Welcome, one and all, to another author interview. This time around I’ve been talking to the talented M.D. Neu.
Welcome aboard! Can you give a quick introduction for those that aren’t familiar with you or your work?
Firstly, thank you Matt for having me here today. It’s a real treat. Well, for those that don’t know me. My name is M.D. Neu and I’m an LGBTQA fiction writer living in San Jose, California. I’ve always loved science fiction, fantasy and paranormal movies, books and television. The idea of what lays just beyond our reach has always fascinated me and it’s this appreciation for such works that inspired me to start writing. Well that, and the need to see more strong LGBTQA characters.
Your debut novel, The Calling, was released in January this year. How did it feel to see the book get set loose upon the world?
Honestly, Matt, it’s crazy. If someone would’ve told me a year ago I’d have a book released by an actual publisher I wouldn’t have believed them. Let alone having this book and two short stories. It’s a dream come true. I’m very thankful and I feel truly blessed.
The story follows Duncan, a non-descript guy who is called to join a world of immortals. What I find interesting here is that the blurb paints a clear image of the book mixing elements of paranormal romance with a bit of intrigue and an air of fantasy. Was this mix intentional, and was it hard to balance the elements at all?
Yes, having this mix of the three was intentional. I’ve always loved stories that were different and didn’t get hammered down in one element. Why can’t we have a little of everything? That’s what makes a great story.
Finding a balance wasn’t especially difficult since that was the goal from the start. There were key things I wanted to show and have happen in the book. Because the book is a vampire story, you get a lot of flexibility. It’s the nature of the beast as they say. With the mix of so many elements, I’d like to think you get a story based in a kind of realism, at least that was my goal.
Many reviewers have been quick to point out that the immortals in the book are vampiric in nature, but that the mythos used doesn’t fit entirely with the older stories of the well-known bloodsuckers. In truth, vampire stories have been quite varied in nature for a long time though. Were there any particular vampire tales that inspired you here?
I love Anne Rice; Interview with the Vampire was amazing. Her vampires had style, which I adore. I also enjoyed Charlaine Harris’s take on vampires, so there is a bit of that especially with the Dark Vampires. And, I would be remiss to not include Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Honestly, with all the vampire stories out there (both print and in media) I’m sure I pulled from everything, but I hope my own originality shows through and readers don’t crinkle their nose saying ‘been there done this’.
How important was it for you to put your own stamp on the vampire mythos?
Very. As I hinted at above. The issue I have with all vampire stories and lore is that in our day and age with camera phones and CCTV everywhere, not to mention social media, it would be next to impossible for vampires, especially the more animalistic ones, to survive our modern day society. All that would need to happen is one viral video on YouTube and their cover would be blown. Not to mention people are going to notice large numbers of bodies appearing in every major city around the world completely drained of blood. I never understood how they didn’t get found out.
In my vampire story I wanted to address this issue and make it as real as possible. Of course, I don’t explain it all, but I hope I make it realistic enough so people don’t find it too hard to believe.
Humor and ‘taking a breather in action’ as I think of it, was absolutely important and necessary to me when I wrote this book. Some of the best stories have a bit of fun in them, they make you chuckle, it another emotional level we as writers get to use, so why leave it out. It’s also a way to show a character’s personality. I want the reader to get to know these characters and see them as more than just monsters.
In order for vampires to exist in my world, they need to grow and adapt. They have to be able to blend in. Which means they have to deal with humans on a regular basis. You can’t have a killing machine who only sees humans as cattle, that wouldn’t work. Look what happens with serial killers, they eventually screw up and get found out. So, in my book even the Dark have to deal with humans on a regular basis, some do better than others, but for the most part they all keep up appearances.
My Immortals understand, even if they don’t admit it, that if humans ever figured it out they would no longer exist, they would be hunted down and killed or studied. So, giving them a bit of humor and fun was all part of the story. Plus, how dull would life be without a joke or a jab here and there?
The world building in the book has been praised by many. Did you create a lot of backstory before you started writing the core text, or did a lot of it develop organically as you were writing?
The world building was a mix of a lot of research and organic development. I knew going in I would have to figure out the lore of my vampires. How they worked and what their reality was like. I also had to figure out their rules pretty quick. Along with that, I knew some of my vamps were going to be really old which meant I had to research history. Figure out what part of the world they came from and what they would have and wouldn’t have known. I learned more about Ancient Rome and the Witch trails than I ever learned in school, but it was kind of fun.
As a result of all this research, I have some get notes and fun facts I hope to get to use for the second book.
Were there any scenes that you were particularly proud of in the book, or that you really enjoy reading back?
Two come to mind. I love the scene with Juliet and Duncan near the start of the book. They had just dealt with Victor and Duncan is left a bit shocked. It’s the first time we see Juliet and Duncan bond. We also get to that Juliet doesn’t know everything and Duncan has to face the truth about what he wants and what he’s missing in life. For me it’s the turning point for the two of them and endears them to me.
The second scene is when Duncan is practicing his talent and ends up seeing a bit more of one of the characters than he should have. It makes me laugh all the time because it’s an honest awkward moment and I love those, because they are real, would it happen in the real world, not like that, but I’m sure we all have heard/seen something similar.
Of course, the main characters are important in any book, but so are the supporting cast. Who was your favourite secondary character to write?
Oh picking a favorite secondary character is tough. I really like Amanda, she’s brilliant and doesn’t mess around. I have tons of notes on her, I really built her out in my notes, so there is a lot there. I always thought it would be great to sit down with her and have dinner. Just to hear her stories and get to know her. Plus, I love her sassy attitude.
