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: Chloe Archer writes M/M sci-fi and paranormal rom coms with laugh out loud humor because she’s all about bringing the funny-sexy back. Oh, yeah!
She currently calls Minnesota home, but has lived abroad in places like Montreal, Edinburgh, and Tokyo. She’s hoping to relocate to Scotland permanently one day if the stars align.
Chloe is a fur mama to two adorable Yorkies, Jasper and Teddy, and she loves them in a crazy dog mama kind of way. When she isn’t busy writing, she enjoys visiting friends and family, traveling, reading, binge watching movies and TV shows, and practicing her karaoke skills. She does a mean cover of Pat Benatar and Cher, or so she’s been told.
Thanks so much, Chloe, 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?
Chloe Archer: I started coming up with stories in my head when I was about seven or eight years old. At bedtime, I wanted to tell my imaginary stories after my dad read me one from a book! I first started putting these stories on paper around fourth grade. To put it mildly, from early on I was an odd kid who wasn’t interested in some of the things my peers were. I loved to read, and any and all free time was for books. At recess, I was the kid who would bring a novel and sit somewhere and read instead of playing. By fourth grade, I’d basically gotten bored with most children and YA books in my age range and transitioned into reading 800+ page fantasy novels. Thank you, public library system!
From there, it wasn’t long before I wanted to start writing my own novels and become an author. However, along the way I hit some road bumps in my dreams of writing professionally. For one, my high school English teachers didn’t offer creative writing opportunities and several told me becoming an author was an impossible dream. Then when I got to university, I discovered most English Department Creative Writing programs are ONLY interested in literary fiction, and have an unfortunate tendency to look down on popular genre fiction. Seriously, the snootiness knows no bounds in some of those programs! It wasn’t until I started grad school that I ended up writing my first full-length novel on the side. I think I was about 22 or 23 at the time. This was in the early 2000s, and it was an urban fantasy with a strong romance plot. My first book had a fun concept, and some interesting characters, but I sort of cringe when I go back and read parts of it now! But at the time I thought it was good and wanted to get it published. Those were also the days of traditional publishing as the only viable option. So, I queried dozens of agents with my manuscript, and had a few who requested samples but it never went anywhere. I found the whole process disheartening, and I assumed that I didn’t have what it took to be a fiction writer or that the market was just so competitive I would never be able to break in. Ultimately, I went down a different professional path instead.
Fast forward quite a few years, and the pandemic hit in 2020. I’d been reading M/M since 2012 and I’d been wanting to write in the genre ever since. I told myself I was going to try self-publishing since I’d seen a lot of authors having success with that, but I kept putting it on the backburner. I think I still felt the lingering sting of rejection from traditional publishing from all those years ago. Then a major life-changing event happened. Early in the pandemic, my aunt, who I’d been very close with for years, died unexpectedly in an accident. She was only 57. For a long time, I was in shock and had trouble processing it. I grieved for over a year, and all the while in the back of my head I was thinking–you need to start doing the things you’ve always wanted to do because you have no idea how much time you have in this life! Everything that happened with my aunt felt like a cosmic kick in the ass from the universe to quit making excuses and just go for it. So, I did.
To prepare myself, I spent about nine months researching self-publishing—reading books, listening to hundreds of hours of podcasts, attending virtual writer conferences and workshops, etc.
Then I started plotting ideas for a story. I decided I had to start by writing the book I needed to read when I was feeling down and sad after losing my aunt. I wanted something that would make me laugh and be super fun to write. That’s when I came up with the idea for an M/M sci-fi rom com series that would be a very geeky but hilarious OTT marriage of Men in Black meets The Princess Bride–but hella gay! I started writing in summer of 2021 and published my first book in fall of 2022.
I was nervous at first that my sense of humor was going to be too quirky for a lot of readers, but when I gave some early chapters to my alpha reader BFF, who is a huge M/M romance reader, I nearly made her pee her pants laughing! She was constantly messaging me, demanding new chapters, and her encouragement and support kept me going. Her enthusiasm energized me on so many levels.
