Ariel Tachna Talks Lord of the Rings, Dreamspinner Translations, and Much More!

June 21, 2015

A big thank you to Ariel Tachna, who agreed to do this interview and answer the questions of her readers. I also want to thank you, the readers, who came up with the questions and thus made this interview possible.

Ariel: First of all, these are great questions. Thank you to all the readers who proposed them. I hope my answers are as interesting as the questions themselves!

What made you start writing M/M novels?

In 2004, I was active on a Lord of the Rings yahoo group devoted to the books as much or maybe even more than to the movies. Someone on that group mentioned fan fiction. Being hopelessly naïve, I said, “What’s fan fiction?” The person answered that it was stories written by fans in the universe of another author. I was intrigued. You see, I’d fallen in love with Aragorn and Arwen and was woefully unsatisfied with the amount of time on page Tolkien devoted to them. So the idea of getting more of their story, something to fill in the gaps, was intriguing. I went searching and came across all kinds of things, including stories about Aragorn and… Legolas. I frowned a little, shook my head, and went to read Aragorn and Arwen stories, but these Aragorn/Legolas stories kept popping up. So I dipped my toe in the water and read one. And then I read another. And then I said to myself, “I could do this. I could do this better.” So I tried. I wrote an epic Lord of the Rings fan fiction (180 chapters, 690,000 words—it took me a year) and I was hooked. I’d found a community online and a passion for writing again that I had somewhat lost after I graduated from university. That was eleven years ago and I’ve never looked back.

While being all busy with writing, do you even find the time to read? What are your favorite books you can read again and again?

I don’t find a lot of time to read these days, but when I do, I tend to fall back on old favorites. Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince series, anything by Rhianne Aile, anything by Zahra Owens, anything by Mary Calmes.

I hope this question is not too personal; if yes you of course don’t have to answer it. How do you unite your writing with your private life (family, friends, partner, etc.) without neglecting anyone or anything?

It’s a juggling act, that’s for sure. It helps that I work from home, so I have some flexibility in my schedule. When my children are at school, I try to get as much work and writing done as I can so that when they come home, I can give them the attention they need. They’re young, but not babies, and don’t want Mama hovering over them constantly, so I sometimes get a little more done in the afternoons or evenings.

Do you work at several books at the same time or do you rather focus on one? 

That varies. Right now, I have five books that are ongoing, but only two that I’m actively working on. One is something I’m co-writing with Nicki Bennett, the other is a solo project.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as an author?

My strength is definitely the depth of my cast of characters. It’s not just the two romantic leads who have a story. Everyone does, even if most of it never appears on page. That’s one of the things I love so much about writing a series. I get the chance to show more of the story for everyone because they keep coming back up, often in different roles as the series goes on.

My weakness is that I tend to get long-winded. I can’t let go of a story until it’s done, regardless of when other people think it should be done.

Where do you get your ideas from? What inspires you? Do certain events or people you met inspire you when writing? 

Everything inspires me. A snippet of overheard conversation, a line of music, my children’s laughter. I have used events and people in my writing. The Path, for example, is entirely inspired by my trip to Peru two years ago. Seducing C.C. is an amalgam of people and events at the summer camps I attended and then worked at for sixteen years.

Do some protagonists grow dear to your heart more than others? If yes, which are the ones you like best? 

I have to fall in love with them to write them or they aren’t believable, but yes, some stay with me. Jean and Raymond from the Partnership in Blood series will always hold a special place in my heart. The same is true, though for different reasons, of Gabriel and Lucio from The Inventor’s Companion.

You’ve written contemporaries, western, historicals, and paranormals. Which do you prefer and why?

I love them all. Some stories can be told in any setting, but others need a specific setting to work. I also love the challenge of worldbuilding in historicals, paranormals, and sci-fi stories. I can’t take shortcuts in a story where nothing is necessarily familiar to the reader.

Are you one of the authors that get kicked by their muse all of the time, especially when she wants something that doesn’t really fit into your writing timetable in that situation?

I am a complete and total slave to my muses. Most of the time I don’t even bother with an outline anymore because they ignore it. I know my characters (at least a little), I know the situation that brings them together, and I know the problem keeping them apart when I start writing. I suppose I know the ending as well since I know they end up together. The rest is a path of discovery for me as I write. I do my best to get out of the way and tell their story rather than making them conform to my ideas.

How long does it take you on average to write a story and what does your daily writing routine look?

It depends on the length and complexity of the story, on what else is going on at work and with my family (how many hours can I actually dedicate to writing), and how strongly the story grabs me. I wrote Perilous Partnership in five weeks. The story I’m working on now will take less than three weeks. I’ve had other books take me months.

Have you ever got insulted because of your books? Or have your books ever got insulted? If yes, how did you react to it?

I’m sure there are people who have insulted my books, but I don’t read reviews because they’re for readers, not for me. I’ve had people react in surprise when they find out I write gay romance, but it’s always been more curious than angry.

As you’re Dreamspinner Press’s translations coordinator there’re some questions about this topic.

Which are the criteria that matter when choosing a book to translate? To what extent do you respond to requests coming from the readers?

