NOTE: This post first appeared on the AMAZING STORIES MAGAZINE blog…
Veronica Scott for AMAZING STORIES: Welcome to my periodic series of author profiles. Today I’ve chosen Regine Abel, who does amazing world building and brings her previous experience as a game designer to bear on her writing. She’s also created a hugely varied list of romantic characters from Lizardmen to outer space Dryads.
VS for ASM.: What was the first scifi romance book you ever read and what did you like about it?
RA: I can’t remember specifically which one was the first. I only know that it had to be between Laurann Dohner, Kaitlyn O’Connor, Angela Castle, and Jeanette Lynn. My gut says the first book was either Ral’s Woman or Fury (New Species) by Laurann Dohner.
I had read a lot of sci-fi and dystopian novels before, especially books by A.E. van Vogt, but never sci-fi romance. As a huge sucker for romance in all its forms, I got hooked. It felt like such a fresh take on it, not to mention discovering completely new worlds and species. No other genre offered that. The possibilities were just infinite. I was growing numb to all the billionaire and contemporary romance. None provided the kind of escape sci-fi romance does, with wondrous new worlds, unique species, and exotic cultures. And other authors in the genre continue to blow my mind with their creativity.
ASM.: What was the first scifi romance book you wrote?
RA: The first sci-fi romance book I wrote was Escaping Fate (Veredian Chronicles 1) a little over six years ago. I’d been beta reading for many authors (published and aspiring) for years. Often, I’d reflect to myself on the way they went about a great idea and how I would have written it differently. That planted the seed of me getting down to it.
One day, after I finished binge reading Tracy St. John’s Clans of Kalquor and then Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changelings series, I realized how crazy in love I was with both those worlds. I started thinking I would love to write a book that combined Tracy’s type of intergalactic political intrigue and “Mars needs women” trope, with Nalini’s psionic powers and societal conflicts. Then I thought why don’t I do exactly that instead of whining about how the authors I beta read for should have written their stories? That same night, I started outlining Escaping Fate. Five weeks later, I wrote THE END.
As a slave, Amalia’s unique psi powers made her Gruuk’s favorite pet. When she escapes to Xelix Prime, she meets her future husbands, Khel and Lhor. Together, they set out to destroy Gruuk’s slaves ring and bring back hope to both of their dying species.
ASM.: Which of your SFR books is the bestselling?
RA: When I published I Married A Lizardman (Prime Mating Agency) in May 2021, I never expected it to become my all-time bestselling book. It outsold my previously bestselling book three times over.
The funny thing is that it all started as a fluke. I’d seen a fan art contest about Meoraq, the hero of R. Lee Smith’s epic novel The Last Hour of Gann. I’m not an artist, but I make my book covers using photomanipulation. Therefore, I didn’t participate. After the contest ended, I wondered if I could have pulled off something half decent and decided to try to make a lizardman. By the time I was done, it had gone from a personal challenge into an actual book cover with a story I was itching to write. And thus was born I Married A Lizardman.
On a side note, the original title was actually supposed to be “My Alien Babysitter” and have a completely different storyline.
A marriage of convenience between a human female and a sweet but grumpy lizardman gives rise to some epic and funny awkwardness as they work through their differences and solve the danger that threatens their clan.
ASM.: None of us can ever pick a favorite book or character but if you had to go live in one of your own books, which would you choose and why?
RA: That’s a tough one. I can think of various worlds I would love to live in. But if I had to narrow it down to a single one, it would probably be Xecania, the homeworld of Olix in I Married A Lizardman. They have a very simple culture, but with a strong focus on nurturing everyone’s personal aspirations, a good work-life balance, a strong community while respecting each other’s independence and privacy, and a great respect of nature and their environment. Although they are primitive in many ways, they are open to technology and gradually integrating it in a thoughtful and prudent way, while remaining true to their roots. But then, the same could be said about Trangor from I Married a Naga. It was a really close runner up in trying to pick one.
ASM.: Both are such well-constructed societies that I can imagine living in either. Which leads nicely into our next question: How do you go about world building? Do you do elaborate planning, keep a big file, use post its, wing it – what method works for you?
RA: World building for me usually starts first with identifying the species of the hero. Then I will read up everything I can about the creature that inspired it. For example, when I wrote I Married A Naga, I read up on snakes.
I have an outline document in which I note that the traits that really stood out to me, including links to pages and videos. I have an images folder as well for visual references. Then I start figuring out how I would integrate or adapt those traits to my hero’s species, and I start answering questions related to that. How would that trait affect their lives and environment? How can I weave that into the story? For example, having a snake tail instead of legs affects their architecture, furniture, transportation. Since they don’t to eat every day, it changes the social dynamics of family dinners, going out to eat/drink with friends or for a date. Figuring out these elements is 60% of my world building and often inspires specific scenes in my books. The rest, I just wing it.
