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