Interview with M.L. Brennan, author of Generation V
Posted June 12, 2013on:
Today it’s my pleasure to be able to interview M. L. Brennan , the author of Generation V, a new urban fantasy that’s been all over the interwebs these last few weeks. M.L. took the time to answer my gauntlet of questions, and responded with some downright brilliant answers. Also, will you be at WorldCon later this year?
Scroll to the bottom for info on how to enter into a giveaway for this brand new book. note: Giveaway is open to residents of the United States only. Sorry, international shipping is killer, and not in that fun vampire way.
LRR: Did you always want to be a writer?
ML Brennan: Writing is always something that I’ve really enjoyed, going all the way back to a very young age, but I didn’t think about it seriously as a career path until late high school, and even at that point I came at it sideways. Thanks in a very big way to The West Wing, I decided that I wanted to be a political speechwriter, and I headed to college with the intention of going into writing and political science. I lost interest in going into politics around my second year, but at that point I was majoring in writing, so I decided that a better career option would be to become a lawyer. I pursued that all the way into my first year at law school, which was the point when I finally just gave in to the inevitable and realized that what I really wanted to do was write fiction. So I left law school and headed into an MFA program.
So I guess the short answer is that while writing has always been a big part of my life, the idea of actually being just a writer was something that I really struggled with and against – largely because I grew up in a household where money was very tight, so I’ve never had a very romantic view of the life of a struggling artist. I envisioned having a secure career and writing in my off-hours. That ended up not happening – my day job that pays the bills is pretty unreliable and the pay fluctuates hugely, but it does give me the time I need to write.
LRR: Who are some of your favorite writers?
ML Brennan: Gosh, that would be a very long list! Emma Bull, Brandon Sanderson, Anne Bishop, Sharon Shinn, Sheri S. Tepper, and Orson Scott Card are all longtime favorites. Lately I’ve really been enjoying Cassie Alexander’s Edie Spence series, and I got a sneak peek at debut author Django Wexler’s incredible military fantasy The Thousand Names, and I can tell you that I’m already dying for the sequel!
LRR: Give us the quick rundown on Generation V.
ML Brennan: Sure! The elevator pitch of my book is that 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.
A lot of what I was trying to do in this book was explore the ideas of heritage and responsibility – Fort is a vampire who doesn’t fit in with the rest of his family because of the empathy he has toward humans. He’s afraid of whether growing up will involve losing that empathy, but at the same time it will mean becoming stronger and faster, which right now are traits that he very much lacks and needs!
LRR: How can someone be “mostly” a vampire? Isn’t that something that’s fairly cut and dry?
ML Brennan: In the majority of vampire fiction the vampire is a human who has been transformed into a vampire, and through that transformation process they are now ageless, immortal, and undead. I’ve always found this kind of idea a bit problematic – for one thing, a creature that reproduces just through a tiny blood donation? Talk about a population explosion! For another, a character that never gets older and will never die – that’s a fairly static character with very few outside pressures. I was never interested in writing about an immortal character.
The big change that I made for my vampires is to make them a separate species. These aren’t transformed humans — they have a lifecycle that includes growing up, old age, and ultimately death. They also have a reproductive cycle that is rather finicky and difficult, and it gives a good reason why vampires haven’t just overrun the planet – in fact, my vampires are a species in total crisis, and right on the edge of extinction.
Fort being “mostly” a vampire refers in a large way to the fact the he is very young. In a species that can live 600 years, and who don’t reach complete maturity until 250, Fort is walking around at 26. One of the ways that I viewed my vampires was like alligators – an alligator has a very long growing period. Once they are fully mature, an alligator is basically the toughest animal in its environment – but when it is young, it’s pretty much just a dinner bell for most things around it. Fort’s mother and two siblings are full-size alligators, while he’s just this little yearling. At the point that this book begins, Fort’s older sister can punch through walls, while Fort would get beaten in an arm-wrestling contest by most humans. What this really did for me as a writer was that I had protagonist who was outclassed in power by just about everyone around him – that means that he can’t solve the problems he faces by punching his way out. Fort has to outsmart his opponents, or make allies, or find unusual solutions to the issues he faces.
