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, Blaine D. Arden – Blaine is a purple-haired, forty-something author of queer romance mixed with fantasy, magic, and suspense who sings her way through life in platform boots.
Blaine is giving away a great prize – an eBook set of The Forester, A Time Traveler’s Valentine, and Click Your Heels. For a chance to win, comment on the post below.
Thanks so much, Blaine, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
AUTHORNAME: My first published work was a slice of life piece, written under a different name, for a contest run by a small press magazine in the UK. It’s about a woman whose husband tells her his somaniest crazy scheme Let me dive into my archive and see if I can find it. (like I actually ever throw away anything I write).
Unfortunately, that one is a bit long to share here. So, instead, I’ll share my second published work, a 300-word flashfic, accepted by the same small press magazine, about a year later. I have to admit, I feel nervous sharing such an ‘old’ piece of writing. And a contemporary paranormal piece at that! Actually, come to think of it, I think this was my first story written in past tense. The abovementioned one was written in present tense.
A Moment of Madness
published in Carillon Magazine issue 12, July 2005
Documents in her suitcase, wallet and diary in her handbag; everything was there. Why then couldn’t she shake the feeling that she had forgotten something? With a sigh, she locked her car and walked across the dusky garage to the lift, relieved to find one waiting for her.
The moment she got out of the lift on the tenth floor, a thousand different voices echoed through her head, and Anna gasped at the intensity of the thoughts forcing their way into her consciousness. She had forgotten to shield herself!
Her breaths came in short bursts as she tried to push them out, her eyes unfocussed, her trembling hands rubbing her temples to ease the tension. “Breathe, Anna, breathe,” she chided herself, “Just breathe.”
The voices were too loud; too loud and intrusive. If she didn’t get somewhere quiet soon, she would pass out. But where to? Turning around, Anna cursed as she saw the lift door close again. One option down. Then she remembered the ladies room just around the corner, and stumbling Anna made her way through the crowded hall.
Her head was pounding by the time she reached for the door, but when she closed it behind her, the amount of voices decreased immediately. Sitting down, she closed her eyes and focussed on her breathing, visualising a thick see-through stone wall around her, while at the same time pushing the remaining voices out.
It felt like a long time before her shield was raised and she was once again surrounded by her treasured silence, yet barely two minutes had passed. Anna sagged against the wall, fingers rubbing her temples once more to ease her pounding head.
No matter how precious her mother thought her gift was, at times like this Anna was truly thankful for being born deaf.
JSC: If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?
Blaine D. Arden: Writing is more than a hobby, and it’s certainly not a waste of time. Don’t listen to what anyone says, it should never play second-string. This IS your future.
JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
BDA: Too long is my tldr answer. I can’t plan worth shit, really. Except, it seems, in November, during NaNoWriMo. It’ll often take me less than 20 days to reach the required 50,000 words, then.
Though, to be honest, my NaNo writing rhythm isn’t something I uphold month after month. I’ve tried, but it causes me too much stress, and leads to postponing everything else, cough, housework, cough.
I also tend to forget that things like admin and marketing are just as important as writing to an author, and I have yet to find the perfect balance, especially when life butts in like this last week.
JSC: How long have you been writing?
BDA: Since I was twelve. But I’ve been a story teller for much longer, even. I still clearly remember telling my favourite doll stories to help me fall asleep when I was around seven or eight. You see, I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat in the dark, and to keep from freaking out, I made up stories.
I didn’t start writing them down until I was twelve, though. A lot of ‘high school dramas’ to begin with, all romantic in nature, too. It took a while for me to work up to mystery and suspense. I was quite the naïve dreamer at that age.
I still have a box filled with short stories, both finished and unfinished, and scraps of paper containing snippets and character information. I never throw away anything I’ve written.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
BDA: I’ll always be mostly a pantser. Still, over the years, I’ve come to enjoy the plotting process, however minimal mine is. Being a pantser doesn’t mean I just start writing, though. I at least write out some background for my characters and worldbuilding. Once I so start writing, all bets are off, and I mostly wing my way through it.
That’s why I can often be found saying that I love editing, because that’s where I undo my mess, and my stories really come together.
JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
BDA: It depends. Oren’s Right started with the image of the opening scene, while for my short story There is Light, for instance, I started with the idea of the characters.
It’s not always quite a chicken or egg thing, though. Oren’s Right may have started with a scene, but the characters were already hidden inside that scene. They may not have been fully fleshed out, but their essence coloured that same scene.
With There is Light, I started with an idea about a ‘disabled’ character through a line from a different (as yet unedited) novel about said disability. A character with fluctuating magic, who doesn’t have an outspoken talent and tends to run out of magical energy pretty quickly when they use it. I liked the idea of giving a character like that their own book, and it seemed logical to write that character in the same world as the manuscript the idea came from.
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
BDA: My earliest memory was of wanting to be a shopkeeper. I vaguely remember doing some sort of theme day on that in primary school, but I have no clue why that was the profession that appealed to me at that age—I think I was nine? Ten, maybe.
