Hi everyone! Today I am so excited to welcome Heidi Cullinan back to the blog with another installment of her Author Interview Series! Today, Heidi is interviewing author Allie Therin about her upcoming book, Spellbound (which I absolutely love and highly recommend — the review runs next week when the book releases). Please join me in giving both Heidi and Allie a big welcome!
Hi, everyone! Heidi Cullinan here, with the next installment of my monthly column talking about books and authors I’ve discovered I think you might enjoy. As much as possible, I’ll be talking to those authors in an in-depth interview. We’ll dish about their projects current and future, the books they love, and any and everything that comes up along the way.
Today I’m talking to Allie Therin. Allie writes romance, sci-fi/fantasy, and sometimes both together. She loves to connect with readers and other writers and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, or at her website–go say hi!
We’ll be talking about her debut release, Spellbound, out July 29 from Carina Press.
Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.
Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.
Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.
I received Spellbound as a publisher submission for this column and picked it up one day thinking, “I’ll see what this is about.” Reader, I couldn’t put it down. Charming, intriguing, heartwarming, exciting, and sweetly sexy. I wasn’t even finished before I reached out to see if I could get an interview. She said yes, and I’m so excited for this! Everyone, please meet Allie Therin.
Allie: Heidi, thank you! I appreciate your kind words so much and I’m very grateful to be here.
Heidi: So, I have so many things I want to ask you, but first, your book is absolutely enchanting. I love a good historical, but honestly I long for more than aristocracy and wealth being the ultimate goal, so I appreciated that this was, largely, a working class story, with the wealthy hero basically viewing his money entirely as a support system for the more important people, the ones doing the work. That alone had me standing up cheering. Obviously this was a deliberate move, but how conscious was that highlight? Did you set out to make this the focus, or was it something that simply evolved as your story unfolded? I could see it going either way.
Allie: I think you raise such an excellent point about cross-class historicals sometimes centering wealth or aristocracy as the ultimate goal. And of course lots of people enjoy that fantasy and that’s totally valid. But I think it’s good to have working class stories too, where materialism isn’t the goal. I think I didn’t consciously set out to make this a focus of Spellbound, but poverty hurts so many. That aspect of Arthur is something I’ve seen in the best people I know, that selfless compassion that says how can I use what I’ve been given to help others?
I’m reading American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera right now and she nails this with both Camilo and Tom–a social worker and a billionaire, respectively–both trying to make the world a better place.
Heidi: Absolutely love me some Adriana Herrera.
Allie: So much. I love her books for a lot of reasons, but definitely for the Caribbean Latinx characters and the way she handles the interracial relationships. So often the narrative we get is like West Side Story, that interracial relationships are doomed. But as a biracial person married to another biracial person, I know we’re more than tragedies, our lives are happy stories too.
Allie: Oooh, sounds awesome. Don’t mind me, just going to add those to my TBR pile…
Heidi: Getting back to your book—Arthur and Rory are such great characters. I love them both for different reasons–loved Arthur’s big heart that sometimes led him into crusades and then sometimes left him vulnerable and aching. Rory…man he was so great to watch grow, to find himself, to come into his own space and confidence. Reminded me a lot of Whyborne in Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin series. And honestly, the whole magical/historical mashup. Good times.
Allie: Oh wow, Hawk is an amazing author and I’m beyond flattered to have my work compared to theirs! I LOVED Widdershins; I love an awkward underdog hero and could really relate to Whyborne.Rory was awkward and prickly from the first outline. Arthur, on the other hand, I’d thought would be more of a rogue, but as soon as I started writing I realized he was closer to a Captain America.
Heidi: I love that comparison. He was definitely different in the introduction as compared to when he opened up, but I felt a hint even then that we weren’t seeing the whole Arthur. And yes, prickly Rory was everything.
Another aspect I really loved about Spellbound was how issues of immigration/nationality/race played out in ways that, while the fine details have changed and remixed, are in very many ways depressingly the same in 2019.
Allie: I thought about both sides of my family while writing Spellbound, the recent Latinx immigrants and the Irish, English, and Scottish immigrants who came here generations ago. The racism-fueled anti-immigrant narrative in America right now is incredibly painful, and there was a lot of xenophobia in 1925 too, with quotas for certain kinds of Europeans and terrible anti-Asian legislation. And that’s just immigration law, that’s not even getting into the outlawing of same-sex sexual activies or the atrocity of segregation.
So that is the reality of what the characters have to deal with in Spellbound, but it isn’t the book’s focus. Issue books are so important, but we also need diversity and allyship in happy books, and speculative books, and romances, all of it.
Heidi: I love how Spellbound didn’t gloss over issues that would have affected the characters’ lives, but at the same time didn’t make them so heavy they hurt. Arthur in particular stood out: he had to be careful not to be revealed as gay, particularly becasue his family was high profile, but at the same time this tension didn’t dominate the book. It was simply something to keep in mind.
Allie: It’s a balance for sure, because you don’t want to hand-wave away injustice, particularly since it’s still a problem in the here and now. But it’s also important to me to see allyship in books, and to see marginalized characters being happy and getting happy endings. So much of the positive history for marginalized groups and their allies gets buried, and then people will only accept stories of misery as “true.” I remember picking up one of Cat Sebastian’s books and reading the blurb in a state of delighted shock, like, “Wait…I can have this? I can have a queer historical romance that doesn’t end in tragedy?” It feels a bit subversive to push back at the idea that diverse historicals must be tragic; like, if we compare it to Star Wars, this is writing about the Rebels fighting oppression, not the evil Empire.
Heidi: I love this. Amen! Yes, more and more of this. So for readers who read Spellbound and want more of what you just described, to what other books/authors would you send them?