Between her and the beta readers I shared early drafts with, I soon realized “hey, I can do this” and that there are people out there who dig my kind of storytelling.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
CA: I would say that I write M/M sci-fi and paranormal rom coms with plenty of heat and loads of zany humor. There will probably be quite a few pop culture references thrown in as well, because that’s just how I roll. I’m still a fairly new writer, but I find that I tend to gravitate more toward series than standalones. I prefer that as a reader as well. I also love writing ongoing series that stick with certain characters over several books, but I do have plans for some series that will involve interconnected standalones. As a writer, my style is a bit quirky but fun. I have to include humorous elements in what I’m writing, it’s part of my personality. However, humor is always highly subjective. Some readers will love my type of humor and others won’t, which is totally fine. I don’t really do dark or mega angst. My books can have a lot of action and mystery going on, but they will always veer toward the lighter and funnier side of those situations. So far I’m also discovering I tend to be someone who writes long books. My novels so far have been around 100,000-115,000 words each.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
CA: My first published work was It’s Not Unusual To Be Loved by an Alien (Tentacular Tales #1). My elevator pitch for it would be “Think Men in Black meets The Princess Bride–but hella gay, and with tentacles!” My official tagline is: “A sexy alien living incognito on Earth meets a sci-fi loving nerd who wants to rock his universe. What could possibly go wrong? Besides the unexpected tentacles and the accidental Mating Courtship Ritual, that is….”
Basically, a sunshiny sci-geek (River) is convinced his new next door neighbor is an alien. So, late one night he and his uncle follow the suspicious neighbor out into the Nevada desert and actually discover a secret alien base! That’s when River meets Kai (a grumpy-sexy alien living in cognition on Earth who happens to have…hidden tentacles!) and tries to convince him that they should date. Kai’s reluctant to get involved with a human, but the Force is strong with River and it’s awfully hard for Kai to resist such an enthusiastic and charming ball of energy—especially once they end up working together for the secret alien Alliance on Earth!
This was the book of my heart; the book I wanted to read and laugh along with at a time when things were less than happy in my life and the world in general. I thought other people might need a similar story too and I wanted to share it with them. I also dedicated it to my aunt who passed away in honor of her memory. I’m so happy with how well this book has been received. It won the 2022 Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Best LGBT/ROMANCE/FANTASY/FUTURISTIC/SCI-FI/ACTION ADVENTURE.” I know that category is a mouthful, but I was super honored to win and so grateful to the reviewer who nominated me and all the readers who voted for me!
It’s Not Unusual To Be Loved by an Alien also came out in audiobook in January 2023. It’s narrated by the always amazing Greg Boudreaux who absolutely hit it out of the park with my story, characters, and OTT humor.
JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
CA: Yes, Chloe Archer is a pseudonym. I opted to use a pen name for a few reasons. First, and foremost, was branding. I knew the kinds of stories I wanted to start out writing and I wanted to be able to keep them under one name with a specific branding that ensured readers always know what they’re getting with one of my Chloe Archer books. It also allowed me the freedom and flexibility to start other pen names down the line for anything I want to write that doesn’t fit with my Chloe Archer stuff. The second major reason I chose a pen name is the fact that I have other publications under my legal name that aren’t fiction. In my day job, I’m a Film and Media Studies professor and I have numerous academic publications under that name, so I didn’t want overlap and confusion on that front. I’m not hiding my “real” identity by any means. Savvy readers could probably find me online pretty easily if they really wanted to. I’m just not advertising my real name as I prefer to keep my fiction and academic writing identities separate since they are very different styles of writing.
JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
CA: I read some of my book reviews. I tend to do this most in the first few weeks of a new release to make sure things are going fairly well and there isn’t some kind of rampant hate happening for the book that I need to be aware of! I’ll be honest though—good reviews give me a total high as a writer. Better than a magic brownie (IYKYK)! They make me want to keep writing and keep bringing readers stories they love. For me, they are incredibly energizing and give me a huge boost whenever I need it. I hope readers know how much their wonderful, gushing reviews are like an infusion from the Light Side of Force, giving us authors power, energy, and the will to keep going! Thank you!
Negative reviews are never easy to read. That’s just a fact. In general, I don’t read a lot of them. I keep an eye on if there are any recurring negative comments that demonstrate something in my writing that could be alienating readers in ways I might want to change. Reading is always highly subjective, so what one person loves another could utterly detest. As an author, I have to stay true to my voice and my style as a writer. So long as I have a larger percentage of folks who enjoy what I’m writing, I aim to keep my focus on that and continue to do what I do. From talking with some other author friends, I find that I do handle negative criticism better than a lot of folks. In all honesty, I developed a VERY thick skin from being an academic writer before venturing into fiction. Peer reviewers for academic journals are WAY harsher than the average fiction reader when it comes to criticism!
