Chat With an Author

A Chat with an Author: Meljean Brook

I first heard about Meljean Brook from my gurus over at Ramblings on Romance. Based on Katie(babs) recommendation, I picked up Demon Angel and fell completely in love with both the world that Meljean Brook created and with her style of narrative – which I think is beautiful and compelling.

I proceeded to read Demon Moon and Demon Night (her most recent release) and loved them. By then I had become a fan girl and I am certainly not alone – her books get consistently good reviews. I have stalked contacted Meljean in an attempt to pry about her upcoming book Demon Bound for an interview and she said yes!


The Book Smugglers: First of all, we would like to congratulate you on the success of your Guardians series – it has gathered quite a huge following, good reviews all around blogland and made a die-hard fangirl out of our very own Ana.

Meljean: Thank you! And the feeling is mutual; I’ve become a huge fan of your reviews and polls. Where else can I go to vote on the best 1980’s fantasy action adventure film, where Labyrinth is pitted against The Goonies? (The answer: my blog, which just goes to show how freaking awesome you two are.)

The Book Smugglers: You started your working career in the world of accounting and banking – when did you decide enough is enough?

Meljean: I’d always been a rabid reader, and wrote on my free time — but I really thought I could keep it as a hobby while actually making money in a ‘real’ job. Ha! How we delude ourselves. When I started Alt+Tabbing away from my work-in-progress to a payroll spreadsheet whenever my boss walked past my desk, I knew it was time for a change. So I decided to go back to school for my English degree, was in the master’s program but still writing on the side (and trying to convince myself that I might actually write literary fiction, even though I was dying to write fantasy-ish romance). Then I forced myself out of that second delusion and decided to write what where my heart really lay — and it wasn’t long after that I was contacted by my editor regarding some fanfiction I’d written. So, luckily, I had something ready to show her (and that became Demon Angel.)

The Book Smugglers: we know that you are a major fan of comic books and that you used to write fan-fiction about the DC universe- was that an important step towards your writing career?

Meljean: Definitely. There’s the obvious reason — my editor contacted me because of the fanfic — but more importantly, fanfic allowed me to improve my writing in a supportive (but critical) community, and build confidence in my writing. I’d never been able to finish a novel-length story before I wrote fanfic, and had gotten to the point where I wasn’t sure I could. Now, having long stories definitely isn’t the problem 🙂

The Book Smugglers: The Guardian series is an all around work of literature that can’t be described simply as romance or paranormal. There is also fantasy, religious themes and a lot of action – how would you describe the books? Do you think they fit in one specific genre?

Meljean: I’ve been asked this a couple of times, but I still don’t know exactly what genre I’d put them in. Whatever their description, it would have “romance” appended to it, because that is always my focus when I begin the story, and — to me — the heart of the story. Urban fantasy romance, perhaps — paranormal romance (although that sounds so generic.) They are on the dark side, but not without humor; they’re hot, but sex isn’t the focus. They touch on topics of morality and belief but (hopefully) aren’t preachy. So I think they would work well for crossover readers from other genres — especially those fantasy/urban fantasy readers who don’t mind the romance and sex.

The Book Smugglers – You mention in your website that you were influenced by Neil Gaiman – which is one of our favorite writers by the way – what other influences where important to your world building?

Meljean: Oh, wow. Milton, obviously — the first books of Paradise Lost were a huge influence, but also his essays. I’ve pulled in items from Greek mythology, The Divine Comedy, Marlowe. I will unabashedly use anything I think would be a good idea that fits the stories and characters. Pride and Prejudice and Oscar Wilde hung over me while I was writing Demon Moon; every action-adventure movie I’ve seen while writing Demon Night. More recently in Demon Bound, it’s been stories like The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane Eyre (and attached literary criticism) and Tim O’Brien’s amazing collection of Vietnam-era stories.

Then there are the books I know influence me but that I can’t point to a specific reference: The Last Unicorn, for its look at heroism — but also for its unique villain who captures the unicorns for the simple reason that they make him happy. There’s the Black Jewels trilogy, which I love not because of Jaenelle — who the book centers around — but the sacrifices and relationships of the men around her. That story culminates — for me at least — not in what she did, but in what Daemon does for her…and if I can ever capture even a little bit of that emotion (including the horror) in those scenes, I’ll die a happy writer.