I don’t use post-its and don’t make fancy diagrams. I just have a whole lot of bullet points that I refer to when I start outlining the book.
ASM.: Which character in your books is either most like you or who you’d like to be and why?
RA: The character who is most like me is definitely Amalia from Escaping Fate. They do say authors write themselves into their books. As she was my first book, I can totally see it. She’s mischievous, has a potty mouth, can sometimes come across as immature in her playfulness, but she’s also super loyal to those she loves and will eat you alive if you cross her.
If I were to choose who I would like to be, I’d have to say Mercy from Ravik’s Mercy (Braxians 2). She’s totally badass and doesn’t take shit from anyone. She’s smart, powerful, beautiful, and fearless. She has a heart of gold, but if you mess with her, as she says, she only has one mercy, and that’s her name.
ASM.: What was your most recent book and what was the story spark or inspiration for that story?
RA: I’m a bit on a fence here as to how to answer this question. Technically, my most recent book was Bluebeard’s Curse as I more than doubled its length from the original novella which I had published six years ago. So does it truly qualify as the most recent? The folktale Bluebeard inspired that book. I love fairy tales, but I’ve always hated that women in classic fairy tales were often portrayed as weak, driven by their passions and desires to the point of obsession. And only a good, strong man could save them from whatever danger they had brought upon themselves because of said weaknesses. I liked the idea of Bluebeard, but not the fact that his wives died because they couldn’t control their curiosity, and that he cruelly set them up for failure. I wanted to give a plausible reason as to why a strong woman would struggle to resist temptation, and why he had no choice but to kill his wife if she failed.
But if we look at the latest book that I wrote from scratch (not an expansion), then it would be I Married A Dryad. For the longest time, I had wanted to write a Dryad in my PMA series (since each hero is inspired by either an animal, a monster, or a mythical figure). For this specific species, it was a TV show I watched as a kid that inspired it: Space Pirate Captain Harlock. The main villains were a humanoid plant species called the Mazone. I hated that they were villains and wanted to write my own good Dryad story. I had just struggled with making a book cover I loved ahah. As I had referred to Edocits (a Dryad species) in previous Prime Mating Agency books, I already had a basis for them. It was then just a matter of fleshing out their world. As I loved the movie “Avatar”, I wanted to include my spin on their spirit tree and of the symbiosis between the people, the creatures, and the land. The veris of my Dryads is my spin on the Tsaheylu of the Na’vi—the braid connection. Except my veris have a lot more different uses, including as weapons and communication tools.
ASM.: Which book was the most fun to write and why? The most challenging and why?
RA: It’s a coin toss between I Married A Lizardman and I Married a Naga in terms of most fun to write because of the cultural differences. In the Lizardman, it was all about poor Olix being traumatized about humans, whereas in the Naga, it was all about Serena freaking out about the Ordosians culture and anatomy. In both cases, I was cracking myself up just writing those scenes. But then I Married A Minotaur was also a blast because of the sassy banter between Zatruk and Rihanna.
Anton’s Grace and Raising Amalia were the most difficult to write. I was bawling my eyes out writing these books because there are some major tear-jerking scenes. But Anton would have to be the hardest. He’s definitely an antihero with a major redemption arc. The heroine, too, was challenging because she suffered from dependent personality disorder, which made her very different from my usually sassy, confident, and badass heroines. I find it unfortunate that readers sometimes just seem to want cookie cutter personalities. I can’t write the same heroine over and over again. Different personalities are just as worthwhile.
It was my first time writing a dark romance. Many times, I considered toning things down to make them more palatable to a greater audience, but then I wouldn’t have been true to the characters. Both MCs needed to be broken in order to be reborn, embrace their true selves, and grow together. In the end, they became one of my favorite couples. But you have to go into this book with an open mind and remember that they live according to very different social rules. What we humans would consider abhorrent is normal in their culture.
ASM.: I love the in-depth character analysis and I agree about not wanting to write cookie cutter indivduals. Which of your characters do your readers love to hate? Why?
RA: I would have to say Aleina from Twist of Fate (Veredian Chronicles 4) and Anton from Anton’s Grace (Braxians 1). I can’t go into too much detail about Aleina without giving major spoilers. But reviews and feedback about her really made it clear to me that there are double standards in what readers find attractive in a man but when done by a woman, she’s suddenly bitchy or unlikeable. Aleina is a very strong leader. She’s devoted her life protecting others. People felt she wasn’t sweet enough to the hero because she wasn’t submissive enough and clearly stated she didn’t need a man to protect her (which she genuinely didn’t). Although she isn’t the ruler of her people, she pretty much had the lives of her entire endangered species in her hands and put their needs and her duty before anything else. If I had written that exact same character as a male, they’d be licking him up lol.
