Not Spooky at all, really. Just an interview, but you can read it (in costume or not) at Book Wenches. Bobby D. Whitney asked me some great, challenging questions about humor, and landscape, and the meaning of hero. And more. I really enjoyed the interview.
Monthly Archives: October 2011
Welcome Andrea Speed as featured author this week. Farther down the page you’ll find excerpts and an interview a little more about her work. Enjoy, and leave a comment or question if you wish, for Andrea or for me, Lou Sylvre. Thanks!
Note: as is standard on this blog, all cover images are links to the book at the publisher’s site, in case you’ve decided to buy or just want to check it out some more.
Jake Falconer, a hard-boiled detective in Echo City, is struggling with his love of booze, a square ex (and a cop, no less) he can’t get over, and a murdered partner. In sashays Sloane, an homme fatal whose twin brother has gone missing. The search leads them to a sex club used for blackmailing the city’s most powerful, and soon Jake finds himself hip deep in sex and danger—it’s a good thing he’s no stranger to slogging through either.
Andrea Speed was born looking for trouble in some hot month without an R in it. While succeeding in finding Trouble, she has also been found by its twin brother, Clean Up, and is now on the run, wanted for the murder of a mop and a really cute, innocent bucket that was only one day away from retirement. (I was framed, I tell you – framed!) In her spare time, she arms lemurs in preparation for the upcoming war against the Mole Men. Viva la revolution!
Andrea, welcome. Thank you for allowing me to feature you and your work on Sylvre.com.
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?
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.)
I slumped back in my seat and pulled the flask out of the drawer. I had to fulfill the cliché, so it was a silver flask filled with cheap rotgut, which I swigged with abandon even while wincing at the taste.
So yeah, I’m the cliché, a private dick with a cheap office and a dead partner and more debt than I could possibly pay off in a month of Sundays. Not that you could tell from my door. Used to be there was a name painted on the window, but that wasn’t true anymore. The hail of bullets that killed Spencer, my partner in snooping, destroyed the original door, so this was the replacement. I was supposed to hire painters to replace the name, but what was I going to replace it with? Was I really gonna go from Spencer & Falconer, Private Detectives to Falconer, Private Detective? I had no choice, I’d hafta, or I’d hafta find a new partner. Yeah, right.
Maybe I’d just hafta retire, find a real job, one that didn’t cut your life span in half and leave you with more trouble than a nun with a grudge in hell’s half acre. The problem was I couldn’t do much else, and frankly I didn’t want to. As much
as I hated it sometimes, I was born to be a private dick. I couldn’t change that any more than a zebra could change its stripes.
Sloane had left me his brother’s e-mail and the header of the threatening mail, so I got out my laptop and had a look for myself. Phone calls might taper off, but spam was eternal, sure to continue on long after the world had imploded and was a scarred, barren shell.
The e-mail was a dead end. There was no name, and the e-mail address was one of those that hid your IP address and was just a random series of letters and numbers that ended with a domain name that seemed to indicate the e-mail was sent from somewhere in Eastern Europe, from one of those former Soviet countries that ended in -ia. There was no way I could track that, and while I was sure I could eventually find someone to ask about tracing the e-mail, I’d be an old man with a prostate the size of a grapefruit by the time they got back to me. That wasn’t worth pursuing.
I looked through Sander’s e-mail, though, but that was the funny thing. There was nothing in any of the files save the inbox and the junk mail folder. Even the trash had been emptied. Not that that meant anything—some people just never bothered to save e-mails—but it made me wonder if Sloane had gone through it, sweeping away anything that his brother might have gotten into that was the least bit hinkey. It was something to chew on.
I drained my flask and then realized there was only one thing left to do. Well, two things: the first was refill my flask. The second was go to Heat, see if I could retrace Sander’s steps the night he disappeared. I downloaded a hot picture of Sander from his Facebook page, although it could have been Sloane instead, since they were both hot in the same way.
