Today we will be putting the tough questions to Christian Baines
He is a dark fantasy author who has been writing for ten years. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
-Christian, what first attracted you to the genre?
The forbidden! Not explicitly, but I grew up a creative kid in rural Australia with a religious family. Rural Australia has many wonderful qualities, but imagination isn’t one of them. Dark mythology and stories that explored an outsider’s PoV weren’t exactly encouraged. I needed Dark Fantasy. It invites us to see the world through that lens, and that need hasn’t really changed.
-What were you reading most at the time?
When I started writing in earnest, I was in the thick of Anne Rice’s books. As a starting point for writing rich, multi-layered vampire stories, I can’t think of a better one.
-Name three of your favourite books, and why they are your top picks.
Ooof, the impossible question that will no doubt change by the time this interview is posted! Okay. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It’s the timeless, perfect story about a wronged monster, with so many different ways to interpret its characters. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin for its whimsical, quirky, and optimistic but never toothless take on life in and around the queer community. A third… maybe The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis? It’s divisive, but I think it’s a brilliant use of multiple PoVs and a matter-of-fact exploration of queer attraction and dynamics in a college setting.
-Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Plotter, up to a point. Then I usually pants the ending. The ‘plot’ will go through a lot of revisions too.
-What are your two favourite quirks in a character?
‘Quirk’ is a pretty open term. But I’d say male characters who love cats, and big, tough, not terribly bright guys with good hearts who are easily embarrassed who you just want to hug. That got weirdly specific, didn’t it? I know it when I see it, and yes, I’m a Dragon Age fan, why do you ask?
-What is your idea of happiness?
Umm… okay, wow! A world without binaries? A world without social media? A world without politics? A world without money? All these things. But seriously, being able to pursue and forge the best version of the person you are.
-How have you seen dark fantasy progress over the years?
I’m not a fast reader, I try to read across many genres, and I mix up new books with older ones, so I wouldn’t call myself an authority on how any particular genre has progressed or evolved over the years. Not specific to books, in fact, it’s more film and TV, but as the media giants have pumped out so much content in recent years, it’s created some very safe tropes and set some pretty standard templates. Rarely terrible, but rarely great. It’s like writing by committee or focus group, following whatever’s trending culturally, which isn’t good. On the upside, it makes the stories that resist that all the more valuable. It used to be, tell me the story the church tried to ban. Now it’s, tell me the story that really annoyed your CEO.
-What are your ideal writing conditions?
I need silence when I write, for the most part. A comfortable chair, a desk at the right height, enough light but not so much that I feel exposed… and an acceptance that even with all of these things, nothing may happen.
-Where or when do you feel most inspired?
When I’m watching or reading or listening to or playing something really brilliant. You need to be feeding yourself good art all the time, not just in the form you’re working in. Go to museums. Explore street art. Listen to music in every genre. See a movie or show you know nothing about. Take it in whenever and wherever you can. We’re bombarded so much now by negativity and commercial or political agendas. It’s a fight to create that space in our minds for genuine creativity, but you have to do it.
-What do you appreciate most in your friends?
Openness, vulnerability, humour, and honesty. I appreciate people who stick by me, don’t fake this idealised version of themselves and aren’t afraid to let me see their flaws.
-Where would you like to take an extended vacation, and why?
An extended vacation? Probably Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo. I’ve been to each once and I could definitely live there for six months or more. Great food, great culture, great people.
-Who are your greatest influences?
Anne Rice, Clive Barker, Bret Easton Ellis, Poppy Z Brite, Christopher Isherwood, James Robert Baker… Getting into filmmakers, Pedro Almodovar, David Lynch, John Waters, Gregg Araki, James Whale, Alfred Hitchcock… I mean, this could go on for a while.
-If there was one warning you could give to authors starting out, what would it be?
Your job is to write and tell the story that’s in you. That’s hard enough without taking on all this extra crap. Resist going down every rabbit hole or listening to every opinion or outrage you come across. We live in a society that’s addicted to rage, one that’s reshaped itself to keep feeding that rage. A little anger in your creative work can be great, but you don’t want to live in it. Just put the words down as you hear them in your head and don’t worry about how they’ll make anyone else feel. That’s what editing is for, and even then… don’t edit your story into toothless ‘content.’ What you bring in an unfiltered form is what’s going to make your work special.
-What are some salient characteristics you believe make a great dark fantasy story?
For me, it’s great characters. I’m willing to take almost any journey as long as you have characters that I want to spend time with. Oh, and no more ‘chosen ones’ or prophecies, please. Just a preference.
-What is the title of your latest story?
My Cat’s Guide to Online Dating
-Can you give us a synopsis of it?
It’s a dark, magical realism comedy told in six hook-ups, with a texting cat and a horrible accident.
-What sparked the underlying theme?
It was partly inspired by a couple of months I spent unexpectedly back in my home town, meeting queer men there. It’s a very different experience to dating in a big city where LGBTQ+ life is all around you. Suffice to say, the book went in a very different direction to my original experience.
-Are you working on anything else at the moment, or have the germ of an idea for another story you’d like to titillate your audience with?
Right now, I’m almost done a draft of the next Arcadia Trust book, the fourth in the series. I won’t say too much about it, except that it continues the trend of each one being a slightly different genre. This one is in many ways a ghost story. I wish I could pump out one of these a year, but I just don’t write that way, so instead, I’ll just promise that it will be worth the wait! I also have the first notes down on a light horror novel I’ve been stewing on.
-Once again, thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. I wish you all the best of luck in your writing endeavours!
My pleasure. Thanks Benoit so much for having me today!
Where to find Christian Baines online: