Monday, December 15, 2008

Vampire Chat & Book Contest with Meljean Brook, author of THE GUARDIAN Series

"So, I just finally accepted that this is what I do: write about various types of dead people falling in love and having wild monkey sex."
Meljean Brook

"A fascinating, erotic world full of angels, demons, vampires and ambiguity." - Publishers Weekly

"Action packed, with a fascinating, one-of-a-kind vampire hero and a heroine with some very unique qualities. 4-1/2 STARS" - Romantic Times

"It's no secret that I'm 100% obsessed with this series and that I have a major girl crush on Meljean herself. I think she's bril
liant as an author..." - Book Binge

Welcome to my new weekly feature, Vampire Chats! Every week I'll have an interview and book contest.

I'm delighted to have Meljean Brook here to talk about her The Guardians series and writing career. Meljean will be giving away two copies of the First Blood anthology. (Contest rules below.)

I have a particular fondness for authors who draw from a variety of sources, crafting their stories from disparate elements, and Meljean is one of those writers. She counts comic books, 17th century poetry, mythology, the supernatural, English and American lit as influences for her dark urban fantasy novels. It's little wonder that she's venturing into steampunk next.

Meljean's the Guardian series includes: Demon Bound, Demon Night, Demon Angel , Demon Moon, and she's contributed to anthologies, including Wild Thing and Hot Spell.


MARTA: Congratulations on being included in The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance. What’s your story about, and why is this book the perfect Christmas present?

MELJEAN: Thank you! My story is called “In Sheep’s Clothing,” and features a young woman who returns to her small hometown to tell the man she left behind that she’s been turned into a werewolf ... and that she’s just bitten the serial killer who has been stalking women in the town.

The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance won’t be out in time for Christmas, but The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance is out now. Anthologies are always perfect for this time of year; everyone is busy and rushing around shopping, cooking, getting everything ready -- and it’s difficult to grab time to read a full-length novel. But novellas and short stories can be usually be read in one sitting. You get a complete story, and don’t have to worry if, when you put the book down, you won’t have time to pick it up again for a while.

MARTA: Tell us a little about you’re the Guardians series and your latest release, Demon Bound.

MELJEAN: The series is a dark urban fantasy romance series, and the Guardians are humans who have been given angelic powers and protect mankind and vampires from demons. The demons, led by Lucifer, are definitely evil -- there won’t be any romances or happily-ever-afters for them in this series.

My latest release, Demon Bound, is about the Black Widow, a Guardian who communicates with spiders and is bound by a bargain with a demon to kill Michael, the leader of the Guardians. Jake Hawkins is a young Guardian who is creeped out by the Black Widow, but who feels he has no choice but to try helping her escape from her bargain. Their book takes them to Hell and back, and was a blast to write. These two characters irritate each other until they begin striking more romantic sparks -- and even then, they are just a lot of fun.

MARTA: How’d you get started on this whole crazy paranormal thing? Isn’t reality good enough for you?

MELJEAN: Reality bites.

No, I’m kidding. I think I’m just wired this way. For as long as I can remember, my reading has always included fairy tales, superheroes, vampires, werewolves, mythology ... basically, anything weird or unseen. And I have a difficult time writing anything that doesn’t involve either the paranormal or some aspect of fantasy/science fiction. I’ve tried to write straight fiction (was required to in many college writing courses) and I either bored myself or ended up throwing a zombie in there (to my professors’ horror.) So, I just finally accepted that this is what I do: write about various types of dead people falling in love and having wild monkey sex.

MARTA: What inspires you, motivates you, or makes you freeze up at the computer?

MELJEAN: The Guardian series is directly inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost, Neil Gaiman’s & Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, Batman and Wonder Woman. I find inspiration in many sources: primarily in my reading, but also in some fantasy art, movies, and real life. Not copying them, but taking that feeling they evoke and try to work with it and work the questions they might raise into my writing.

A really great book will always do two things to me: give me that fleeting “Oh, crap -- and I call myself a writer?” feeling, but it will also push me to be a better writer. Although I love the books I’ve written, I also hope I’m never satisfied with my work, or become complacent and think “it’s good enough”; there’s always room for improvement.

And I can usually tell if the story is going really wrong; that’s when I’ll freeze up at the computer. If I’ve taken a character in a direction that doesn’t fit, if I’ve done something to the plot that just doesn’t work, I hit a block and can’t move the story forward. I don’t always know what the problem is until I go back and start pulling on the story threads, but once I’ve figured it out, I know I have to go in and change it -- even if it means completely changing something I’d planned for the book.

So I see that freeze as a good thing. It’s frustrating, sure; but ultimately, it means I’ll be fixing a part of the story that’s gone terribly wrong.

MARTA: How do you even start to do historical research on dragons and angels? Did you have to study Paradise Lost?

MELJEAN: I was in a graduate seminar studying Milton when the idea for the Guardian series began forming. I spent half the class writing notes and the other half writing down ideas for the books and characters. The Guardian mythology veers quickly from the events in Paradise Lost, but there are elements that remain: the role of free will, for example.

The dragons, vampires, angels, and other elements I pulled in from various sources and tied them together, so there are bits and pieces of many other mythologies that go into my worldbuilding (although the core concept is that demons were originally angels who rebelled against Heaven.) I owe it to the reading preferences I described earlier: if it was weird, paranormal, or related to mythology, I was reading it. So by the time I began to write this series, I had a nice well of ideas to draw from, and shelves of books to reference.

MARTA: What’s next for you?

MELJEAN: I’m currently working on the fifth full-length book in the Guardian series (there will eventually be eight). It will be out (I believe) in late 2009 or early 2010. In the summer of 2009, a Guardian story is included in the anthology Must Love Hellhounds, along with Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, and Ilona Andrews -- all fabulous authors. Then, I’ll be working on a new series of steampunk romances called the Iron Seas. I’m ridiculously excited about those.

MARTA: How do you keep track of all the rules in the Guardian world? Do you have a cheat sheet?

MELJEAN: I don’t have a cheat sheet. All of the rules are very solidly in my head, and they all have a reason behind them. Every once in a while I will go back to see exactly how I worded a detail about the worldbuilding in the books, but that’s just for consistency. Nothing drives me crazy like a series that doesn’t hold true to the rules it has set, so I try very hard not to break any of mine ... even when it would be easier to ignore some of them.

I recently outlined the story arcs that will be resolved by the end of the series, just to make certain everything that needs to be wrapped up will be addressed, but at this point, the worldbuilding won’t expand very much. The first four books threw it all out there; now, I’ve just got to play with what’s been written.

For readers who haven’t had a chance to read those four books, however, there is hope: almost everything a reader needs to know about the Guardian world and the storyline so far is in the primer on my website.

MARTA: “Supernatural” is now featuring angels battling demons. Do you think angels are the new vampires? Can you envision a teen story about a girl falling in love with an angel who goes to her high school? What would be pros and cons of such a relationship?

MELJEAN: I’m not sure if anything will ever replace vampires, although I can see angels becoming more popular -- especially since bestselling authors like J.R. Ward and Nalini Singh will be starting their own angel series soon. Whenever I read the publishing news, both angels and demons seem to be selling (in romance, young adult, and urban fantasy), and it might be that shows like Supernatural will have the same effect that Buffy once did, and the angels/demons will have an even greater spike (heh, pun not intended, but fun) in popularity.

A young girl falling in love with an angel -- I think that would depend on the angel. If he’s a holier-than-thou type, she might just want to smack him; if he’s the scary, warrior-angel type, she might fear ever sinning or breaking any rules. On the other hand, if she does sin, she’s got an in with the Dudes Upstairs. So maybe she’d get a free pass through the Pearly Gates with the right boyfriend.

I think the best part would be dating someone with wings. While all of the other girls are worrying about having a car or a boyfriend with a car, you’d get the guy who could fly you home. (Of course, if you’re like me and live in the Pacific Northwest where it rains all of the time, that wouldn’t be so awesome.)

And you’d save on gas.


Thanks so much to Meljean for answering my questions! She'll be dropping by through the week to answer any questions you have for her.

Learn more about Meljean and her books and read sample chapters on her website.

Visit Meljean on her blog, or at MySpace.

If you'd like to win one of two copies of First Blood, with stories by Meljean, Susan Sizemore, Erin McCarthy and Chris Marie Green, just leave a comment! The contest runs through Saturday night, 12/20, and winners will be chosen at random.


Jackie Ballway said...

