Welcome everyone to the inaugural post of the 5.4.8×5 interview series, and who better to begin with than the lovely and talented Ally Blue. She had me hooked from the very first pages of Oleander House, which was my first foray into Ally’s work and she hasn’t let go of me since. I was so happy when she agreed to sit down and answer a few of my questions about this incredible series, so without further ado…direct to you from the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina, I bring you Ally Blue…
Ethan: Before beginning your BCPI Series, I’d seen a handful of the Ghost Hunter-style shows on television, so I did have a basic idea of how things worked with regard to the occupation. I’d also heard talk about portals to other dimensions related to deadly monsters, just not outside of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer type of show. You’ve blended the paranormal, horror/monster, and sci-fi elements into this series. What made you think of mixing these subgenres together in this way? Had you planned this to be a series from the very beginning?
Ally: Ha, it’s funny that you’re talking about watching Ghost Hunter type shows on TV, because the Ghost Hunters show on Sci-Fi — oh, pardon me, Syfy **rolls eyes** — is one of the main inspirations behind the series. Or I should say, behind Oleander House, mostly, because in fact I did not originally intend for it to become a series. When I first started Oleander House many years ago, it was a very dark horror novel in which everyone but Sam and Bo died, and the two of them lived unhappily ever after in the house, basically due to the strength of Sam’s mind control powers over Bo. Awful, huh? You can thank my editor Sasha at Samhain for turning it into a romance series instead. Thank you Sasha!
So, here’s what happened. One night, I had this spectacularly horrible nightmare in which I was at a work meeting (that’s not the nightmare part, ha!), walked out of the room and everyone was dead. The walls were covered in blood and there were body parts lying around. The house in Oleander House is taken directly from that dream, the whole of which took place in that house. The look, feel and entire atmosphere of the house was so striking that when I woke up, I scribbled down a description of it before it could slip away from me. Sam’s first look at the place as he drives up is pretty much what I wrote down after waking from the dream. The interdimensional critters are also my attempt to describe whatever it was that killed everyone in my dream. If I remember right, Sam had a nightmare within the book in which there was blood and body parts all over the place. That’s taken from my nightmare too. Yeah, my mind’s a scary place sometimes O_O
Anyway, that dream was the initial catalyst for the book. I’d always wanted to write a horror book (I’m a HUGE horror fan) and I thought the house and the thing from the dream would make an awesome "creature" type horror story, but it needed a context. I love Ghost Hunters, love the whole scientific investigation aspect of it, and I liked the idea of contrasting that with the creature/horror thing. Sam and Bo’s relationship could hardly be described as romance at that point, more pure lust on Bo’s part and a part-lust-part-mind-control thing on Sam’s part, but I thought it was a strong enough relationship to give a character-driven backbone to the story. Thus Oleander House was born. I wrote the beginning, I wrote the end, but I couldn’t fill in the middle. In the years since, I’ve learned that when this happens to me, it means Something Is Wrong — plot-wise or character-wise — and I need to fix it, but back then I didn’t know that. I just knew I was stuck. When I signed on with Samhain, I asked Sasha if she’d look at what I had. She made the suggestion of not killing off everyone, and continuing the tale as a romance series. The rest might be history if it was, you know, something worthy of history instead of a book series.
And that was probably WAY more than you wanted to know, LOL.
Ethan: Not at all, Ally! That was awesome. The way inspiration comes to other authors as well as getting a little bit of the back story to such a great series like BCPI is fascinating to me. Looks like we all owe Sasha a big thank you for steering the project toward a romantic series. And I think this is a great lesson, especially for any new authors out there looking to get published as well. A difficult lesson for many authors – as I think we’re all inner-world control freaks – is that an idea doesn’t need to come directly from you, the writer, in order for it to be a great idea. Very cool! Thank you for sharing all that.
I found it interesting that both Sam & Bo…even Dean are each more of an every-man type of guy. Sometimes brave but never without fear, capable of strong emotion yet not always able to show it. Not necessarily the kind of guy you’d notice right off the bat walking down the street or in a bar. They don’t seem to fit neatly into any stereo-types. Talk to us a little about that. Was this your intent all along, or just the natural selection of an author at work? : )
Ally: First of all, thank you! I’m very glad to know that my guys seem like every-man types rather than stereotypes. More than anything else, I want them to be relatable people
To answer your question, though, creating them that way wasn’t something I set out to do deliberately. I wish I could say it was, because I think that would make me sound a lot more awesome and talented than I actually am. LOL. But no, they just sort of happened that way. All my characters always seem to just sort of happen. Even in books that start from a kernel of interesting plot — or from some other outside source rather than from a character source, which is where my books usually come from — the characters themselves seem to grow organically. I don’t think I’ve ever once said to myself, "self, for this tale, you must create a protagonist with this sort of personality and these particular traits." I’ll usually begin with some simple idea, then "question" my budding character either with one of my character development worksheets or just fill in the blanks freeform as details about that person occur to me. Like with Dean, the first thing I had in my head was that he was going to be very outgoing and friendly; he just popped into my brain that way. A natural outgrowth of that was that he was a flirt. Then I realized he likes to tease and joke. His flirty, teasing personality often hides the depths of his loneliness, which he does not like to talk about. He had a history of being badly hurt in love; I literally didn’t know the exact details of that until he told Sam in that one scene
That’s an example of the sort of character-build process that usually happens. It’s always like that — it just sort of flows. I usually tweak as I go along in the book and learn new things, but I’ve never deliberately made a character a particular way. Luckily for me, the characters seem to fit into the story pretty well most of the time anyway. Heh.
Ethan: In the first three books of the series, which is as far as I’ve managed to get thus far, the closeted/coming out process has been a major theme. Was that intentional from the very beginning of the series or did it spring from the natural growth of Bo’s character over time?
Ally: As soon as I got to know Bo and realized how deeply closeted he was, I knew his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality and to come out would be central to the series. So, yeah, that overall theme threading through the series was intentional. The particulars of that theme — how it’s expressed from book to book and Bo’s progress in that area — is dependent on and built upon each previous book, so I never tried to plan in any great detail further than the book I was writing. No matter how hard I plan, the guys always surprise me somehow or another *g*
Ethan: LOL…guys have a way of doing that : )
I thought the introduction of Dean in the second book, What Hides Inside, was totally brill, especially considering the way book one ended – leaving the team short one member. His presence added a lot of emotional conflict both in the workplace as well as between Bo and Sam. It’s an incredible example of how changing one character or aspect within the larger construct of a series can wreak the kind of wonderful havoc we all hate to admit we love. Making the character so likable was even more brill, as I found myself wavering throughout the book as to the way I wanted it to end. I think you did an awesome job at setting up an alternative to Bo for Sam with Dean’s character. He wasn’t a replacement so much as another road Sam could take…and it didn’t seem like such a bad route at that. How much of this was planned and how much came organically? Did your approach to Dean’s character change at all as you were working on the book?
Ally: Thank you very much! You know, this is a particularly interesting question for me. I am so not a pantster. I always plot out the whole book before I ever start writing it. But, I don’t plot it minute detail. It’s usually an overarching plot. Key scenes are the only ones that usually get plotted in detail before I start writing. Which leaves a lot of room for characters to change things up as I go. And boy, did Dean EVER. He came waltzing into my book and damn near took over. Now, he didn’t change any big key plot points. I hardly ever have to make any big changes in my planned plot after I’ve started writing. Small changes, sure; huge ones, no. But Dean did switch things up right from the get-go and just kept on doing it.
I never expected him to be so darn nice. When I was plotting this thing out — and I’ll tell you what, I’m having trouble remembering that far back, so I think I’m right here, but I might be off a bit — I believe I expected him to be a bit more of a seducer. Someone to come in, woo Sam away from Bo long enough for Sam to realize he wants and needs to be with Bo, then step back out of the picture when Sam tells him that. Or maybe get angry when Sam tells him that, I wasn’t sure. But I did not expect him to be instrumental in getting Sam and Bo back together. I realized he would be after I met him and knew what sort of person he was. I had to adjust my plan on the fly. I have to do that with every book; it’s inevitable, really. I guess my approach to Dean’s character changed in that I had to change his plot arc because of who I realized he was, as opposed to who I’d thought he was. But it’s probably more a case of changing how the characters deal with each other because of who they each are. Or in this case, who Dean is, since Sam and Bo’s characters were already well established by then.
Isn’t it weird to talk about these guys like they’re real people? I mean, I invented them out of my BRAIN! Referring to them like they’re actual people makes me sound certifiable O_O But they really do feel like real people sometimes! They surprise me when I’m writing! As if the things they do come from my subconscious mind rather than my conscious mind, you know? Of course you know, you do it too I bet
Ethan: I do, LOL! I’ve often joked that writers are the only people who can admit to hearing voices in their head without running the risk of being locked up in a nuthouse. : )
I thought it was really smart telling the stories from Sam’s point of view for a variety of reasons, but especially when it came to the topic of Bo’s wife, Janine. We’re given clues as the state of their marriage from the very beginning of the first book, Oleander House. Having information imparted second hand through Sam added a level of detachment for the reader, sheltering us from the pain and severity that would have been there had we been placed in Bo’s POV. Was this an intentional decision on your part? I assumed you did so because that wasn’t really the story you wanted to tell, but now that I have you at the mercy of my nosiness and curiosity I wondered if you had other reasons?
