February 6, 2008
Meljean Brook not only made my top ten list for 2007, she topped it. I described her debut novel Demon Angel as a thick, meaty, dig your feet in and hold on tight kind of novel with adventure, sex and an epic quality. I advised readers ‘if you read one novel this year, read this one.’
Then I cursed myself for using up all my superlatives before reading Demon Moon.
Brook graciously agreed, on very short notice, to take time out of writing her fourth Demon book and answer questions on her influences, her very funny blog, and the magic, mythology, and sex that makes her novels so unforgettable and that have catapulted her into the upper echelons of paranormal romance.
Meljean, thanks for stepping in on such short notice. We know you are very big on comic books and superheroes…how does that influence your writing?
Comic books and superheroes influence me tremendously – although it’s a chicken-and-egg type of influence. Do I read about superheroes and write my own version of them because I’m naturally drawn to these types of larger-than-life characters, or do I write about them because I’ve enjoyed superheroes from an early age, and they helped form my idea of characters and, essentially, what a hero is? I really don’t know if I’m just wired that way, or if comic books wired me.
Either way, I do see the similarities. One thing that I love about superheroes and comic books that I try to capture in my writing is how, even when the characters are using incredible powers and fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds – at times even saving the universe – superheroes are relatable on a personal level. It’s always the human interaction and relationships that make us care about Batman, Wonder Woman, or the X-Men. Their powers are awesome and intriguing, and we want them to save the world, no question; but it’s the human drama that sucks me in as a reader, and discovering how they live and fit into a society where they are so different from anyone around them. How do they negotiate those differences, how do they embrace them? To me, these are endlessly fascinating questions.
I understand you used to write Batman fan fiction on Fanfiction.net and that led to your “discovery”. Please tell us about that, and also, what do you think about fan fiction in general, particularly when readers write fan fiction based on their favorite books?
I used to write romantic fan fiction about Batman and Wonder Woman, and my editor did discover me after reading those stories. At the time, I’d already moved on to original paranormal romance (what became Demon Angel) so I had something to show her when she sent me an e-mail asking if I’d been working on anything.
Although I’m not as active in comic-book fandom as I once was, I still enjoy fan fiction. For readers and fans of a series, it serves as instant gratification or a way of exploring possibilities that won’t be addressed in canon. As a writer, I found it was an enormous confidence-builder, and it allowed me to practice my craft in a community that was both critical and supportive.
I wouldn’t have any problem with a reader who wanted to write fan fiction based on my series. I wouldn’t want to see it, for both legal and personal reasons (at this point, I wouldn’t want to be influenced by an outside vision of my universe – once I’ve finished the series, I might take a look.) From my perspective, fan fiction is incredibly flattering; the idea that my world and characters have inspired someone to write their own stories – even if they take characters in directions I never would have considered – just blows my mind.
There are authors who don’t see it that way, however, and have requested that readers don’t post any fan fiction online. I think that should be respected. For those, like J.K. Rowling, who have said “play at will,” it allows a fun and enthusiastic community of fans to interact with the fictional world they love. For an author, that can translate into publicity and sales, so it’s a win all around.
Of course, sometimes the more rabid members of a fan community can have a negative effect on an author’s sales or reputation – but that issue is not just limited to fan fiction.
Your books feature a very complex mythology. How did you come up with it, and does it sometimes even confuse you? <g>
Some of it is pulled in from other sources (the story of Lucifer’s rebellion, for example, is so completely not mine), and some of it I just made up, either to finding explanations for how things tie together, or I’m inspired by other sources and twist them to fit.
The core of the world-building is all about human free will, so there are rules (and Rules) that demons and Guardians have to operate under – even the transformation of a human to vampire is dependent on free will. And – just because I’m the way I am – I have to know how everything connects and functions. It’s not enough for me to say “magic” and explain something away; even the magic, I know how it works, though my characters really don’t. The important thing is that I adhere to and work within the rules I’ve set for myself; I’ll admit that can be frustrating at times, when I don’t want to have to deal with a vampire’s bloodlust, for instance … but I’ve set the rules in place, so I have to use them.
The rest of the world-building is just me being completely sadistic. I make everything as difficult for my characters as I can. The harder they have to work for their HEA, the happier the end makes me.
I don’t get confused – but then, I have the advantage of knowing everything, even though I can’t reveal all of it.
Can you share with our readers the genesis of your series, of angels/demons, Heaven/Hell, and a vampire legend? Also, how does religion influence your writing?
I blame Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, John Milton, DC Comics, and a slew of other sources for the origin of the idea. I loved Good Omens