I didn’t do the gay club scene, or any club scene, mainly because I wasn’t the type. Even if it wasn’t a cliché, I don’t care for people much. It seems like all they do is betray you, either in the form of a venereal disease or in the form of a
sexy guy who lets you take him home and then comes back later and fills your business partner full of lead. Even a misanthrope like me can think with his dick, but I paid for it. Or should I say Spencer paid for it—I lived to fuck again. Except I haven’t gotten laid since then. If you’re thinking it’s guilt, you’re giving me too much credit. It’s having to find a way to pay all the bills that’s been keeping me from seeing anything besides my own surly mug in the morning.
As it was, the city’s club scene, gay and straight, was dying. Everything in this city was dying, some of it slower than others, but in the end it was all bones and ashes. The gay clubs were doing slightly better, but only because some of the guys needed the scene—they hadn’t quite mastered Manhunt or Craigslist or didn’t want to—or were younger guys tired of Internet trolls. But I had the vague conception that they were sad places if you were over twenty-five, and at thirty-four I was entering “circling the drain” territory.
Maybe I should have changed clothes, looked less like me, but I wasn’t fishing for a trick, I had a job to do. So I stayed in my slightly baggy black suit and blue shirt, with my black duster on top of it all, and my tie so thin and black it looked like someone had erased a vertical line into my chest. I liked dressing black and blue, ’cause most of the time I was matching my bruises.
Heat was just what I expected: noisy, hot, filled with wannabes and never-weres, posers who thought all they needed were designer jeans and too-tight shirts to make up for their fatal lack of personality. I should have asked if it worked, ’cause I could use all the help I could get.
Josh knew the night shift at the Quik-Mart would be full of freaks and geeks—and that was before the hell portal opened in the parking lot. Still, he likes to think he can roll with things. Sure, the zombies make a mess sometimes, but at least they never reach for anything more threatening than frozen burritos.
Besides, it’s not all lizard-monsters and the walking dead. There’s also the mysterious hottie with the sly red lips and a taste for sweets.
Josh has had the hots for Hot Guy since the moment he laid eyes on him, and it seems Hot Guy might be sweet on Josh too. Now if only Josh could figure out whether that’s a good thing, a bad thing, or something in between. After all, with a hell vortex just a stone’s throw away, Josh has learned to take nothing at face value—even if it’s a very, very pretty face.
The first time the hell vortex opened in the Quick-Mart parking lot, Josh very seriously considered quitting his job. But all that came out of it was a lizard guy, and all it did was amble inside, buy a bag of chips, and leave. All the monsters, while ugly, seemed nicer than his late-night human customers, and Mr. Kwon offered him hazard pay, so he stayed on.
Besides, it wasn’t all bad on the night shift. For instance, right now he was looking forward to the return of Hot Guy.
Of course it was a super hot night, still eighty degrees around midnight, and the air conditioner had to pick now to die. Josh peeled off his polyester work smock and put his nametag on his t-shirt, hoping Mr. Kwon wouldn’t suddenly show up and demand he put it back on. It breathed like a trash bag.
His latest customer was an obviously stoned guy buying a wheelbarrow full of snacks. Not only were his eyes glassy and red, but he reeked of pot smoke, making Josh wonder if he’d spilled the bong water. Pot Guy left and someone else came in. Josh leaned over the checkout counter, hopeful, but it wasn’t Hot Guy, just a lizard guy.
“Guy” in a generic, gender free sense of the word, of course, because Josh had no idea how to tell if they were male or female. Maybe they didn’t even have genders. He didn’t know how to ask without being a rude bastard, and there was a chance he wouldn’t understand the answer anyway.
The lizard guys were all tall, and this one was no exception, at least six foot five and so broad across the shoulders it could barely fit in the aisle. They had all your basic equipment—two arms, two legs, a recognizable face—but their mouths were huge, they had no nose, and their scaled skin ranged in color from moss green to primer gray. This one was a kind of greenish-gray, like his roommate that time he got food poisoning.
Like all lizard guys, this one had a weird gait because its feet were huge, with six long toes that almost looked like fingers . . . which was extra weird because their hands were always small and had just four stubby fingers. They looked like they’d been put together by a five year old with a bad sense of proportion.
