If you could live forever, would you? In Autumn Lindsey's debut novel, Remaining Aileen, devoted wife and mother Aileen wakes up in the hospital after her plane crashes during a storm. Everyone says it’s a miracle. All Aileen cares about is seeing her husband and children again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Aileen to realize her survival wasn’t random. Her mind and body are changing in ways she can’t explain. As Aileen grows desperate for answers, a man assumed dead from her flight appears to reveal a dark truth about her survival. Drowning in the reality of her new life, Aileen is forced to make a choice: live forever, or once again face death. Except living might cost her everything she wanted to remain alive for.
Autumn shares a look at her process, motherhood, and creating vampire lore in this exclusive Writers on Writing interview.
What inspired you to write Remaining Aileen?
There were a few things that added up to become my inspiration for Remaining Aileen but my biggest inspiration was motherhood. This idea of a mom that was also a vampire really fascinated me. To always be there for your children, protect them from everything, never needing to sleep, having super strength, all the plus sides to motherhood made faster and easier due to never being tired. And then there is the dark side of being a vampire. But even the darker side has a comparison to motherhood that needs to be seen, (minus the need to drink blood of course) sometimes for some women making that journey into motherhood can be hard. At times you feel like monster instead of a mother, like you are losing yourself, the woman in the mirror becomes hard to recognize, and that can be a scary thing to reconcile while raising young children. I wanted to explore all of this through my character Aileen, a mom of two young girls who changes into the unimaginable and wrestles with wondering if she can be the mother she longs to be while also being a blood sucking monster.
What’s your writing process like? Do you have any daily habits or routines?
Remaining Aileen is my first and only completed novel, so I would say my writing routine is still developing. I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me. For this book though I wrote mainly at night when the world is dark and quiet and there is no one awake to distract me. And while I’d love to say I have a routine, I don’t. I’m not a very routine person. Though I do like to sit at my desk, with a large glass of ice water or coffee or green tea and a nice smelling candle! Those are my must haves for my writing sessions.
One of the central themes of Remaining Aileen is how a woman maintains her identity while embracing her role as a wife and mother. How does Aileen’s transformation to becoming a vampire reflect these unique experiences and balancing these roles?
I think for a long time in society when women became mothers that was it. You stayed home, you cared for your children. If you worked or wanted to do anything outside of that, shame on you. Your identity was solely “mother.” Now, thank goodness this is no longer what is expected. Women can be mothers and whatever else the hell you want to be. You are never “just” a mom, you are a human, who has dreams and aspirations and things you like to do and you shouldn’t be bound by this idea of what a mother is. But regardless of how much society has changed and accepted that women can be more than “just” baby breeding machines, (and I am only speaking for my own experience here) I couldn’t help but feel, while in the depths of mothering young babies that I was, in fact, “just” a mom. No one told me this, no one made me feel this way, except for myself. I had amazing support from my husband and family but regardless I lost sight of the things I loved to do, why? Because I had three tiny humans who needed me, literally, to survive. I was overwhelmed and tired. This sounds more dramatic than it actually was, but when you are deep within the thralls of diapers and baby food and sleepless nights, it’s hard to find that balance. It’s easy to lose yourself. Now that my kids are older I feel so much more “myself” again. The fog has lifted for me and I’m now once again able to have the mental space to find more of a balance.
So now, enter Aileen. A tired mom who’s lost herself, and when she is mentally ready to find that woman again, she becomes a vampire and desperately longs to be the mom and woman she was before. I felt that exploring the changes of motherhood through the medium of vampires would be interesting. As a mom, the idea of being this invincible supernatural force, who doesn’t need to sleep, has super-speed and the ability to literally be there for your children forever is appealing. However, there is the darker side- needing to feed on blood which usually is followed by death and destruction. So opposite of the life-giving idea of what motherhood is, and yet, even though we are mothers we are still human. We have this light and dark within us and I feel like nothing brings out both aspects of our humanity (or inner moMster) more than parenting. As far as answering the question of balancing these roles, I think the honest answer is there is no true balance but a constant striving to simply do your best in an always evolving role
There’s a long history of vampires in storytelling. How did you balance developing a world and characters that were distinct to your story, while also staying true to the genre?
I am so happy to hear you felt my vampires were distinct to this story. I did so much research into vampire history and folklore. I didn’t want my vampires to be these “fanged creatures of the night” like Dracula or Interview with the Vampire, and I also didn’t want them to be created by magic like The Vampire Diaries, or sparkle in the sunlight like Twilight (although I do love all of said versions of vampire). I wanted Aileen’s type of vampire to be almost realistic. I wanted it to make sense in a real world scenario. For example she has no blood flow so she would be pale, lacking the luster blood brings to your skin, that is unless she’s just feed. And it’s not that she is would be icy cold to the touch, but with a lack of her own blood coursing through her body, she would be “room temperature” I guess you could say. So if it is cold, she would feel cold if touched, if she was in a warm room she would feel warmer, which she discovers is helpful for her in keeping the fact she is a vampire a secret from her family. She does keep in line with having super speed, super sense, and overall is fairly indestructible, however all these things make her now, a master predator which she greatly struggles with being that she is a mom, a giver and creator of life, not something that takes lives.
Over on Twitter, you and Everly Reed host the weekly chat, #WM_chat. Are there any common themes or advice from the chat that you’d offer to writers?
One of the most common things I am asked is “How do you balance mom life and writing life?” and “Where do you find the time to write?” My answer to both is, “I don’t.” As far as balance goes, it is a constant give and take and it’s constantly evolving as my children grow and as I dive deeper into the publishing world. Although I will say, every once in a while I find that sweet spot where mom life and writing life feels balanced! When it comes to finding the time, I have found that “time” is something I have to take. There will always be something that demands my attention, so I found it’s best to use my time the best I can to get done what I need to do. (Disclaimer, that last sentence makes me sound really organized… let me be clear, I’m not. It’s simply a strategy I strive for.)
What’s on your current TBR list?
Oh boy, I have SO many amazing title on my TBR list. Currently I am reading The Wicked Deep and Furyborn. I also have This Splintered Silence and The Hazel Wood in my “up next” category. I feel like I am so behind on my reading.
What projects do you have coming up next?
I am excited to say my next project will be the sequel to Remaining Aileen! Her story is not over with book one and I am excited to jump into the next chapter of Aileen.