Interview with Meljean Brook — Plus a Contest!

Photo of Author Meljean BrookWoot!! Meljean Brook is here! In case you don’t know, Meljean’s book Demon Forged hit bookstores the same day as Indiscreet. What you may also not know is that there is a character in Indiscreet whose last name, by a huge, amazing coincidence, has the last time Brook. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Hah. I was desperate for a name for this guy, and there was Meljean’s book. . . Brook. That name is teh awesome! said I. So I stole her name. It’s in my book now. Forever.

Meljean writes the awesome Guardian series, and if you like paranormal I really do urge you to read her books if you haven’t already started. I love this series. I really really do.

Read on to the end of this post to find out how you can, if you’re really clever, get yourself in a position to win a signed copy of Indiscreet AND Demon Forged.

Demon Forged, by the way, was a Romantic Times Top Pick, so you know it’s good. (Hoo boy is it!)
Cover of Demon Forged by Meljean Brook

Carolyn Interrogates Meljean

1. Thinking back to yourself at, say, five years old, were there any clues then that you’d end up writing novels? If so, what were they? When did you know you had the writing bug?

At five, definitely not. By sixth grade, though, I was reading constantly and making up my own stories. Most of them remained in my head, though I scribbled out ideas and scenes. By eighth grade, I was practicing my pseudonym autograph all over my notebook covers (it looks almost exactly the same as it does today.)

For a long time, though, it wasn’t something I seriously pursued. I wrote all of the time, but I didn’t think of it in terms of: I’m going to be published and make a living this way. I just really enjoyed writing, and I especially enjoyed writing the kinds of things that I loved reading. After a while, though, and a few trips through other (sensible) career choices, I decided: I’m going to try to do this. And then I got a little unexpected help in that area, and actually did it.

2. Regarding your fan fiction, can you talk a little bit about how, why, when and how long you were writing it?

As I mentioned above, I’d been fiddling with stories for a long time. I’d already noticed that I had a tendency to include romance and fantasy elements in my work, but I didn’t really finish anything. I’d have great ideas that just petered out along the way. For a long time, this didn’t bother me, because I was just having fun … but then it started irritating me more and more. I wanted to write a romance (not as a career yet, but just to write it) but I knew I needed to finish it. But something just wasn’t clicking.

And at the same time, I was in college, and the writing was kind of a side-thing. So were comic books, and reading fanfiction. And it just happened that I read a fanfic that inspired me, and I became obsessed with a certain couple — Batman and Wonder Woman — and so I wrote a chapter in a fanfic romance. Then another. And I said to myself: This is it. This is where we find out if you can finish a novel-length story. It took me a couple of months, but I did … and I loved not just the story, but the process. So I wrote another fic, and another, for about two years.

But I realized I wasn’t satisfied with writing these characters anymore, because I’d begun writing mostly alternate universe fics (where the characters are different versions of Batman and Wonder Woman — alternate timelines, different worlds, etc). I still had a lot of BM/WW stories to tell, but I wanted to start writing my own characters. I also decided that I was going to finish the story, and submit it, and work toward being published. So I began altering and expanding on of the alternate universe fanfics, and that eventually morphed into the Guardian series.

And in what might have been the luckiest moment of my life, my fanfic caught the eye of my editor, who was a BM/WW fan. She asked if I had anything original to submit at the time I was working on what would become Demon Angel. That story wasn’t strong enough yet for a contract, but she offered me a spot in the Hot Spell anthology.

3. Your style of story telling reminds me of some of the Epic Fantasy writers, whose complex characterizations unfold with such incredible richness. Is this a deliberate choice or is it just the way it works for you?

It’s both, I think. The simple answer is that it’s just the way it works for me — it’s the way my style and my voice just are. But it’s also a choice as I’m writing. I love to peel away the layers, I love characters with complexity, who aren’t easily defined. I love digging into them, and hurting them, and making them laugh and love. Plus, this is romance, and love is rarely simple — so I do my best to show every side of a character, so that I am convinced (and hopefully the reader is, too) that the love is deep, and true, and will truly last an eternity.

4. How the heck did you come up with the idea of someone who looks in a mirror and sees Hell instead of his face? (Colin from Demon Angel) And a blacksmith/metalworker heroine (Irena in Demon Forged) explain that one, too.