They also made such a racket you could hear them all the way from the back room. It reminded him of his first Craigslist roommate, Barry, who couldn’t do anything, even open the damn curtains, without making several decibels of needless noise. For the brief time they’d shared a place, Josh had been convinced Barry was hiding a megaphone to fart into just for effect.
Thwak-thwak-thwak echoed in the shop as Lizard Guy waddle-stomped down the aisle, making a beeline for the Fritos display. It grabbed two bags and turned back, waddle-stomping to the register.
But when your heart is gone, it’s easy to fall into a black hole and never crawl out. Roan has been lost and alone for more than a year, and his best friends think a new case might be just the motivation he needs. Roan forces himself back into the game and discovers a dead man who might not be all that dead, a street hustler that wants to hustle him, and a dominatrix who is well prepared to take Roan’s orders. As Roan claws his way out of the darkness by diving back into his work, he finds himself in a race against time in the adrenaline-pumping realization that nothing helps a person want to live like helping someone else survive.
The murder of a former cop draws Roan into an odd case where an unidentifiable species of cat appears to be showing an unusual level of intelligence. He juggles that with trying to find a missing teenage boy, who, unbeknownst to his parents, was “cat” obsessed. And when someone is brutally murdering infecteds, Eli Winters, leader of the Church of the Divine Transformation, hires Roan to find the killer before he closes in on Eli.
Working the crimes will lead Roan through a maze of hate, personal grudges, and mortal danger. With help from his tiger-strain infected partner, Paris Lehane, he does his best to survive in a world that hates and fears their kind… and occasionally worships them.
The newly married Roan is struggling to balance his work with his home life as he grows increasingly distracted by his husband Paris’s declining health. One case with strong emotions attached takes up most of his time: finding the murderer of a missing little rich girl. It’s a family with secrets so toxic they’d rather no one investigate, and there’s no shortage of suspects. But despite the dangers and obstructions involved, Roan won’t stop… until he loses something infinitely precious as well.
We five authors had a lot of fun doing this, and we hope you’ll enjoy the results. Each of us came up with a question for the interview, and all of us answered every question. So let the games begin!
As both a writer and a reader, what ingredients do you consider indispensable for a romance novel?
Anne:Interesting three dimensional characters and a ‘real’ relationship or building of one between them. I want to be able to care about the characters, even if it takes me a while to grow to like them. There also needs to be some conflict they need to work through whether it’s their history, a situation outside of their relationship or whatnot so that their HEA or HEA feels as though it’s deserved and worked for.
A common enemy or opposing force
Conflict between the parties to the romance
Resolution of that conflict
United victory over the external opposition
A final consummation or sealing of the new love.
Elizabeth: A solid plot and a good story with characters I have some sort of emotional reaction to, even if that means the character is a jerk.
I’m a huge fan of the happy ending, in some manner, and I’m not a fan of the tragedy. I read because I want to feel good, so the characters and the plot need to come to some logical end that is at least nice. I don’t mean they have to be ooey-gooey, just not in tears and emotionally wrecked at the end.
No matter the setting and world the characters must be believable and solid in their development and the development and progress of their relationship. I particularly need characters who can communicate and have a sense of humor.
T.J.: Believable characters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pulled out of a story when a character suddenly just does something that makes me go WTF!?!? It’s a bummer when that happens because it can definitely effect how I read and view the rest of the story. When I write, I have a long thought process for most scenes, where I will sit back when it’s finished and think “Okay, would (fill in the blank) REALLY do/say what whatever they just did/said?”
Rhys: A romance? Whoosh. Um. Keep track of the dead bodies. Never ever write about a ferret. And most importantly, I would say a sense of realism. I love happy ever afters as much as the rest but there’s something satisfying about seeing a relationship build over a series of books. And hot sex. Okay, that just helps.
Plot or character, which comes first?
