7 Questions with Meljean Brook

1. On a scale of one to ten, rank your current level of insanity–where ten is belongs-in-lunatic-asylum insane–and tell us why.

I’d say a two. No, really. I’ve got this book coming out and reviews coming in and I’m trying to get a new contract and I just got a new agent and my career as a writer might hinge on how well this book does and I’m very calm and composed and WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT?!

“TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

2. HelenKay Dimon thinks that part of the reason why the Bad Boys anthologies are so successful is because editor Kate Duffy pairs new authors with bestsellers. You debuted in the Hot Spell anthology, featuring Emma Holly, Lora Leigh and Shiloh Walker. Do you think it’ll help boost the sales of Demon Angel?

Oh, definitely. I’ve found new authors that way, too, and picked up new releases because of novellas I’d liked. Name recognition is huge in the book business — people who bought HOT SPELL for the other authors (I think there were about 50 copies sold to my family and friends (and, okay, I bought ten of them)) and a few people purchased the anthology because of my blog … but really, the majority of sales for HOT SPELL was not because my name was listed on the bottom. It had a great cover and a fantastic lineup of popular authors.

And anyone who has read HOT SPELL and enjoyed my novella is more likely to give DEMON ANGEL a second look than the person who just picks it up in the store because of the cover…they may even actively look for it (which would be awesome). And even if, in the store, they don’t remember my name exactly, there will be that little niggle of recognition — first in the name, then in the description and characters’ names. (And it helps that the recent mass market release included an excerpt of DEMON ANGEL at the back.)

3. Lilith, Lilith everywhere. Nora Roberts has a Lilith in her Circle trilogy. Colleen Gleason, whose vampire historical The Rest Falls Away is released today, also has a Lilith. And so do you. Can you tell us how your Lilith came to be?

I was writing a fanfic, and I suddenly realized that the characters I was writing weren’t the characters they were supposed to be. I’d been writing a story about an alternate universe, the heroine was a demon and the hero was an angel, and it struck me that a) the story I was telling was going to veer off into something completely new, and that restricting it to the original world would have been a HUGE mistake, b) that my recent history of writing all-alternate-universe fanfics should have been a big wake-up call that I was ready to move onto original stories, and c) that I really, really, really, really, really ought to pursue writing seriously, because I loved the everluvin’ shit out of the process, and if I kept on writing in other peoples’ worlds on my lunch hour or while pretending to do ‘real’ work — bookkeeping for a construction firm — that I was going to end up a washed-out, old, bitter whore.

So I revamped the character, the story, and chose a name that best fit. Though Lilith is tightly associated with demons after she kicked Adam to the curb, she wasn’t always demonic. She was the first woman — but moreover, she had a mind of her own and wouldn’t kowtow to Adam just because he was a male. So the name, to me, conjures up the image of a dark, powerful woman … and it has both positive and negative connotations. That’s what I wanted to capture: a clear and immediate tie to the demonic, but with underlying strength and a fierce independence. She’s not Evil; but she’s not entirely good, either.

4. Share your The Call Story, please.

I guess I have an E-Mail Story. One day I opened up my inbox and there was an e-mail from Cindy Hwang that said something like, “Hey, I like your fanfic. Do you want to write for me? Let’s talk.”

And I wrote back and said, “Hahahahaha, whoever you are! Nice joke!” Because, as mentioned above, I had decided to start pursuing this seriously. So I studied up on the market, and had been reading Ellora’s Cave books for a couple of years … and I’d known that Cindy Hwang was the Berkley editor who’d snagged MaryJanice Davidson and Angela Knight. And at the time, I had about 30K words on (the very first version of) DEMON ANGEL completed, and I’d intended to submit it to Ellora’s Cave. So I had made up a fake little website, put up an excerpt and linked it to my fanfic page. Apparently, Cindy read that, and when she found out that I’d crossed over into original stuff, she sent the e-mail. The manuscript wasn’t near complete — and it had some problems, though she really loved the concept and my voice — and she gave me a lot of suggestions and said, in the meantime, do I want to write a novella for HOT SPELL? And I was like: yes.

