Q&A with ML Brennan plus Giveaway
Today I am pleased to welcome ML Brennan. This is not her first time here and it won’t be her last because she has become one of my favorite interviews and guest posters. Her answers are smart, thoughtful, honest and funny! No not only am I a huge fan of her series but also of her. Generation V was one of my favorite reads of 2013 and Iron Night is already on my faves of this year list. It’s simple as to why: her characters are outstanding and her books are fantastic.
Now, help me welcome ML Brennan to the blog.
Tell us what Fort and friends are up to in Iron Night, the second installment in your (can you fill in here what your series is called exactly. I see it called so many different things at different sites lol)?
Haha! That’s actually been a fun surprise for me as well! I didn’t have an overall series name, so the marketing group over at Roc came up with The American Vampire, which I thought was kind of fun. I think the problem kind of came up when Iron Night was titled and it didn’t have an obvious tie to Generation V. Then a new artist was hired to do the Iron Night cover, and made that very cool grey V as part of the background that really tied it visually back to the cover of Generation V, which I think is probably when someone said, “Oh, dude, we should’ve totally called this the Generation V series! Such a bummer that we can’t call it that now!” (in my head, the person talking is Keanu Reeves, editor) and then someone else said, “Screw that, we can call this whatever the hell we want! We control the feed, man!” (the person responding is Marty from Cabin in the Woods)
This is, by the way, a guess. My entire involvement was looking at Amazon, noting the new title, and saying, “Oh, they changed the series name. Neat!” (as you can see, I am a very involved author in all matters outside the content of the book)
So… wait, there was an actual question here.
Fort’s just trying to live a regular life, albeit with a lot more involvement with his vampire family. But then his new roommate (who was not only paying rent on time, but was a really nice guy) ends up murdered. Fort’s family tells him not to worry, stuff like this is bound to happen in Providence (which his mother notes has completely gone downhill since the Irish arrived), but Fort can’t help but think that it’s no coincidence that Gage lived with the only vampire in the city and ended up murdered. With his friend and tormenting prankster Suzume on board, Fort sets out to find a murderer. But nothing could’ve prepared him for what they find. (duh-duh-DUUUUH)
LOL Love it!
You introduce a few new characters in this book but none stand out as much as Lilah. You’ve said she was a challenge to write. What made her challenging?
Part of it traces back to how I built Suzume. A big part in her construction was that I wanted her to have (in spades) a lot of the traits that Fort didn’t really exhibit – self-confidence, fun, sheer badass enjoyment. Part of what Fort admires about Suze is that she has these traits that he knows that he really doesn’t. Kind of like how I admire people who get up early and jog – because that’s not something I’m ever going to be capable of doing (I sleep in).
With Lilah, I wasn’t trying to create a counterpoint to Fort, but rather someone who really embodied and exhibited traits that were much more inherent to Fort. Lilah has a sweetness to her, a deep sense of morality, and a bit of self-deprecation. And at the heart of her, hidden better than Fort but still there, she’s deeply uncomfortable with her own heritage. I wanted someone who complimented Fort by having a lot of the qualities that he felt most comfortable with.
What made writing her challenging was that in the first draft, I’d concentrated too hard on building Lilah in terms of how she related to Fort, and I lost sight of the fact that she needed to be a person. Suze’s construction didn’t stop at the traits I wanted her to embody – that just went into the mix, but she functions as a rounded character. Lilah in the initial draft was saccharine sweet and too shy – she didn’t work, and I knew I’d made a mistake when my editor asked if I was willing to phase her out about halfway through the book. So I went back and really dug into Lilah – and in doing so, I was able to fill her in and make her a person. The Lilah of Iron Night is much different than my draft – she still has all of those traits that I initially wanted, but she also has a toughness of mind and a strong protective instinct that weren’t there before. She’s also capable of getting pissed off when Suze pushes her too far, too, which didn’t happen in the draft. So really my challenge was to remember that every character needs to be a *person* and not just fill a role.
Well what you did really worked because I really liked her even though there was a part of me that really didn’t want to 😉
In both Generation V and Iron Night, you concocted some pretty imaginative/creepy/gory scenes. I have to say that the scene at the climax of Iron Night is especially…disturbing, in the very best of ways. But the scene that ended up in the book was actually a toned down version! You were told by your editor that your original version was a bit too much. A) I can’t believe you had it written more gruesome than it is and B) What did you think when your editor asked you to re-think that scene?
Oh, I totally grossed out my editor. I seem to do that a minimum of once per book. I think I just get so wrapped up in the project that I lose sight of the gross factor.