Anne: A bit of both, depending on what I’m working on. I work a lot on what-ifs either with specific characters in mind or those characters show up and become a part of whatever happens or is going to happen. Once I have the basic plot, how the rest of the story develops is very much down to the characters and where they want it to go, often leading in directions I hadn’t thought of or where I hadn’t planned to go.
Lou: For me, character almost always come first. The characters demand my attention until I make them a story, but then they change the story as we go along until, in the end, it rarely resembles the story we started with.
Elizabeth: Ah, the old chicken or egg question…LOL For me it’s the plot and generally not even the entire plot. I’ll often come up with an entire plot idea based on some small scene or even a line in a scene or dialog. I’ll often imagine a character physically along with that little kernel of a plot idea, but I’ll develop the characters to suit the story.
T.J.: Characters, all the way. I have weirdness going on in my head where my characters “talk” to me and are born as such. Plot follows, but it’s usually only after I’ve already thought up how character will look/sound/act. But obviously, there have been moments where a set piece has come into my head and I love to find out how my characters will fall into it.
Rhys: I’d say the main characters. Mainly I write series so I need characters that can hold up over a few books. If they aren’t complex enough, then the plot of the book falls apart. For me, there are two sets of plots; the book’s plot which will be resolved at the end and the arc plot which should span over the series. There could be smaller sub-plots accompanying the main arc plot but they must supplement the overall story, not overwhelm the characters.
How do you name your characters, or do they already show up with their own names or ‘correct’ the names you’ve chosen?
Anne: Some characters turn up already named, others I have to hunt for. One of my favourite websites is ‘behind the name’ as it gives the meanings of the names and their origins which I like to keep in mind when I am naming characters. Others though, as I’ve said, just turn up with all of that in place and don’t care about what their names mean. I’ve also named characters, started writing and been told, in no uncertain terms, that no my name isn’t this, it’s this. I don’t tend to argue with them on that.
Lou: Naming my characters is almost a ritual with me. I struggle (though I enjoy it) to find a name that is right — representing ethnic origin and character traits, having the right sound, and interacting with other character names the right way. My first resource is a baby name book that I’ve had for years, but sometimes I use other sources, too. In the process, I almost always learn more about my character (by knowing what does and doesn’t fit), or at the very least solidify the character in my mind. Sometimes, a lesser character comes with a name: Margie, Jim Ladd, and (believe it or not) Mack Money. For the dog in Delsyn’s Blues, a reader named him in a contest. That was fun.
Elizabeth: I don’t have any specific ritual I go through to name characters and often the names just pop into my head. If I have the wrong name I know it and keep searching until the correct one shows up. Sometimes I use online name sites if I want a certain meaning or nationality.
Another trick I’ll do is go through the data base of names of at work and pick a first and last name that appeals to me. I’ll sometimes read movie or TV show credits for names. I keep a list of names to peruse when I’m naming characters.
T.J.: As a writer who has somewhat…different names of characters, I’ve been asked how I get the names that I do. (I anticipate that won’t change when This Is How We Burn The World comes out and people get to meet Seven, and the Clock Twins, Tick and Tock.) They generally show up in my head already named, but sometimes some tweaking is in order. For some reason, I’m drawn to “A” names for secondary characters and I have yet to figure out why.
Rhys: I usually “taste” a character’s name. It’s rare that I change something once I start writing. It has to fit the person before I start. I know the character. Then I name him or her.
What is a “classic tale (fairy or otherwise)” that you’d like to retell. And how?
Anne: St George and the Dragon. I’d rework the story a bit though so that the so called dragon slayer really isn’t one and the dragon is a shifter and so naturally there’s a HFN in there for both of them. After all fairy stories and the like are only based on the truth and the actual story behind it can be quite different. *sigh* I’m going to have to write this one now at some point. Thanks, Rhys 😛
Lou: I don’t have anything specific, but I really love TH White’s The Once and Future King. Let’s face it, it’s chock full of little tales that could be—should be—gay.
