In the beginning of the summer, Sirens Call Publications released Aspen deLainey’s debut novel Love ‘n Lies. A while back, we sat down with Aspen and asked her a number of questions. Here’s what transpired…
Sirens Call Publications: What made you decide to become a writer?
Aspen deLainey: I have a vivid imagination. I always embellished the truth, and got caught more times than I want to remember for ‘not telling the truth’. I was a chubby kid, bullied more often than not, so books became my friends. I’d get lost in whatever world I’d found between those pages, to the point where I often disconnected totally from Earth, wouldn’t even hear me being called. I know I learned to read early because I was caught passing notes just days into grade one to the only other kid in the class who could read and print.
Our house had many books, and my dad got those Reader’s Digest Condensed books every month. So I read everything I got my hands on. My mother tried to restrict my reading to ‘age-appropriate’ material, thankfully my father overrode her most of the time. I mean, how many kids read Wuthering Heights at eight by choice? Or find and manage to read their father’s stash of Hustler at eleven without being caught?
But writing, itself?
Well, I have a memory of writing a story down, in crayon, because my little brother wanted me to tell him that exact story again. We’d been playing quietly on my parent’s bed while Mom, pregnant with my littlest brother tried to nap. So I was only about three and a half. I did get a spanking for that story. Not because I wrote it, but because I wrote it on a book.
Creative writing in school caught my whimsy. I loved having the freedom to write about anything and get graded for it! I remember my grade five teacher telling everyone else in the class they had to write at least two pages, and telling me no more than twenty. He’d read my story out to the class every time, too. When I was in grade seven or eight, I got a severe ear infection and lost my balance for most of a year. Kindly neighbor ladies brought boxes of books to keep me busy – mostly early Harlequin. Every one of them was the same storyline, exactly. I thought I could do better, so I started to write my own. Let me tell you, my parents were not impressed. More than once my mother has told me to leave writing to the experts. She is still embarrassed about me publishing anything.
I did find that once I got reading historical fiction, I found making up stories to go with the dry dates we had to memorize in school for history won me friends because we all remembered those dates for the exams easier if we remembered my story.
Once I had kids, I’d make up stories for them, especially if they needed to understand some social difficulty. It is always easier to hear about some fictional character having the same problems and dealing with it than having a parent telling you how you should be handling it yourself.
So, in the end, blame my kids for me getting published. They haunted me, insisting I start writing down my little tales. Then, when I had a bunch of them written, my daughter told me she’d delete all of them if I didn’t send some of them out. The rest is history.
SCP: What is Love ‘n Lies about?
AdL: I think Love ‘n Lies is about coming of age and accepting choices. Not that I’m sure or anything. I only wrote it.
I mean, Leticia is not very old in the vampire scheme of life. She’s only been living on her own for about ten years, and she’s still dependant on her Uncle for help and approval. She hasn’t decided her life path at the beginning of the story, though one is forced on her by the end which thankfully she embraces wholeheartedly. And, the story has a deeper theme, about lifestyle choices, that I’ve brought out by making Leticia overweight and having her need to find the reason a vampire can gain weight at all and so start the process to reducing.
SCP: What is the one thing you’d like readers to know about Love ‘n Lies before they read it?
AdL: Though this is just a story, I did add quite a bit of realism; ie the Calgary Stampede, the whole bar scene during Stampede, the city I set this story in (Calgary of course). Because I have worked in the medical field for many years, I took a medical problem, gave it to a vampire after asking a doctor I know about blood-carried cholesterol, and tried to write a fun story with an underlying serious theme. I did a fair amount of research; not just about cholesterol, but about vampires and other paranormal creatures, in every culture and mythology before I finalized this fiction. So enjoy the story. It was truly fun to write. And I hope it’s as fun to read.
SCP: What is your writing process? Do you consider yourself to be a planner or a pantser?
AdL: You know, I tried being a planner. Really, I did! I start a story with an idea of where I want it to go. I’ve even set out spreadsheets where every chapter is mapped. Not that they ever go that way. This story got away from me many times. My family can attest to my writing late into the night because “I want to see how this scene plays out’. I hadn’t planned to have a showdown between Justin’s evil warlock and Leticia. That just happened. The two fight scenes didn’t get planned, either. So I guess you can say I’m a pantser. I do start with a spreadsheet, after I write either a beginning or an end of the story. But once a story has started to go its own way I use the spreadsheet more for keeping track of any people who enter, and for the background I find I need. See, all my stories have a, let’s call it genealogy, a backdrop world history so I don’t get totally lost.
And I should say I’m a method writer who plays out scenes with her hands. Also, I have to dress the part, so if I’m doing serious writing I’m in a skirt or suit with pearls, YA writing I wear jeans and t-shirts with funny saying on then. For Love ‘n Lies I spent a fair amount of time in this sexy (to me) long black and red negligee, or these pretty lacy corsets and short shorts with dangly earrings. Yes, the right jewellery is important to me as well.