JSC: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
CA: I’m a part-time writer for now since I still have a full-time day job. I have grandiose dreams and ambitions of becoming a full-time writer in the next 5-8 years, but it will all depend on how I grow and expand my readership in that time. It’s still quite a ways off as a viable possibility for me. I haven’t even been published a full year yet, so I have a long way to go in terms of building a backlist and cultivating a larger readership.
Being part-time as a writer can be really frustrating at times. I have so many ideas and plans for books I want to write, and larger series I have mapped out, but my time is highly constrained. I’m not able to write as much or as often as I want to. It can also be challenging to find the energy and focus to write after a long day of work at a full-time job. Some days I’m too tired or just mentally fried. I’m still trying to find a schedule that I can stick to more consistently, but it’s not easy.
On the plus side, having a paying full-time job takes a lot of the pressure off of each new release I have. I can take risks and experiment. I’m not dependent on that book’s sales to pay all my bills. Whatever profit I make after the editing, cover, and other costs are recouped, I can keep or reinvest back into my publishing business. My full-time job also provides health insurance, which is essential for me since I don’t have a spouse or partner.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
CA: I’m still figuring some of this out, to be honest. What I’ve learned is that I’m a big picture planner when it comes to mapping out a larger series. I can envision the major arcs for the series as a whole, how many books the series will have, and what the main focus of each book will be. However, when it comes to the individual books themselves, I tend to be about 20% plotter and 80% pantser (or, I prefer the term “discovery writer”). In other words, I plot out how the book starts and how it ends but that’s about it. Once I have that, I will usually start writing and try to figure out how I get from A to Z! Sometimes, I may roughly plot out a few chapters before I move forward. I don’t do more than a few because most of the time what happens when I write deviates quite a bit from my initial idea, so I don’t lock myself in too much. I can’t plot out intricate details of every chapter and the whole story of a book. Tools like Plottr freak me out! When I plot out an entire novel in advance, I lose all passion and excitement to write the book. For me, I need to be taken along for the ride during my writing process. I need to be surprised along the way, just like the reader!
JSC: What inspired you to write When A Man Loves An Alien? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
CA: When a Man Loves an Alien is the third book in my Tentacular Tales series. It’s also the third book that continues the main story arc of my central couple, River and Kai.
When I started writing Book 1 in the series, It’s Not Unusual To Be Loved by an Alien, I knew right away that River and Kai’s love story was going to take four books to tell. River wouldn’t have it any other way. His story had to be epic! After all, the fictional story he writes about Captain Starblade and Lord Vardox is a long and exciting one too! This book builds on the two before it, continuing to delve into mysteries about River’s background, Kai’s unusual alien biology, and threats facing planet Earth from less friendly extraterrestrials.
It was challenging to write this book for a few reasons. First off, since this was the third book in a continuing series, it was hard to keep track of everything that had happened so far and make sure I was keeping certain key story threads going. I also knew there were going to be several big secrets that were going to come out in this book, which I’ve been planning and building toward for a while, so I wanted to make sure that I could reveal them at appropriate times to have maximum impact. That was tricky. This book also introduces several new side characters, and I already have quite a few to begin with! Keeping track of all of them is no easy feat. River draws new alien friends to him like honey draws flies! I also felt a lot more pressure with this book to live up to reader expectations. There were quite a few times I experienced uncertainty about that. Like many authors, I have my moments when I struggle with “Imposter Syndrome,” and this book was no exception. Thankfully, my beta readers think I hit it out of the park with this latest installment in the series, so I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed that other readers feel the same way!
JSC: What’s your writing process?
CA: I tend to start by brainstorming in my head first. I often do this while listening to music and walking my dogs. Music and exercise get my brain going! Sometimes ideas will come to me when I’m doing something else that sort of puts my mind in stasis mode, like doing dishes or while I’m in the shower. Once I’ve got ideas and the mental cogs are churning, I will move on to brainstorming on paper.. I’m a Gen Xer who grew up writing first and foremost by hand, so for me, initial story ideas and notes stick with me better when I hand-write them first. I have notebooks and various sticky notes I use for this. I will typically map out the preliminary plans for a series this way, and then narrow in on the main arc for the first book. Once I have the vision for how a book starts and how it will end, I move on to the next step: drafting.
When it comes to drafting, I cannot start by typing in most cases. My internal editor/critic gets too loud and wants to nitpick every word I write and it slows me down to a point I often can’t make much progress. The way that I write a first draft is almost 100% via dictation! I use the app, Otter.ai, on my phone. When I first discovered dictation, I jumped on it and never looked back. For me, it was a natural fit and I had no trouble getting started. I was an immediate convert. Stories come to me very visually and play in my head like a movie. I see what is happening and so I tend to close my eyes and dictate for as long as I see things happening. Since I also hear my characters’ voices, I will do different impressions of them when I dictate! When I do sex scenes, I tend to use what I call my “phone-sex operator” voice. I get quite performative in the process! My writing process may make me a bit unusual compared to some authors, but it’s what works for me. Everyone has to find what works for their own process. There is no one, single, right way to do it.
I lightly edit my work on my computer every time I finish a dictation session, but then usually won’t go back to edit more deeply until I have a complete manuscript. I typically do one major editing pass after I have a full first draft before I send it to my beta readers. After I get their feedback, I do another round of edits before passing it on to my editor. I will do 1-2 more rounds of edits with that editor before it goes to the proofreader. After that, it gets formatted and published!
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
CA: OMG, I am working on ALL the things! I am insanely busy. First and foremost, I’m finishing up final edits on When a Man Loves an Alien, which is up for pre-order and comes out May 26th!
I’m also working on a free prequel to a new series I am starting this year called Monsters Hollow, which will consist of interconnected standalone books that I’m describing as “cozy M/M monster romances”—all set in the town known as “Monsters Hollow.” These are going to be spicy but funny monster romances that bring the heat and the humor to monster-lovin’! The free prequel novella, “The Bogeyman and the Schoolteacher,” will be coming out as part of the “Class of 22/23” Prolific Works giveaway June 5-18th. Then Book 1, The Orc and the Manny: A Cozy M/M Monster Romance (Monsters Hollow #1), will be out later this summer.
Additionally, I’m working on a secret project that will be part of an anthology coming out in the fall. I’ll be able to share more on that soon, so be sure to join my FB group or sign up for my newsletter if you want to stay up to date with my latest news. All in all, I have lots of fun stuff ahead for readers. I can’t wait!
And now for Chloe’s upcoming book: When a Man Loves an Alien:
A grumpy-sexy alien and his (mostly) human mate are just trying to get married for goodness sake! But the road to matrimony is riddled with obstacles that could prove deadly…
Being engaged to my adorable alien boo is a dream come true. Too bad there’s a target painted on my back. Come on universe, quit messing with true love! For reals. Kai and I need to plan our wedding—which is going to be hella quirky and fun, because I say so.
Cue Shilgar the Deadly, who’s screwing up everything—what with trying to kill me and all. My life is becoming even more unbelievable than my fictional characters, Lord Vardox and Captain Starblade.
There’s no way I’m not walking down the aisle with Kai, so help me! I fully intend to ‘get me to the church’—I mean Vegas wedding chapel—on time. This fool of an assassin thinks he can mess with my dreams of wedded bliss? I don’t think so. He’s about to learn he’s met his match in River Sullivan!
My relationship with River is solid and wedding bells are in the air. Unfortunately, other parts of my life are…less stable. Between juggling a highly inconvenient Mating Fever that can strike at any time, and dealing with an investigator from Intergalactic Alliance Headquarters, I’m finding it hard to hold onto my usual equilibrium.
When Shilgar the Deadly finally shows up on Earth, gunning for River, the control I cling to is stretched razor thin. I’m desperate to do whatever I can to keep my mate safe—but I’m not sure if I can.
Yet things aren’t all that they seem. New secrets come to light and we’re all left reeling. Apparently, that famous Earthling playwright was correct when he wrote, “the course of true love never did run smooth….”
When a Man Loves an Alien (Tentacular Tales #3) is a (100k words) M/M sci-fi rom com and the third book in the series. It should be read in chronological order. This installment features an assassin who just won’t quit, little old ladies at slot machines who should NOT be messed with, a zipline action-hero moment, shocking secrets and revelations, a death-defying climax, and just maybe…a zany Vegas wedding? This book has an HFN ending and no cheating. Never fear—there is a guaranteed HEA by the end of the series!
I glance down at the black cotton tee I’m wearing. On the front, in multicolored sequins it reads ‘Team ANAL’ and on the back, in shiny metallic gold font it says, ‘Kicking butt from here to Uranus.’ My design is a work of art and classy as fuck—it also promotes team spirit, thank you very much. I’ve had quite a few orders from folks at work already. “Just so you know, I’m going to keep wearing this until it grows on you.”
Kai rolls his eyes but favors me with a teasing smile. “Save me now.”
I give his arm a light and playful smack. “You know you love it.”
His mouth twitches into a wry expression. “I wouldn’t go that far, darling. But I’ll put up with it for you.”
I clutch my hands to my heart. “OMG, honeybuns. You’re getting to be sooooo romantic! You just called me ‘darling’. It’s like we’re an old married couple already.”
Kai flushes adorably pink and splutters. I love getting a rise out of him at moments like this. He can be a bit too tightly wound, so I have to help him let go of his iron grip on duty, responsibility, and propriety.
I’m like Yoda, teaching him the ways of the Fun-Loving Force.
A microphone crackles to life and my new friend Nirblob addresses the crowd from atop the small impromptu stage against the wall at the far end of what is now his bar. “Good evening, friends. And welcome to Vardox’s Cantina. Tonight, it is my supreme pleasure to usher in our very first Open Mic night!”
There’s an enthusiastic round of applause and some loud whistles.
Nirblob grins and it’s a little freaky since he has no lips. I still haven’t quite gotten used to that. “This evening, we are most fortunate to have a very special guest here who’s going to kick things off with a sneak peek from the next forthcoming chapter in the Tentacular Tales of Captain Starblade. Please join me in welcoming the one, the only, River Sullivan—aka, KirklovesSpock4eva!”
The crowd goes wild, which in a super-secret alien bar can be a bit surreal. After all, this is the bar mainly for extraterrestrials who don’t pass easily in human society, or those who do but need the chance to be their true selves in a safe space. Some folks here make even Nirblob look somewhat ordinary.
“Looks like you’re up,” Kai murmurs, giving my arm a squeeze.
I grin. “Give me a kiss for luck, boo.”
He sighs at the endearment, but his eyes darken as he leans down and takes my lips in a kiss that makes me want to ditch this event and go get our freak on.
When Kai pulls back, I’m tingly all over and more than a little bit hot and bothered. But I’m pleased to notice, as he adjusts himself discreetly, he isn’t exactly unaffected either.
“Knock ‘em dead.”
I give him a jaunty little salute. “Aye, aye captain!”
He can’t keep the fondness from his eyes when he tries to glare at me, which has me grinning like a lovesick fool. And I basically am. I have no qualms about owning it.
I make my way over to the stage, giving some high fives along the way—a tail here, a hand with eight fingers there, and a furry paw every now and then. Two months ago, I never could have imagined this would be my life. An alien conspiracy believer, and total X-phile, I—by some remarkable twist of fate—actually found aliens here on Earth and living incognito among humanity. What are the odds?
Rather than trying to expose them, as I originally planned when I didn’t know any better, now I get to work with them and keep them safe. It also doesn’t hurt that most of them think I’m the GOAT tentacle porn author. I’m still tickled pink by the fact that although I’m a largely unknown writer among the human population of Earth, I’m a strange mega-celebrity to the aliens of the universe who’ve taken a real, and somewhat fanatical, shine to my brand of offbeat storytelling.
I’m in a pretty good place about it now, but it did take me a hot second to overcome the sheer mortification of knowing real-life extraterrestrials are reading my alien tentacle porn/space soap opera—and seriously digging it. The fans are sometimes kind of intense but I freaking love it. I mean, I’m a superfan of many sci-fi franchises—Doctor Who and Star Trek: The Next Generation holla! I can entirely relate to their level of enthusiasm. It’s humbling to know that it’s my work making them bust out the fandom flags with pride. Heck, I recently found out there’s a freaking intergalactic fan convention based on my series. Talk about wild! Also, I totally want to attend it someday.
I’m not much of a believer in the divine, but it almost seems like fate that I ended up meeting Kai—a hot as fuck alien who just so happens to have, drum roll please, tentacles! I like to think writing my tentacle porn story played some critical part in manifesting him in my life. I smile at that thought. Whatever brought us together—fate, destiny, or sheer random coincidence—I am one lucky sonofabitch to be engaged to the love of my life, who also happens to be such a crazy sexy-hot alien lover with plenty of appendages to keep me more than satisfied.