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Interview With an Author: Annabeth Albert

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author Annabeth Albert and her latest novel, Out of Character
Author Annabeth Albert and her latest novel, Out of Character

When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, Annabeth Albert is a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. Her popular LGBTQ+ romances include several fan-favorite and critically acclaimed series. She lives with her spouse and two children in Oregon. Her latest novel is Out of Character and she recently talked about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for Out of Character?

After I finished Conventionally Yours, I knew that I wanted to do a book for Jasper. I already knew that he was into cosplay and a fascinating potential hero, but I also wanted to explore the broader notion of a sidekick becoming the hero of his own story. I wanted to look at someone who has been on the edge of a friendship circle, never the best player or the hottest person or the one who gets the big win, but who is always there, loyal and true. What would a happy ending look like for that character? How would Jasper truly become the hero? What would he have to overcome? And thus the character of Milo was born—a person from Jasper’s past who desperately needs rescuing and who represents a past hurt that Jasper needs to address before moving forward into his own HEA.

Are Jasper, Milo, or any of the other characters in the novel inspired by or based on specific individuals?

I tend not to “fancast” or “head cannon” particular celebrities or real-life people into the role of my characters. As far as personality, both Jasper and Milo are wholly original. As far as looks, Jasper could be a long-lost family member of Rupert Grimley’s and Milo looks like a particular Italian soccer player. I also tend to pour through stock images looking for inspiration, and I found a couple of pictures that I used on my mood boards as well.

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

The novel did evolve through careful rounds of edits. I’m so grateful to Christa Desir and Mary Altman at Sourcebooks for their help as well as my awesome beta readers. I didn’t cut entire scenes, but I do wish we could have seen Payton from book 1 again, as Payton was a fan-favorite character (and mine too!) and I sent them off to London on a grand adventure, but then missed them terribly. I would have liked more Alden/Conrad time as well, but this was Jasper and Milo’s story, so I didn’t want Conventionally Yours references to take over their story. In order to keep the heat level appropriate for a NA/YA crossover audience, I did have to scale back some love scenes, but I’m really happy with the balance we struck between heat and emotion and all those first-time feels.

In our interview for Conventionally Yours, you said that you regularly attend conventions. Have you ever participated in cosplay? If you have, what costumes have you created/worn? If not, what would be your dream costume to try?

When I was nine months pregnant, I did cosplay as a witchy professor. That was the last time I wore my graduate school robes. Since then, I enjoy things like rainbow tutus and fairy wings at conventions, but I haven’t adopted a particular character. What I love about conventions and dressing up is that it gives people a chance to reveal more of their authentic, inner selves. Mine likes color and glitter, and I like being able to add those wardrobe touches even without a full costume. Like a lot of people, I dream of the perfect Wonder Woman costume. I’m also a big Magic the Gathering nerd. I’d love to do a Liliana costume someday or maybe a Chandra.

Have you ever been on a treasure hunt like the one Milo and Jasper go on in the novel? If you have, did you find the prize? What was it?

In college and high school, I did a number of small scavenger hunts that were a lot of fun. I’ve never actually tried geocaching, but my research into it was absolutely fascinating. Hats off to those who participate in that hobby and those who keep it fun and interesting for others! I have, however, done tournaments with prizes like Jasper and Milo go to early on, and there is something so thrilling about that prize wall or table and trying to earn points!

Jasper’s favorite donut is chocolate/chocolate. Do you have a favorite donut?

Yes! I love a strawberry sprinkle donut (either vanilla or chocolate cake donut with pink icing and rainbow sprinkles on top). Here in Oregon, we’re blessed with several amazing donut places including Voodoo Donuts. I’m obsessed lately with the gluten-free donuts from Benny’s Donuts, a local chain.

In the Acknowledgements, you state that Out of Character was written during the pandemic lockdown of 2020 and that you intentionally chose to set the events in Out of Character outside of what you called “the great pause.” Did you consider setting Out of Character during the pandemic, and telling Jasper & Milo’s story during “the great pause” or did you always know you would tell it before/after COVID-19?

This was always going to be set on a college campus with college in session and a robust tabletop gaming scene. That simply wasn’t compatible with bringing a pandemic into the plotline. Also, I wrote the book from March 2020 to July 2020. The pandemic was still very new. No one knew how long it would last, and I wanted to stick to a world that felt familiar and comforting. I needed the escape, and I think a lot of readers are also looking for similar escapes.

Out of Character is a sequel, of a sort, to Conventionally Yours, focusing on a supporting character from the earlier novel. Is there a supporting character in Out of Character that may end up being the protagonist in an upcoming book?

I would still dearly love to do a story for Payton from Conventionally Yours. Also, I have plot bunnies for Jasper’s sister, April, who would love a HEA of her own as she heads off to college, and also a different one for Milo’s brother Bruno, who really spoke to me in his scenes in Out of Character.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

I do most of my reading on my tablet, so that’s always on the nightstand. Right now, as I write these answers, I have a full TBR on the tablet that includes recent releases from Kelly Fox (Goodnight) and KM Neuhold (Stripped) and Anyta Sunday’s marvelous Austen adaption series. I recently devoured KJ Charles’s Will Darling series as well. In paper on my nightstand, I’ve got Jackson from LaQuette just begging for a re-read.

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

I’m always fascinated by amazing covers of songs that take something familiar and make it fresh and new and compelling. Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks and their duet of “Shallow” is one such song that really speaks to me, not just as lyrics, but also as a performance, the art of making something truly ones own. As a storyteller, I use a lot of familiar tropes and I love the reminder that the familiar can always be made fresh in the hands of the right artist.

What are you working on now?

I have several books in line for Fall release, including the upcoming Sailor Proof, a new military romance. Right now, I am drafting a Christmas novel for release in November 2021. The amazing artist (@callmekitto on twitter) who did the illustrations for Conventionally Yours will be doing the cover art, and I simply can’t wait to see their creation.

Book cover for Out of Character
Out of Character
Albert, Annabeth