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Dear readers,

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-- Rhi


10.30.2010

Guest Blog: Author Meljean Brook

When I decided I wanted to focus on authors for each month of my third year blogging I knew who was going to be my first author of the month without a hesitant moment. For ages now I've eyeballed Meljean Brook's Guardians series. I even bought the first four titles only to let them sit for months and months. But as those of you who regularly read my blog know... I can be a bit slow, as in, I actually read very slowly. I blame the dyslexia and children (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). :P Which is frustrating but worked out well for us both with The Iron Duke being new this month. I got to start two series at once and compare and contrast them to my heart's desire.

The Iron Duke is the first book in The Iron Seas series but there was a terrific novella in the anthology Burning Up which I reviewed last month. If you're new to steampunk I think it's a good taste without being too overbearing and if you enjoy the novella well... you won't want to waste any time picking up The Iron Duke.

(As a funny aside here let me note that I received a postcard to remind me about the book's release in the mail but was folding laundry at the time and set it in the basket of clean clothes. In typical busy mom fashion I left the room to do something only to come back and find that the baby had eaten all four corners of said postcard. Apparently the wee lady thought Rhys was quite yummy! ;D )

Earlier this year I did a month of steampunk and zombies reading that really sold me on both as growing genres. Fortunately zombies in steampunk are popping up enough to really satisfy my craving for both. (Not to totally sidetrack here but is anyone else planning on checking out AMC's The Walking Dead premiere episode tomorrow night?) The zombies of The Iron Seas are just as damned scary as my favorites in 28 Days Later.

Meanwhile, steampunk and romance are so well suited to one another it was only a matter of time before we started seeing a great crop of them landing on shelves. From everything I'm reading it looks like 2011 is going to be chalk full of them. I shall keep you posted as I find more but look at the steampunk tag here on RhiReading to find some that have already been released.

Does the sudden interest in steampunk romances mean I'm giving up my paranormals? Heck no! But it did get me wondering what challenges a writer like Meljean would have in going from one to the other so I asked her to drop by with a guest post sharing what challenges she might have had. I do hope you'll enjoy it!

And thank you so very much Meljean for gracing my humble blog with your presence! -- Rhi



On Getting Superheroes Out of Their Tights

As anyone who follows my blog probably knows, I’m a huge fan of comic-book superheroes. I love them – their over-the-top origin stories, the cackling and costumed villains, the struggle of living dual lives and fighting evil.

I’ve long held that opinion that many paranormal romances aren’t rooted in horror, but that comic-book-superhero sensibility. The heroes might have fangs, but they have more in common with Batman than with Dracula – they are dark and brooding, rich and sexy. They often form brotherhoods or teams, and fight some other (evil) brotherhood or team, even though each one has a distinct personality or uniform or super-power. The only real difference is ... romance heroes don’t wear tights.

(And thank goodness, right? As much as I love the campy, 1960s Batman series, Adam West in gray tights doesn’t exactly fuel many of my fantasies. Leather, however? Rowr.)

I don’t think that my Guardian series is any different (which isn’t surprising, given that the very, very earliest germ of the idea that it sprang from was an alternate universe Justice League fanfic I’d been writing.) I’ve got my heroes and heroines with individual powers, all forming a team – the Guardians. I’ve got the uber-bad guys (the demons and nosferatu) with a few separate factions that might be good or bad, depending on their intentions (vampires, grigori, nephilim.)

And like comic book story-telling, there is a big, overarching storyline. Oh, each book contains its own plot and romance, and I follow a new hero/heroine in the next book, but as soon as one book closes, the never-ending story* continues in the next one.

As a huge fan of comic books, there’s something very appealing about that to me. And with ten Guardian stories under my belt, it’s familiar, and comfortable.

Which is why I’m doing something completely different with the Iron Seas series.

You see, as much as I love comic books and those endless storylines, following familiar characters through adventures, with that format comes a few very real dangers: getting into a rut, and/or jumping the shark.

