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🌟 Please join me in welcoming fabulous fantasy author Aldrea Alien to Stories That Make You Smile! Aldrea has brought along both an excerpt and a giveaway, and kindly sat down to answer a few questions about her epic new story. 🌟
To Target the Heart by Aldrea Alien
How can he win with the odds stacked against him?
Series: Spellster (book #2)
Cover Artist: Leonardo Borazio
Release Date: April 15, 2020
Length: Long Novel / 226,000 words / 598 pages
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Pairing / Genre: M/M Fantasy Romance, hurt/comfort, man in peril, cultural differences, big bottom/little top, bear bottom, dysfunctional family, opposites attract, love, attempted suicide, engagement challenge
Although part of the Spellster series/world, To Target the Heart is a STANDALONE story.
Prince Hamish has no interest in fulfilling his duty of marrying. Not to a woman, at least. That doesn’t stop his mother, Queen Fiona, from presenting him with every eligible noblewoman that enters their castle. He’s certain it’ll be no different with the representative of the Udynea Empire.
So when they do arrive, Hamish is relieved the imperial prince, Darshan, is not the woman everyone expected. Until the man kisses him and Hamish is confronted by the very emotions he has been forced to conceal or be punished for. Emotions he is eager to explore.
But the kiss proves to be a little too public and leads his mother to take drastic measures to ensure Hamish adheres to her family vision. The contest of arms will force Hamish to make a choice: give up his happiness for convention’s sake or send the kingdom spiralling into civil war for the right to love his own way.
☆ Interview ☆
Welcome, and thank you for stopping by! Tell us a little about yourself and your writing goals.
Firstly, thank you for having me. I’m really excited, it’s been some time.
Well, I’m Aldrea Alien, bisexual author from New Zealand. I write fantasy romance (with a heavy focus on said romance) of varying heat levels. Recently, my goal has been to add more diversity, especially the lgbtqia+ kind, to my little pocket of the fantasy romance genre. That’s roughly how the spellster series came about and since I’ve around sixteen novels, novellas and short stories buzzing about, I guess that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Congratulations on your new release. Please tell us a little bit about it. What’s your favorite aspect or part of the story? Do you have a favorite character? Who/Why?
In short, To Target the Heart is about two princes from completely different cultures finding each other and falling in love whilst one struggles to help the other win free of his controlling mother.
Of the two MCs, Darshan vris Mhanek is my favourite. When I first started fleshing him out, he was a lot colder… and also a distant figure briefly mentioned in In Pain and Blood. It was only once I stepped into his mind that I discovered all these layers and it ultimately led me to having the MCs share the povs rather than stick to the one as I had largely done during the previous book.
Beyond the MCs, my favourite characters would be the nephews, purely because I just loved writing them. They’re your typical brazen preteen boys, who are just all for their uncle hooking up with the foreign prince purely because they want him to be happy.
Did any of the characters in this story lead the story astray of your original plan?
Queen Fiona, Hamish’s mother and the antagonist of the story. When she first popped up, she was a lot softer towards her son and not so abrasive towards Darshan. That doesn’t mean she was happy with the idea of them being together or that of her children leaving the kingdom, but she wasn’t outright hostile.
It wasn’t until I got to “the kiss” that her true personality came to light for me. She is far more controlling than I accounted for and has done some really evil things. The story gained a darker edge because of it.
After that, what I had planned just didn’t fit and I’m glad I chose to write this linearly because it altered the plot, the timing, the whole family dynamic of Hamish’s siblings: His brother, whilst remaining in the same “wing man” position, grew warier of newcomers and quicker to shield Hamish. Whilst where Hamish’s older sister was meant to side with their mother, she became more sympathetic and not the least bit interested in snitching. Even his father changed, having less of a say in matters.
Choosing from among your own stories, which is your favorite book? Why?
That’s an unfair question as my favourite right now isn’t even out. But it’s Someone Else’s Shoes, currently in the fairytale box set Once Upon Another World. The reason it’s my favourite is that it was challenging. It’s a take on Cinderella but set in the spellster series world where there are no fairy godmothers and elves, even half-elves like Alla, are very much looked down upon. Writing within those confines whilst also keeping to a low word count (something I struggle with) was fun.
Of out-and-published works? It gets harder as my fondness is split between In Pain and Blood and To Target the Heart for different reasons.
What was the most difficult part of writing this book? Why?
It’s just a little over halfway into the story. Hamish’s tipping point. I’ve made no secret that there is an attempted suicide.
I didn’t go into lightly—it’s really not a topic to be made light of—and I actually kind of baulked at the idea when it first presented itself. In all honesty, it wasn’t in my original plotline. But any attempts to avoid going in that direction felt forced and Hamish suffers a lot of mental abuse from his mother who expects him to just suck it up and get on with being a good son despite his feelings. He’s been scarred by it and it doesn’t magically disappear with Darshan’s presence and care.
There is a piece leading up to it that wasn’t easy, but the chapter itself was the hardest thing to write in this book. Not just because of the topic, but because of the memories it stirred of younger me struggling with my own hopelessness and how much I had considered ending it just so the pain I felt would stop.
The actual chapter took me a day to write and a week of self-care to re-centre myself. It’s still very difficult for me to read.
How long did it take to write this book?
That’s a tricky one. Straight writing, I would say about a year. But I stopped a couple of times to focus on other projects. So probably closer to two years all up, not including editing.
What did you edit out of this book?
Actually, it was a couple of sex scenes. Shock horror, I know. They’re my favourite thing to write because, whilst the act is generally the same, the way characters will react or feel to them is vastly different, sometimes even within the same character as their mindset changes.
I largely edited them out at the plotting stage. One had no place within the new plotline and the other survived only in mention towards the end as added it seemed more like a secondary epilogue. Although I might get around to writing that one for my own amusement some day.
Do you put together a playlist and/or soundtrack for your books (or for particular scenes from your books)?
Yes. It’s actually still on spotify along with others in the series. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7H3TpbGBGUufuITxKVoZQ0
The list is mostly instrumental because I use it to drown out the TV, which sits two metres away, whilst I’m writing. Having five adults and a teen in a house isn’t the quietest writing environment, especially when my computer is in the dining room.
Meet the Author
Aldrea Alien is an award-winning, bisexual author of fantasy romance with varying heat levels. Born and raised in New Zealand, she lives on a small farm with her family, including a menagerie of animals, who are all convinced they’re just as human as the next person. Especially the cats. Since discovering a love of writing at the age of twelve, she hasn’t found an ounce of peace from the characters plaguing her mind with all of them clamouring for her to tell their story first.