The Book Smugglers – One of the points in your novels is that Lust is good and the Guardians are allowed to fully appreciate it whereas demons cannot experience pleasure – that is quite twisted: what made you come up with that?

Meljean: Partially it’s that free will is the core of everything the Guardians stand for — and so repressing emotions such as lust just didn’t fit with that. Lust in excess might not be all that great (especially if it eventually damages someone) but to forbid it just wouldn’t fit into who the Guardians are.

And partially, it’s because on a purely personal level, I’m tired of lust being demonized (in romance, in other literature, everywhere). I’m tired of it being “bad” — when, IMO, it’s a completely human response. If my characters get hot for one another, I don’t want guilt or shame attached to it. (They might feel guilt and shame for other reasons, but because lust is “bad”? No way.) So, I took it out of the demons’ makeup. That isn’t to say that they can’t use lust to manipulate humans (or Guardians) — but it’s one thing they can never experience like a human, and is one thing that will always mark them as separate.

The Book Smugglers – One of the most appealing traits about your stories is that the bad guys are almost as interesting as the good guys. Take the Demon Sammael who is in love in Jane in Demon Night but without losing his evil edge or the Demon Belial, Lucifer’s enemy number one who dreams of going back to heaven. Even the good guys are not entirely good, there is some darkness in all of them. Can you talk about a bit more about this dichotomy and how it became central to your novels?

Meljean : I just think it makes the characters more interesting — not only because they are more complex, but because the decisions they make aren’t always going to be easy. I like making them struggle physically, intellectually, emotionally; if every decision was easy, they (and I) don’t have to work very hard for their happy ending. So, at the heart, it’s really just about trying to tell the most interesting story I can, and grinding my characters’ hearts into smithereens before putting them back together.

The Book Smugglers – Your action sequences are well thought out and most of them are extremely easy to visualize. Not only that, sequences like Hugh killing Lilith, in Demon Angel are a mixture of poignant and dark which would translate really well into imagery – did you ever consider making the series into Graphic Novels? Would that be something you would think of?

Meljean: Ohhhhhhh, yes. 😀 Dream of more than actually think, because there is so much going on, I’m not sure if it would translate well to that format. But the thought of one of my stories laid out in panels does make me droooooool.

The Book Smugglers – Talking about Lucifer (one of Ana’s favorite characters) – we haven’t seen him since Demon Angel. Are you planning to bring him back?

Meljean: Yes. Not in the next book, but he’s not too far away.

The Book Smugglers – Your novels are much longer than many of the other paranormal romance novels around, do you think that it helps in developing your stories? Was it your decision to make them more than 450 pages long?

Meljean: I tried so hard not to write them that long. In truth, when I turned in my final draft of Demon Angel to my editor, I was terrified — because the word count was half again as long as it was supposed to be. I had nightmares of trying to cut 1/3 of that book out. But when I got my edits, I actually had to add in a few scenes that I’d already cut (trying to get the count down).

Then for Demon Moon, I tried to hit standard length again … and it was even longer. Demon Night, the same thing happened, even though I was sure the plot I’d laid out at the beginning was quite a bit simpler.

So it wasn’t really a choice that they ended up so long — they did despite every effort I made for them not to be. But the complexity of the worldbuilding and plot demanded the length, I think (at least as told in my style of writing and my voice). My editor and I did look for things to cut, but didn’t find anything; and luckily, she was of the opinion that as long as the story worked, and there wasn’t anything superfluous, it was just fine.

That said, Demon Bound is quite a bit shorter. Still longer than the typical novel, but I’ll be surprised if the printed version is more than 400 pages.

The Book Smugglers – The next full length book to be released is Demon Bound and it features a pair of Guardians as the main couple – can you tell us a bit more about the story?

Meljean: I’d love to! It’s about Alice, who was briefly introduced in Demon Night. She’s a Guardian with a Gift for talking with spiders — and she’s been bound by a bargain with a demon for the past century. Jake is a novice Guardian who discovers exactly what she has to deliver to the demon — and has to decide to help her or not.

And I say this about all of my characters, but these two were so much fun. Jake is creeped out by Alice at the beginning (she’s built up quite a reputation among the novices) and Alice is just irritated by him. But they go through quite a bit together, and work it out … but to say any more would be too much of a spoiler. *grin*

The Book Smugglers – You plan to write 8 full length books in this series – will Michael, the first Guardian, ever get one?