Also, on a completely different note, there is a beautiful Iroquois tale that has at least a couple of versions for each of the nations about a young man who falls in love with a salmon wife. He sees that beneath the lake is a mirror-image world (and here we all thought it was reflection), and he goes to live with her there. No, he doesn’t drown! Why would you think that? ;-)Anyway, I think it would be very fine if the mirror-world lovers were both fine young men.
Elizabeth: The Three Musketeers. Well, I think instead of bromance there’d be more actual romance between the Musketeers. It sort of screams for it. I’m not sure who I’d pair with whom yet, but, yeah, that would be cool. My second choice would be the Atlantis legends.
T.J.: Sleepy Hollow, hands down. The original scared the crap out of me when I was a child and I recently read an M/M take on it that I though could have been so much more than it was. I’ve stewed on the idea for quite some time, even having gone as far to write a general outline, but I’ve stopped time and time again, just because I don’t think it’d be right to mess with what is obviously a classic.
Rhys: Damn it, I came up with this question and I don’t have an answer. What a fricking fail! Um… I would say a more current tale that I would love to re-tell is The Treasure is the Rose by Julia Cunningham. Fantastic book. Perhaps the Wizard of Oz. Less… psychotropic drugs but still, that would be fun. I would love to take a stab (no pun intended) at the Ninja Circus, an old Japanese drama about a group of assassins traveling from town to town as an entertaining troupe.
Is there a particular genre or sub-genre that you’ve always wanted to write in but have not done so yet? What would it be?
Anne: Gothic. I’d love to write a ghost story, but give it a bit of a twist and throw some romance into the mix.
Lou: Space opera!
Elizabeth: Space opera! I’ll have to second that.
T.J: Horror. Man, would I give my left arm to be able to write in horror. I’ve read every Stephen King book countless times and I always wished I could write a good horror story. I think that horror can definitely be effective in the long story/novella format i.e. Edgar Allen Poe, and I still hope to one day sit down and write something that’ll scare the bejesus out of everyone, myself included.
Rhys: Wow, I have no answer for this one either. I’ve written in a lot of genres. I would say I’d love to Regency romance (in the style of Loretta Chase). So much discipline and knowledge needed for those. And the language shifts. Totally daunting. And of course, as a male-male romance.
Anne Barwell is the author of Cat’s Quill, Tj Klune is the author of Bear, Otter, and the Kid, Rhys Ford is the author of Dirty Kiss, Elizabeth Noble penned Marked Yours, Together Bound, and Strays, and I wrote Loving Luki Vasquez.
I’m blogging on Cup-o-Porn November 2nd, and I want to put Luki and Sonny in the hot seat. I need help! If you’d like to ask them questions, tough or easy, sexy, sweet, or just of interest, follow this link to my Goodreads blog and leave your question in the comments. (Or, email me at lou(dot)sylvre(at)gmail(dot)com. All questions welcome!
MD Grimm is featured author this week! Scroll down for an interview and excerpts. Click the cover image for a a link to Psychic Moon at the Dreamspinner Press store. To contact the author, email her at Facebook: mdgrimm29(at)facebook(dot)com, or mdgrimm29(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Humane Officer Derek Wiliams has been toying with the idea of asking out Brian O’Donogue since the veterinarian started working at the Pet Rescue Center two years ago. So why hasn’t he made his move? It’s complicated… but it has something to do with the fact that Derek occasionally likes to run around on four legs instead of two.
Recovering from an abusive relationship and hiding supernatural abilities of his own, Brian takes a chance and agrees to go on a date with Derek. The ensuing relationship is better than either of them could have hoped—until a rogue wolf shifter attacks Brian while he’s walking his dogs. The abrupt attack forces Derek to confront his feelings, but the danger isn’t over. The rogue shifter is out there, and he’s hunting them.
M.D. Grimm lives in the wet state of Oregon, and when she’s not reading, writing, or watching movies, she dreams of owning a pet dragon. She’s wanted to become an author since second grade and feels that her dreams are finally coming true. She was fortunate to have supporting parents who never told her to “get her head out of the clouds.” While she doesn’t like to write in only one set genre, she feels romance is at the core of most of her stories. M.D. earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Oregon and hopes to put that degree to good use in the literature world as well as the “real” world.