Do you have any further books set in this universe planned?
As of right now I have a sequel planned and I’ve been toying around with the idea of a prequel that will focus a bit more on Juliet and Victor. They both have stories that I think would be fun to tell.
I noted on your site that you set out to write stories where homosexuality is accepted, as you grew up in an accepting home. This has panned out in The Calling, with one reviewer even stating how refreshing it was to see that being gay was viewed as normal and boring a topic as being straight was. This is something that I would agree is important, as I was lucky enough to grow up in an accepting environment myself, and a lot of stories that I came across showed a lot more conflict than I saw. Obviously, such stories are important, but it’s good to see other experiences represented. My question is, do you think that we will see more stories like this appear, and how important do you think it is to see such representation in genre fiction, as well as contemporary?
My goal is to write LGBTQA characters that are strong and get to have amazing adventures, where being gay (or however you want to classify yourself) is no big deal. Those are the stories I want to tell. I absolutely wanted to see more novels like this especially that aren’t romance based. I want to show the reader that gay is cross-cultural, gender, and economics. Not every story has to be a painful coming out story, or a story of acceptance. These stories are wonderful, and I love them, but that’s not what I wanted to write. I wanted my LGBTQA characters to be the heroes of the story and not the sidekick or best friend.
Moving away from The Calling for a moment, you also recently released two shorter stories. The first of these that I wanted to mention is with the story ‘A Dragon For Christmas’. This tale is a little different to The Calling, and not just in length. What can you tell us about the story?
A Dragon for Christmas is a wonderful fantasy story about a little Latina girl Carmen. In her world, she has been cursed since birth and in order for her to beat the curse she needs to get a dragon to help her. Dragons acquired on Christmas have the most power and are the strongest. But what makes this story different is that Carmen knows one day she’s going to marry her best friend Mattie.
With this story I wanted it to be something that parents could read with their kids. I wanted it to be a story that kids would want to read because of the amazing adventure Carmen gets to go on. Who wouldn’t want a Dragon? Again, it doesn’t matter that Carmen is a lesbian, that’s not the focus, it’s this incredible journey that she gets to go on.
I especially thought it important to have a character that was not only female but Latina. It’s all about positive role models, I think Carmen is someone everyone can and should look up to and hopefully relate to at some level.
I love how sweet this one sounds, and dragons are always cool to see. Do you have a favourite fictional dragon?
I adore Dragons they have always been a fovorite of mine. I have several around my office, that keep watch over me. As for a personal favorite, you may laugh, but I’ve always been partial to Pete’s Dragon.
Slightly longer is ‘The Reunion’, which is a Halloween themed piece. What can you tell us about this one?
The Reunion, well for me it’s everything I want in a ghost story. I’ve always loved Alfred Hitchchock’s take on storytelling. You never found out any more than what the characters knew. He didn’t cheat and have them stumble across answers that they had no business learning or figuring out. When I wrote The Reunion I wanted to do the same thing. Some people enjoyed the idea of not getting all the answers while others didn’t, but that’s okay. We’re not all going to like the same things.
The story revolves around Teddy and his friends as they come together to mark the twentieth anniversary of their towns demise. I don’t really want to say too much more than that. However, I will add it’s a quirky story with some off the wall and not typical characters that I hope people will enjoy meeting.
Did you find working in the shorter length constraining at all compared to a full-length book, or did it feel right for these particular stories?
With both A Dragon for Christmas and The Reunion I knew I was writing short stories so I planned accordingly. It was a fun challenge as I can be rather wordy. I love details and descriptions and to tell a good story I think you need to have both, so for me it was finding a balance between plot, character and descriptions. I like to think I did a good job with it.
You seem to have a knack for writing relatable, recognisable characters that draw readers in. Do you base your leads on people that you know, or are they purely fictional?
The three stories above were all released via NineStar Press. How did you first come across the publisher, and how have you found working with them so far?
I had looked around for LGBTQA publishers and NineStar Press was top of my list. I submitted The Calling to them and a week later, a buddy of mine who had recently been signed by NineStar contacted me and asked me if I had submitted anything to them. When I told him I had, he said he would let his editor know, they were in the process of looking for more LGBTQA works by gay authors. He also said he couldn’t promise anything.
So, I waited. Jumping forward a few more weeks I got a message that they had accepted my manuscript. It was amazing, and it took me a day to actually believe it.
As far as working with the staff at NineStar Press I couldn’t be more pleased. They are an amazing group and they are there to answer all my questions. I feel like they really want me to succeed.
Moving away from writing for a moment, you’ve been with your husband Eric for more than eighteen years. It’s always great to see happy relationships lasting out. What’s your secret?
This year it’s actually going to be twenty I’m going to need to update that bit of info. I don’t know if there’s a secret, we just really enjoy being around each other. Eric and I share many of the same interests and we have a good time wherever we are. I think one key element to our relationship is we balance each other out. He’s more quiet and reserved and I’m more… well I guess I’m more the opposite of quiet and reserved. Anyway, I couldn’t do any of this without him and his support. He’s the love of my life.
Finally, I wanted to thank you for dropping by today. Did you have any final messages for readers? Where can they go to find out more about you? Feel free to link to anything you want.
Thank you so much for having me today. It’s been great getting to share more about me and my stories. One thing that I’m excited to share with you and everyone else is that NineStar Press has opted to pick up my science fiction novel A New World – Contact. Contact is the first book in my science fiction series (currently planned for three books). Contact will need to be released in two parts, but I’m thrilled that they are picking up this novel. As of now the release date will be either late 2018 or early 2019, but that is subject to change.
NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/authors/m-d-neu/