Today on the blog I have my dear friend Annabelle McInnes, whose debut book releases today! Please welcome her!
- Tell us about yourself!
From the age of sixteen, I lived in a youth refuge while I remained committed to my education. I spent two years within a section of humanity that society overlooks. My experiences are the foundations that drive my stories and my characters. Outside of my love for reading and writing, I spend my free moments with my husband, son and poodle named Serendipity. I drink my Whisky neat and am known to scour the local markets for blue cheese and home-made jam.
- And tell us about your book!
True Refuge and the Refuge Trilogy is a tale that is interwoven with concepts that explore the extremes of the human condition when civilisation as we know it has imploded, and along with it, any promise of a benevolent future for the human race. The story moves past simple notions of good vs evil, love conquers all, or overcoming the past. These books delve directly into themes of grandeur, of epic undertakings that see the characters strive to rise above personal interests, reject societal constraints regarding sexuality, masculinity, femininity, and battle against the formation of an institution that threatens to swallow what is left of humanity. The characters fight for love, they fight for freedom, and they fight for the human race.
- What drew you to writing dystopian/speculative fiction romance?
I grew up reading high fantasy novels including all of J. R. R. Tolkien’s books, The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist, and the early books by George R. R. Martin. These books influenced my imagination and my dreams. But the inspiration for the first draft of True Refuge came from The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It was this book that truly made me appreciate dystopian and speculative fiction novels and how my experiences could shape these fictitious worlds. I adored the tension that McCarthy created with very little action. I also appreciated how he didn’t spend time explaining the “before” or the “after” of his world. I write about love and hope, about characters that overcome adversary to triumph over evil. Speculative Fiction, specifically Speculative Romance give me an environment to explore these facets of our humanity.
- You’re a debut author, what’s the experience been like so far? From writing through to pitching to getting The Call?
It has been incredibly humbling, overwhelming and exhilarating. I can only liken it to the getting the call on a dream job that you have been wanting and working towards your whole life. But like any new role, there are times that you feel out of your depth, that you feel as though you might fail. But with each day I become better at my craft, more comfortable with personal promotion and more adept at planning and routine. I have worked with some brilliant people, I have also made some great friends, so it has overall it has been a wonderful experience.
- What’s the best thing and hardest thing about writing romance, do you think?
In romance the most important element is the development of the character’s relationship. For me, the best and hardest to write are the scenes where this plays out physically. They’re the hardest because I find them tremendously draining. Writing the details surrounding the physical placement of the bodies while ensuring that the emotion and tone is perfect, is taxing. The Refuge Trilogy is a ménage relationship and often has three people intertwined in the act. The scenes must ensure that each character develops and that their individual journey is articulated, also that each individual’s quirks, mannerisms and physical limitations are detailed appropriately, and finally, that the relationship between the three of them progresses. It is a mammoth task. These scenes are always integral to my story, so the pressure to ensure that they are accurate makes them even harder to write. They are also some of my longest chapters.
But they are my favourite because of many of the same reasons. I relish writing the love that develops between my characters, the importance they place on each other, and highlighting the devotion and dedication that they share for one another. These scenes are often the most beautiful, and I really enjoy letting go with extravagant words for the right moments.
- How about dystopian fiction? What are the challenges there? And how much research did you have to do?
The Refuge Trilogy takes place three years after humanity was decimated by a plague-like virus. Thus, it’s often the technical elements I struggle with. How do catch small game to eat? What is the effectiveness/implications of antibiotics after their expiration date? What are the risks when shooting a soiled handgun? What type of maintenance would a solar panel require? Google offers a little guidance, but I am often asking ex and current servicemen/women in my friendship circles long and unusual questions.
- Would you ever write in a different genre? (Even a different sub-genre of romance)
I think most writers struggle with containing ideas, and I have many that rattle around in my head. I would enjoy writing thrillers. Though I would have to get a lot better at planning my novels to ensure I captured all the clues early on in the right context. I often struggle with this and need to double back throughout my manuscripts to ensure I picked up all the threads I left behind.
- What’s your favourite trope in romance?
Tortured hero, hands down. No second thoughts. There is nothing more delicious than an alpha male dealing with inner demons, just waiting for the right woman (or man) to pull him out of the darkness and save his soul… Sigh…
- What are some of your favourite genres or authors to read?
My tastes change as regularly as the Canberra seasons. It’s just one of the reasons why I love reading romance. No matter my mood, I can always find a book that suits my wishes. As I write, I tend not to read too much speculative fiction. However, when I am in a break between books I often enjoy reading this genre to ensure my own ideas/storylines are current with the trends. Pam Godwin, Charlotte Stein and Joey Hill are my auto-buys. I often enjoy spec-fic interlaced with dark elements. Alpha antiheros, confinement, abduction and fated mates are my catnip. Cari Silverwood, R. Lee Smith and Addison Cain are just to name a few of my most recent purchases. My contemporary tastes run a little more mainstream with Kristen Ashley, TJ Klune and this fantastic author I just adore named Aislinn Kearns.