Hello MD, and thanks for allowing me to feature you on sylvre.com. I’m looking forward to sharing some excerpts from your work, but first I’d like to ask a few questions about you, your ideas, and how you turn them into great fiction.
Thanks for having me and I’m also looking forward to sharing myself with potential readers. (sharing my ideas anyway, ;))
Q: You live in Oregon, now, according to your bio. Is that where you were raised? You said the “wet” state of Oregon, so I assume you live west of the Cascades. With the mountains on one side and the Pacific on the other, it’s a region with a lot of character, I think. Has the landscape influenced your writing? If so, how? You set Psychic Moon in Seattle. Have you spent much time there? Why did you choose to set the story there, and how big a part does locale play in the way your story plays out?
A: Yes, I was raised in Oregon. I live in the Willamette Valley. I suppose the landscape has influenced me in that I’m used to seeing trees and lots of them. Trees, mountains especially and just a lot of green. It’s hard for me to imagine living in a place which is flat and desert-like, which means I should probably stay away from Arizona and New Mexico. Most of the places I set my stories are usually forest-like or small towns, like the one I grew up in. As for Seattle, no I haven’t actually been to Washington, but I wanted a wet forest state with a humane center and Washington has a lot of forest parks, which allowed my characters to play in the woods.
Q: You’ve wanted to be an author since second grade, so I’m sure you’ve been writing right along. What or who has inspired you to keep your eyes on your goal along the road?
A: Amazingly, my entire family, close and extended, have inspired and supported me. Also, my favorite authors, just by reading their books, have influenced and inspired me, making me think that I could one day write as good (or close) as them.
Q: Was Psychic Moon your first published work? Of course, the publisher’s acceptance is the bona fide stamp of approval, but was there a point in writing the novel when you knew you had it—knew that this story was a winner and worthy of publication and would surely make it? If so, can you tell us a bit about that?
A: No, I have another story published by Torquere Press called “A Giant’s Friend”. It was my first work and I’ll admit, it needs some revision. Despite its flaws, I cherish it because it really made me believe I could become a published author and it opened up an entirely new world for me with resources I didn’t even known I needed (like Beta readers ). Psychic Moon is essentially based around an animal humane center because I watched several “Animal Cops” shows and was so touched and horrified by the abuse inflicted on animals meant to give humans comfort. I started to wonder what would happen if a shifter was involved and what he/she would do about it. Psychic Moon is that result and I was so passionate about this story, I was going to submit it to any and all publishers until one came back with a contract. I knew this story was worth telling and since most people have pets or had pets, I knew others would feel the same.
Q: Stories about (shape) shifters are quite popular right now, both in the M/M romance genre and elsewhere in genre fiction. Why do you think that’s true? What prompted you to write a shifter novel? How do you see your story—or your characters—as different from other novels about shifters? In this story, did your characters come first and drive the story, or did the plot create the need for characters like those you’ve created?
A: Shifters have certain (pardon the pun) animal magnetism to them. They are the “other” that challenges “normal” people and yet they can disguise themselves as one of us. I think they have a similar appeal as the vampire does—the primal, dominate, slightly savage nature that has no morals when they are in animal form. They are an escapist fantasy for people tired of human society, morals, and structure. For myself, all of that is true. That is why I love shifters, and I love coming up with different animals for shifters to be and matching their personalities to that animal. I haven’t read many other shifter stories (shame on me, I know) so I can’t say if my stories or characters are “different” but I like to think I have a unique take on them. The shifter stories I have read seem to present their shifters in a vacuum, sort of speak. The shifters just are with no real explanation why. I’m a big fan of why. I have a tendency to go back to the Beginning and create a story of why. Psychic Moon is only the first book in my shifters series and I have about twenty planned (for now). I delve more into the shifters’ past and the why of their existence. Another thing that’s “different” is that I have the Agency, a secret non-government, privately funded organization whose sole purpose is to keep shifters a secret to the general public and the act as the “policing” force against rogue shifters. As the series goes on, I get into the why of them as well. I have a whole bushel of stories and several-book storylines that are just nagging me to get out.
