Bites

I read Miss Ann’s ONE BITE PER NIGHT and in my review I spewed forth my love for her daring to venture into corseted territory with fangs bared.  All of the intrigue and scandal SONY DSCand antic . . . pation of the vampire sex to come was just sweltering.  And now she’s here to talk about it!  I threw out some questions at random and Brooklyn was kind enough to answer them.  Thanks for dropping by, Brooklyn!  Be sure to read through to the end to win a copy of ONE BITE PER NIGHT!

Donna: What made you put vampires and the prim English society of the 1800s together to create the awesome lust-filled explosion of garter-filled vamporn?

Brooklyn Ann: OMG, I’m laughing hysterically at the word “vamporn!” I might have to steal it! Anyway, part of the reason was due to my combined love of horror and regency romance. Also, Anne Rice had such captivating scenes with her vampires experiencing the twists and turns of history. However, her stuff wasn’t as romantic as I would have preferred, so when I found out that the regency era was also the birth of the horror genre— seriously the 1st vampire story AND Frankenstein were created on the same night— I was all, “OMFG, WHY is no one doing anything with this delightful fact?”

No one answered except the voices in my head, so then I decided, “Hell with it, I’ll DO IT!”

And thus I set forth on my mission to bring vampires into the ballrooms of regency London society to provide more danger to all the heaving bosoms. 🙂

Donna: Who/what feeds your inspiration?

 Brooklyn Ann: Aside from my usual which is: listening to heavy metal music, devouring regency romance, urban fantasy, and rereading Stephen King like a fanatic, I ended up with a very surprising, almost surreal subject of inspiration.

You see, I had originally thought that the first book, BITE ME, YOUR GRACE would be a stand-alone. But when my publisher offered a contract, they said they wanted three books. I’d been occupied with writing urban fantasy and heavy metal romance, so I was all “Oh crap, what do I do now?”

Often when I begin a story, the hero is the first to come to mind. I was drawing a blank. Then, this guy who was friends with my ex neighbor dropped by and, as usual, I couldn’t stop staring at his really cool hair. It’s a striking blend of gold and silver.

Sooo… I modeled the hero after him. Well, his appearance only, since I barely knew him at the time. Still, with such eye candy in mind, my muse was stimulated and built a character. Vincent Tremayne, Earl of Deveril and Lord Vampire of Cornwall.

Months after the book was finished, the cutie with the cool hair and I got to know each other and became friends. Aside from being a total sweetie like Vincent, they have little in common. Vincent’s a Cornish Lord Vampire, and guy-with-the-cool hair is a phenomenal computer programmer and an amazing musician. Anyway, when I confessed that he’d unknowingly been my muse, he shook his head and said, “Oh, good Lord!” However, he’s come to embrace it and is happy to be in my acknowledgements.

Donna: What goes into writing such a vivid (vamporn) sex scene?

16099782Brooklyn Ann: It really depends on the characters and their situation. In my urban fantasy romance, IRONIC SACRIFICE, the characters go right to bed, but with ONE BITE PER NIGHT, it took awhile for them to get in the sack. In your review you ranted, “DO IT, ALREADY!” Oh, believe me, so was I.

Unfortunately, they had a lot to overcome before the ripping bodices could commence. First off, Vincent becomes Lydia’s legal guardian, so he really did not to be a total perv for lusting after his ward, not to mention that he’s got his secret identity as a Lord Vampire to protect. And he’s a really nice, decent guy who wouldn’t dream of compromising an innocent.

Thankfully, Lydia wasn’t as sheltered as my first heroine and when she decided that she wanted to get into Vincent’s breeches, she launched a merciless campaign and drove him to the point of insane desire.

So when it finally happened, the scene practically wrote itself. My fingers flew across the keyboard as if possessed and I just read the screen, thinking, “OMG, Vincent! I had no idea you were so… so… wow.” Then I needed a cigarette.

Donna: How do you get past your own reservations about what’s on the page and just write what needs to be written for the story to be successful? 

Brooklyn Ann: Honestly, I wouldn’t get anywhere without beta readers and critique partners. I get stuck a lot and they bail me out every time with helpful advice and feedback.