For Colin, it was a combination of playing off of the classic "vampires can’t see themselves in a mirror" myth, and me trying to think of the absolute worst thing that I could do to him. He’s incredibly vain, so not seeing his reflection might have been enough — but throwing in a curse and making him uncertain about whether the hell that he sees is a reflection of his soul (until he discovers the truth and learns that he’s just seeing another realm)? Ah, the pain. It’s delicious. And it adds another dimension to his vanity, one that makes his character a little more sympathetic, and ties into the plot of the books. It was just one of those ideas that started out very small (me, wondering whether I should let vampires see their reflection) and just worked on several levels.

Irena’s character began in a similar way: just a tiny idea that grew into something bigger. In Demon Night, I introduced her, but didn’t even mention her by name. She creates a little metal piano for Charlie (which was more about Charlie at that point than Irena), and Charlie describes her as, "a hard-edged female." And that was it.

But I knew I wanted to use this character, I knew she was going to be important in the series (I knew I was going to need a female character who fills the role that Irena eventually takes in Demon Forged) so I began developing her backstory. Once I did, the pieces just fell into place, and much like Colin’s curse, her Gift played into both her character and the plot on several levels. I ended up making her into exactly what I needed from that one tiny line in Demon Night.

5. Since we’re on the subject of Demon Forged, can you talk a little bit about the ideas and characters of the book? Have you had them bumping around in your head for a while?

To answer the second question first: Yes and no. In this series, I have a general outline of Where I Am Going and What Needs To Happen On The Way, but I don’t have a habit of introducing or creating future heroes and heroines before I need them (with a few exceptions, like Michael). So I am usually about two books ahead when I begin deciding who is going to do what, and how they are going to do it. My process of creating Irena is a good example — I’ve known from the beginning that I need someone to [avoiding spoilers] do what she does at the end of Demon Forged. I had a vague idea of what kind of a character could do it. And so I’ll begin to shape the character as I go along, and I might begin to define and refine that shape in the books that come before hers — so in that sense, they are in my head for a while, but not from the beginning of the series. Irena wasn’t in my head at all as a character when I was writing Demon Angel, for example; there was just a Female Who Fulfills This Role Eventually blank to fill in.

And I think Irena filled that blank spectacularly. She’s one of my favorites so far — a sixteen-hundred-year-old former Roman slave turned Guardian, who has a Gift to manipulate metal, who is rough around the edges and blunt to a fault.

Then there’s Alejandro, who is essentially her opposite: subtle, quiet, and with an aristocratic background. No, actually — "opposite" is probably the wrong word. He’s her complement. What she isn’t, he is, and so although this makes for some wonderful tension and friction, they fit together wonderfully.

6. If you had a bazillion dollars, what would you get me? What would you buy your daughter?

I’d scour the world for a man who looks like Michael, pay for his wings to be surgically implanted, and then airlift him to your doorstep. Or, you know, just a drink at RWA, because I think that would be awesome to hang out.

I’d probably buy a bunch of plane tickets for my daughter, so that we could travel together. But she’d rather receive a pink unicorn doll or, "a dress with rainbows and stars and hearts on it, and rainbow socks, and sparkly heart shoes, and a ribbon with rainbow colors."

7. You write the most amazing, strong heroines. Please explain how you go about creating your heroines. The more detail the better because I need tips.

Pffft. I’ve read your heroines. You don’t need tips.

But it’s basically just starting with an idea, even a stereotype — a heroine who is a demon, a geek, a recovering alcoholic, a Victorian-type of lady — and then piling on the layers. I think that when the book is finished, it probably reads like I’ve been peeling away layers, but it’s really just a matter of piling them on as I go and then digging into them.

So for Irena, I had my basic idea, and then I had to make a decision which adds kind of a shallow layer: She’s angry.

Then I have to ask: Why is she angry?

And the answer might be as simple as: Because a demon hurt her.

But then it’s: But why did that affect her so deeply?

And that’s where I get to the fun stuff with my characters. It’s not just knowing what happened to them, because everyone has crappy things happen — but some things, we can shrug off more easily than others. So it’s figuring out why it matters so much. What did that demon touch inside her that all of the demons she fought and killed before didn’t?