As for this story, and which came first, the plot or the characters, I’d have to say character. I do have a tendency to come up with both at the same time, however. This time, I thought of a shifter humane officer and a human vet and then the rogue shifter and Agency came after. The plot formed and solidified after that.
Q: MD, I ask this question of every author I interview. Some enjoy answering, some seem to squirm (although it’s hard to be sure just by the look of the words on the page). Regardless, none escape, and now it’s your turn. Who is sexiest, Derek or Brian? You can fudge (waffle a little), but you cannot cheat. (“Both” is not an answer.) You can’t choose a name and move on to the next question. Explanation is required. Think of it as a brief essay question. 😉
A: Derek. I love Brian, don’t get me wrong. He’s sweet, funny, loving and kind but Derek is the bad boy. They are both working to save animals from human cruelty and they are so cute together and Brian is sexy in his own right but I lean towards Derek. Maybe because I made him the alpha…
Q: The cover Reese Dante created for Psychic Moon is another example of her very fine work. How much influence did you have in determining what the cover would look like in general? Do you feel the men on the cover portray your characters in a generally accurate way?
A: I love that cover. When I first saw it, I stared at it for several seconds before squealing. I had a lot of influence on the cover, I described what I wanted and how I wanted the men positioned and the cover was even better than what I imagined. The men were even better than what was in my mind. I looked at the cover and I thought, “those are my guys.”
Q: I understand you have a couple more works coming up for publication based on these characters. Without giving away more than you’d like about any of your pieces, can you tell us a little more about what’s coming up? Can you share perhaps a little “teaser” excerpt? MD, if you don’t want to do that fine. If you do, go ahead and insert it as part of your answer.
A: I’d love to share that with you! I have a Christmas short coming up in December that involves Derek and Brian, titled Celtic Warrior and Wolf Spirit. I am very proud of it and it involves Brian’s very ex-boyfriend Kyle (the abusive one). He shows up and well… Derek doesn’t like that too much… It is Derek and Brian’s first Christmas together and Brian is determined to make it perfect, and of course, his plans get wrecked but something good comes out of it.
I also have book 2 of my shifter series coming out sometime in February or March, entitled Love is a Whirlwind. I introduce two new characters in this one, a human named Caleb and a bull shifter named Ryan (aka Whirlwind). Agent Poe, who first shows up in Psychic Moon, comes back in this one after Ryan is kidnapped. To find out who and why, I encourage you to read it!
Here is a Chapter 1 excerpt of Love is a Whirlwind:
The bull flew out of the chute, bucking like a demon and the bull rider didn’t stand a chance. Whirlwind twisted like a tornado and kicked up dirt, making it hard for the bull rider to keep up. It wasn’t three seconds before the bull rider flew off and planted his face in the dirt.
The crowd ate it up, but the bull wasn’t done. Whirlwind ran after the rider even as the rodeo clowns descended on him, trying to keep the rider safe. Whirlwind seemed to be satisfied with running those jokers off and let the bull rider gain his feet. The cowboy high-tailed it out of the ring while Whirlwind flung his head around in triumph. He strutted for the crowd, the flank strap and bull rope falling to the ground.
Caleb grinned wide, his face actually hurting. He cheered and hollered with the rest of the crowd. That was his bull out there. His friend. With a coat of rich brown, deep brown eyes and the strength of an elephant, Whirlwind was a prize many stock contractors wanted. Numerous offers had been made but he and his mother would never sell Whirlwind, not for all the money in the world.
Whirlwind strutted into the out-gate, head high. He snickered. Whirlwind was so full of it. Arrogant prick. But he was Caleb’s arrogant prick. It was over. They had won. He knew without a doubt or looking at the points that Whirlwind had won. They would have some more money to take home and more prestige than they ever had before. He wished his dad was still alive. Wouldn’t his mother be ecstatic?
