Hi, Christian, thanks for stopping by. Let’s start with having you tell us a little bit about yourself, and maybe one or two things most people don’t know about you.
Christian: I’ve been writing for about 15 years, which pretty much means most of my adult life. I’m originally from Australia, but like many Aussies, have a travel addiction, which eventually led me to permanently settle in Canada. I’m a bit of a geek, meaning gaming, geography, history, theatre, movies, musicals, and sci-fi, to the point I can probably credit Star Trek with teaching me to write dialogue and balance characters. I was raised in rural Queensland by my parents and eleven cats, so if anyone wants to bring a big empty box to GRL, that would be awesome.
Lisa: For readers who aren’t familiar, The Orchard of Flesh is the second book in the Arcadia Trust series, and the sequel to The Beast Without. Will you tell us a bit about the world and characters in the series?
Christian: In a lot of ways, the Arcadia Trust stories are very traditional urban fantasy, with elements of paranormal romance. The big difference is the two main characters are both ‘monsters,’ instead of one being a human thrust into a supernatural world. Both books are told from the perspective of Reylan, who’s a Blood Shade, or ‘vampire’ to the uninitiated. Pushing 160, he’s confident and self-assured. He has his supernatural existence down pat, happily feeding on guys he meets in Sydney’s gay bars, until the night he meets Jorgas, a young werewolf still adjusting to the lifestyle of the night. In Beast Without, their relationship is incredibly volatile and dangerous. In The Orchard of Flesh, Jorgas is starting to mature a little, and Reylan is starting to realise he doesn’t have to be so self-reliant. There’s also a young, human servant made by Reylan in Beast Without. In Orchard, he’s trying to adjust to his new lifestyle – not an easy thing when you’re suddenly relying on ‘vampire’ blood to live.
I love a big cast, and I’m not going to spoil them all here, but expect other Blood Shades, some trustworthy, others much less so. Expect witches/mages/wizards, or Shapers as they’re known in this world. Expect a Cloak Walker, who’s my own take on the classic Invisible Man. Expect humans thrown into the mix, either by choice or by fate, and a whole range of other creatures who lurk either in our reality, or just beyond its shadows. Basically, if you like a complex fantasy world with plenty going on in the background, conflicting agendas, scheming secondary characters, and ancient rivalries, well… so do I, so that’s what I’ve tried to create.
Lisa: What would you say is your favorite scene in the book, and what makes it a favorite?
Christian: Honestly, there’s a bunch of those in Orchard of Flesh. I hope most authors would have a bunch of scenes in their books that they particularly love. But for all different reasons. There are some in there that surprised me with how much they revealed about certain characters. Often times, that stuff isn’t planned, and it’s great when you realise it’s happening. Some characters can really open up in ways you hadn’t expected. Toward the end of the book, there’s a simple talk scene in Reylan’s living room, after Reylan has decided to accept the help of The Arcadia Trust – this strange alliance of supernatural beings he’s introduced to in Beast Without. There’s a whopping six characters in this scene, which is arguably top heavy. But the final edit plays beautifully. It makes me laugh, and it really fleshes out some of the previously minor characters. It even forces a kind of turning point for Reylan and Jorgas. So there’s a lot going on in a scene that on the surface, seems pretty innocuous. Sure it’s a horror/fantasy story, and there are bits that are scary, and totally out there and over the top, and violent, and exciting, and I love those too, but it’s those scenes where the humanity in these monsters is exposed that really hit me.
There’s also a couple of scenes in there where my inner geek completely takes over, and I make no apologies for those either.
Lisa: If you could spend some real-life time with one of the characters in the book, who would you choose and why?
Christian: See, I don’t really think of my characters in that way. I like characters who are very flawed and have a lot of room to grow, who I wouldn’t necessarily want to hang out with. They’re likeable, I think, but not in the same way a genre romance character kind of needs to be. Ross, Reylan’s younger protégé is probably the most easygoing character in the book, though his patience gets pushed in Orchard, so we start to see another side of him. Reylan, I guess unsurprisingly, is the one I identify with the most, but they all have their pros and cons.
Lisa: On the flipside, which character would you probably least get along with? Why?
