Mason Cooley said, “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”
A Center Stage Moment shines a spotlight on writers who give us great places to visit with the characters we love and want to call friends.
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you—Aliya Dalrae!
Born and raised in a farming community in rural Southwest Ohio, Aliya DalRae grew up a middle child, with an older and younger brother. Surrounded by corn and cows, it was not unusual for Aliya to immerse herself in books, her way of escaping the humdrum small town life to visit fantastic lands full of mystery, myth and legend. And of course, romance.
Aliya’s first love was musical theater, and as a teenager she dreamed of one day performing on Broadway. Those dreams were put on hold, as life intervened (as life often does), and she moved on with other pursuits.
After graduation, and a brief time living in England, Aliya returned to her home town, where she worked mainly in administrative positions, but her love for books never waned.
In 1992, Aliya met her immortal beloved, and they have been inseparable ever since. When not weaving romantic tales, she can be found working side by side with her husband in their furniture restoration business, where she weaves caned chairs instead.
Aliya is the author of the Jessica Sweet Trilogy. Her debut novel, Sweet Vengeance, was published in February 2016, and was honored as a Golden Quill Awards Reader’s Choice Finalist in 2017. Her second novel, Sweet Discovery, is a Top Three Winner in the 2017 Virtual Fantasy Con Awards, as well as a 2017 SIBA Awards Nominee. Her short story, Bittersweet, also received a 2017 SIBA nomination.
Why did you choose to write your genre?
I have always loved reading paranormal romance, and when I decided to write Jessica’s story, it felt natural for me to take the paranormal route. I’m not sure that it fits firmly into the “romance” formula, as it is quite a bit darker than your normal HEA tale, but there are romantic elements, a bit of humor and characters that you will either love or hate. Either way, they make you feel something, which as an author is all I could ask for.
Currently, what are you working on?
I just released Bitter Beginnings (January 1st), the first book in my new Fallen Cross Pack Series. The rest of the series will be released over the next couple of months, with a new installment in the four-part series dropping every three weeks. This is the lead-in to the release of the third book in my Jessica Sweet Trilogy, Sweet Destiny. That one is scheduled to be out in March 2018. After the trilogy wraps up, I will be working on a spin-off series based on the Vampires of the Fallen Cross Legion. By the time Sweet Destiny hits, I will have introduced love interests for at least three of my favorite vampires. I know who will end up with another, but I’m not sure when she will make her appearance, so I’ll just have to wait until she decides to show up.
I would also like to mention the anthology I participated in, which was released just last month, called Once Upon a Fabulous Time. My writing support group, the Indie Fabs, and I put together this collection of grown up fairy tales with a unique spin that has captured a lot of attention. I’m hoping that we will be able to put together another collection later on this year, if we can get everyone on board again. (Quick shout out to my team: Renee Gauthier, Jeannie JB Richards, Eva Pasco, Joanne Van Leerdam & Lyra Shanti!)
Let’s talk about your latest book for a moment. What motivated the plot?
The Jessica Sweet Trilogy was inspired by the loss of my only baby late in pregnancy. Our Jessica was the only child my husband and I had, and losing her had a profound effect on both of us. I used writing to help with the healing process, which led me to creating a fictional Jessica and a very fictional world, where this new Jessica gets to grow up and experience everything that world has to offer.
What is the strangest subject or topic you’ve ever written?
Well, considering I write about Vampires and Werewolves and shape shifting cats, that’s kind of a tough question – everything is strange in Fallen Cross!
What was the hardest story for you to write?
I think Sweet Destiny has been the hardest so far. I can’t go into too much detail because it hasn’t been released yet, but let’s just say this is the darkest of the three, and it strikes a few personal chords with me. A lot of tears were shed in getting that first draft on paper.
Do any of your characters reflect facets of your personality?
I think to a point all of them contain parts of me. I suppose that’s cliché, but it’s so very true. Jessica has my love of music and reading, Kythryn has my potty mouth and penchant for not thinking things through before I act (or speak). Jessica’s adoptive parents were modeled after my husband and me to a point (they’re both already dead in the books, so I don’t feel too narcissistic!). I’m sure there are others, as I put bits of me into every character I write.
Who has been your favorite character? Why?
I love all of my characters, and while I will always be partial to Jessica and Raven, there are two characters who have wormed their ways into my heart and I never want to stop writing them.