Of course, good ol’ Mandy O’Connell wasn’t one to get ecstatic. She would just nod, “humph” and say “good work”. But that was the equivalent of how other people would jump for joy and do a victory dance. For himself, he would do the victory dance. But it was too crowded in the arena to get a good one in at that moment.
The celebration wore one, the bull riding champion was named, pictures were taken and Caleb, along with his crew, were given the winner’s check and were nearly made blind by all the flashes of the cameras. The crowds slowly filed out, the media left and the cleanup crew came in. Caleb, by now sweating and probably smelling like a dumpster, made his way to the truck where Whirlwind was kept. The other bulls and the rest of his crew were already on their way home but he took care of Whirlwind personally. He drove the truck that housed the star bull and he set his own schedule when he started home. He always started a couple of days after everyone else.
Annoyed, he turned around to see one of the rodeo clowns jogging towards him. He didn’t know his name but stopped and planned to give him only five minutes of his time.
“Hey,” he said lamely, “You were good out there.”
“Me,” the man laughed and slapped his shoulder. “What about you and that bull? Whirlwind’s amazing. Never seen a bull so quick and smart. Sort of eerie right, the way he knows just how to turn and when the buck and how high. Intelligent.”
Caleb shrugged, unease making his stomach cramp. “As far as bulls go, I guess he’s intelligent. You could also say he’s well trained. There were other bulls that were just as impressive.”
The rodeo clown still had his makeup and suit on and Caleb didn’t recognize him. They were about the same height and the clown was maybe a bit thicker around the chest and waist.
“Come on,” the clown said, nudging him. “Just between you and me, what’s the secret, huh? You have to admit, he almost has human intelligence, it just blazes in his eyes. Yet he’s a bull. Strange, right?”
His palms were sweating and he rubbed them on his jeans. “Yeah, right, listen, I have to go. Nice talking to you. Good show this week.”
He left as quickly as he could, never looking back. He rubbed his stomach and forced himself to put it aside. That wasn’t the first time he’d been asked about a “secret” when it came to Whirlwind, but there had been a strange gleam, almost manic, in the rodeo clown’s eyes and he hadn’t liked it. At all.
The bull was sleeping in his pen in the truck but instantly opened his eyes when Caleb approached. A large brown eye captured his own eyes and he stood in front of Whirlwind with a huge smile. The encounter with the rodeo clown drifted to the back of his mind and was buried. This wasn’t the day for worries, it was the day for celebration.
“We did it, buddy. Another notch on our belt and all that money. Maybe we should go commercial, huh? Have you sell a few products?”
Before his eyes, like many times before though it never lost its awe, Whirlwind shifted into Ryan, his best friend. The same rich brown eyes that had belonged to the bull now belonged to a thick, naked man kneeling inside the truck.
He had broad shoulders, a broad chest, thick waist, thighs and arms. He resembled a bull even in human form. But that wasn’t surprising when considering that Ryan’s mother had been an actual cow and his father had been in bull form during his conception. It was incredibly rare, nearly impossible, for offspring to be born from an animal and a shifter. Ryan was certainly one of a kind.
Caleb learned a lot about the real world from Ryan. Like the fact that there was a shifter community, a community filled with extraordinary creatures who could live as animal or as human.
Ryan raised an eyebrow. “We’re in Vegas. I’d rather go drinking.”
Q: What can your readers expect from you in the next couple of years, in addition to what you’ve already shared? Are you writing in genres other than M/M? Anything else you’d like us to know?
A: Well, certainly more shifter stories and I’m working on another series, a fantasy one, which involves a mage who thinks he’s a villain, magic gemstones, dragons, elves, and a world resembling Earth but without the technology. I’m taking my time with these, considering they are unashamedly very fantasy and I want to make them as “realistic” as possible (beta readers are priceless!).
Thank you again, MD. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you a bit. I hope you will visit again.
It’s been great fun! I really enjoyed your questions and I hope I’ve gotten readers excited or at least curious about my future (and present) works. This really is my passion and it’s the readers who will keep me going.
(Bull Riding photo above by C. Szmurlo)