Anyone who invokes the glory that is Good Omens is a wonderful person in my book! Those two men have such a perfect sense of humor for that type of novel.

I notice a lot of authors who write about angels or demons reference Dante's Divine Comedy. Was there a specific reason Paradise Lost struck a stronger cord with you?

Amberkatze said...

Nice interview!! I look forward to reading First Blood when I manage to get hold of a copy!

Oh and Marta -

tetewa said...

Enjoyed the interview and I love reading anthologies. You get a chance to read a book with several authors, this is how I've discovered new ones!

meljean brook said...

Jackie -- I have included a little bit of Dante in the series (it's very hard not to, and I think it makes the mythology more textured and interesting to have bits and pieces that are recognizable not as Milton's, but from other Western literature that describes Hell. Literature has become my source material rather than the Bible, mostly because I'm more comfortable and familiar with the literature after taking so many classes.)

As for Paradise Lost, it might be luck -- because I was in that graduate class at the right time -- but it's also because the description of Hell in those early books (and of Lucifer, and all those qualities that make him evil -- his ambition, his individualism, his slick way of talking -- and are now more on the "heroic" side of the scale) was just fascinating (and, I thought, fun.) So while I was trying to think of a background for a romance, everything I'd been reading just slid right into place.

Amberkatze -- thank you, and I hope you enjoy it!

tetewa -- I feel the same way. I've been introduced to quite a few authors through anthologies that I bought for another story.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Great interview!
For the longest time my view of angels were much like the ones in Kevin Smith's movie, Dogma. Pretty to look at, but nothing under the robe. Also blame the years of catholic school relgion.
You have certainly opened my mind in that aspect, Meljean! :D

Marnie Colette a.k.a marniebelle said...

First - I love your books. Demon Bound was especially great. Now, can you spill anything on your steampunk romances Iron Seas? I am dying to get some more info.

SciFiGuy said...

Hi Meljean it is so good to learn that there will be 8 Guardians books altogether. Lots to look forward to. And steampunk too - you are spoiling us :)

Marta great start to your new Vampire Chat.

Marta said...

Hi, everyone! Jackie, I completely agree with you and Meljean about GOOD OMENS. I loved this smart, funny take on the end of the world.

Also, I second Marnie's request for info on Meljean's venture into steampunk!

Marta said...

(Amberkatze, thanks for the nomination!)

Shell said...

Great interview. I love that Meljean takes inspiration from classic literature for her novels. The geeky once English Major in me think that totally rocks.

meljean brook said...

Katiebabs -- I'm always happy to show you what is under the angels' robes :-P

Marnie Colette -- it will be Victorian-ish (set on Earth, but with an altered history; Victorian will still make sense though, I promise) with nano-tech and steam, a dirigible, and pirates :-D I promise I'll have more info as soon as I get the go-ahead.

SciFiGuy -- I like having an "end" in mind; it gives me something to aim for in the series, rather than kind of meandering around. Exploring the world I've created is great, but I also want it to have a purpose.

Marta -- I haven't read a lot of Terry Pratchett, but I love Neil Gaiman's work like crazy. And I'm not usually a HUGE fan of funny books, but the humor in that one just hit me exactly right. Absurd and cutting (but cutting with heart), without being slapstick.

Shell -- it truly is geeky. I end up throwing all things geek in the books, if I can; I really can't help myself. And it keeps everything fun while I'm writing. I know a lot of times, I mention Milton and eyes start to glaze over, and then I'm like, "No, no! They're not boring, I swear!"

And any book series where you can throw in references to Dante and All Your Base Are Belong To Us in the same novel *has* to be fun, right? :-D

katayoun said...

great interview!!! and also good to know that someone is writing about people, dead people having wild monkey sex!!! :)
i'd love to be entered for first blood!
and ooh now that you are talking books and authors, well a bit more in the comments, but you did :) what do you think about diana wynne jones

80slady said...

Fantastic interview!!
Always happy to see new authors (new to me).

zombiecazz said...

Just found this blog....I'm in Heaven....or hell or some kinda of safe haven where others understand my need for vampire fiction. thank you thank you thank you.
I agree with the author, I'm just wired that way ( wish I could write though).

Marta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marta said...