The first one is Harrier, who is a hard-nosed SOB Vampire in Sweet Vengeance. He is horrible to Jessica, he hates Raven, and he’s just an all-around a-hole. BUT then I wrote Sweet Discovery and learned a whole heck of a lot more about him, why he’s an a-hole and who he really is. He has a quirky sense of humor, and he’s funny even though he’s usually not trying to be. He’s forced into a bunch of situations that he’s totally uncomfortable with, but he does them because, well, it turns out he’s an a-hole with a heart of gold. 😊
My second favorite is Kythryn, a cat shifter who we first meet in Bittersweet as the annoying kid sister to the first woman Malcolm Gatta (Sweet Victor) ever loved. She’s a regular pain in the tail as far as Malcolm is concerned, mostly because she’s a cat with a bad case of puppy love for her sister’s soon-to-be husband. Of course, Malcolm breaks her heart, which leads us to Sweet Distractions, one of my fairy tales included in the Once Upon a Fabulous Time anthology. Here is where Kythryn really grabbed my heart and showed me what she was made of. She is a southern chick, with a potty mouth and bad table manners, but she’s cute and brave and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. We haven’t seen the last of Kythryn. There is a whole lot more to her, and I cannot wait to fix her up with…well, I won’t say who, but every time I think about it I’m like that cat that ate the canary. 😊
What process do you use to plan your novels?
When I started Sweet Vengeance, I was a total pantser – I wrote the story from beginning to end with no idea where it was going or what it would turn into. Sweet Discovery was mostly the same way. My short story, Bittersweet, was my first attempt at using an outline, and while things didn’t go exactly as I had planned, I did find it nice to have something to fall back on when the words were being difficult. I’ve written outlines for all of my shorts, now, and for the second half of Sweet Destiny. The only time it went totally haywire on me was with what I called “Patrick’s Story.” What I had intended to be one short story turned into four, the first being the aforementioned “Bitter Beginnings.” Sometimes you just have to go where the characters and their stories take you.
Have you ever experienced writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?
Maybe once or twice, but it doesn’t happen very often. On those rare occasions I just give it up for a bad job and come back to it when I’m in a better frame of mind.
If you were to choose another genre to write in, what would it be?
Good question! I think maybe I would like to try my hand at contemporary romance, although I’m not sure how well I would be able to right “real” stuff. I like being able to do crazy things with my characters, the only explanation necessary being “it was magic.” However, the third book in the Fallen Cross Pack series actually has no “creatures” in it at all, so maybe it’s not as far out of my wheelhouse as I think? Beyond that, I think historical fiction would be fun, but I don’t know if I have the patience for all of that research.
Which authors inspire you?
JR Ward is my go to girl when it comes to Paranormal Romance. I’m a huge fan of her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and I love her no-holds-barred attitude that shines through in her writing. She’s not afraid to say what she means, and it doesn’t matter how many four-letter-words it takes to get the point across. On the other end of the spectrum is Brandon Sanderson – that man is a freaking genius! I don’t think he knows how to write a bad story, his world building is phenomenal, and on top of all that he’s a nice guy. If I could have half the success that these two have experienced I would be a happy girl.
What novel would you read multiple times?
Any of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books and all of the Harry Potter novels. Would, have, will again.
What is your favorite quote?
(My husband said that!)
If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or deceased, who would it be and why? (Person could be a fictional character)
I would love to spend time eating Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans with Albus Dumbledore. He was always so full of inspiring advice, and sometimes it’s just fun to eat BBEFB with someone who gets it.
What is your favorite animal, real or imaginary?
I love all animals, but am partial to dogs and horses. Unfortunately, at this time we have neither.
What is your favorite color?
Blue. No, green. Blue. Black maybe?
If writing is a full-time career for you, do you have other streams of income (i.e. editing, cover design, etc.)?
Writing is a part time job for me right now. My Monday – Friday job is as a regional assistant at a sales office for a bearing manufacturer. Weekends are spent working with my husband at our furniture restoration business where I do all of the seat weaving (cane, rush, wicker). I fit writing in whenever and wherever I can.
You can find Aliya online at…
Thank you for hanging out with me today. It was a pleasure getting to know you better.
Join me next week when author Hope Daniels will be stopping by!