[Aislinn’s note – thank you for the kind words!]
- What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned in the process of publishing so far?
Patience. Publishing is a long road. Writing the book is hard, but I’ve found it the easiest part of the process. Finding a publisher, surviving rejection letters, the editing, cover design, all the individual promotional work. Reviews? If only all I had to do was write! Even if the process of writing the book is quick, it can still take years to publish a traditional book. This is a career that requires dedication, grit and determination, because there are no quick wins in this business. I’ve also learnt that I love this. That writing feeds my soul. That right now, there is nothing I would rather be doing. I don’t have to be on a beach to achieve my dreams. I just have to have a computer and a chair with good back support and I’ll be the happiest woman on earth.
- If you had to do one thing over in your writing career so far, would you? And what would it be?
Hard question! I tend as a rule not to have regrets. I’m not hard on myself in that way, knowing that I did the best I could at the time. When I re-read my manuscripts, there are always things I want to change, but I think that is part of the learning process. With each book I get better, and I try to look ahead, rather than back.
- What’s your writing process like? How often do you find the time? Do you outline first? Do you listen to music while the magic happens? Give us some insight.
I write from 6am to 8am minimum five days per week. I have found that this is when I’m my most productive. I don’t let social media distract me and, once I’ve made my coffee, I can meet my word could per day. I use a simple algorithm to work out what my word count should be and stick to it, regardless of how good/bad/easy/hard my writing is that day. I don’t believe in writer’s block but I do believe in writer’s fatigue. So I try to make sure I calculate downtime and breaks into my daily word-count equation. I have attempted to write outlines but my books never go the way I originally plan so I don’t waste time on them now. My first draft, usually around 40k words, I often use that as a basic structure and then my edits/rewrites/embellishment happens from there. I have a playlist of twenty-four songs that I listen to on repeat. They range from Disney cartoon classics, to 80s rock ballads, to modern pop chart toppers. But they all tend to have the theme of unrequired love.
- Where do you get your ideas?
They say that reading is so important to writing, and it’s true. I get inspiration from the books I read. The wonderful thing about romance is there you are able to align themes to other books. That’s the whole point of sub-genres and tropes. It means I can find ideas and concepts that I’d like to explore in my own writing. It’s important to be fresh and relevant, which I strive to be, but I’m intrinsically wired to find inspiration from others, and as writing tends to be a very lonely business, so it makes books often my only opportunity for the development and moulding of new ideas.
- How do you recharge your imagination when you can feel your creative well getting dry? (Or is it just me that happens to!)
Nope, not just you! I ground myself. I’ve discovered that immersing myself in nature, while trying to get a little bit of exercise is the best thing for my creative soul. Social media drains me, so I often have to limit myself from it during down times. I also suffer from anxiety which impacts my creativity and writing. But if I can go for a walk by myself in nature, I can often get thing back up and running in no time.
- What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the structural edits for the third book in the Refuge Trilogy, Eternal Refuge. I keep expecting this process to get better, easier, and though in some ways it has, there is still plenty to learn from each book.
- What are your plans for the future?
Another Speculative Romance is on the cards. What it looks like yet I’m still unsure, but there are plenty of ideas that I can’t wait to explore!
Just for fun:
- Sweet or savoury?
Sweet, totally and utterly sweet.
- Hot weather or cold?
My skin is so sensitive to the Australian sun and I often get burnt and overheat in the summer. However, winter in Canberra can get very cold, and so as I grow older, I’m enjoying the warmer months more.
- If an apocalypse comes, what would be your most valuable skill?
I would be a terrible survivalist. I’m not very practical or a fast runner. I’m not good with blood either… to be honest, it’s unlikely that I would survive. Make sure you’re faster than me.
- Which celebrity would you choose to be stranded on a desert island with?
Keven Sorbo, from the 1990’s TV hit Hercules, obviously. Who wouldn’t want to be stranded with him? Long blond hair, a dusting of chest hair that peaked through an open shirt, piecing blue eyes. I was in love with that wannabe romance novel cover model before I even knew what romance novels were.
- Dream vacation spot? (Other than the island with the celebrity, naturally)
Scotland. I love that rugged, windswept country. It’s not just its towing mountain ranges and centuries old castles, it’s also the people, the food, the hospitality. Beautiful, with or without the Highlanders.
- If you won a million dollars tomorrow, what’s the first thing you’d buy?
The first item I would buy just for me would be a bespoke, custom made writing desk. I love the thought of having something feminine and unique, yet fictional and ergonomically sound. And a lamp. As a writer, you can never have too much light.
Thanks for stopping by, Annabelle!
If you want to pick up True Refuge, it’s available here at Amazon and at all good retailers! (I’ve already grabbed my copy!)
If you want to connect with Annabelle, here’s where you can find her: