An Interview with Amber Belldene

Please help me welcome Amber Belldene to my blog today. Amber is giving away an ebook of her book, Bloodvine, to be delivered to one of you after it’s release date of January 8th. Be sure and leave her a comment to be entered into the contest.

Cynthia, thank you so much for having me on your blog today! I look forward to giving away an e-copy of my novel debut Blood Vine to one of your commenters.

BloodVine_Cover_Final-2_2How did you get started writing?

Ooh. I love this question because it is such a ridiculous story. When I was pregnant with my twins I had to go on maternity leave early, and I ended up reading non-stop. I consumed more than one romance novel a day before the kids were born—hundreds of them. Sexy and romantic books were my pickles and ice cream! In the back of my mind, I began to ask myself if I could write one too. I became very analytical about what made a good plot or series. And then, one day, I got an idea and ran with it. It became Blood Vine—my debut novel, which will be released January 8th.

Why do you write under a pen name?

For a number of reasons. One is that my real name is a mouthful. The second is that my day job is as an Episcopal Priest. Personally, I don’t think there is anything un-Christian or irreligious about writing racy romances. I believe God made us for love, and that sex is one of the holiest expressions of love two people can get up to. I write in the romance genre because I believe in the hope and redemption that comes with happy endings. But, I do know that some church-goers might find my writing off-putting, and I want to honor those feelings by not being in their faces with my secondary avocation. And, to be honest, when I’m preaching, I’d rather them think about my sermons than my sex scenes.

When I started writing Blood Vine, my mother reminded me that I’d aspired to write novels as a child, and had promised my grandmother I’d do it under her name. That’s where Belldene came from.

Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

Another great question, Cynthia! I love mythology, and folklore, and of course the Bible—I love trying to put a new spin on an old story or convention. That’s how I wound up with the idea of the exile-related wasting disease that plagues my vampires. I took the convention that vampires slept in coffins lined with the soil of the place they were buried, and added to it something I’d learned in seminary from my fabulous preaching professor, who is also a classicist. She taught us that nostalgia is the deep motivation behind Odysseus’s journey. And then, boom, I had a vampire hero with a case of nostalgia so serious it could kill him.

Do you have critique partners?

I have a group of seven writers I regularly trade work with. I met all but one of them through various chapters of Romance Writers of America (RWA), and they are brilliant, unique and the greatest joy of my writing life. I can email them when I need a reality check or encouragement, and I trust them to push me to make a scene just a little bit better. I am also one of the list parents of the online critique group for the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of RWA (the mud puddle), which is a group of supportive and talented writers. Trading critiques is hard work for the mind and the heart, and I am deeply appreciative of that online community of writers.

What does your space look like?

Because I am a mom of toddler twins who works full-time, I don’t have a lot of sitting-at-a-desk time to write. Early in the morning or after the kids go to bed, I usually just sit on the couch with my laptop. I know its not ergonomic, but in the evening it puts me in the same room with my husband while he plays video games, which counts for a lot. I’m totally inspired when he kills a bunch of zombies.

What genre(s) do you write in and why?

I write in the paranormal genre, because I like the dark, mysterious and fantastical premises. The stakes and the sensuality are amped up far beyond reality. But, paradoxically, I am convinced immersing ourselves in these alternate worlds helps us understand our real human existence better. So, for examples, vampires might show us something about our appetites—both emotional and physical.

Tell us about your current series.

My current series begins with Blood Vine. This first book is about Croatian vampire Andre Maras who was forced from his homeland by his ancient enemies, the Hunters. He has grown weak in exile, as all vampires do when separated from their native soil. But for the first time in centuries, Andre has a reason to hope, and he is honor bound to share that reason with his fellow refugees. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to find them. So he hires a public relations firm to help. And when P.R. expert Zoey Porter arrives, she disrupts all his plans.

I’m preparing to submit the second book, and once I do, I’ll get started on the third story, both of which feature Andre’s hunky sons, Kos and Bel.

Tell us about your hero.

Andre is the head of a big vampire household, including his two sons and lots of staff who provide blood. Because of his wasting sickness, he lives in a perpetual state of painful longing for his home—an island off the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. He’s been a winemaker since the days of the Roman empire, and now he lives on his vineyard in Sonoma County, the Kastel Estate Winery. He’s ancient, gruff, wounded, and fiercely protective of his people. He’s an awesome dad to his sons, which is something that I adore about him. And he is stubborn in his refusal never to love again, but not nearly as stubborn as Zoey.

Do you prefer to read in the same genres you write in or do you avoid reading that genre? Why?

It’s funny, because I hadn’t thought about it until you asked, but with the exception of authors I already knew and loved, I mostly stopped reading new vampire stories once I started to write Blood Vine. I think I wanted to immerse myself in the world I was building. So, I switched to my other favorite—historical romances. That worked out well for me, because I could study how those authors used detail to create rich historical context, which I needed to master in order to vividly paint Andre’s Croatia. My favorite paranormal worlds are like Gail Carriger’s—rooted in a real culture, with lots of texture–and that’s what I aimed to write in Blood Vine.

Amber Belldene grew up on the Florida panhandle, swimming with alligators, climbing oak trees and diving for scallops…when she could pull herself away from a book. As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons—an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days.
Amber is an Episcopal Priest and student of religion. She believes stories are the best way to explore human truths. Some people think it is strange for a minister to write romance, but it is perfectly natural to her, because the human desire for love is at the heart of every romance novel and God made people with that desire. She lives with her husband and two children in San Francisco.


Blood Vine

Bites are an inconvenient bliss, exiled vampires are wasting away, and the fate of their kind depends on the perfect PR campaign. 

When public relations pro Zoey Porter arrives at an enchanting California winery, she discovers her sexy new client is the almost one-night stand she can’t forget. After her husband’s suicide, Zoey has vowed never to risk her heart again. But can she walk away from the intriguing winemaker a second time?

Driven from Croatia by his ancient foes, vampire Andre Maras has finally made a blood-like wine to cure his fellow refugees. Now he needs Zoey’s PR expertise to reach them. After his wife’s death, Andre has a vow of his own—never to risk another painful blood bond. And one taste of the tempting Zoey would bind him to her eternally.


The view from the parlor at sunset stunned Zoey. A wall of French doors opened onto a narrow balcony and displayed a pink sky, flush against the verdant grapevines that trailed over gentle hills. The landscape was more than enough ornament for the room and Zoey was glad Andre had left the ivory colored walls bare.

He sat chatting with Pedro, and they both stood as she walked in. She had to look a long way up to meet his eyes. Pedro poured wine into three glasses.

“I should admit I don’t have much of a palate,” she said.

“Don’t worry, we’ll guide you.” Pedro handed her a glass.

As she lifted it to her nose, Andre watched her. “Hhhmm. It smells so earthy. It’s very unusual.”

“Yes, the grapes are from our family vines on Šolta, before they were burned,” Andre said.

“A fire?” How tragic, to lose so much heritage.

Andre sipped his wine before he said, “Yes, that’s why I—why my family came to the U.S.”
“When was the fire?” she asked.

“Eighteen forty-seven,” Andre replied. Her next question had formed on her lips when he added, “It is a very long story. Another time?”


“This wine was produced from the Šoltan vines planted when this estate was founded, and recently spliced onto the vines on my new land.”

“But,” Zoey checked to be certain she understood, “it’s the Zinfandel grape whose name I have no hope of saying in Croatian?”

“Yes, that one.” Andre nodded. “The vineyards we acquired several years ago bear a startling similarity to our vineyards in Šolta and the resulting wine tastes just like the ones we used to make.”

“Were you actually able to taste wines made by your family so long ago?”

He tilted his head. “Able to taste them? Oh, I see. Yes, I was fortunate enough to taste wine made from that vineyard.”

Why did she feel like he was evading her question?

She brought her glass to her mouth and glanced up to find him watching. She lowered her lids and concentrated. When the wine hit her tongue, she opened them wide again.

She ran her tongue along the back of her teeth, searching out words for the astonishing mixture of flavors in her mouth. “It’s as thick as blood…and it tastes like sunshine, raisins and peppery licorice.”

The flecks in his green eyes glittered. “Yes, Zoey, it does.” For the first time, he didn’t call her Ms. Porter. “Your palate is perfect.”

He looked delighted with her. She glanced away, her head suddenly light, as if she hadn’t eaten all day. Darting her eyes back to him, his face had gone neutral. She wanted the delight back.

12 thoughts on “An Interview with Amber Belldene

  1. 8 jan, your release date is an auspicious day since it’s my husband’s birthday. I also write in the evenings and work on promo while hubby is watching TV. It’s way better than writing alone 🙂
    All the best with your upcoming release.

  2. Shelley and Cindy–Thanks for letting me know Jan 8th is such an important day–I’ll be sure to remember that and take comfort when my excitement jostles my nerves!

    And Cindy, thanks again for hosting me today!

  3. Thanks Maureen, say a prayer for me everyone feels that way about it 🙂

    I love an awesome dad too, and I suppose it’s no coincidence that fatherhood became such an important part of Andre’s character as I wrote Blood Vine and simultaneously watched my husband become an amazing dad to our newborn twins.

  4. Elizabeth. LOL! We’ll just have to leave that part up to everyone’s imagination. I’m delighted to hear you love the cover. I do too–the art department at Omnific Publishing always does a beautiful job, and this cover perfectly captured the the feel I hoped for Blood Vine!

  5. Wonderful interview. I love the part about hiding your Nancy Drews! I don’t think I could have gotten away with that. I am so excited for you. The book is beautiful inside and out.Can’t wait till the 8th!

  6. This interview was fun to read. Amber is certainly the kind of priest I’d want to listen to at church. She’s clearly outgoing, open minded, and progressive. The excerpt also screams GOOD WRITING HERE.

    Oh, don’t enter me in the contest because I want to buy the book to support this fine lady. Preach on, Amber!

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