Meljean: His will be the last book.

The Book SmugglersDo you have any plans for when you finish the Guardian series? Would you consider changing genres? Horror for example?

Meljean: I’ve had a steampunk romance spinning it’s gears in my head for a while. I think I’ll be getting that one out. Whatever I do, I’m pretty sure it’ll be heavy on the romance; I think I’m just wired that way.

The Book Smugglers – to wrap it up, a cheeky question. Your books are full of pop culture mentions: from the X-files, Harry Potter to Karate Kid and The Fight Club. We see in your website that you are a major Joss Whedon fan as well. In a scale of 1-10 how much of a dork are you? (note: The Book Smugglers are proud to be a 10!)

Meljean: How much of a dork am I? On a scale of one to ten, I’m a 1013.

Meljean and R2D2

Meljean Brook thought herself a superhero growing up — a superhero princess. After her dreams of flying were brought to a crashing halt when she jumped off one too many sofas with a towel tied around her neck, she turned to safer pursuits: reading and writing about superheroes, princesses, and romance.

She read her first romance at the tender age of eight — Carole Mortimer’s Only Lover, Harlequin Presents #502. Thighs surged, hearts flipped, the men were larger than life and the women more beautiful than princesses, and Meljean was hooked. She consumed thousands of romances over the following two decades, first filching them from her grandmother’s library and reading them under her bedcovers, then proudly carrying them with her wherever she went. At the same time, in her notebooks and later her computers, she wrote romances by emulating her favorite authors’ styles — but it wasn’t until she wrote romantic fan fiction about two superheroes that she finally found her own voice.

Meljean writes sensual paranormal romance — she likes it sexy, emotional, and just a little weird. Currently, she is writing a novella in the Guardians series for Berkley Publishing. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their young daughter.

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  • Kerry
    May 30, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Thank you Ana, Thea and Meljean. A great interview. I am way behind with reading this series (only read Falling for Anthony and Demon Angel so far) but will get caught up one day soon I hope.

  • Thea
    May 31, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Meljean, thank you for the wonderful, entertaining, amazing, (insert superlative here) interview!

    Where else can I go to vote on the best 1980’s fantasy action adventure film, where Labyrinth is pitted against The Goonies? (The answer: my blog, which just goes to show how freaking awesome you two are.)

    It’s a tough call 🙂 Labyrinth!Bowie is just all kinds of awesome. But everything about the Goonies totally rocks.

    I love the picture with R2D2–and hey, an Ashism!! Army of Darkness rules.

    The Last Unicorn is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read (and I love the cartoon as well).

    OH and one more thing:
    …I really thought I could keep it as a hobby while actually making money in a ‘real’ job. Ha! How we delude ourselves. When I started Alt+Tabbing away from my work-in-progress to a payroll spreadsheet whenever my boss walked past my desk…
    This sounds eerily like my average day! My life would not be the same without the ‘alt+tab’.

    Ok that does it. I really *must* get on board and read this series now. Meljean, you are too cool 🙂 Thank you again for the wonderful interview!

  • Tracy
    May 31, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Thanks so much for the interview! That was great.

    Meljean – I love your books so much. I’m a huge Black Jewels Trilogy fan as well and mostly for the same reasons – it’s the men and what they do for those they love that get me.

  • Kate
    May 31, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Does everyone live in the Pacific Northwest? 🙂

    Another great interview, ladies; I’ve never read any of her books but what a great story of how she got into writing! (alt+tab is wholly a part of my life too.) I’ve got great respect for anyone who pursues what they actually want to do with their lives – it can be so difficult sometimes.

  • Ciara
    May 31, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I’ve read every one but Wildthing, which I haven’t been able to find and so must order one of these days, and they are all FABULOUS! I am a rabid fangirl. 😉 MJB has all the incredible world building and mythology that I love from Urban Fantasy with the heart wrenching luv, true luv that I crave from romance. She combines all the best things with strength and style. All I can say is THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU and write faster!!!

    Meljean – when are you coming to do a book signing in Seattle?

    Kate – anyone who is anyone lives in the pnw. We have the highest concentration of writers in the country living here. Could be that we are also the most educated, or that the beautiful scenery inspires us, or that it rains too much to do anything else… jk.