Christian: Perhaps Kelvin, the Cloak Walker, and that’s purely a personality thing. Not to sound precious, but to answer this properly would mean judging them, and you really can’t do that as the writer, or at least I can’t. Every character’s got their own reasons for doing what they do. Besides, if I did answer this, I’d spoil who the real bad guys are, so… no.
Lisa: What books and authors would you say influenced you to become a writer yourself?
Christian: I can usually trace my books back to a particular author, or sometimes film-maker who sparked me off and got me thinking about a particular story. For Beast Without it was Anne Rice, which sounds like a cliché, but only because she’s brilliant. For Puppet Boy, which gets away from the fantasy genre, it was Bret Easton Ellis. Orchard of Flesh is less clear, because it’s a sequel, but Clive Barker was definitely a big one. I like the idea of doing something slightly different with each book, and each one having a slightly different tone and feel, even within a series.
But I pull just as much influence from movies, particularly older, classic movies and directors. Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, James Whale…kind of odd because that visual medium of film is so different, but you can still learn a lot about pacing, character development and so on. Puppet Boy is free from genre restraints, so it’s a huge patchwork of influences. Ellis, Polanski, David Lynch, Dario Argento, classic Hollywood movies like Sunset Boulevard, Shakespeare, 00s alt rock… It’s such a Frankenstein’s monster of a novel, but it’s also probably the most fun I’ve had writing anything.
Lisa: What’s the one book you’ve read in your lifetime that you wish you’d written? Why this particular book?
Christian: Is there a vampire writer alive who doesn’t wish they’d written Interview? Besides that, I can’t honestly say I feel that kind of envy around books as such. Admiration, definitely, but not envy. I just don’t process novels that way. I can probably identify more films I wish I’d written than books. There’s a short list of movies that changed the way I look at gay romance – if anyone’s wondering, they are Weekend, Mulholland Drive, The Living End, and Bound. But that’s what usually keeps a story in my mind, regardless of the medium. It needs to change something up. Mess with the rules.
I still enjoy books that stay within genre lines, but it’s when an author catches me off guard and does something really different, or provokes me a bit, that I’ll remember them and keep coming back. There’s a whole generation of gay lit for instance from the 90s AIDS era that, rather than pleading for compassion, instead got angry. It has this kind of bristling energy that’s so compelling and makes the books so great – horrible as the circumstances that spawned them were. The Living End brought that energy to film. James Robert Baker’s books have that energy, and it destroyed his career. This is not the safe, romantic gay lit that’s so dominant today. This stuff has teeth, and it’s worth revisiting. You never know when we’ll be fighting for our lives again, which might sound heavy, but the world is in such a volatile place right now, and our rights as LGBTs are still threatened way too often by powerful people.
Lisa: If you could be any fictional character in the history of literature, who would you like to be and why?
Christian: Probably the narrator from Goodbye to Berlin. Though since that was Christopher Isherwood very thinly disguising himself, does it count? What an amazing time and place to live! But again, look what happened immediately after. Then look at America right at this moment. Those good times are to be treasured and fiercely protected, not taken for granted. People often say they don’t like it when fiction gets political, but as long as LGBTs are under threat, gay love, gay sex, coming out, telling and yes, reading gay stories…these are all political acts. Goodbye to Berlin doesn’t just reflect a fascinating time and place, it’s an intensely political book. Maybe I do wish I’d written it, just a bit.
Lisa: If you could be any animal in the world, what would you choose? Why?
Christian: So I might have answered this in the first question. Is there a life more idyllic than the life of a first-world, domestic house cat? Food on demand. Lots of sleep. Affection when you want it, and only when you want it. Other days when I feel more upbeat and optimistic, I’d be a red panda. They’re beyond adorable. Actually is there such a thing as a red panda cat? Because if there is, I’m totally there.
Lisa: If you were to sit down and write your autobiography today, what would the title be?
Christian: Unfinished Business, I hope.
Lisa: Thanks again for coming to hang out with us today, Christian. Do you have any last words you’d like to say to us readers?
Christian: A big thank you for reading, and taking chances when you buy new authors, books, and genres, so we can take chances when we write. Keep doing that. You’re awesome.
About the Book
Blurb: 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.