And in really desperate times, I closeted myself away in a hotel room with a ton of Red Bull and hard cider with the irrefutable task of writing those next three chapters. I bribed myself with time in the hot tub.

Donna: Do you believe there should be more regency vampire bodice-ripping sex and will you continue on in the great fight to fill the world with such goodness?

Brooklyn Ann: Oh hell yes!

Book 3, BITE AT FIRST SIGHT comes out next Spring, and it features the grumpy Spanish vampire, Rafael Villar, and an eccentric widowed countess who wants to be a physician.

And I’m currently working on book 4.

Now, it’s my turn to ask a question for the readers: What are some of your favorite cross-genre novels?  Comment for a chance to win a copy of ONE BITE PER NIGHT!  Giveaway ends on 7/22 at midnight, AZT!

Not Loving Reading Levels

I’ve ranted about this on my own blog, but it seems worth revisiting here since it’s come to my attention that this kind of thing is still going on.

I was introduced to the notion of reading levels in a previous life when I was responsible for developing patient education materials that patients in our high-risk urban population could read and understand. I worked hard to translate complex subjects into clear, concise, vivid language for adult readers. As I recall, our goal was a fifth grade reading level.

Eventually I left the jungles of health care and began writing young adult fantasy novels. Sometimes reading fantasy is like hacking through a thicket of words. One of my goals was to write in a clear, straightforward, vivid style that would make fantasy accessible to readers who didn’t even know they liked fantasy.

At my very first author event after my debut novel was published, a kid approached me at my table and said, “What’s the AR level of your book?”

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Sean sure knows how to rock out with his cocks out.  He’s made this chicken funky since I started reading his epic mind-fuckery years ago.  His most recent incarnation of a literary acid trip, THE INFECTS, had no less of an effect than previous works but I noticed some differences.  I had to ask Sean about them and he even answered.  I’m the luckiest little fangirl ever.  Fried chicken, zombies and Sean Beaudoin make for an insane combination.  If you haven’t read THE INFECTS yet be sure you do.  It’s available today and I’m pretty sure it’ll make you boycott all forms of fried chicken, not just the homophobic kind.  Thanks for stopping by, Sean!

What made you decide to mutate your zombies, make them, for a lack of better words, evolve? 

What is it about the human brain that we always have to envision ourselves at the height of culture and physiological development? The Sumerians thought they had the best religion, political system, and literature in the history of the world. And five thousand years ago, they were right. The Romans were right too, until the Goths sacked them into submission. France was right at the time of Louis the XVI, the Germans were right at the time of Weimar, and we’ve been right in 1776, 1876, and 1976. The thing is, we have no clue not only who we’re going to be, but what we’re going to be in 2076. Or if we’re going to be at all. In three hundred years we may all have insect wings, or be disembodied heads floating in vats of saline and electrolytes. Or we may devolve and live underground like voles. I guess my point is that all of us becoming zombies seems as likely an outcome as any other. Why would zombiedom necessarily be a step backward?

THE INFECTS appears to be tamer in terms of your usual mind-fuckery.  Is this just me or have you toned it down a tad when compared against FADE TO BLUE or WESLEY PAYNE?  

Well, if there’s any toning down it wasn’t a conscious choice. I think zombies inherently bring a lot of blown minds to the table without needing to be larded with the metaphysic or overly conceptual. On the other hand, maybe the mean nurse on the ward has started to palm my medication and sell it in the alley out back.

Is there really a not-so-subtle and nominally serious bit of commentary on America’s fast food nation and the over-production of meat a la Perdue and Tyson in your book or am I simply having a stroke? 

You are having a stroke. And your response in the first three minutes is vital to your future quality of life. Here is what I suggest: locate a salt shaker and immediately swallow the entire contents. Next, cook and eat several steaks and then down an entire jar of peanut butter with a spoon. Finally, change into some sweats and watch a Million Dollar Listing marathon on Bravo.

The end of THE INFECTS leaves a few doors open.  Have you fallen into the pit of YA series or are you just a horrible, horrible tease? 