  • Ciara
    May 31, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Oh and the Last Unicorn is one of the greatest books of all time. It was my favorite movie as a child and I’m really hoping the live action that I’ve been hearing rumors about lives up to the book.

  • meljean brook
    May 31, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Kerry — I hope you enjoy the rest of the series! And, nope, you aren’t way behind. I’m just glad you’ve given them a try!

    thea — It’s my pleasure! I’ve been loving your reviews, and I hope you enjoy the books as well *crosses fingers with a scared look*

    For me, I think it’s the Goonies … unless I’ve recently watched anything else. Willow, for example, and then I’m crazy about Madmartigan again. Then I’ll see the Beastmaster and revel in the cheesy barbarian love. I’m really pretty easy when it comes to these movies; I lurve them all.

    Tracy — it’s funny, because I really am more of a heroine-centric reader … but those books just get me right where it hurts, and it’s all about the male characters. Unfortunately, it also means that everything else she writes has to live up to the trilogy (and hasn’t always) — but I have hopes for the upcoming The Shadow Queen and sequel.

    Kate — it is difficult, but definitely worth it. I’m doing exactly what I love, every day, and am lucky enough to have the support of my family (even though they also know how much easier it was when I wasn’t writing.)

    Ciara — lol! Thank you. I think my books either really work for readers, or they fall completely flat (as my Amazon reviews show — high or low, but not much middle ground. Which also makes me kind of an oddball, that I’m glad they produce either yay! feelings or grr! feelings, but not much “meh” … which I always feel is the worst.)

    I will try to write faster 🙂

    I am a little scared of a live action The Last Unicorn — but then I’m always hesitant when I hear that something I love will head into film (especially since the cartoon, I thought, was a wonderful adaptation.)

    Like the when-will-it-be-made? Wonder Woman film. A part of me can’t wait; another part of me quivers in fear in my bathtub, waiting for the world to fall down around me.

  • Katie(babs)
    May 31, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    As always a great review!!

    My poor Michael is last, all alone as he travels to Hell… 🙁

    Does anyone remember the Japanese cartoon with Unico, the magic unicorn with red hair and that annoying yet sweet cat that becomes a human girl? THAT cartoon is one of my favorite from the 80’s and goes for major bucks on ebay.

  • Thea
    May 31, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Oh. My. Lord.

    Katie–UNICO is my jam!!! That cartoon made me cry, had me in love, made me scared…everything you could ever ask for in a movie. I haven’t met anyone else that knows about Unico. *does banana dance*

    Meljean 🙂 Willow owns! Hmm, I think you’ve just inspired a rewatch. And maybe an ’80s fantasy/adventure movies post. I love Val Kilmer as Madmartigan! Especially when he’s under the love spell, oh how that scene makes me laugh! Sorsha is awesome, ” ‘I dwell in darkness without you’ and it went away?!?”

    Sigh. I hear you on Wonder Woman…there are so many ways it could go horribly wrong. And Diana deserves SO much better than that.

    And Meljean, I’ll have you know I just right now cracked open Demon Angel *ninja* 🙂

  • Kate
    May 31, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Oh my gosh…a famous author just spoke directly to me! I feel so…fluttery 🙂

    Ciara, I know you write too, and I have to laugh about your comment about the rain. I swear that I get way more done when it’s dreary out here. It’s nice today so I’m about to take my laptop outside, but I’ve already been distracted by thinking, “boy, it’s a nice day for fresh lemonade” and so now I’m going to have to cull some of my mint, find some lemons, see if it can happen…in short, I might get back to work sometime around nightfall 🙂 The rain fences me in.

    Ciara and Meljean, do you think the atmosphere in the PNW affects your writing habits or even scenes or moods in your writing? I sometimes feel like I’m more in tune to the weather in my books than I am the characters!

  • Holly
    May 31, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    I loved this interview! Meljean, as always you seriously crack me up. Is it any wonder I have a girl crush on you?

    I absolutely adore your picture with R2D2. I wish, I wish. 😛

    On a more serious note, I completely agree with TBS about your imagery. I never fail to fall into one of your stories, completely absorbed and feeling like I’m watching a movie. It’s amazing.

  • Kristie (J)
    May 31, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Great interview!!! Funny – just as I figured it would be *g*
    And I do so love that Alt Tab trick.