Zombiecazz, welcome to Vampire Wire! You can be our Scottish correspondent. Put that on your business cards. We expect you to update us on every bit of important Gerard Butler/Dracula 2000 news!

macbeaner said...

Sounds like a great book! And I can't wait to read Meljean's books (one of them is in my TBR pile. I swear!)

Karin said...

What a great interview! I enjoyed reading through it. I've enjoyed all of your books I've had a chance to read and look forward to reading those I haven't had a chance to yet.

Ladytink_534 said...

Okay I can't put it off any longer. I have to read this series!

Carmen R said...

Ok ever day that I come here I end up adding more books to my wish list I think I'm gonna have to win the lotto to keep up with all that i want to read. The Guardians series will now be on this never ending list of mine.

Chris said...

I love your quote at the very beginning of this blog entry, Meljean! Hee hee.

CrystalGB said...

Great interview. I would love to read First Blood. :)

Marta said...

Hi, everyone! Carmen, who may win the contest! I hope that Meljean will keep me up to date on any other contests so readers with limited funds can enjoy her series. And there's always the library!

MsValerie said...

Terrific interview! I'm definitely looking forward to First Blood.

Maered said...

Great interview! I like it when authors have a set no. of books for a series. Nothing hurts more than watching your favourite series go down the drain.

Kat said...

Loving the series. So complex, intricate, fascinating and hot!

Good to know there is much more coming out from Meljean - such a great author. I'll be updating my wish list.

meljean brook said...

katayoun -- I was a little late coming to Diana Wynne Jones. I was babysitting my nieces (and without anything to read) when I saw a copy of Howl's Moving Castle. And, of course, I loved it like mad. I've slowly worked my way through a few other of her books, but Howl's remains my favorite. They have all been fantastic, though.

80slady -- finding new authors is fantastic. The pile of books tipping over near my wall and my groaning wallet don't always agree, but *I* like it :-D

zombiecazz -- Oh, I love this blog. I'm usually a lurker, but Marta manages to come up with the best links, and her GVDs are great.

meljean brook said...

macbeaner -- if it isn't the first one, do run across the primer mentioned. I write each book to be as standalone as possible, but if you come in after the Hot Spell anthology (any fans of Emma Holly, Lora Leigh, and Shiloh Walker here? You might already have this book.) or after Demon Angel, the "Story So Far" section will probably be helpful just giving you an overview.

Karin -- thank you! I hope I never disappoint you (and if I do, that the next book will make up for it) :-)

Ladytink -- I hope you love it!

meljean brook said...

Carmen R -- I have that pile of books AND a list, and I definitely need more money and time to keep up with both :-D

Chris -- Hee, and it's true! I suppose that'll change for the steampunk series (they aren't dead) but it's true that I love everything (except the romance and the hot monkey lurve) to be just a little weird. Or a lot weird.

meljean brook said...

Ms. Valerie -- Thank you! I hope you do enjoy it.

Maered -- that's what I'm trying to avoid, too. Some authors can maintain a very long running series without losing that spark and the excitement that surrounds the world; I don't think I could, and I'd never want to write anything that is either repetitive OR that gets more and more outlandish trying to outdo what has come before. At some point, I'll have to move on -- and there are many more worlds worth visiting.

meljean brook said...

Kat -- I'm not sure yet when the next one will be out (the pub date isn't set yet) but I'll definitely keep my site updated whenever I get more info.

Tanya said...

Great interview...I'm glad you started doing this on your blog Marta :)

Tanya said...

would love for you to interview Kat Richardson, Valerie Stivers

Raven99 said...

Great interview. The Guardian series certainly was inspired by an eclectic group of sources. Also, thanks for including a link to the primer. My husband is giving me Demon Bound and Demon Angel for Christmas and I was worried I would be lost without reading the books that came between those two releases.

Anonymous said...

pleses enter me for her book! love to win

Anonymous said...

i have demon bound and demon angel


PatriciaAltner said...

I must admit this is a new series to me. Where have I been?? The concept of warring angels and demons fascinates me, and there are vampires in it too!! I am anxious to read this series.

This was such an enjoyable interview. Thanks to Marta and Meljean!

cfisher said...

Great interview!! Can't wait to read “In Sheep’s Clothing”.

sarabelle said...

