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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Christian Baines here today to talk about writing, his characters and his latest release, The Orchard of Flesh. Welcome, Christian.
- In The Beast Without…the vampires and werewolves weren’t civilized creatures but more apex predators. What made you go in that direction?
They’re civilized to a point, but they’re not timid or gentle, and they’re not self-loathing about what they are. I went in that direction for two reasons. One, it seemed to me like a lot of stories about vampires or werewolves established their humanity through guilt over their difference. That felt worn, and more than that, I didn’t want to reinforce their difference as being intrinsically evil. They’re all individuals, they all have things they have to do to survive, and they all make their own moral choices. If you look at it as a parallel to say, sexuality, you either learn to embrace that difference, or you go crazy. I wasn’t interested in writing self-loathing monsters.
- In the first story you had to lay down the foundation for your world and all the relationships. Here in The Orchard of Flesh (Arcadia Trust, #2) you have to continue the complex story you started and the relationships as well. What was the biggest challenge here?
The biggest challenge is keeping the storylines straight, and not introducing so much that the reader just gets confused and tunes out. There are elements in Beast Without that aren’t completely closed off by the end of that book, and they continue in Orchard of Flesh and beyond. In doing that, I’m keeping track of a bunch of plot threads, characters, and events that, even though they’re not on the page yet, are influencing the story as I’m (or Reylan is) telling it. You need to know what’s coming in the next book and maybe the one after that.
The central relationship between Reylan and Jorgas is easier in some ways because it evolves in the moment, and we see that evolution first hand. It breaks with common romance convention in that the romance isn’t confined to one book in which you know the boys are going to wind up together. I don’t make that promise. Their relationship is difficult, and it’s constantly evolving, just like every other relationship in the book’s world. Reylan’s relationship with Patricia, the head of The Arcadia Trust, which was very combative in Beast, evolves considerably here. His relationship with Brett, the human servant he adopted in Beast, is a big focus as well. His relationship with another character sours a bit. I love watching the relationships deepen gradually as the characters come to either trust or question one another. You can really bring out the details by doing that.
- Of the main characters, do you find you have a favorite?
Not particularly. I like characters who are elusive and kind of Machiavellian, but I go through phases and they all have aspects that I love and aspects that frustrate me. I’m always curious to know readers’ favourites though. That tells me a lot. Patricia and Jorgas are always popular, and I’m forever asked if Reylan is me. He isn’t. Or maybe he is. I don’t know. I’m not internalising it.
- Which is the hard one to write for you?
Kelvin, the Cloak Walker presents an interesting challenge by being invisible. There’s no image to work with there. But it’s also quite fun in that I get to come up with new and interesting ways for him to interact with people. The fact that he’s such a bad-tempered, explosive personality makes him fun too.
- It’s been some time since the first story and the sequel. Why the time span between the stories?
There were a lot of external factors behind that, but in the end, I don’t write quickly and I don’t see that as a bad thing for me. Initially when I got into the MM world, I’d just published Beast Without, and I would see these authors pumping out three, four, five books a year and thinking ‘My god, I can’t compete with this. I have to have something out there.’ So I put out an erotic, paranormal short, mostly because the next novel was a ways off and I felt I needed to release something. As a short, I like it. It still reads well. But it didn’t really reflect the kind of story I enjoyed writing, or reading, for that matter, and I think readers could tell. It was me caving to what I saw as this ‘pressure’ that really wasn’t there. It’s something I won’t be doing again, but it was a valuable experience.
Maybe the future Arcadia Trust books will come out faster, but they do need a lot of planning and thinking ahead. A lot of seeds are planted for payoff down the line, and the line is finite. I don’t want to be writing this series forever. There are other projects I want to do, not all of which are paranormal, or even prose, for that matter. There was Puppet Boy, which surprised a few people who loved Beast Without because it’s such a different book. But I love it. It’s another genre that I’m equally passionate about.
- What is your favorite aspect of the series? Or do you have one at the moment?
Besides the deepening relationships, the humour helps, particularly if you want to take readers down a darker path. It’s funny though, people either get dark, off-beat humour or they don’t, and if they don’t, it’s no use trying to convert them. My favourite aspect though is how morally ambiguous the characters are. Most of my characters, actually, Puppet Boy’s included. They aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ They just have goals, needs, and agendas. A desire for love, justice, revenge, or whatever, which may lead them to very selfish or dangerous acts. They decide what works for them as the situation requires it, and some have ethical boundaries they won’t violate, or wrongs they won’t tolerate, while others are more ‘flexible’ or pragmatic.
- What would you like your readers to take away from your novels?
A sense that they’ve had fun with the book, and ideally, will be thinking about it for a few days. I love a story that plays with my brain and makes me think, so I try to pay that forward in my own work. Other than that, a sense that LGBTs need not be victims. A lot of the time we talk about portrayals of LGBTs that we like or don’t like in media or stories. We don’t like seeing them get killed, wind up alone, turn out to be a serial killer, etc…the list is long and varies depending on who you ask. I’m fine with any of those things, provided the LGBT character isn’t simply a victim, calculated to get our sympathy or derision.
- What’s next for Christian Baines?
I’m currently working on a horror story set in New Orleans, for those who like such things. It was a short story. It’s now a novella…which is probably where it’ll stay. The next Arcadia Trust book is underway as well. It introduces a character who’ll be a bit of a game-changer for the series, so I’m excited about that.
I’m also doing a number of readings/events over the next couple of months, including Flame Con in New York City in August (look for the ‘Genre Junkies’), GRL in Kansas City in October, and the Naked Heart Festival in Toronto in November. So if you’re going to going to any of those, come say hi. I don’t bite unless you buy a book and ask nicely. You can find all the details at http://www.christianbaines.com/#!news-and-events/c1pz.
Reylan’s last assignment for The Arcadia Trust brought a rebellious human servant under his roof, and a volatile werewolf lover named Jorgas into his bed, leaving the self-reliant Blood Shade–known to the outside world as vampires–in no hurry to risk his immortality for them again.
But when a new terror starts disappearing humans from a bad part of town, Reylan must do everything in his power to keep Sydney’s supernatural factions from the brink of war. Having an ambitious, meddlesome human in the mix is only going to make things worse…especially when that human is Jorgas’s father.
Reylan will need all his determination and cunning to keep the peace under his roof, between the night’s power brokers, and in his lover’s troubled heart.
About the Author – Christian Baines
Born in Toowoomba, Queensland, Christian Baines has since lived in Brisbane, Sydney, and Toronto, earning an MA in creative writing at University of Technology, Sydney along the way. His musings on travel, theatre, and gay life have appeared in numerous publications in both Australia and Canada.
Dual passions for travel and mythology have sent him across the world in search of dark and entertaining stories. His first novel, The Beast Without, was released in 2013, followed by an erotic short story, The Prince and the Practitioner.