Interview with ML Brennan plus giveaway
ML Brennan is a debut author whose book simply blew me away. The storylines, the characters, the pacing, the premise…all amazing. As I said in my review yesterday, Generation V is urban fantasy at its finest. I wasn’t even finished reading the book when I knew ML was someone I needed to interview. I am very happy to have this very talented author here today.
Welcome to Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks ML!
Thanks so much for having me!
Unfortunately, not everyone has had the privilege to read your spectacular debut novel yet. Could you tell us about Generation V?
Sure! The elevator pitch is this: Fortitude Scott has a useless degree, a minimum-wage job, a cheating girlfriend, and a roommate who stiffs him on the rent. And he’s a vampire… mostly. But when a little girl is kidnapped, suddenly he’s the only one who is willing to try and do something about it, so he teams up with a wise-cracking shapeshifter and heads off for a rescue mission that will very likely kill him.
This book is filled with ‘different’. Your vampire lore is different (and we’ll chat about that in just one moment), your shapeshifter is different (something else we’ll chat about in a bit) and your character names are different. The hero’s name is Fortitude and his siblings are Chivalry and Prudence. Why did you decide to use such unorthodox names? Why didn’t you name your hero ‘Frank’ or ‘Bruce’?
Hah! The funny thing is – I actually was going to! When I was first planning out the book, Fortitude’s name was actually “Pete.” (It’s hard to imagine that now!)
What happened was that I had his two siblings to name, who were both born in different eras in American history. To me the almost classic Revolutionary War female name is Prudence, so that’s what I named his sister. But his older brother, who is circa the Civil War, was giving me problems – I just couldn’t find anything that was evocative to the era that also worked for me. (sad fact of writing – an insane amount of time can be burned on baby name websites trying to find the perfect name for a character)
So there I was with this sheet of paper that had “Prudence” written at the top of it, and that made me think about those older traditions where the children were named after hoped-for virtues. You know, stuff like Charity, Chastity, Constance, Verity, and (I swear I actually saw this on an old tombstone once) Silence. (who names their daughter Silence? someone who is going to be enjoying a lot of painful irony during teething, that’s who)
I really liked this idea, because it also had the benefit of me kind of giving a little early hint to the readers about who each of these really different siblings were. Also, “Fortitude Scott” is a pretty cool name. I’m not sure that “Pete Scott” would’ve had as much going for it.
I mentioned that your vampire lore is different. In fact, it is nothing like anything I’ve ever read before. Especially where vampire babies come from! That right there is a mix of awesome and *shudder* and it had me marvel at the level of your imagination. You wrote an interesting blog post here about it but could you quickly explain where your ‘vampire’ ideas came from?
Sure! My personal take on vampire workings really originated from a need for my vampires to make sense to me on a biological level, rather than a bunch of sexy-haired creatures who never aged, would never die, and could make more of themselves with just a few drops of blood. I mean, ecologically that’s going to end about as well as bringing a few rabbits along on your trip to Australia.
So I rethought vampires in two directions – first, as apex predators. An apex predator is an amazing animal (think polar bears, great white sharks, wolves), but it’s actually in a biologically more precarious position than its prey animals, since it doesn’t reproduce as quickly or in as many numbers, and takes a long time to reach sexual maturity. As humans have found out many times before (the Tasmanian tiger, the Florida panther, wolves), bad things can happen in a big way with these populations. I wanted my vampires to be like that, and scrabbling right on the edge of extinction, because it means that the population, and thus the individual, has something at stake.
Secondly, I thought about vampires as parasites. Since I live in New England, that led directly to the deer tick. And once you base a reproductive system on deer ticks… things are going to start getting interesting. 🙂
Was part of why you came up with something so different for your vampires because you knew you were writing a book that would be included in a genre that was already saturated with them? Did you feel pressure to come up with something extra-unique or was this always how you imagined writing them?
I think it’s impossible to work with vampires and not be aware that you’re in a pretty well-plowed literary field. Some people really embrace that, and that’s great, but I didn’t want to work with Vampire Classic. A big part of that is what we’ve talked about earlier – I didn’t want to work with an immortal species with population issues and fabulous hair, because on a basic storytelling level I found it fairly boring – but I also did design my vampires with an awareness that this book also needed something to set it apart in a very crowded genre.
With your form of ‘vampire birth control’, how many vampires would you estimate there are in your world?
Low hundreds. This is a population in complete crisis, and right on the edge of extinction. If my vampires had a mascot, it would be the Florida panther.
Let’s talk about Chivalry. At first, he’s not the most likable person. In fact, he’s a bit of a jerk. But then you start seeing glimpses of an almost gentle man. Almost 😉 Could it be that our fierce Chivalry has a softer side and feels guilty for what is to become of his wives? Could he sincerely love his baby brother?
In terms of loving Fortitude, yes. A big part of how I understand Chivalry is just how much he loves his younger brother – but anyone who is a sibling knows that you can be fiercely devoted and still want to punch that person in the face when they are making stupid life-choices. And from Chivalry’s point of view, the way that Fortitude acts is insane and self-destructive, which leads Chivalry to act, yes, at times like a jerk. 🙂
Regarding his wives… now that’s getting complicated. Chivalry is a loving and devoted husband – but he is also killing each woman he loves in a slow and very painful way. He is devoted, but he is also a predator, and whether he actually feels guilt over what he’s doing… that’s something that I’ll definitely be spending more time with in future books. Because I think it’s really fascinating.