We’ve seen it before, haven’t we? In Spider-Man, Marvel felt that Spidey was in a rut, and so they broke up his marriage with Mary Jane (erased it from existence, actually). I can’t count how many times the X-Men have changed their team roster (sometimes to exciting effect, and sometimes losing me as a reader for years at a time.) Wonder Woman was just rebooted with a new personality and new costume. A few years ago, DC decided that its universe was ... too light? its heroes were too soft or good? ... and had a beloved character raped, which was followed by Crisis event after Crisis event, during which many fans were quitting the books or screaming, “WTF? Who are these characters, because they aren’t the heroes that we know and love!”

Some fans hold on through the bumps. Some don’t. Some new fans jump on, and wonder why everyone is so angry, because they love the new direction!

And it’s all because the creators and writers were trying to inject a little bit of excitement back into their characters’ lives – which is a laudable intention, of course. Sometimes it just goes horribly wrong.

So I was thinking of that when I began creating the Iron Seas series. I thought: I love the Guardians, but do I want to do the same thing? Do I want to risk the same dangers? Because it would have been very easy to set up another brotherhood of pirates and adventurers (somewhat like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and then spend time giving each hero or heroine his own romance – or even follow one heroine along on her adventures, in true comic-book fashion.

The second, I’m not really predisposed to, anyway – I prefer to write about a new couple in each book, so that was an easy decision. Deciding not to write the team or in a pseudo-serial format, where each chapter (book) is another step in the overarching story ... that wasn’t so easy, because I like to see something being accomplished over the course of several books, especially if they are set in an alternate world – and I think that many readers like that, too. I kept asking myself: If a series doesn’t go anywhere, if it just spins its wheels ... well, what’s the point? Are the hotties wearing leather-instead-of-tights enough?

And that question bothered me ... a LOT.

The solution ended up being ridiculously simple, of course – the problem was that my thinking itself had become stuck in a rut. I’d become so used to thinking of heroes and the stories from a single series in relation to comic books that I’d forgotten that at the core of every book and every story is the romance and the adventure ... and each one of those can stand alone, can rebuild the world with every book, and that something can (and should!) be accomplished within every book. There doesn’t have to be an overarching storyline, and stories that are just as big can be told within one book.

So that’s what I decided to do: I won’t write a series like I would comic books, but a series of adventure novels – each one set in the same world, but in a new and exciting part of that world. Problem solved.

Of course, my Iron Seas heroes are still dark and rich and broody, and look great once they take off their tights (or breeches, or goggles), so I haven’t ventured all that far from my roots.

What do you prefer? Do you prefer paranormal/romances that share a world, but whose characters and storylines stand alone or aren’t closely related? Or do you love the series where everyone is introduced at the beginning, and we get to see the long fight versus the bad guys, and watch each of the good guys fall in love along the way? Or, like me, are you a fan of both, and it just depends on what your mood is that day?

And do you like series that continue on as they start, or are you comfortable with big shake-ups over the course of the series?

--
*that said, the Guardian series will end in 2012, after I finish the big overarching storyline ... mostly so that I don’t end up jumping the shark or getting into that dreaded rut.

5 comments:

iceprincessreviews said...

I'm like you, a fan of both, but I like trying to find single paranormal/romances books since they are easier for my wishlists. >.<

It's a burden every time my parents say, "Here's your limit for your birthday/Christmas. Pick what you want." I usually get books and some clothes - or just books, depending on my mood.

I'll put your Guardian Series on this year's list, along with Karen Marie Moning's fever series - in hopes she won't make the related series too related, if that makes sense.

And thank you so much for being one of the authors that know when to end a series without having 20+ books in them. ^^

meljean brook said...

iceprincess -- haha! I've totally put off Moning's Fever series because I heard it was continuing, AND because some books ended on a cliffhanger. There's no way I could survive that! So I've been collecting them as I go along, but I won't even try them until the last one is out (and will probably wait for the paperback, too.)