As for Anton, he does certain things that would be deemed unforgivable by certain readers, but that’s because they look at him with human eyes and based on human standards. They judge the heroine just as poorly for not being a tough gal. But if you take a step back and look at them through the lenses of their world, you will soon realize she’s actually really strong, just not in a gunslinger way. And he has a heart of gold, but he’s just been beaten up so much growing up, he’s carrying so much trauma, and he’s so desperate to belong that he grows blind to the fact that he’s becoming the same type of monster who made his life hell.
ASM.: Key and important point about trying to view the challenging characters through the lens of their own civilization, culture and experiences. That applies in real life too, I think. Your own favorite tropes? Least favorite tropes?
RA: Mars needs women and fated mates are my favorite. It’s unfortunate that some people think that fated mates means instant love. It’s not the case. I don’t like instant love. I like to see the relationship develop between the characters, whether they were initially attracted to each other from the start or not. Most of my books are fated mates. In my Veredians and Xian Warriors series, one of the two MCs has a physiological reaction when they meet the one. So they know they have found their soulmate, but they still need to get to know them and fall in love. Someone realizing that singing is their passion and vocation won’t make them a prima donna overnight. They will still need to do the work for that to come true. It’s the same with my fated mate characters. They still need to build the relationship.
I don’t really dislike any trope although I’m not a big fan of slow burn, unless they are very well written. Often, I find the delays are artificial or caused by silly reasons to needlessly drag things on. But my biggest issue isn’t so much a trope as much as character behavior. TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) characters are instant DNF (Did Not Finish) for me, as well as conflicts that could be resolved with a single adult conversation, but the characters keep throwing hissy fits and walking away over a misunderstanding. I’m generally not keen on conflicts between the couple unless external factors are causing that conflict. But I love seeing them working together to resolve it.
ASM.: I’m in agreement with you on both sides of the tropes you mention. I have a similar thing in my Badari Warriors where the main male character recognizes his fated mate but the human woman often doesn’t feel it at first. And I’ve thrown books against the wall when the miscommunication artifice goes on too long! Do you also write other genres?
RA: I have a couple of paranormal romance novels. I wish I had time to write more of them. But they are a lot more challenging to me to the extent that they all take place on modern-day Earth, which is a bit more restrictive. With SFR, the sky isn’t the limit. There are no limits. If I can think it, I can write it. Who can argue that this world functions the way I wrote it?
ASM.: What’s next for you?
RA: My priorities for the rest of this year are writing the final book of my Xian Warriors series, getting back to my Veredians, and finishing (or getting close to finishing) at least one of the two graphic novels of my books that my artists are currently working on. It is a little challenging as I have so many irons in the fire at the same time, between writing, translations, audiobooks, running an Etsy store, and Patreon. But as I’m a sucker for punishment, I am also participating in my first book signings this year (three in total). So I’m quite the busy bee.
ASM.: Wow, that’s an understatement with all you have going on! What’s on your To Be Read List?
Honestly, I don’t even know where to start, the list is so long. But definitely high on my list, I desperately want to catch up on Opal Reyne’s Duskwalker Brides.
ASM.: Give us your short author bio and where you can be found on social media.
USA Today bestselling author Regine Abel is a fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi junkie. Anything with a bit of magic, a touch of the unusual, and a lot of romance will have her jumping for joy. She loves writing hot alien warriors meeting no-nonsense, kick-ass heroines. Her novels are steamy, action-packed, and with the twists and turns you never saw coming.
Before devoting herself as a full-time writer, Regine had surrendered to her other passions: music and video games! After a decade working as a Sound Engineer in movie dubbing and live concerts, Regine became a professional Game Designer and Creative Director, a career which has led her from her home in Canada to the US and various countries in Europe and Asia.
Regine’s Most Recent SFR Novel:
I MARRIED A DRYAD (PRIME MATING AGENCY)
He was her perfect match.
Fed up with the deadbeats and jerks infesting the standard dating pool, Maeve reaches out to the Prime Mating Agency, hoping to improve her luck. Her fear of ending up with some weird primitive alien is immediately alleviated when she’s paired with a stunning Edocit. Smart, funny, sweet, and as hellbent in protecting the weak and the oppressed as she is, Helio exceeds everything she ever dreamed of. If only she didn’t have to keep so many secrets from him.
Helio hadn’t been actively looking for a mate, least of all an off-worlder. But the moment he lays eyes on Maeve, he’s smitten… but also intimidated. Aside from the cultural shock their pairing is bound to give her, he’s a mere bounty hunter, while she’s a brilliant, high-ranking officer of the Enforcers, the elite intergalactic peacekeeping forces. Despite his insecurities, they’re off to a great start… until tragedy strikes.
With the lives of countless innocents on the line, will the clash of their respective worlds tear them apart, or will they overcome adversity to prevail against evil?
LINKS TO OTHER PROFILES IN SFR INTERVIEWS (listed alphabetically by authors’ first names):