Andrea Speed: Lions and Monsters and Men—Oh My! (The interview)

Andrea, welcome. Thank you for allowing me to feature you and your work on

Ciao bella! (This is me, pretending to be Italian for no obvious reason.)

Q: Andrea, you live just a couple of towns and a large army base away from me here in the Pacific Northwest, and your facebook profile says you’re from Seattle. Have you lived anywhere else? What about our landscape, climate, and the peculiar fashion habits of some denizens (such as socks with sandals) do you like about the region? Anything you really don’t like? Does any of that influence your fiction, and if so, how?
Northwest Rainforest
A: I’ve pretty much just lived all over Washington all of my life, and I’d say I’m spoiled by it. We have mountains, forests (a rainforest even) and beaches, plus a desert if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s a beautiful state. And it’s an integral part of Infected, if only because Seattle, in this alternate universe, is one of the few cities where the cat church can exist, making it an unintentional magnet for the infected. Which opens up its own can of worms.

Q: Your Josh of the Damned series starter (to be released 10/30 by Riptide Publishing), “Pretty Monsters,” appears to be laugh-out-loud funny. Your more serious recent release, The Little Death, seems to have a humorous edge. Is humor a common theme or element in your fiction? Why write horror and crime with humor?
A: I like to think of myself as a failed comedian, because I love humor, and that seems to be my main coping mechanism. So I guess it’s not surprising that this has carried over to my characters. They all pretty much have a good sense of humor, and use it to get through. In the case of Roan (the lead in my Infected series), who’s had an exceedingly hard life, humor is what helped him hold it together in very hard times. It was a choice of laughing or crying, and he chose laughing. And occasionally punching things, but that’s as valid a coping mechanism as any.

Personally, I think you can find humor in many things. Knowing I’m completely screwed often makes me snicker, because it’s so silly. Completely screwed! Well, that’s life for you. You can find it in almost any situation, as long as you don’t mind getting a bit dark.

Q: Why did you choose to write the jaded PI in The Little Death? Will we be seeing more of Falconer (a series)? Did you have the character first, or the story concept, and which usually comes to you first?
A: I love the detective genre (again, I can point to the Infected series), especially those hard boiled detectives of old, and I always wanted to write what essentially was a gay Raymond Chandler detective. A snarky, somewhat functional alcoholic who always finds himself beaten up and double crossed and is forced to figure out what was going on before he got himself killed. Jake is not the most competent detective, but I like to think if he sobered up a bit, he’d be much better at his job. This story was unusual in the fact that I built it around the cover, as I took the cover in a writing challenge. (Note from LS: the cover for TLD was done by Dan Skinner of Cerberus, Ink. And wow, great cover!) But immediately I had Jake, the Raymond Chandler-esque detective. He was a given, as he’s someone I always wanted to write.

Q: You are, or have been involved with a publisher of comics. Can you talk about that a little—perhaps give us an idea what you do there? Have you been published in that arena?
A: I’m just a reviewer, although I’ve written the introductions to two graphic novels, Bomb Queen II: Dirty Bomb (an awesome if occasionally tasteless satire of “bad girl” comics) by Jimmie Robinson, available from Image Comics, and the upcoming Diary of A Catering Whore by Sean Seamus McWhinny, which should be out soon from Northwest Press. Comic writing is a lot like screenplay writing, which I’ve never mastered, but I admire those who can do it well.

Q: In The Little Death, we get an idea instantly of who Falconer is, his general characteristics, personality, approach to the world. But really, other than the reference to an “homme fatale,” there are few clues to Sloane. Is there anything you can share about him? This is a detective story, but also romance. Assuming Sloane is Falconer’s love interest, what initially stands in the way of their getting together? Of course there’s more I would ask, but I don’t want to do any spoiling, so I’ll move on to the next question….
A: Ooh, the femme fatale is never really a love interest in pulp detective stories, just a seducer, and the same is true of Sloane here. He’s a honey trap, so to speak. No, Jake’s real love interest is his ex, a square cop named Kyle Gomez. Jake has no idea how they ever got together in the first place, they’re so different, but there’s still some obvious lingering chemistry between them. They still care about one another, and Kyle eventually becomes entangled in the case, if only out of his desire to protect Jake.