Allie: I’m super excited for No Good Men, a 1930s queer noir murder mystery coming later this year from one of my writing partners, Thea McAlistair. She and I beta-read for each other before we had publishing deals and I’m excited for the world to get her book. Continuing on the historical side, we’ve mentioned Jordan Hawk and Cat Sebastian and definitely have to mention K.J. Charles. I have Felicia Grossman and Olivia Waite in my TBR pile and I can’t wait for LaQuette’s Harlem Heat series. If you like the snark and paranormal side of Spellbound but want it contemporary, I loved Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series and I’m really enjoying Jenn Burke’s Not Dead Yet series, and if you like bickering heroes who don’t get along but can’t stay apart, Rachel Reid’s Heated Rivalry is fantastic.
Heidi: The covers for Grossman’s Jewish historicals are the most happy, pure things I’ve ever seen in my life. They make me so excited for each book. And yes to The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics! It’s waiting for me in my kindle, and I can’t wait. So many excellent recs, there, and I concur entirely. A question, though. I want to know what your favorite Cat Sebastian book is. Or your top favorites if that’s a painful question. You’ve mentioned her twice, and now I want to know…
Allie: The Lawrence Browne affair. A mad Earl shut-in and a conman! An adorable kid! Science! A lady scientist! I loved it.
Heidi: Ooh, excellent choice. That’s probably my second favorite after The Ruin of a Rake because I have always loved a good rake.
Allie: Also great! I’m always in awe of people who write diverse historicals well. I mean, yes, I wrote a historical, but I set mine in the 1920s when there were things like photographs I could reference!
Heidi: Switching gears a little: one thing that struck me when I read Spellboundi s what a wonderful mesh of romance, fantasy, and history it is. I felt caught up in the relationship, immersed in the history, and swept away by the magic.
Allie: Ha, well, my confession here is that I have never been talented in history. I research every tiny thing that goes into Magic in Manhattan books because I don’t know any of it!
Heidi: I love this! See, I have always liked history except in school. I enjoy learning about the past, but in school it was always about war and politicians but I wanted to know about the everyday people. That’s what I loved about Spellbound. Regardless of how you feel about history, you went there and brought all that verisimilitude.
Allie: Aww, thank you. I do love research, especially as you say, about the lives of everyday people. I did a lot of digging in the New York Public Library’s Digital Archives for that kind of insight–three cheers for libraries, seriously. I’m also lucky to be working with a wonderful editor at Carina Press, Mackenzie Walton, who has an excellent eye for historical detail and dialogue.
Heidi: Aww, I love Mackenzie.
Your dedication in Spellbound is for anyone who’s ever needed a lifeline out of the dark. That sounds like it has a story behind it.
Allie:Yeah, it does–I wrote Spellbound during a period of very high stress. I had a lot going on, but most especially my son, then four, was struggling with a recurrent illness. We were in the ER a lot and the worrying lead into some pretty bad anxiety. It wasn’t until the fall that I looked back and realized I had written a book about a literal lifeline out of a tough mental place. I wanted to dedicate the book to anyone else struggling to get through difficulties.
Heidi: As someone who feels passionately about mental health, I love this so much. It’s funny how that works with writing. I wrote Clockwork Heart while feeling more personal turmoil than I knew what to do with, and while it influenced my work, I was determined to make it happier than I was. I’d sit down hurting like crazy, stressed out and afraid, and then make everything okay somehow. I feel like writing can be a power like that, when you feel powerless. I always hope my works can be that for readers too. Your dedication made me feel like you totally got that, and I can vouch it absolutely did take me away. Best feeling!
Allie: Thank you, I’m happy to hear that! I kind of want to say thank you like, twenty times for all the nice things you’ve said. 🙂 And completely agree that the act of creating can be very healing, and the idea that maybe you can provide some of that healing, or happiness, or just some good vibes to a reader really is the best feeling.
Heidi: I think you knew this was coming, but…book two. Talk to me.
Allie: Ha, of course! I’m excited for Book Two because I love middle books.
Allie: I love that you brought up Empire Strikes Back! My son is six and a huge Star Wars fan, and loves the Little Golden Book version of that movie. When I was outlining Book Two, whenever we’d read that book together, I’d pick apart the plot structure to try and understand what they did so right with that sequel. I actually snuck in a nod to Empire Strikes Back in the first part of Book Two, which picks up right after Book One, with Rory and Arthur still at Arthur’s brother’s home in Hyde Park.
Book Two also has more faces from Arthur’s past and of course more magic, supernatural relics, and paranormal plots. And it’s very much Rory and Arthur’s deepening romance. They’re from very different worlds and have a lot of getting to know each other to do, but they’re also two people with tough pasts prepared to take on the world–and some very dangerous magic–to keep each other.
Heidi: Man, now I’m dying. I NEED this.
Okay, wow, once again this interview has flown by. Probably we should give Jay her blog back. I had so much fun getting to know you! Thanks for stopping by. And I’m all in for the rest of this series and more of your work in general!
Allie: Thank you so much, Heidi! And thank you for your kind words; Spellbound is my first book out in the world and I’m just so touched by the response. It’s been wonderful to get to know you too and once again, I’m really grateful I got the chance to be here.
Heidi: Good luck with your writing, and I look forward to having another conversation with you again someday!
An author of contemporary, historical and paranormal romances featuring LGBT characters, Heidi Cullinan is best known for stories of characters struggling with insurmountable odds on their way to their happily ever afters. Her latest release is book two in the Copper Point: Medical series, THE DOCTOR’S DATE.Book three will be released this August from Dreamspinner Press. Find out more about Heidi at www.heidicullinan.comand be sure to follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.