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In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.
Until recently, Roan was ahead of the curve when it came to reining in the lion that lives inside him. Now his control is slipping at the worst possible times. A new drug has hit the streets—one that triggers unscheduled changes in infected users. Street hustler Holden Krause gets attacked by one of his clients, then is surprised to find himself involved in an unwanted, unexpected relationship. And a serial killer begins targeting infecteds in their cat form—something that’s 100 percent legal.
To stop the murders, Roan has to work outside the law. But his newfound thirst for violence makes him worry he might be more like the killer than he thought, and his reluctance to talk about it with his husband, Dylan, puts an extra strain on their relationship. So Roan isn’t just fighting the killer and struggling with his mutating virus… he’s trying to save himself.
Andrea Speed writes way too much. She is the Editor In Chief of CxPulp.com, where she reviews comics as well as movies and occasionally interviews comic creators. She also has a serial fiction blog where she writes even more, and she occasionally reviews books for Joe Bob Briggs’s site. She might be willing to review you, if you ask nicely enough, but really she should knock it off while she’s ahead.
Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Usually names come to me when I’m writing, and I’m glad, as they’re very vital in telling you about your character. For instance, everyone in the Infected series has a very telling name: Roan is named after a rough approximation of his haircolor, and has a Scottish surname that nearly everyone pronounces incorrectly, so you know right away you’re dealing with a stubborn Scotsman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, yet must suffer them a lot. Paris had a slightly exotic name, pointing towards his exotic (tiger) nature and appeal. Dylan has actually changed his name to his mother’s surname to escape his younger, more troubled self and his violent childhood. And Holden’s real name is known to a select few, while he’s mostly known by his street nickname, Fox, giving him a complex identity all based on what name a person calls him. So names are super important, and everyone has their name for a specific reason.
As for titles … wow, do I struggle with those. I don’t know why, but that’s usually the last thing I come up with. I’m really bad with them. This is probably why nearly all the Infected chapter titles are song titles.
Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Since the latest book is Infected: Lesser Evils, that would be alternate universe Seattle, much like the real one, just with some places and street names swapped or invented, and cat virus infected people walking around. It seemed a natural to set Infected in Seattle (and Washington State as a whole) because I lived there, still live in Washington State, and I knew going in that the whole thing would have to be set in progressive city, where you got the good (an infected cop, for example) with the bad (a whole religious cult built around infecteds) of an open door policy. A city that was slow to embrace societal shifts would shut down about half of the plot points immediately, so the story had to be somewhere where people would try very hard to accomidate the different, but go overboard perhaps, in some circumstances, and trigger a backlash in other ways. Places where the different would have no choice but to go completely underground is a different story, and frankly, Roan wouldn’t stand for it. He’d have gotten the hell out of there first thing, and I would have to put the plot into pretzel like contortions to make him stay somewhere he didn’t want to be, because he’s an especially willful character.
And that speaks to locations in general. They can have a profound effect on a story and a character, depending on how close to reality you get with your tale. Now I enjoy writing science fiction – places that don’t exist, don’t exist now, or can’t exist – and horror – places that don’t exist, places that have taken a turn for the crazy – and those genres allow you to do whatever you want to whatever you want (same with fantasy). But if you want to try and stick to as much realism as possible, that’s hampering. Not in a bad way at all, though, because sometimes that forces you to be more deliberate in your choices, and to think through the repercussions. “If x happens, then y has to occur, and it’ll probably all become z”. That can spur new ideas.
Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: They have a lot, whether I give it to them or not. So they might as well have it.
Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: That they’re relationships like any other relationship. No matter the genders involved, they all have rythyms, peaks and valleys, and some work, and some never can. No different from anyone else’s relationships.
Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Sometimes I do get suggestions from readers on what they might like to see characters do, but I’m not sure I’ve ever used one.
Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Friendly, cordial. But not so friendly restraining orders are involved.
Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: That they exist and can help spread word about your book. Sometimes there’s constructive criticism that works as well.
Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Sexiest? Well, that depends on a lot of factors. Paris was pretty much made to be the most attractive guy on the planet, and holy hell, is he ever, but I suppose for me personally, I’d have to pick Roan, for his sense of humor and his general refusal to let people hold him down. Also our taste in noisy music is similar. Which is a super boring answer, but there it is.
Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Eeee … this might qualify as a spoiler, since its in the new book, Infected: Lesser Evils. So can I just say read it, and hopefully you’ll know it when you read it? (Really, Andrea? I think you cheated, here, bigtime. But okay, I’ll read it and let you know.)
Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Right now I have some many irons in the fire I t’s crazy. I’m working on more Infected, of course, including a Paris prequel and a possible Holden solo story, and I have more coming up in my Josh of the Damned comedy-horror series. Oh, and there’s this fantasy novel in the works, and a science fiction one as well. So I hope I live long enough to write it all down.
Excerpt from Infected: Lesser Evils
Roan knew he should never have taken Nadia Rubin’s case the moment he took it.
She couldn’t afford him, she’d know he was taking pity on her and would probably resent it, and it wasn’t his usual thing anyways. She was asking him to be a bodyguard as much as a detective, and that really wasn’t his thing.
Still, how did you turn down a fellow infected? Especially when they were being threatened by another infected. It almost felt like a duty.
What she was, was a waitress who wasn’t wearing enough makeup to cover all the broken blood vessels beneath her eyes, indications of past beatings. She was a cougar strain, in the midst of a divorce from her abusive husband, Mike Oliver, who been threatening her. The problem was, the threats were obscure and personal—leaving dead flowers inside her car, leaving dead mice on her porch, flooding her e-mail with spam, putting dog shit in her mailbox, throwing red food coloring on her door—and to get him arrested she’d have to prove he did it. The cops had talked to him, but it had had no effect whatsoever, and she was sure he was going to ratchet things up, mainly because she’d finally got a restraining order. Right now she had no idea where he was living, as he’d been evicted from his last apartment, and all his family lived in Alabama or Virginia. What she wanted Roan to do was twofold: find where Mike was, and catch him in the act of vandalism. If she could prove something, she could get him arrested for harassment and violating the restraining order.
Oh, and he was cougar strain too. Apparently they’d met through the Church of the Divine Transformation. Sometimes Roan wondered if the universe took perverse pleasure in mocking him.