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to write an Infects sequel. I guess the sales numbers will let me know if I need to. The end does sort of leave it wide open for another book, but it really wasn’t as intentional as it might seem. Since I’m such a famous and powerful author, I was able to work into my contract that I have the option of whether or not to continue the Nero saga. In the meantime, my next book is a punk rock diary called Wise Young Fool that will be out August 2013, and it has zero zombie content. 

If you could draft your favorite zombie writer into your evolving zombie army, who would it be and why?  Would you want to collaborate with him or her (in zombie form, of course)?

My favorite zombie writer is Jonathan Franzen. I definitely want to go (zombie) bird watching with him, but I don’t know about writing a book together. I guess if Oprah is into it, I’m in.

Discuss, in a short paragraph, your feelings regarding SEAN OF THE DEAD.

You are speaking, I take it, of the one-man rock opera that I wrote and performed for my extended family in my grandmother’s living room when I was twelve?

Or do you mean Shaun of the Dead? I dug that movie. Like all of the best zombie fare, it was amusing without really trying too hard to be.

What’s your favorite artery-clogging fast food joint and has your own book made you shy away from it a bit more as of late?

Fast food freaks me out. I literally haven’t eaten McDonalds since 1986. My abstention is not so much political in nature–although I’m sympathetic to that line of thinking–as it is that factory scale meat processing strikes me as hallucinatory and demented. To be able to sit down and eat a Quarter Pounder with bacon and cheese you simply can’t allow yourself to ponder the steps required for it to arrive boxed and steaming in front of you. I wanted readers to think about that just a little bit, without being preachy. Personally, I’d always rather hear a good chicken-anus joke than listen to a lecture. And the bottom line is that people are going to eat what tastes good to them, regardless. But so are zombies. And, as we all know, zombies mostly prefer sweaty, alienated teenagers.

Brains or intestines? 

I’ve had sweetbreads before and I’ve always found them to be slick and unpleasant. They taste like debauchery. Or maybe they just taste like death. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed tripe tacos in Mexico a number of times. It helps to have had some tequila. So, I’m going with intestines. Hands down. 

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One of my favorite things about Eilis’s THE FALSE PRINCESS was Kiernan.  He was Sinda’s life-long friend and their relationship was a natural progression of that friendship.  Kiernan really loved Sinda but it wasn’t a love to a fault.  He didn’t try to protect her from herself, he didn’t try to make decisions for her.  She was her own person, he recognized that and even when he really didn’t want to he left her alone so she could do her own thing when she felt she needed to.  Of course I asked Eilis about this and she graciously offered up a post in response.  Here’s Eilis waxing poetic about what makes a really awesome love interest (as opposed to an over-bearing, insta-love douche <–my words).  Thanks for stopping by, Eilis!

When I was twelve, I was going to marry George Cooper. Never mind that he was nearly twice my age, in love with someone else, and a thief. And especially never mind that he only existed in the pages of Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness books. He was my first—though certainly not last—big book crush. And he’s continued to be, to my writer’s eye, a great example of a male love interest.

Male love interests were something I thought a lot about while writing my own YA fantasy novel, The False Princess. When done well, they can be absolutely wonderful—worthy companions for your main character and crush-worthy delights for the reader. When done poorly, they can pull your whole story apart. I definitely wanted Kiernan, my main character’s love interest, to be in the first group, but I was actually a little surprised by the adoration that he received from readers right off the bat. So what makes Kiernan so lovable, and what makes for a great love interest for me in general?

To start off, there’s the best friend angle. Kiernan is Sinda’s best friend—her only friend for a lot of the novel—and, in some ways, he knows her better than she knows herself. I love this in a romance, partially because I’ve always been a little skeptical of the “love at first sight” storyline, which can seem forced if not written by someone who knows what they’re doing, but more because I love that moment when something shifts inside the main character, so that she suddenly sees this boy she’s known for years differently for the first time. There’s also something very satisfying about being able to explore a relationship that has been ongoing for years before the book begins. Closeness can be expressed in so many ways then—inside jokes, small looks, little stories from the past. And then to watch that closeness develop into new sort of bond is just yummy.