Ally: I’d love to say I’m really that clever, but sadly, I am not. I told Oleander House from Sam’s point of view because it just felt right, and I continued the whole series that way for the same reason, really. I hardly ever put much more thought than that into the point of view question in my books. Which is sad, really. I feel like I ought to know why I choose the POV I do, but the sorry truth is I pretty much operate on gut instinct in that arena. Instinct leads me around by the nose in a lot of ways when it comes to writing, which makes me nervous, but there you go.
I like your interpretation though. That’s a really great way to look at it, and it’s true, isn’t it? Bo’s POV would be way too skewed when it comes to his relationship with Janine. Not that Sam can look at it with 100% objectivity, but still, there’s not as much baggage attached to the whole thing from his viewpoint. Hm. Interesting…
Ethan: Wow…thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for us. I for one greatly appreciate it. : ) Now…on to the rest of the goodies:
To find out more about the rest of the books in this wonderful series visit Ally Blue’s author profile page at Samhain – CLICK HERE
As a special treat for anyone who hasn’t already discovered the BCPI series, Oleander House (pictured above) will be available as a free read on your Nook or Kindle for the entire month of January 2011!! Happy New Year Indeed! ; )
Facing an alternate-reality horror: deadly. Facing their own secrets: much, much worse.
Bay City Paranormal Investigations, Book 2
In one fateful, first week with Bay City Paranormal Investigations, Sam Raintree learned he’s psychic, possesses the power to open interdimensional portals and accidentally let loose an unimaginable horror. If that wasn’t a busy enough schedule, he also began a relationship with his boss, the firmly closeted Dr. Bo Broussard.
Three months later, Bo’s wedding ring is off, but he isn’t ready to come out. Sam, tired of hiding, can hear their relationship creaking under the burden of secrets. Cracks appear when Bo hires Dean, a new investigator who’s bi, out and openly interested in Sam. During an intense investigation into the mysterious disappearance of three students from South Bay High School, Bo’s stubbornly cold shoulder leaves Sam only one way to go: toward Dean.
As he wonders if he should continue the fight for Bo’s love, the team discovers shades of Oleander House echoing in South High’s halls. Sam pushes his newfound psychic abilities to the limit—until an eruption of nightmarish proportions threatens to take the decision out of his hands. Permanently.
Warning: This title contains explicit, male/male angry sex, break-up sex, make-up sex, violent creatures with a taste for human flesh, sex and down-and-dirty language.
They parked the SUV and piled out into the early morning sunshine. Sam lifted his face to smile at the pale blue sky. The weather was still unseasonably warm, and supposed to continue that way right through Thanksgiving.
Within a few minutes, the second SUV rolled to a stop. Cecile hopped down from the driver’s seat while Dean stepped out of the passenger side. Bo slid out of the backseat, looking unbearably hot in snug black jeans and a form-fitting long-sleeved red T-shirt. Sam licked his lips, wishing the sight of the man didn’t make his skin tingle. Not when he couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
Dean sauntered toward Sam. “So, what do you think of the place?”
“It’s gorgeous,” Sam answered, truthfully enough. “I can’t believe this is a public school. It looks more like a private college or something.”
“Yeah, but don’t be fooled. There’s no air conditioning and it floods every spring.”
Sam gave Dean a curious look as they followed the rest of the group up the steps to the archway leading inside. “Cecile said you went to high school here, is that right?”
Dean laughed. “Yeah. Of course, I graduated twelve years ago, so I’m sure some things have changed, but I’m betting there’s still not air conditioning. It’d be a real bitch to install here.”
“So, did you ever hear anything about these tunnels when you were in school here?”
“Yeah, everybody knew about ‘em. Hell, I lost my cherry there.”
“It’s true. The baseball team’s pitcher nailed me during gym in tenth grade.”
“Doesn’t sound very romantic,” Sam mused, holding the front door open for Dean to pass through.
“Oh, and I suppose your first time was on a moonlit beach, with wine and roses and violins?” Dean arched an eyebrow as he brushed past Sam, so close Sam could smell his musky cologne. “Spare me. Besides, it took me weeks of plying the boy with my considerable charm before he caved. Major closet case, that one was.”