SCP: If you could cast Love ‘n Lies, who would you choose to play your main characters of Leticia and Justin?
AdL: I’d love to see Molly Quinn (plays Alexis Castle on the TV show Castle) play Leticia. She plays that Alexis character with mischievousness and a deep-seated seriousness that I’d love to see Leticia portrayed with. Though I will say she’d have to gain weight to play Leticia.
Now Justin is harder to cast. He needs to be very self-centered, athletic, good looking with a slim build, have immense sex appeal, be able to portray childish surprise and have the ability to turn everything into what he needs. So maybe Taylor Lautner, the werewolf Jake on Twilight? Or Zachary Quinto, Spock on the new Star Trek?
SCP: How would you like readers to see Leticia?
AdL: Leticia is a strong young woman. She is something of a loner, though she does wish for close friends. I think she’s quirky, fun-loving to an extent, but underneath she is very serious. She is very intelligent and wants to further her own studies, but in areas that she’s interested in, not some well-rounded university’s idea of a field of inquiry. She thinks of others, in that she doesn’t want Justin to scare her housekeeping brownies, she interferes in Rand’s problems when she considers them getting out of hand; she listens to other people and tries to help.
SCP: What is the hardest challenge that you have faced as a writer?
AdL: Paring a story down.
See, when I write it’s something like word vomit. Everything goes in at the beginning. Finished Love ‘n Lies is probably only a third of the story as it sits on my computer. It broke my heart somedays to sit and decide to take out thousands of words. But they didn’t carry the story along so they had to go. Now, I don’t ever throw those other pages out. I might need a scene I wrote in this book for another story in the Evermore Chronicles.
I almost said time management is my hardest challenge. But, as I looked around my house, I realized that I’m a lousy housekeeper because my writing is more important. Everything else loses to my writing. I stay in touch with friends by email because I don’t want to give up the time to drive and see them, or clean the house and invite them over. Hubby darlin’ tiptoes past me if I’m hunched over the keyboard and makes dates with me by sticking notes to my screen. My kids learned to grab my attention by asking something really bizarre. My dog has learned to turn my chair around with her head when she wants attention, or needs to go out. She’s a big dog, so she has no trouble.
Now I’m not a total hermit. I act, in movies and TV shows. Really! But that’s because sometimes I need fresh eyes for a scene or information that I can only get by seeing somewhere new or interacting with the world. I’ve been at some awesome locations and met some really neat people on set, which of course I use in my stories.
SCP: In your opinion, what sets Love ‘n Lies apart from other books of the same genre?
AdL: There is a real societal problem underlying the story of Love ‘n Lies. Leticia has to solve this problem, just as parts of society have to solve it in the real world.
Sure, I write sex scenes. I’ve been told they’re pretty good. I give a bird’s eye view of Calgary during Stampede. Maybe enough to entice readers to come and join the fun. I think I’ve written a fun story. I wanted something upbeat and entertaining just like everyone else who writes this genre. But I want my readers to think about the underlying theme after they’ve finished the book.
SCP: What can readers expect from the rest of the books in the Evermore Chronicles? How connected are the Chronicles?
AdL: I plan that The Evermore Chronicles will be loosely interwoven stories about many of the residents from the Evermore Keep. My citizens of these stories will all be from the paranormal and I probably will write in several genres. Leticia is seen in my next story about a werewolf. She’ll make a brief appearance in the story about a troll, though Esmeralda (another character, a wizard, in Love ‘n Lies) will have a larger part I think. Silvius will be a constant. But that’s because he is the Magi of Evermore. All my characters should make brief appearances in each others’ stories if they happen around the same time. But each story will be stand alone. That I promise. They’ll all be fun stories where the paranormal try to fit into our real world. But on their own terms.
SCP: Are you reading anything right now, or have you read anything recently that is worth mentioning?
AdL: I’m always reading. I devour books. Lately I’ve been frequenting my library during my weekly shopping trips – hey, I live in the country, so any time I go out it is a major trip of more than a half hour one way to the nearest town or an hour to the city, so I try not to leave home often.
I just finished the Imager series by Modesitt Jr. Loved it! And I’m waiting for the third book of the Lies of Locke Lamora – the second kept getting put off, but well worth waiting for.
I will read anything if someone puts it in front of me.
Right now I am rereading Ender’s Game. Last week I reread most of Glenn Cooke’s Garett Files series. Yes, I have them all.
SCP: Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite novels?