Good Morning. Happy Holidays. Great post, thank you so much for sharing yourself with us. I havent read this book yet because I want to start the series from the beginning I just havent been able to buy books lately so therefor it is at the top of my TBR list, I am hoping maybe santa will bring me some GC to have a book shopping spree with.

Kirsten said...

This is a new series to me, too. Thanks for the interview!

mindy said...

thanks for a wonderful contest

Amber said...

Enjoyed the interview! I'd love to be entered to win a copy of First Blood. Thanks!

rowan said...

Thanks for the interview! I am looking forward to checking out Maljean's books.

mom2anutball said...

Great interview! Please enter me!

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Great interview. The books sound amazing, though I haven't been able to read them yet...I should give them a try. I like the idea of angels vs. demons. Anything supernatural is quite interesting to me as well!

lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

meljean brook said...

Tanya -- I'm glad Marta asked me, and I'm looking forward to her interviews, as well.

Raven -- I hope you enjoy them! And if you have any questions as you're reading them, do feel free to contact me if there is something the primer doesn't cover. I'll be more than happy to answer :-)

Gypsy -- thanks for stopping by! :-)

Patricia -- Ha! I feel like that, too, whenever I come across a description of a fantastic series: Where have I been? (And that is also the reason why my to-be-read stack is a towering mountain.)

meljean brook said...

cfisher -- the Mammoth collections are really fantastic, in that they allow you to try so many new voices. Writing a story that short was difficult, I'll admit -- but also a fantastic challenge. I hope you enjoy it!

Sarabelle -- I hope Santa brings what you want! :-) I totally understand about starting a series at the beginning. As much as I try to keep the books standalone, there are always little references to previous books that are more enjoyable if you know those characters. It's a difficult balance, but I hope one that -- even if you do read out of order -- mentions of previous storylines wouldn't jolt you out of the story. I always prefer not to know what I'm missing than have those references leave me scratching my head.

meljean brook said...

Kristen, mindy, Amber, Rowan, mom2anutball (love that name!) -- thank you all for stopping by, and good luck :-)

Lauren -- I'm the same way. Just mention "supernatural" and my ears perk up.

meljean brook said...

CrystalGB -- I missed you before! Eeek! My eyes ran right over the comments. Thanks for entering the contest, and I hope you do give them a try! :-)

Katie said...

Meljean, thanks for the great interview! I have had your books on my TBR list for while...hopefully, I will get to them one day very soon!

Thanks again!

The_Book_Queen said...

Amazing interview-- good job! I can't wait to read First Blood. I have read books from almost all of the authors in the book, and enjoyed them.

findtimetoread said...

Awesome interview! I can't wait to read First Blood. My love for vampires has once again been stoked.

Marta said...

Hi, everyone, for stopping by. Meljean mentioned in our email exchanges that First Blood might be a better prize for her interview because the stories stand on their own. I think it's great that she's kicking in a prize that introduces readers to her writing, as well as the fiction of other best-selling authors.

adelina said...

Great interview. It would be awesome to win First Blood! I bought and read Demon Bound the week it was released and loved it! I can't wait for more Guardian books. And I can't wait for Irena's book, seriously, she's one of my favorites!

Chuk said...

I am so excited to hear about the new Guardian books and the new series. I've been waiting for the book to come into the library (darn the economizing I have to do on books!) but I would love to own!!! Although nothing kept me from Demon Bound on day 1

Happy holidays!

Marta said...

Congratulations to contest winners KatieBab, aka KB, and CFisher! Please email your addresses to me and I'll forward them to Meljean so you can receive your prizes.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

meljean brook said...

Katie -- thank you! I hope you enjoy them :-)

The Book Queen -- I was really lucky in this anthology to be with such a fabulous list of authors. I've been blessed in all of my anthologies that way; I love being able to recommend them not just for my work, but because the others are such fantastic authors.

findtimetoread -- I do mostly write about the Guardians, but I couldn't help myself with the vampires. They've been in my blood (gah, bad pun) since I was a kid reading Nancy Garden. Leaving them out of the series was unthinkable.

meljean brook said...

Adelina -- Oh, fantastic! I'm so glad you enjoyed Demon Bound. Irena is giving me a hard time, but I love her for it. If romance was easy, I don't think it'd be as fun or as rewarding to read.

Chuk -- Oh, I know exactly. There are so many great books, but sometimes food and shelter does have to come first :-D