We did have a lot of small shops around our neighbourhood then, though, no doubt my limited knowledge of what all the possibilities played a part, too. I enjoyed the ‘gezelligheid’ (coziness is the closest I can come up with as a translation) of small-talk with the shop keepers. That’s the best I can come up with, besides thinking that despite my vivid imagination, I just had no clue what to be when I grew up.
JSC: What fantasy realm would you choose to live in and why?
BDA: The moment I started writing the Forester, I fell in love with that forest. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to live in a tree, surrounded by elves—with or without wings?
I like the self-sufficiency of the villages, and the care with which they make sure everyone is provided for. I love the idea of sitting in the centre of the village having dinner with whoever shows up that day, or strolling by during lunch and just having a chat.
Despite the mayhem I’ve put the characters through, their villages seem quite idyllic, and a perfect place for an author to live.
And the Guide from the Forester will always have a special place in my heart.
It has taken a while—four years, who’s counting—but my sci-fi romance Aliens, Smith and Jones is coming out again 1 October. Something I’m more than a little chuffed about.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
BDA: Questions like this always make me laugh. Because Aliens, Smith and Jones was never meant to be a novel, or quite the story I ended up writing. It was meant to be a short story about a near-immortal alien finding a connection with a human on Earth for the second time in almost 400 years on this planet. It was titled Echoes at the time.
But then a blind date happened, and the bloke wouldn’t stop calling the human the immortal alien was interested in. He dragged a completely new plotline in with him, giving the story a whole new layer. I spent NaNoWriMo 2008 writing this extended version that no longer suited its title, and, voilà, Aliens, Smith and Jones was born.
JSC: What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about him or her.
BDA: Isa Griffin. Hands down. Aside from being Connor’s best friend and colleague, she’s also someone he looks up to. She has worked at Primrose much longer than Connor, so there is a wealth of information to work with.
She is loyal, energetic, good at what she does, playful, and inventive, too. She’s had a happy youth, despite her mother’s difficulty to settle, but it also made her independent at a young age, and determined to do it right the first time. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite happen, and Connor does comment on her bad taste in boyfriends.
By the time the book ends, everyone will know her future, but I’d love to delve into her past. One day, I will give her the book she deserves.
“It’s not all about serving coffee and typing reports.”
Working for a secret organisation specialising in alien cover-ups, Connor Smith is no stranger to the abnormal or dangerous. His love life on the other hand… not so exciting. Until he reluctantly agrees to a blind date and meets the perfect bloke, Jason.
Things are finally falling into place for Connor, so of course that’s when he attracts an alien stalker.
Noah Jones, ex-alien, has been stranded on Earth and forced to live as a human since 1648. Alone and detached from the world around him, Noah has spent centuries observing and recording humankind. In all that time, he’s only experienced a connection with a human once… until he finds Connor.
Even knowing Connor is in a relationship, Noah can’t ignore their potential bond, or stay away.
While dealing with missing alien artefacts, a dangerous and shadowy group of collectors, and the ever-present Noah, Connor finds his orderly life crumbling around him. At least he still has the perfect boyfriend…
When Noah goes missing, Connor is forced to face the feelings growing between them and the mounting evidence that Jason isn’t who he says he is…
The Dross Woods, four-bloody-something in the morning, hunting for six-armed, two-legged white creatures.
Agent Connor Smith, personal assistant of Chief Security Lieutenant Natalie Tallis of Primrose UK, yawned. The lingering mist clung to his ankles as he tightened the straps of his field gear. He took his tranq out of its holster and flicked his torch on. The dense, tall trees hampered visibility, and the smattering of shrubs didn’t help, either. The path, at least, was wide enough for two.
“How many were there again?” Agent Simpson, team Alpha’s leader, asked. His dark, bald head gleamed in the early dawn as he moved to stand next to Connor.
“Ten, I think.” Or eleven. Connor hadn’t been awake enough to pick up everything during the interview with the Cleaton brothers, two aging sheep farmers, who had called it in. Why have a sheep farm so close to this vast and dense piece of forest? It was asking for trouble.
“They kept them in the stables, right? So, what happened?”
“Broke out,” Connor said as he trailed into the woods after Simpson. Though Connor outranked the stocky but agile team leader, Simpson had at least a decade of field experience on him. Simpson’s torch lit up the uneven, knobby-rooted ground, and Connor used his to search the shrubbery next to the path. He wished he’d brought an extra coffee, because he was not awake enough for this. Hopefully, the pale colour of the creatures made them easier to spot.
“So, broke out?”
“Have you seen the thing they called stables? It’s nothing more than a rickety old shed. Even one-armed creatures would have had no problem breaking out, let alone these… Noren, I think the brothers called them.”
“All I understood was that we’re here to catch us some aliens.” Simpson veered left, following the whimsical bend in the path, and looked back. “It was a late night.”
“Right, you were chasing another missing artefact. Lieutenant Tallis filled me in. File’s probably making its way to my desk as we speak.” Connor squinted, aiming his torch at the shrubbery to his left. A mix of red, yellow, and purple flowers brought some colour to the otherwise dreary looking forest. “It’s the eighth time this has happened. It’s becoming a problem.”
