournai series, though each book can be read as a standalone novel. It’s the story of a prince and a merchant’s son who fall in love and have to fight to stay together despite court maneuvering and assassination attempts. When I started writing it, I was actually working on something else, and the men who became the main characters in The Prince’s Consort were supporting characters in that. But I kept hitting a wall with that manuscript, and the story of these two men kept coming too me more and more clearly. I really fell for the two characters. Finally I put aside the other and wrote what became The Prince’s Consort. And I’m so happy that I made that decision.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
AA: I don’t do a lot of planning before I write. What I do is focused on getting to know my characters. I make notes on everything I know about them, and I also get down what I do know about the story and where it’s going. I do all of that by hand in a notebook or journal. Then I start writing, and I just write–I don’t go back and edit what I’ve written until I finish the draft. It keeps me moving and focused and following the characters and story where they lead. I also have never written anything in order. I start out with the best intentions, but at some point, I get a little stuck and skip ahead to another point in the story and write from there, then I go back later to where I stopped and fill in the parts that are missing. I feel like it would be less stressful to write in order but I can’t seem to manage it!
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
AA: I mentioned that I use notebooks and journals for each of my stories, and I think a lot of people know how much I love pretty notebooks and journals, but most people probably don’t know that I have a stack of them at home waiting to be used. And that I like to feel that the notebook is appropriate to the story because the colors or artwork or pattern fits somehow. So sometimes (a lot of times!) I go looking for new notebooks before I’ve used the old ones. And yes, I know this is probably really strange.
JSC: Do you write more on the romance side, or the speculative fiction side? Or both? And why?
AA: Both, though I lean towards the romance side if only because I’m so focused on character and relationship and happily ever after. I love a happily ever after in my reading and in my writing! I’ve been reading romance and speculative fiction since I was 11 or 12, and I remember always wanting more character, more character relationships, and more romance in my fantasy reading. I wanted more than the vague subplots you often see, and I wanted happy for the characters I had gotten attached to. That made its way into my own writing.
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
AA: I don’t have pets of my own so none on my keyboard currently, but sometimes I write at my parents’ house and the cat, Gus, takes an interest. Sometimes he tries to make his own edits, but mostly he just ignores me or curls up in the chair next to me while I write.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
AA: Somewhere in between, but much closer to a pantser. I have to have an idea of where I’m starting and where I want to end up, maybe a little along the way, but often that’s all I know of the plot. I do need to know my characters before I start, so I spend a lot of time with them before I sit down to write.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
AA: How about a holiday for reading? Everyone gives each other books as gifts and sits around reading and drinking their favorite hot beverage and eating cookies and talking about books all day.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
AA: The Scholar’s Heart, the third book in the Chronicles of Tournai series, will be out on May 30th. The fourth book in the series has been submitted to Dreamspinner Press as well. Right now I’m working on the fifth book in the series and also on a contemporary romance with light paranormal elements, which feels very different for me since it’s been a long time since I written anything contemporary!
And now for Antonia’s new book: The Scholar’s Heart:
Youngest son of a royal duke, Etan is a scholar at heart who juggles his work for the prince with his studies of the history and legends of Tournai, something of particular interest to him because he shares the magical Talent that runs in the royal bloodline. Etan’s peaceful world turns upside down when his best friend—the man he secretly loves—unexpectedly marries a woman. Though Tristan values his friendship with Etan and has always been attracted to him, he is a dutiful son, raised to shoulder responsibility for the family business one day. That day comes far sooner than anticipated, and he makes a deathbed promise to his father to marry the woman his father chose and become head of the company and family.
A year later, Tristan is a widower with an infant daughter and a mother who demands he marry again quickly—something Tristan resists. Circumstances throw Etan and Tristan together, and even as they succumb to the desires they’ve always harbored, Etan battles his feelings, wary of being cast aside again. When Tristan’s daughter is kidnapped, Etan and Tristan must come together to find her, find the person responsible, and support each other through the ordeal… and maybe beyond.
“There you are!”