We definitely take into consideration reader requests. We also look at sales figures for already published books to seek trends in terms of authors and genres that sell well. From there, we try to balance new releases with classics as well as stand-alones with series. Of course sometimes all that juggling comes tumbling down around our heads and we have to start over, but those are the things we try to take into account as we work on the publishing schedule.

If the first volume of a book is released, does this automatically mean that the other volumes will be translated as well or does it depend on how well they sell? How much time passes between translating several books of a series?

Our intention is to translate complete series whenever possible. The timing of it, however, depends on a variety of factors including the availability of the translator and all the other bits of juggling from the answer above. It also depends on whether the books are a true series, where you don’t have the real end until the last book, or whether they’re more spinoffs, where each book stands alone and the next book is more an added bonus than a necessary component.

How long does it take on average to translate and correct a book? Can you tell us a bit more about the process of translating?

It can take anywhere from eight to sixteen weeks to translate a book, depending on length and the availability of the translator. From there, another four to eight weeks for proofreading. Once it’s proofread, it goes back to the translator for revisions (usually another week). Then it goes on to our German coordinators for a final read. What happens then depends on them. Sometimes they send it to me to publish. Sometimes they send it back for a second proofreading. Sometimes they tell me to throw it out and start over. Translation is not a linear process.

Why do the German-speaking readers learn on short notice about which of the translated books will be released within the following few weeks?

We have had issues with the formatting of our eBooks with the translations. Even when everything looks perfect in the Word file, sometimes the eBook formats come back with errors. We made the decision early on not to announce the publication of a book until we have the eBooks with no formatting errors. We would rather give short notice on a book that will actually come out on time than give longer notice and have to change a release date because of errors.

Last week DSP published the German translation of Inherit the Sky. Why is this story set in the Australian Outback and not like most of the other westerns in America’s West? Do you have a special connection to this part of the country?

This is a funny story. I follow a few actors, and several years ago, two of those actors were misattributed Australian nationality in the media. I was laughing about it with a friend of mine, who said, “I like the idea of them running off to Australia together to raise sheep.” My muses agreed with her.

Cherish the Land is the fifth and also the last book of the Lang Downs series at the moment. Will there be more books or do we have to say goodbye to our darlings?

Cherish the Land is the last book currently planned in the series, but we’ve discussed my muses. If they decide there’s another story to tell, I will listen as I always do.

Who was the most difficult character to write in the Lang Downs series?

Seth, without a doubt, because of how deep his wounds run. But at the same time, he was surprisingly open once I got into his head. My fear was in not doing justice to the depth of his issues and having him come across as whiny instead of genuinely troubled.

Is there a chance to read a novel or novella about Caine’s uncle Michael?

I have thought about it. I’m not ready to say yes, but I learned a long time ago never to say no.

What inspired you to write the Partnership in Blood series? Do you plan it as a series in advance?

Eleven years ago, I belonged to an online writer community, and each month we had themed challenges. Anyone who wanted to could write a story and share it with the group for critique, and then at the end of the month, everyone would vote on their favorite story. In October of that year, the theme was to write a supernatural story. I had three other big projects and several smaller ones going on at the time, so I decided I’d pass on that month’s theme. Then I fell asleep, and I dreamed one of the most vivid dreams I’ve ever had. I saw Alain and Orlando meeting at the cemetery, I saw Orlando come stumbling out of a building with the sun rising behind it and a sense of grave danger, and I saw one other scene that I won’t describe so as not to spoil the ending. When I woke up, I lay there and stared at the ceiling, trying to connect the dots between the three images. I started writing that afternoon.

I knew from the beginning that the story wouldn’t be short, but I didn’t envision it as a series. I wasn’t published then, so I wasn’t thinking in terms of how it would fit into a single volume. By the time I was first published in 2007, I’d been working on Partnership in Blood for almost three years. What became Alliance in Blood was finished, as was most of Covenant in Blood, but I still had over half the original story to tell. I spoke with Elizabeth North, Dreamspinner’s Executive Director, and we decided to have the books come out six months apart to give me time to finish the series. I kept to that schedule and wrote Reparation in Blood. I sent it to Elizabeth with an e-mail that said DONE! She e-mailed me back and said, “You know…” and suddenly I wasn’t done. I finally finished the series last October, ten years and one million words after I started.

What is the hardest scene you ever had to write in this series?

That would be a tossup between the epilogue of Reparation in Blood and the prologue of Partnership Reborn. If I say more than that, I’ll spoil it for people.

 Last but not least: What are you currently working?

Let’s see…

Nicki and I are working on All for Love, the third book in our historical swashbuckler series that begins with Checkmate.

By myself, I’m working on a category romance set on a horse farm in the town where I grew up. It’s the story of loss, recovery, and learning to love again. I’m also working on a story set in a restaurant in Paris, with a borderline sex-addicted waiter as one of the romantic leads. The other one is an American businessman in Paris for a conference. They meet in the restaurant, have a fling that ends up meaning more to them both than they first expected, and now they have to decide what to do about it. I have another waiter story, set in Montréal. It’s a May-December romance between a career waiter and a young man who waits tables at a local gay bar to make ends meet. I also have half of the first book in a mystery series written. The series follows the same FBI missing persons detective on five different cases. Each case has its own romance, but what the detective learns from those romances informs his decisions about his own life as well.

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