“Don’t I know it. So, did they say how big these fellas are?”
“Chest height or about. Why? Spot something?” Connor pointed his torch along Simpson’s.
The shrubs shuddered and shook until Simpson stepped forward. A twig snapped, followed by meowing. A cat. Just a cat.
Connor shrugged at Simpson and they moved forward again.
Somewhere a shout rang out: a high-pitched screech that caused goose bumps.
“One down!” someone called through the commlink—team Bravo’s Forente or Briers, Connor guessed. “There are at least two others here.”
“That way,” Simpson said, pointing to their right, onto a narrow path overgrown with creepers.
Connor nodded, but Simpson had already turned away.
Step by step, they followed the narrow path, the darkness only broken by the light of their torches. They were hampered by the creepers as they moved along—listening, stopping, and listening again—as well as having to push low branches out of their way every other step.
One by one, more teams called in their catches.
“They seem to like sheep,” Forente commented after his first catch. “I heard one bleat, and the next thing we know, one of those Noren is coming right at us.”
“Good to know,” Simpson said. “Keep up the good work.”
“How many is that now?” Connor eyed the shrubbery in front of him, squinting as he pointed the torch at it. Eerie how dark a forest could be at daybreak. He preferred the smell of fresh moss to the damp, woodsy smell that now hung around him.
“Seven. I think.”
So, three to go, and he and Simpson had yet to run into any.
Something rustled behind them, and Connor turned, aiming his tranq. He hoped it wasn’t another cat. More rustling, but no movement in the shrubs. The foliage was denser here—they must have reached the middle of the woods by now.
Satisfied a Noren wasn’t stalking them, Connor went to catch up with Simpson. when a sudden crunching of leaves to his right stopped him again. Something whitish moved behind a tree, too large to be a rabbit. He wished he’d paid more attention when Tallis had told them what to look for. Not that she’d been any more awake than he was. Simpson wasn’t the only one who’d been working late. The—
Another crunch, nowhere near, though. If there were two Noren around, he’d need Simpson. He tapped the commlink. “Simpson?”
“That was me. The path circles back onto itself.”
That was a relief. “There’s one behind a tree in front of me.”
“Right. Want me to move around it?”
“Good idea.” Then he remembered the comment about the sheep. “Wait. You don’t have to. Draw it out, bleat if you have to. All I need is a clear shot. I can’t take a shot as long as it’s hiding behind that tree,” Connor said, keeping an eye on the tree the Noren hid behind. He hoped it was just the one, even though they didn’t seem violent towards humans.
Simpson’s imitation of a sheep sounded nothing like the real thing, yet the Noren thought it genuine enough, since it came out from behind the tree, straight into the dense shrubbery next to it.
“Bugger.” Connor tracked the movement, but the shrubbery blocked his view. “I don’t have a shot. It fled right into the bushes.”
Simpson didn’t reply. Instead, he made his way around Connor, judging from the flashes of torchlight jumping around, and repeated his sheep imitation.
The leaves shuddered, and Connor narrowed his eyes, hoping to get a clear shot.
Simpson bleated again, and this time the Noren came running out of the shrubbery. Connor aimed and pulled the trigger. The Noren went down hard. Hit in one. He knelt next to the creature, taking the cuffs out.
“Nice shot, Smith,” Simpson said when he reached them.
“Thanks.” Connor cuffed all three sets of arms. It seemed like overkill, but he knew better than to take any risks. He was about to activate his earpiece to ask how many were still on the loose when a shrill whistle sounded, calling them back.
“Well,” Simpson said as he helped Connor pick the Noren up, “I guess that’s that.”
“All in a day’s work, Simpson, all in a day’s work.” At least, for a personal assistant at Primrose.
Blaine D. Arden is a purple-haired, forty-something author of queer romance mixed with fantasy, magic, and suspense who sings her way through life in platform boots.
Born and raised in Zutphen, the Netherlands, Blaine spent many hours of her sheltered youth reading, day dreaming, making up stories and acting them out with her Barbies. After seeing the film “An Early Frost” as a teen in the mid-eighties, an idealistic Blaine wanted to do away with the negativity surrounding homosexuality and strove to show the world how beautiful love between men could be. “Our Difference Is Our Strength,” is Blaine’s motto, and her stories are often set in worlds where gender fluidity and sexual diversity are accepted as is.
When not writing or reading, Blaine has singing lessons and hopes to be in a band some day. Supporting Blaine in pursuing her dreams and all matters regarding household, kids, and cairn terrier, is her long-suffering husband for over twenty years.
Blaine is an EPIC Award winning author and has been published by Storm Moon Press, Less Than Three Press, and Wilde City Press. Her fantasy romance “A Triad in Three Acts” was a finalist in the Rainbow Awards 2016, and her sci-fi romantic suspense “Aliens, Smith and Jones” received an Honourable Mention in 2012.