Tristan’s musical voice made the simple sentence something special, or perhaps Etan’s feelings made it seem so. Etan smiled as he looked up from his book, a glow of warmth and welcome lighting him up inside.
Tristan strode into the small room that Etan had claimed for his own in the palace’s labyrinthine library. He had a desk in the university library as well, but these days, out of necessity and preference both, he conducted most of his work in this cozy little room. Obscure history books filled the shelves lining the walls. The table in the center of the room held Etan’s notes on his studies and projects, all neatly organized so he could find anything he wanted quickly. But this morning he slouched on the comfortable couch instead, book propped in his lap.
He sat there, book forgotten as he watched Tristan, the morning sun streaming in through the window and glinting off Tristan’s bright gold hair. Tristan seemed to bring the sunshine into the room with him, brightening what had been an ordinary morning until that moment.
“Good morning, Tristan.”
“Good morning to you.” Tristan sent a flirtatious smile in his direction and skirted the table, coming closer.
“It’s good to see you.” He probably sounded ridiculous, but he hadn’t seen Tristan in a few days, and, well, he’d missed him.
Tristan’s smile warmed, turning a bit softer. “You too.”
Etan frowned as Tristan flopped on the couch at Etan’s side. Not at the action, but at the look in Tristan’s eyes. The bright blue seemed shadowed somehow. “Everything all right?”
“Fine. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. You just seem a little….” Etan shrugged. He couldn’t quite put a word to it, and he couldn’t very well say he didn’t think Tristan’s eyes sparkled as much as they usually did. “Troubled, maybe.”
Tristan was quiet for a moment, then scooted closer and rested his head on Etan’s shoulder. “I’m fine. A little tired. What are you up to?”
“Doing some reading.”
“For work or pleasure?”
Etan suppressed a shiver at the way Tristan’s voice shaped the word pleasure. Certainly it had to be unconscious on Tristan’s part, but it put ideas into Etan’s head that he didn’t want there, not yet, not when he and Tristan hadn’t spoken of feelings between them beyond friendship. But he could see those feelings were there. Perhaps he should just come right out and kiss Tristan. Tristan seemed to be over what feelings he’d had for Amory, Tristan’s lifelong friend who was now married to Etan’s cousin. Etan didn’t see any of the emotion or longing he used to in the looks Tristan sent Amory’s way. Maybe Etan had waited long enough.
He’d certainly paused long enough before answering. “A bit of both. Want me to read to you?”
He’d read to Tristan before, many times, sometimes with Tristan sitting as he was now, snuggled up against Etan’s side, sometimes with Tristan lying with his head in Etan’s lap. Tristan seemed to like when Etan read to him, seemed to enjoy the legends and histories Etan habitually occupied himself with, seemed to even enjoy when Etan forgot himself and ran his fingers through Tristan’s soft hair as he read. Etan hadn’t read to anyone before except for his youngest sister, Meriall, but reading to Tristan was a far different experience from reading bedtime stories. He liked it, liked having Tristan close and hearing Tristan’s comments and reactions.
“I’m not sure I can sit still today. I’m sorry.”
“That’s all right.” He’d realized early on in their friendship that Tristan was an athletic person who enjoyed being active and outdoors. Etan came to treasure the moments of stillness and quiet, when he saw Tristan’s intellectual side and his softer side in equal measure, but he enjoyed sharing the other more active times with Tristan too. Tristan always made the rides through the countryside and the hikes along the cliffs and the rambles over the beach fun. “What would you like to do?”
“Will you go for a ride with me?”
He thought briefly of the work awaiting him in the office he shared with Cathal, of his plans to spend the morning with his books and his studies before he returned to that work. And tossed it all aside with one look into Tristan’s eyes. As he always did. His books would still be there when he returned to them later.
And he wasn’t convinced Tristan really was all right.
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Amazon: Click Here
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent – they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats which she shares with friends and family, and of course reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to ebooks, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, she is living there again after years in Washington, DC, and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.
She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Rainbow Romance Writers.