Prudence is the total opposite of, well, just about everyone in this book. I would not enjoy having her as my sibling because she scares me. lol How old is Prudence and why did you decide to portray her the way you did?
Prudence was born in 1775 and is not someone I would want to mess with. 🙂
The portrayal of Prudence is based on two things – firstly, I wanted there to be a primary vampire character who made it more obvious than anyone else that this is not a cuddly species – to Prudence, humans are extremely disposable. If they stop showing some kind of value to her personal needs, or in any way threaten the safety of her family, they are going to die, and she will have zero regrets unless some blood happened to get on her clothing. (and that dry cleaner had better pray that he can get bloodstains out!)
But Prudence also ties back a little to my early experience reading Ender’s Game, where the primary character, Ender, has two older siblings that are complete opposites – Valentine is his sister, and is loving and devoted and warm. Peter is his brother, and has (as is brilliantly put) the soul of a jackal. I’ve always found this such a fascinating dynamic, and there are more than a few echoes of it in how I constructed this family, but I also have always wondered just a little – how would Ender’s Game have been different if Peter and Valentine’s genders had been reversed? So there’s a little of that going on with Prudence.
I think it’s time to talk about Suzume. OMG I LOVE her! On the surface, she is flighty and self-serving but in reality, she is so much more. And man, is she funny! Where exactly did her character come from? And will she be in every book? *crosses fingers*
Oh, I’m glad, because I love Suzume too! She makes every scene she’s in more fun to write.
Her character really came from my desire to write someone who would really shine a spotlight on a lot of the things that Fort struggles with through this book. He has low self-esteem, while Suzume has enough self-esteem to power a nuclear generator. He is frightened about what becoming a vampire means, Suzume couldn’t imagine wanting to be anything other than a kitsune. He is awkward in his own skin, Suzume is completely at home in her body.
She *is* flighty, self-serving, and is definitely operating on a different moral compass than Fort, but all of these things were, to me, necessary parts of her.
Suzume is a kitsune. Can you tell us what that is and why you decided on that form of shapeshifter instead of say a dragon shifter or a werewolf?
A kitsune is from Japanese folklore – basically they were foxes who could take human form. How they act depends on which story you’re reading, because sometimes they act maliciously, sometimes they act nobly (usually in response to a human’s nice action first, though), but even when they are nice, they are fundamentally tricksters.
Deciding against using a werewolf was something that happened pretty early – not because I don’t like them (I love werewolves), but because there is a bit of saturation in the genre. I wanted something different that would also be fun, and that was what was appealing about the kitsune.
Also, watch any videos online of fox behaviour – that animal looks like it’s having a lot of fun. There’s an intelligence, a sneakiness, but also a large sense of playfulness that I find appealing about them that also had a big impact on how Suzume is written.
There isn’t any straight up romance in Generation V but I didn’t miss it at all. Your story is just so well written you don’t miss it! But for fans of romance, are you planning on integrating a romantic plotline down the road?
Oh, don’t worry, I’ve definitely got some irons in the fire.
You are contracted for three books so far and the second book in your series, tentatively titled Iron Night, will hopefully be released in January 2014. Can you give hints as to where Fort’s adventures will take him in the next installment?
Further into the supernatural portions of this world, and into all of those places that Fort has avoided going before. He can’t pretend that he’s human anymore, but it means that life is going to get a lot more complicated for him. It’s also going to start becoming a danger to the people around him.
Another important thing about the next book is that Fort is growing up a bit here. He’s not just making reactions to situations he finds himself in – he’ll be taking a lot more ownership of events.
Okay, Flash Four time
Flash Four questions about books and writing ~
How long, from start to end, did it take you to write “Generation V”?
I was thinking about and making basic notes on ideas for at least two years before I wrote any part of it, but once I actually sat down and started, it took about three months.
Did you see yourself being a writer as you were growing up?
From about high school on, I always thought that I would be in a career where writing was a big component, and that I wanted to do original writing on the side.
In what room of your house do you write from?
I actually have two writing spaces set up in my house – one is in my office, and I work there a lot in the winter and fall, and the second is a desk I’ve set up in my dining room that is really nice to write in during the summer.
Do you tend to come up with the title for your book before you start writing it, while you’re writing it or when it’s all done?
I do a lot of things well in the writing process, but putting a title on something is not one of them. Generation V had a horrific working title, a really bad title when I was done, and a very bad title when my agent asked me to please come up with a better title for her to try to sell it with. It finally got a good title when my editor just took control and named it.
Flash four questions about random things ~
Sweet or salty snacks?
Salty! Then something sweet! Then something salty! Then some soda! (it’s lunchtime, sorry)
What color is your toothbrush?
Your high school experience: good or bad?
Kind of middle-ish. Some okay years, some really bad years. College was amazing.
What do you like on your pizza?
Thank you ML for stopping by the blog today. I encourage every single fan of urban fantasy to give Generation V a try. It is, without a doubt, going to end up on my Favorites of 2013 list. It is that amazing.
I am thrilled to death that you liked it, and thanks so much for the amazing questions! This was incredibly fun!
Giveaway time! ML is giving away a signed copy of Generation V!!! Just leave a comment by Sunday, May 12th 11:59pm est and you’re in. Giveaway open Canada / US. Good luck everyone!