Sam grinned. “Something tells me you were never a closet case.”
“Right you are. I proudly swing both ways.” With a quick glance at the group a few paces ahead, Dean leaned close, voice dropping low. “You’re not, are you?”
“What, a closet case? No, I’m out.”
“I figured. I can always spot the bent ones, if they’re my type.” Dean flashed a wicked smile. “And you are definitely my type.”
A spike of pure lust shot up Sam’s spine at the suggestion in Dean’s voice. Hot on the heels of his physical reaction came a wave of horrified guilt. I love Bo. How could I want Dean?
The answer, of course, was clear. Sam’s feelings for Bo couldn’t overcome his need for a warm, willing body between his legs and a hot, hard cock pounding him into blissful oblivion. Much as he wished it wasn’t true, he craved sex, and Bo wasn’t ready to give it to him. The fact that Dean was willing and able was terribly tempting.
“Would you two care to join the rest of us now?”
Bo’s irritated voice shook Sam out of his thoughts. He looked over to where Bo stood in the open doorway of the principal’s office. Bo’s cheeks were flushed, his dark eyes snapping with transparent jealousy. Sam didn’t know whether to be flattered or aggravated.
“We’re coming,” Sam said, ignoring Dean’s barely stifled giggle. “We were talking about the tunnels.”
“Yeah,” Dean chimed in. “They’re really hot and tight.”
Sam cringed. Bo gaped. Dean plowed on, apparently oblivious to them both. “I was telling Sam how I’d been down there in high school. The tunnels are narrow and low-ceilinged, and warmer than you’d think.”
“That’s true,” Mr. Innes added as they stepped through the door. “As a matter of fact, some scholars have speculated that the unexpected heat in the tunnels may have been the reason the monks abandoned the place. Evidently the original cellars didn’t turn out to be cool enough to store their wine and perishables for any length of time.”
“They didn’t tell anyone why they left?” David wondered.
Mr. Innes shrugged. “If they did, it was never recorded. The monks simply disappeared, without leaving any record as to where they were going.”
Andre’s eyebrows went up. “That’s interesting. Can you tell us any more of the property’s history?”
“I’m afraid I’ve already told you all I know.” The principal frowned. “Is it important?”
“It could be.” Bo glanced at Dean, dark eyes cool now. “Dean, on Monday I’d like for you and David to go to the main library and see what else you can find out about this property.”
“Okay.” Dean gave Bo a winning smile. “Anything in particular you want us to be on the lookout for?”
Bo tugged on his braid, his expression thoughtful. “Keep an eye out for any other disappearances especially, but you’ll want to look for anything unusual. I wish I could be more specific, but I can’t. You’ll both just have to use your judgment.”
“Got it, boss.” David nudged Dean’s elbow. “You’ll be training with me, by the way.”
Dean nodded. “Bo told me. I’m looking forward to it.”
Glancing at Bo, Sam was relieved to see the man’s eyes gleaming like they always did on an interesting case, all traces of jealousy gone. Sam caught Bo’s gaze and held it, letting his love shine through. Bo cast a furtive glance around the room, then flashed a brief, brilliant smile that made Sam feel hot all over.
Bo cleared his throat. “All right, let’s get started. Mr. Innes, what we’ll need to do first is tour the school, including the tunnels. After that, we’ll regroup here in your office, if that’s okay, and decide on an investigative plan for the day.”
“Very well. And what do you need me to do, apart from showing you the school?”
“Nothing, really,” Andre answered. “We may have more questions for you after the tour, though.”
“And we’ll need to know where the electrical outlets are,” Sam added. “In case we need to set up cameras.”
“I can show those to you as we go.” Fishing in his desk drawer, Mr. Innes pulled out a hefty ring of keys and pocketed it. “Shall we go?”
“We’re ready.” Bo started toward the office door, then turned around again. “Who’s got the notepad?”
“I do,” David said, pulling a small notebook and a pen from his jacket pocket.
“Oh, no.” Andre snatched the items out of David’s hand and passed them to Sam. “We need notes that someone can actually read later.”
David pressed a hand to his heart. “I’m wounded, man. Wounded.”
Rolling his eyes, Andre gave David a shove toward the door. “I’ll show you wounded, smart-ass. Move it.”
Still playfully bickering, Andre and David followed Mr. Innes out of the office, with the rest of the group trailing behind. As they headed down the first floor hallway, Sam found himself walking between Bo and Dean. He couldn’t help wondering just how prophetic that position would turn out to be.