My thought process when my editor asked me to tone it back went almost exactly like this:
“What? So parts of a person get chopped off and then other people have to eat them. That’s suddenly a problem? Jeez. *sigh* I don’t know, I think it loses something without it… *grumble* I guess Anne knows what she’s talking about, but I don’t see the big deal… people eat cow tongues in some cultures…. And I think people eat animal wangs in other cultures… *grumble* *erase* *erase* *erase*”
*An hour later, talking to my husband*
Me: “So you wouldn’t believe what my editor wants me to take out of the book (explains)”
Husband: “You wrote WHAT??????? That’s so gross!”
Me: It was no big deal!
*three months later, finally out of book haze*
Me: Hrm. Maybe that would’ve been a bit much for some people.
LMAO!!! Well, now I am super happy you were asked to change it…
Fort and Suzume. They are two of the best characters I have ever read. Their chemistry is just amazing! And they aren’t even a couple (yet, I hope ;)! What is the secret to writing such strong and combustible chemistry between two characters?
Definitely the periodic table. (oh yeah, let’s hear it for the chemists in the audience!)
Seriously, though, I love that you like the two of them so much, and that people have been so excited about where I took them in Iron Night. I think a big part of what’s helping their chemistry is that the two of them honestly complement each other so much – they aren’t mirrors of each other. Suze has a lot of traits that Fort admires, but Fort has his own strengths that Suze lacks. Together, they each bring something to the table. Plus, they are so much fun to write because even though to a certain extent Fort is Suze’s straight man for the jokes, he clearly enjoys her humor. Left to his own devices, Fort can get a bit emo, and Suze’s love of life really perks him up.
I’ve also been trying very hard to take my time and let their relationship work itself out at its own pace. In my initial series plan, a lot more relationship stuff took place in Iron Night – once I got down to the writing, though, it just didn’t feel right at all. I was pretty nervous about that for a long time, and I finally talked on the phone with my editor, which turned out to be incredibly helpful, since her response was basically, “Hey, that’s fine,” which was exactly what I needed to hear.
The second I finished Iron Night, I wanted Tainted Blood, book three. But alas, it isn’t going to hit shelves until much later this year. Can you give us a little hint or two about what will happen in that installment?
Well, maybe just a biiit later. November isn’t far, right? I mean, they’ll be selling Christmas stuff in practically July, so November is right around the corner, right?
Hrm… hints… hints…. (meh heh heh)
Hint #1: You’ll be seeing more of Suze’s family. A lot more.
Hint #2: Territory politics get hinted at in Iron Night. These are going to have a much bigger presence in the third book.
Hint #3: There are some characters in Iron Night whose health has been going downhill. For at least one character, that decline will reach its natural conclusion in Tainted Blood. OMG Who?! *cries*
Hint #4: Fort’s siblings have been doing more behind the scenes for him than he realized, and he discovers that he is more dependent on them than he ever knew.
Hint #5: He will find this out the hard way.
Hint #6: I did a lot of research into the digestive systems of vampire bats for this book. (Thing I won’t actually be using – the huge amount that vampire bats have to pee because of their liquid diets. seriously, halfway through a feeding they just start whizzing. I decided not to be fully accurate in that respect) Erm…thank you for that…
Hint Lucky #7: Page 249 of Generation V will finally have its payoff in Tainted Blood. *runs to get copy of Generation V*
Okay, since this is the second time I’ve interviewed you, I am going to ask you a different set of Flash Four questions:
Do you need to have coffee in the morning to function?
I am one of those rare and unspeakable creatures who actually requires no coffee at all. I get up, grumble, drink a glass of milk, and get on with my day. I have no idea where this comes from, since my father always drinks coffee and my mother drinks tea.
Do you prefer to write with a blue pen or a black pen?
Black pen, and preferably the nice ballpoints that I steal from my local bank. (shifty eyes) I mean… the ones that mysteriously end up in my pockets after I leave my local bank.
First book you remember reading and really enjoying?
I don’t remember the title, but when I was about seven I was reading this book about how some animals have symbiotic relationships with each other, and I actually remember how much it totally blew my mind.
If you weren’t allowed to write Urban Fantasy books, what genre would you most likely try?
It’s a tough choice. On the one hand, Fantasy would be a genre that might allow me to try and retain a lot of my current readers, but on the other hand I really want to try my hand at Sci-Fi. But whatever genre I switched to, I would not be happy until you had read my book. 🙂 Aww…
Thank you ML for answering my questions. I always LOVE your answers!
And seriously folks, if you like urban fantasy, even just a little, you HAVE to try Generation V and Iron Night. They are absolutely amazing books and the characters stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.
Now it’s time for the giveaway details! Penguin is offering a copy of Iron Night to one lucky winner. To enter, simply leave a comment below by Sunday January 19th 2014 11:59pm EST. Easy peasy. Giveaway open Canada/US. Best of luck to all of you who enter!