When I hit that, it informs so much in the story: her character, of course, but also how she interacts with other characters, how she views the world, what issues she has to overcome or address when she falls in love, how and who she trusts … and so even though I have plot points that I have to hit in this series, that I would have made happen no matter what character ended up being the heroine in that book, the way that the character approaches that plot point is so personal, it feels organic rather than just: Okay, this is where Some Random Female Fights A Dragon. At that point, it’s not just about getting my series from point F to point G — it’s about Irena winning, and how she wins, and what it means to her.

At least that’s how I hope it works.

8. Just why do you love Wonder Woman so much?

I can’t deny that some of it is nostalgia. I loved Wonder Woman in Superfriends and I loved Lynda Carter’s show, and so the character holds a special place in my little-girl heart.

But I know it’s more than that. Part of it is that I’ve always been drawn to female superheroes and strong female characters on TV — Charlie’s Angels, the Bionic Woman, Firestar in the Spider-Man cartoon, Diana in V (even more than Julie, the heroine of the series), just to start. Why am I drawn to them? I couldn’t say. But I do know that Wonder Woman seemed to represent the best and the strongest of them all.

So I think it’s fair to say that for a long time, it was just that she represented something. It wasn’t the character herself. But then I began reading comic books, and found more there to love. The idea that she will fight, but first she’ll try to find a way to solve problems without violence. That she’s not about making people better, but about people making themselves better … whatever "better" means. Which, when written down, sounds really corny — but I also think it’s something that resonates with me. I’m like Mulder, I guess: I want to believe. Not believe that Wonder Woman is real, but that whatever she represents can be.

Then again, maybe it’s no more corny that believing that romantic love can be a powerful, transformative, wonderful, complicated, and GOOD thing, and writing a series of books exploring that idea.

But it’s not just feelings and ideas — she’s had some kickass stories, too. There’s a great series on livejournal that talks about them: When Wondy Was Awesome (http://bluefall.insanejournal.com/13190.html#cutid1) by bluefall. I don’t agree with everything bluefall has to say about the character and her adventures, but I do a lot of it.

9. Complete this sentence: Michael belongs to Carolyn because . . . If you can’t explain (or won’t because it’s just so obvious) then can you tell us about how his character evolves through the series? Any hints about what happens to him and when his book is coming up?

Michael belongs to Carolyn because … I’m afraid of being hurt if I say he doesn’t.

Ha, I love questions about Michael, because I just can’t answer a lot of them. Michael is a difficult character to write because he’s SO old, and he’s so powerful, and he’s seen so much … and yet I have to imagine all of that and what it would be like. So as much as I love his character, I also recognize that he’s kind of unknowable … and that I’m going to have to make him knowable in order for his romance to work. So, to that end, I’m completely destroying him (so that I can show what he’s made of when I put him back together.)

…and that’s all I can say about that.

His book has always been planned as the last book, and I’ve known who his heroine is since Demon Angel. His book should be the eighth full-length book, which is only three away: first is Demon Blood, then another untitled Guardian book which will feature a h/h from Demon Blood, and then Michael’s book.

10. What else are you working on? I understand you have a Steampunk book coming out.

The steampunk series is something that has been germinating since I first submitted my Demon Angel manuscript to my editor. If she didn’t like that, I was going to write a steampunk proposal. So that’s been in the back of my mind for years now, and so last year, the chance came up to propose it again. I pitched it as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets The Pirates of the Caribbean, called it the Iron Seas series, and my editor gave me the go-ahead.

The pitch isn’t accurate, although the basic elements are there: There are pirates, and there’s an alternate Victorian atmosphere with clockwork and steam-based technology. There’s also giant squid, nanotech, zombies, dirigibles, and some sexy, sexy times.

And I love writing it. I don’t have a release date yet for the first novel, The Iron Duke, but the first novella will be coming out in August 2010, in the anthology BURNING UP, with Angela Knight, Nalini Singh, and Virginia Kantra. Huge, huge fun.

The Contest Low Down

For a chance to win a signed copy of Meljean’s Demon Forged, all you have to do is leave a comment. If you want to add in something about why Michael belongs to me, that would make me feel happy, but not affect the chances of your being the winner, who will be randomly chosen on Friday, October 23. If you don’t leave me a way to contact me, then check back here Friday or Saturday to see if you won.