  • Ciara
    June 1, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Kate – it’s awfully hard to write when it’s sunny out, because all I can think is that I should be outside hiking/running/biking. I definitely relate to the weather in book. The story I like best is that Stephanie Meyer googled the rainiest place in the states to set Twilight in, and found Forks over on the Olympic Peninsula. She’s right – this would be a perfect place for vampires. Rain, rain, rain. Looong dark winters. It cracks me up.

    Meljean – are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you do character interviews or collages before you start writing? Do you write in a chronological order or write the big scenes first? Do you have a word count or page goal each day, or do you write for a set number of hours?

  • Christine
    June 1, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Fantastic interview!
    I loved Meljean’s answer to the question regarding the complexity and the moral dichotomy present in all of her characters (the heroes AND villains). They’re all various shades of gray, you know? Makes them all so much more realistic.

    Demon Bound barely 400 pages? *pout*

  • Kate
    June 1, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Ciara, I know exactly what you mean – if it’s sunny out I feel like I should be climbing a mountain or something (which is even weirder since I’m not a natural outdoorsy sort). I’ve decided to forgo the sunny-weather guilt, accept that my bike is, in fact, mostly used to get me to the grocery store and the coffee shop, and my compromise to the sunny weather is that I take my laptop outside 🙂

    That’s really fantastic about Twilight! Yeah, I can see vampires around the PNW pretty easily.

  • meljean brook
    June 1, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    katiebabs — holy good god, I haven’t thought of Unico in years and years and years! Whoa. Whoa whoa. That was one of the cartoons that as soon as I got on the internet in the 90s, I tried to find a copy of, but never could. I haven’t thought of it much since then, and hot damn, I’m off to YouTube now in about five seconds.

    Thea — Eeeek! *chews nails* I know you and Ana have different tastes, but I’ll hope for the best!

    And Sorsha — I love, loved her. That line! especially in her scratchy voice. I just loved she was a woman who kicked butt, too, back when there weren’t too many female warriors running around. (Which is also why I like Red Sonja far, far more than I should.)

    Kate — lol! Not famous yet 🙂

    I have noticed that it rains a lot in my books. Part of it is the setting (San Francisco and Seattle) but also the mood it sets; it’s familiar, and rain can be both dreary and (IMO) comforting — that tin-roof-while-you’re-going-to-sleep comfort. I even mentioned it in the notes for my cover art for Demon Moon that I sent to my editor (“it seems to be raining a lot in this book”).

    There wasn’t any rain on the cover, though. Now, I look at the next Patricia Briggs Mercy cover, and die. That’s gorgeous. I think every cover should have rain.

    Holly — aww. *blushes*

    Ciara — I’m okay when it’s sunny, because I’m so fair that I can’t really go outside much, anyway. I burn like crazy. (My husband calls me a vampire.)

    I’m primarily a pantser. However, I do have to have a good idea of where the story is going when I turn in the proposal to the editor, so I know (usually) major scenes and turning points that will take place.

    I’m very, very character oriented when I write. I start with the character; I can’t go anywhere unless I know their strengths and quirks and flaws (and what weaknesses they are going to have to either accept and/or overcome by the end). I know that I want to get them to a certain point plot-wise (and I know that I need to advance the over-reaching story arc) but I definitely let them take me there — and the major plot points have to tie in to their character arcs.

    That’s probably part of the reason why my books are so long; the characters are really fricking stubborn sometimes, and don’t learn as quickly as I want them to. (Or I’m just not as smart as I should be, and don’t know how to get them there fast enough 😀 I know they are smarter than I am; at times, I think they’re sitting in the background, saying, “Ooookay, you idiot author — this is how I should kill that demon!” And when I finally figure it out, they collectively roll their eyes.)

    Christine — sorry! 🙂 But it’s 400 pages of Yummy Jake Goodness (with a double helping of hellhound!)

  • Katie(babs)
    June 2, 2008 at 4:29 am

    Unico is going for $9.99 on an Ebay auction. There are 2 vhs copies up for grabs. 😀

  • Ciara
    June 2, 2008 at 11:35 am


  • Christine
    June 4, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Christine — sorry! 🙂 But it’s 400 pages of Yummy Jake Goodness (with a double helping of hellhound!)

    I’ll devour and savor it just the same! Sounds delish. ;

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