Q: I ask this of every author I interview and give the same rules. Fudge but don’t cheat (you can’t just say “both”), and no one word answers. This is an essay question: Who’s sexier—Falconer or Sloane? Josh or Hot Guy—assuming Hot Guy is the second in the romance?
A: Between Jake and Sloane? Well, Sloane has it on him in physical attraction, which even Jake would admit, but I think Jake has a slightly more attractive personality. At least he generally means well.

Hot Guy is the second in the romance, and come on, no contest – Hot Guy. (Whose name is Colin.) He’s also … well, it would spoil, but let’s say he’ll always have a leg up on all human competition, and leave it at that. The playing field is not fair; it’s rigged in his favor. He’s very hot and very seductive, and he’s got a kind of bad boy/mysterious allure, which it’s difficult not to like. In an overall contest, Hot Guy would take the crown. Unless you threw in Paris from the Infected series, because he’d win hands down. He’s probably the most attractive character I’ve ever written about.

Q: What would you like readers to know about your Infected series? It’s an interesting concept, that the ability to shift is caused by a virus. How did you get that idea? What can you tell us about the main characters?
A:The true inspiration came about a decade or so ago, when I was reading an article in a science magazine (n.b. – I love science magazines. It takes all kinds …) about gene therapy. You know they use “neutered” viruses to impart new DNA into the host? I always wondered what would happen if someone screwed up, or deliberately tried to rig that system, perhaps for a benefit. What happens next? I thought it would be awesome to fold that into a werewolf story, but werewolves have been done to death, so I thought werecats was the way forward. This was before the werecat explosion – I got in just ahead of the curve, I think.

I’d be completely disingenuous if I didn’t admit I kept HIV in mind as well, and certainly there are aspects to that in the story (blood and bodily fluid transmissions seem to be the only way to get infected, and there’s a social stigma attached to it, even though there shouldn’t be). But the odd aspect of the cat virus allowed me to go to stranger areas, such as the church and the worshipping of the virus by some very misguided people, and things like that.

As for the main characters, I keep expanding the universe, adding new characters (who come and go, as in life), but Roan is the constant. For those who don’t know, he’s a former cop turned private detective, and he’s perhaps the only know fully functioning “virus child”, meaning he was born infected. Most babies born with the virus who don’t die come out very deformed and have short, miserable lives, but for whatever reason, Roan came out as close to normal as you’d like. Still, he has some things that make him different (a bloodhound level sense of smell, for example), but even he’s in the dark about how different he truly is. As the series goes on, both he and we learn how different he truly is, not only from regular humans but from other infecteds as well. Roan has always struggled with the lion inside him (he’s lion strain), but that takes center stage as he comes to understand how unusual he really is. I’d say more, but I’d spoil.

Q: Can you talk a bit about your covers by Anne Cain for the Infected series? I don’t see the name of the artist for “Pretty Monsters.” Any information? Thoughts?
A: Jordan Taylor is responsible for putting together the “Pretty Monsters” cover, and she did a damn fine job of it.

As for Anne Cain, I got so lucky that she’s done my covers, and she’s done so beautifully on all of them. The only input I’ve ever really had on those covers is I’m responsible for the Paris tattoo on Roan’s arm (featured since Infected: Bloodlines), and the pier in the background of Infected: Bloodlines. That’s it. She’s a genius, and the best thing I can do is get out of her way, so I do.

Q: Andrea, what can your readers expect to see in the future? More in the series we’ve talked about? New things in the works? Aside from the October 30th release of “Pretty Monsters” (Josh of the Damned #1), any upcoming dates we should know about?
A: I don’t have an exact release date yet – or cover art – but the next in the Infected series, Infected: Freefall, should be out by early next year (late this year at the earliest, but I doubt it’ll come out of that fast). There’s also the next in the Josh of the Damned series coming out in January, “Peek-A-Boo (Josh of the Damned #2)”, and for Josh stories down the road, there’s one about a rampaging giant mustache (I am not kidding), and possibly one about Cthulhu’s ne’er-do-well half brother. I’m also writing a fantasy novel called Strange Angels, which should be out on Riptide in the near future, depending on whenever I finish the thing.

Thank you, Andrea! I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get to know you a bit and learn more about your work. I hope you’ll come back and visit again sometime.

I’d love to! If you’d have me, and if I haven’t been committed yet. (I understand mental institutions have spotty internet connections.)

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