After finishing the novella, I rewrote the first three chapters of DEMON ANGEL, sent it in, and got the two-book contract (so I guess that was the Big Call).

5. Paranormals…ah, vampires, werewolves, fairies, witches and warlocks… Which paranormal creature, that you have yet to write about, would you like to do?

Zombies. They probably wouldn’t be the hero/heroine, because the sex scenes would suck, but I’d kill to write a zombie story.

6. Do you have any advice on how to embrace your “inner Missy“?

Well, you can’t be afraid to sound like a dork. This is easy for me because I’m certain that everything I do and say is dorky; in my case, I don’t think it’s bravery, but resignation. (But, really, if you are a writer and afraid of sounding like an idiot, you’re probably in the wrong business, the wrong art, the wrong everything. Not that the writing should be stupid or silly — but that if all someone worries about is how others perceive her because of the writing … jesus, I can’t even imagine a life like that.)

Having the ability to laugh at yourself helps, too. I wasn’t a stupid kid, but I thought a lot of dumb things about gender, race, money, class, sex — whatever. But really, who can help that? A kid doesn’t know anything. What surprises me as I’m writing Missy, though, is how often I hit on subjects that, when I was a kid, were incredibly painful. In hindsight, a lot of it is simply absurd; but at the time it wasn’t, and even though now I know differently, some of that childhood angst and hurt lingers. And I’m laughing at myself — but I’m also cringing, because I can see so easily what has shaped me as a writer and a person. That exposure is tough, and unlike the stories I tell about characters, Missy is undeniably *me*.

It’s worth dredging it up, however. If I repressed every negative emotion and memory, and pretended they didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have much of an emotional base to write from.

But what I love most about Missy is her enthusiasm, and that’s what I’m trying to take away from her more than anything else. The thrill of the new and incredible story. The excitement of discovering something through language and books. The awe that arises when I’m laughing and crying along with characters in a book who are, really, nothing more than the sum of words on paper and what I bring in with me as Missy and whatever I’ve become since then. I think the most destructive thing to a writer — and a reader — is apathy and boredom and the sense that everything’s being done by rote and no risks are being taken and the story is just a fill-in-the-blanks. And many of the books I loved when I was a kid are just *horrible* — I mean, really, really, really bad — and some of them even offensive to me now (though my reaction is more often bemusement than anger). I find, however, that those places I’m
offended, and the friction between what I think now and what I thought then, make up the most interesting aspects of my writing now (and are what I notice most as a reader).

So channeling Missy isn’t about throwing myself blindly and brainlessly into a book as I used to (writing or reading) — but to take a lot of that enthusiasm and eagerness in the approach and seeking out everything that speaks to me as an adult. Often, there’s no difference between what I loved as a kid and what I do now. But those moments where they do diverge, where I can look and say: “oh my god, I’ve come a long way” — those are good, too.

So I guess the final bit of advice about embracing your inner Missy is knowing when to shove her in the closet.

MISSY: You know you’ve slipped into third person when talking about me?
MELJEAN: Shut up! Dork.

7. New Year’s Day Resolutions. Do you do them? Have you succeeded at any? Are there any you make every year, but always fail?

I don’t usually make them — but this year, they’re going to be a) stay off message boards, b) keep my word count down, and c) write the best damn book I can.

Meljean blogs, sometimes as Missy. Hot Spell is already available, and Demon Angel should be in stores near you, soon or even right now. She has a novella in the anthology Wild Thing, which releases in May, and her next full-length novel, Demon Moon, will be out in June.

3 Responses to “7 Questions with Meljean Brook”

  1. January 2, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Nice interview. Congrats on the release, Meljean!

  2. January 3, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Terrific interview! I’ll check out Meijean’s book. 🙂

  3. January 5, 2007 at 3:40 am

    Thanks Richelle and Edie! I hope you enjoy the book!

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