AdL: I love reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden stories. Have them all. I’m a Tolkien fan from way back. Not just the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit stories, either. I read Game of Thrones when it first came out, but haven’t had time to watch the series. I’ve read most of Mercedes Lackey’s stories, Robin Hobb’s stories are wonderful. Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Andre Norton were childhood pals. Glenn Cooke and Terry Pratchett take up lots of space in my bookshelves. Surprisingly James Joyce books dwell here, along with Shakespeare and the Canterbury Tales.
By choice I read sci-fi, fantasy and murder. I love cookbooks, not to cook from but just to read. I like to read history, historical fiction, but not if they didn’t do their research. Starting to enjoy some steampunk, but I’m picky, again know your history before you screw around with it!
There are few authors I’m not willing to try at least once.
I should admit that I have a personal library of more than 3000 books, most of them read several times. I reread books, sort of consider them old friends.
SCP: How do you define success as a writer? Have you been successful?
AdL: Can I say I’ve been totally amazed at how fast my stories have been accepted once I found the courage to send them out? Ok, once my daughter promised to delete them if I didn’t.
My very first story sent out, Be Mused, got accepted within a month of being sent into that cold dark internet. I’ve had a few rejections. But every story rejected found a home somewhere else. Some stories I cringe when reading on the net because I’ve grown better as a writer and those early stories seem a little crude now. Not the stories themselves, but the words I used.
So, yes, I can say I’ve been successful. And surprised!
SCP: Do you have words of wisdom about writing that you want to pass on to novelists and writers out there who are starting out?
AdL: Oh yes!
Never say die! Write on. Keep writing. For every publisher who says no, there are two who will accept your work. I’d almost say that the web has made life a little easier for starting authors. Instead of waiting months for a publisher to send back that rejection, you can get a reply in days. And now there are so many publishers to choose from with so many explicit desires that I find finding the correct one almost tailor-made.
That first story, once accepted, is enough to keep you at your stories. It was for me.
My daughter recently started writing. She mentioned her trouble with that blank page and tiny cursor blinking away as if saying ‘come on try me’. Her problem reminded me of the way I got over the blank page trials, and I’ll pass it on. Who knows, it might help someone else.
I told her to just type mishmash for half a page. The page isn’t nearly as daunting after it’s cluttered with words, numbers or symbols. So your ‘real’ words don’t feel as lonely or as wrong at that point. And don’t worry at the beginning of a story whether you’ve got the right words. They’ll come. Maybe you’ll be throwing out pages of story when you hit your stride. It happens.
SCP: What should readers walk away from your books knowing? How should they feel?
AdL: I’m hoping they walk away with a smile on their faces. I do try and introduce new ‘true’ facts into my stories, maybe new locales and new parts of a country they’ve never seen. I’d love them to consider my characters friends, who they might see walking down the street of their town. And if nothing else, maybe they have new sex positions to try out. I had to see if they worked, after all.
Gaining weight is a human problem. At least that’s what Leticia always thought. But when this vivacious vampire wakes from her year-long slumber and discovers that her formerly svelte frame has retained a few extra pounds, it becomes apparent that something has gone amiss.
A girl just can’t wander around the Calgary Stampede in clothes that don’t fit! So she sets about the task of shopping and working out a low-cal diet of humans she can live on. When her friends notice how depressed she is, one of them suggests she adopt a tomcat named Justin to keep her company. Little does she know that she would fall madly in love with her new kitty. The moment she does, the spell cast over Justin is broken and he takes his true form – a long, tall, dark haired man with an insatiable sex drive. Letty is more tempted than she ever thought possible and can’t keep her hands off him anymore than he can keep his off of her.
After taking him back to her childhood home, Evermore, to consult with the head wizard Silvius, she soon discovers the Warlock who cast the spell over Justin isn’t letting him go so easily.
Throw in a nasty twin sister who’ll do anything to get her hands on what Letty has, including Justin’s more than hot body, and you end up with Love… ‘n Lies!
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ABOUT Aspen deLainey: Aspen lives in the Foothills of Alberta with her husband, two of her four children, a dog, a lovebird and a glaring of semi-feral cats. You will often find her watching the wildlife happily feasting in her vegetable garden in the early morning dawn. Being a lover of nature, and all things natural, she wouldn’t trade her country lifestyle for all the beans on the stalk.
A die-hard believer in fairy tales, Aspen hopes her fairy godmother is the Muse. Lending credence to this notion is one of Aspen’s earliest memories: writing a story for her little brother in crayon on a favored picture book and earning a spanking as her first critical review. Never deterred, Aspen continued to make up stories, and hone her craft, until finally letting a few escape her clutches in 2010.
Love ‘n Lies is Aspen’s first work in The Evermore Chronicles, the concept for which was developed while she was employed in the seniors’ medical field. Do paranormal beings suffer from medical problems also? What happens to aging Vampires, Wizards, Trolls and the like? The questions begged to be answered… And of course, their stories needed to be told.