The other way that Kiernan really fits the bill for me and love interests is in the way he interacts with Sinda. It’s really important to me that my main character’s love interest be a partner with her, not a savior, and this was especially so because Sinda is (or was) a princess, and princesses traditionally get saved. I didn’t want there to be any “Stand behind me so I can protect you,” or “I can’t let you do anything dangerous because I love you so much.” Though I think we always want to keep the people we love from harm, I become really, really irritated when a love interests gets so bent on protecting the main character that his arms stop being supporting, and end up being binding. I wanted Kiernan to recognize Sinda’s competence and capability and to love her for them (indeed, he recognizes these qualities in her before she herself fully does).

In short, I didn’t want Kiernan to save Sinda, but to stand with her while she saves herself.

So those are probably the two top reasons that I like Kiernan as one half of The False Princess’s love equation, and they’re qualities that resonate with me in the works of others. Not all, of course. But that list would be a little too long, and besides, I have to get to the library. I’ve got two books waiting there with potential book-crushes in them . . .

It had been a while since since I connected so deeply with a set of short stories.  I’m talking like reading Flannery O’Connor in college “a while” so I got myself a little giddy.  Despite not being a target audience for VANISHING I liked it so much I asked Deborah if she wanted to stop by.  Imagine my surprise when she said yes!  Woohoo!  While I am looking to branch out a bit in what I read I know it’s going to take a while and I’m glad Deborah was okay with helping me do that.  Thanks for stopping by Debbie!

As a short story writer do you find it difficult to quarantine your stories to a snapshot in time? Or is this how they form in your head? 

It doesn’t feel difficult at all. I wish I had a mind for stories that were longer if only because the market demands them, but I seem to be drawn now to the shorter form. I don’t do outlines, which is maybe part of it. I just start writing, with characters and sometimes a situation or an image in mind. I often write a lot more than I end up keeping, so part of why my work is short in length is because I think editing is at least as important as writing. And I also read a lot of short stories, which I’m sure has influenced my imagination. I’m reading more novels now, with an eye to how they’re put together, because one day I’d like to try my hand at a longer work. Until then, I’ll keep doing what seems to come naturally, which is short stories.

Are there any plans to extend any of these shorts into novel-length books?

There are a couple of stories in the collection I’m still drawn to, but most feel finished to me. I always worry that the integrity of a story will be damaged if it’s expanded. That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot right now, as I’m writing new work. It’s always difficult to know the proper scope for an idea––it seems you often have to actually write it out, then put it aside and come back to it to know how much time and space it deserves.

You wrote from a variety of different perspectives. Is there any particular head you found rather difficult to get in to? Which did you find the easiest? (gender or character, really)

One of the pleasures of writing fiction for me is getting into someone else’s head. It’s an adventure from the comfort of my own desk! I don’t remember having terrible difficulty with any of the characters in the collection––usually if I can’t get a voice, I give up or put the story aside until it feels more alive and real. As for writing from the perspective of men, I’ve never given it much thought and this naive attitude helps a lot! I think that as a writer you simply have to go wherever you’re drawn to going, especially in terms of character. And you’ll know when it works and when it doesn’t. I also always believe that people are people––complex and strange and unknowable, whether men or women, rich or poor, young or old.

That said, the easiest characters for me to embody are often the young women. Lise in “This Other Us” and the sisters in “The Separation” all came to me fully formed and I wrote those stories quickly and easily.

Are any of your stories based on your life experiences at all? 

When they are, the experience is so changed it’s almost unrecognizable. I really did live in Alberta when a tornado hit, and “The Weather” came out of that experience. But the characters and their situation were entirely fictional. It’s mysterious to me where they came from, but I feel oddly attached to them!

What’s in store for your next book? 

I’m working on linked stories all about the same family. I’m at the horrible spot where I’ve written several of these stories but it’s unclear to me whether they work together, whether I’ll ever deem them publishable. It’s an uncomfortable grey zone, but I think it happens to all of us. The trick is to be honest with yourself, or to have people around who will be honest. My fingers are crossed!