LRR: Generation V also features a shapeshifter out of Japanese folklore. What was your inspiration for that type of supernatural creature? What kind of research did you do for her?
ML Brennan: I love shapeshifters in fiction, but the one that is usually seen in urban fantasy is the werewolf. I really enjoyed the challenge of rethinking the classic vampire, but I didn’t want to do the same thing with another UF staple, so I wanted to bring in a type of monster that filled that kind of shapeshifter niche that I had, but gave me a chance to do something newer and interesting. To a certain extent I was also aware that a lot of the kinds of folklore and mythos that are usually seen in UF tend to be Eurocentric, and I wanted to have a wider cultural basis. All of this led me to the kitsune, which is a lovely piece of Japanese folklore about a fox that can turn into a woman. If you read Japanese fairy tales, there’s an incredible flexibility in the way that kitsune are presented – sometimes they are the villains of the story and must be driven out. Sometimes they are helpful creatures that, once done a good turn by the hero, will loyally assist the hero later. And other times they are simply tricksters that have a wildness and an unpredictability that I really enjoyed. That was the interpretation that I used when I created my kitsune character, Suzume Hollis. She is an unpredictable prankster who has a solid dollop of self-interest, and isn’t going to go out of her way to endanger herself for anyone outside of her own family. She’s a powerful character, with a strong physicality, and she is also entirely comfortable with who she is – all of these were traits that contrasted with my protagonist, but the two of them end up forming the beginnings of a real friendship.
In terms of research – I did quite a bit. Since I unfortunately don’t speak Japanese, I was limited to secondary or translated sources, but I read as many Japanese fairy tales as I could – my favorites were The Moon Maiden and Other Japanese Fairy Tales by Grace James, and Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan by Lafcadio Hearn. I also read several books by Western authors that were analyzing both the myth of the kitsune and its place in Japanese culture – the best of these were Fox by Martin Wallen and The Fox’s Craft in Japanese Religion and Folklore by Michael Bathgate.
LRR: Complete this sentence: If you like _______, _______ or _____, you’ll love Generation V.
ML Brennan: If you like fresh urban fantasy, non-typical characters, or Star Trek jokes, you’ll love Generation V.
LRR: Now that Generation V is out in the wild, what other projects are you working on?
ML Brennan: I just put the finishing editorial touches Generation V’s sequel, Iron Night, which will be published by Roc in January 2014. The reception and reviews for Generation V have been really warm, so I’m very hopeful that people will enjoy Iron Night. I’m also putting together notes and ideas for the third Fortitude Scott book, which I’ll be writing over the summer.
LRR: Any plans for a book tour, or local book-signing events? Any upcoming Convention appearances?
LRR: I’m a nut for bookstores, and bookstore experiences. What was a great experience you had at a bookstore?
ML Brennan: I love bookstores – some of the most amazing reading experiences I’ve ever had started by running my hand over a line of fresh new books in a bookstore and finding something new. When I was a college undergraduate, I was living in Pittsburgh, and one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon was to catch the 61-C bus and go to the Forbes/Murray intersection. Right next to the movie theater on Murray was a beautiful two-story Barnes & Noble, and I spent many happy hours browsing the shelves and reading books in the café there. The last time I visited the city, the Barnes & Noble was gone, and I was absolutely heartbroken.
Well, I’m intrigued! and wouldn’t you like to be the first person on your block to read this brand new urban fantasy!
The giveaway is being hosted at my sister-site, Bookstore Bookblogger Connection. Click the link and head over there to entry. Give away closes at midnight, eastern time, Wednesday June 19.
Giveaway is only open to residents of the U.S. Because international shipping bites, and biting is only OK from sexy vampires.