The same thing happened with Gleason's Gardella series. That one, I read the first ... then realized to keep from going crazy as the series progressed, I'd better wait until the last book was out before reading them.

On the other hand, I really appreciate that both authors are offering closure to both storylines, after not too many books (especially since it follows one heroine throughout.) I also love that series like Jeaniene Frost's, J.D. Robb's and Ilona's Andrews don't drag out the relationship stuff forever -- then I know that I'm following a couple that I love, rather than being jerked around between love interests. It makes a huge difference to me when I decide to follow a series (and there are a few series that I haven't followed, just because I know that fifteen books in, there's still no resolution or character growth at all.)

I do love series -- but at least with standalones, you don't have to worry about there not being resolution or growth (and if there isn't, it just means that it is a bad book.)

iceprincessreviews said...

I'm still thinking about whether to buy Moning's Fever series or not. I might not since my library has them, and I can read them there first - then buy them if I like the ending to it. I just need to tell the librarian that book 2 is missing from their collection, which should be easy since I volunteer there. :P

I also love series, but I like to know if they are ever going to end. It drives me crazy when authors say, "Who knows?" "Never say never." "I'm not planning on ending it for awhile." and things like that on their FAQ.

I guess I'll get Meg Cabot's Mediator series since it's completed, and I read one of the books at my library - and liked it. :)

Now I just have to worry about how to stuff it in my already out of space book shelf. >.>"

Angela said...

I'm a fan of both. Sometimes I want a nice, tied-up-in-one-book story. Other times I want the convoluted, inter-connected world with characters that I've known forever and have connected to over several books.

As much as I'm loving (and I seriously am loving them) reading your Guardians series, I'm glad to hear there's an end. Sometimes I think series can get dragged out, and the last books can ruin the books I fell so in love with in the beginning. I definitely don't want that to happen here.

And I have to agree on the dragged out relationship stuff. I tend to avoid series that have a triangle going on forever and ever. I'd prefer there be a resolution fairly early on - otherwise I feel like the author is just doing it to try to keep some false sense of tension - or the heroine (or hero) is an idiot that can't make choices. (Love Jeaniene Frost and Ilona Andrews)

LOL about the Fever series. I've been reading them since they first came out. I went in knowing that it was one story told over five books so I wasn't shocked at the cliffhanger, but I do have to tell you that each book got progressively better. Just two and a half months now until the final one, and it's been a hell of a journey.

There are some times that I enjoy the suspense and anticipation. It nearly kills me sometimes, but I always look back at the time that I spent with the series, and the fans, and am really appreciative of it.

I don't know if that makes sense now that I'm reading it over again. LOL.

Vorpaks said...

I have to sit on the fence -- I am a fan of both. In my mind there is not a huge difference between books that start out with a team of characters and books that just have characters set in the same world.

In fact, I think the team-based approach often... devolves? evolves? into a sereis of stories set in the same world as the author reaches the end of the original cast of characters and keeps going. And on the other side, books set in the same world that introduce a new couple each time often introduce secondary characters that later get their own story.

The enjoyment, for me, comes from getting invested in the world and learning more and more about the unique reality that the author has created. And I really do love when secondary characters grow throughout a series and eventually get their own book. (Sam and Alyssa from Sue Brockmann's Troubleshooter series comes to mind, and John Matthew and Xhex from JR Ward's series.) The emotional impact is huge.

I like your comic book analogy -- I had never thought of it in that light. I usually think of paranormal romances being like sci-fi novels... with more romance... and general hotness. :)

So reading the continuing adventures of Eve Dallas is a bit like reading the continuing adventures of Miles Vorkosigan. And reading about the Iron Seas world is a little like reading about the Dragonriders of Pern world, or Valdemar. (But muuuuuuuuuuch darker and, as I said, hotter *grin*)

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