For a chance to win a signed copy of Indiscreet, head on over to Meljean’s blog. I’m over there today where I’m sure she’s being super nice to me.

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23 Responses to “Interview with Meljean Brook — Plus a Contest!”

  1. Chris says:

    That was a fun interview – thanks, Carolyn and Meljean!

  2. RKCharron says:

    Hi 🙂
    Thank you for one of the best interviews I've read. I loved learning more about Meljean & her writing & her process.
    Thank you for sharing Meljean.
    All the best,
    RKCharron
    xoxo

  3. Megan Frampton says:

    Awesome interview! I love hearing Meljean describe her character process, and the layering thing. So much fun (don't enter me, though, 'cause I have everything already).

  4. Fiction Vixen says:

    Great interview! I'm so excited to read Demon Forged.

  5. Book Lady says:

    Oh nice interview! I hadn't heard of this book until now! Looks good!

  6. Mel (He Followed Me Home) says:

    That wa a fun read & I'd love to read Demon Forged 🙂

    Please count me in hefollowedme AT gmail DOT com

    Thanks!
    Mel

  7. kimikimi says:

    I'd love to read Demon Forged.

    kimi kaio @ yahoo.com (no spaces)

  8. Just_Me37 says:

    I have been devouring the series over the weekend and am already on the third full length novel. I haven't read any of the s. stories because those are harder to get. Needless to say I would love to get Demon Forged to complete my collection 🙂

    Alex
    crazy_canadian_chick37(at)hotmail(dot)com

  9. Angie says:

    Thinking to myself: have I lived under a rock all these years? The Guardian series sounds sweet-
    oh, god, next I'm going to be asking, dude, where's my car?- but anyway…
    I would LOVE to win this book, so then I can buy all the others and have a nice little collection.

    By the way, Meljean, if Carolyn says Michael belongs to her, watch out! She'll fight to the death. Believe me, I know, because she's claiming MY Eric Northman!

    Love ya, Carolyn.
    Thanks for opening my eyes to a new author.

  10. Cybercliper says:

    Hi Carolyn – fun interview! I love Meljean's Guardian series! I just finished Demon Bound and I'm definitely ready for Demon Forged! As for Michael – yowza!!! annhonATaolDOTcom

  11. Paula says:

    I'm looking forward to the steampunk. Making note of the anthology, the author line-up sounds promising.

  12. dyockman says:

    I haven't read the first book but would love to give Demon Forged a try. I am also eagerly awaiting the Steampunk book!

  13. Addled Alchemist says:

    Great interview! I really enjoyed learning more about what goes into making Meljean's wonderful series. Thanks!

  14. Barbara E. says:

    I loved the interview. And Michael belongs to Caroline because she so deserves to have him.

  15. Pam P says:

    I grew up reading all the Wonder Woman comics, Meljean, and then watched Lynda Carter as WW. Looking forward to the steam punk down the road.

  16. M. says:

    Now I'm madly trying to remember minor characters from 'Demon Night' to figure out whose story is coming up!

    Salivating at the tagline for Iron Seas. You had me at 'dirigibles'.

    (No need to enter my name – am already convinced of Meljean's fabulousness)

  17. maered says:

    Great interview! I love Wonderwoman, too. Hope I'm not to late for the contest!

  18. LizSara says:

    Contests are fun but not as fun as reading this interview. Nice work

  19. sagedarien says:

    Carolyn, thank you so much for an excellent interview! And Meljean, thank you for being so generous in revealing your process. This is the first time I've heard of this series, but I've ordered up the first two books in the Guardian series, and look forward to enjoying the rest in turn. Thanks again, and have a fantastic day!

  20. StephS says:

    I also liked the Wonder Woman show when I was young. All the twirling, bullet deflecting and Steve Trevor-ing! Mostly I wanted that golden lasso that made people tell the truth!

  21. Sue (okibi_insanity) says:

    Great interview! Steampunk book, huh? I am excited for that book series to come out. I love steampunk novels.

    Sue
    okibi_insanity[at]yahoo[dot]com

  22. Kristine says:

    This book looks great!Hope I'm not too late for the contest!

    articfox121855@yahoo.com

  23. tetewa says:

    Looking forward to this one, and I enjoyed the interview! tWarner419@aol.com