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August Book Club Chat: Guardian Demon by Meljean Brook

This month’s Book Club pick is Guardian Demon by Meljean Brook. It’s the conclusion to a long running series about guardian angels, demons, humans, and vampires. My favorite review is probably Brie’s from Romance Around the Corner. It has illustrations and everything. The world that Brook created is vivid and big and the conclusion to the series fit it perfectly. I don’t think you can start with Guardian Demon although Meljean does have a “story so far” conclusion that you can read before each book in the series.

But even for non readers of the series, you may be interested in the evolution of the series and what lies ahead for one of our favorite authors, Meljean Brook.

Guardian Demon by Meljean Brook, recommended by Jane

Guardian Demon by Meljean Brook, recommended by Jane

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1)  When you started this series, did you have a clear vision of where you wanted to end up or did that evolve over time?

Both. I had a clear vision of the overall story arc. I knew which layers of the worldbuilding I would be peeling away as the series progressed, I knew major plot points (especially those involving Michael, the Guardians’ leader), and I knew everything that I needed to accomplish before I reached the final book in the series.

But aside from the first two books and the final book, I didn’t know which characters I’d be using, or exactly how those characters would influence the way that those established plot points would unfold. For example, in the first book I hadn’t even thought of characters like Jake, Irena, or Rosalia — yet they play incredibly important roles in their own books and in other books. When I began the series, they were (at best) vague shadows floating around in my head. I had a few heroes that I’d never intended to give their own books — Jake was one, Deacon was another — but when I wrote them in supporting roles in earlier books, I either liked them so much that I couldn’t help myself (Jake) or I hated them so much that I thought the effort of converting them would work well in the upcoming book (Deacon). For other characters, I knew that I’d eventually make them a hero/heroine, but I waited to use them because they would best fit a certain plot point. Irena was one of those — I hinted at her existence in book #3, really introduced her in book #4, and then gave her book #5 — because that was the book where everything changes and goes to hell, and her character was the best to step in and (avoiding spoilers) fulfill a certain role.

So for the worldbuilding, that was always solid — I didn’t make up anything as I went along. The same goes for the overarching storyline. But the characters were never set in advance, because for each story, I wanted to make sure the characters’ conflicts and that plot point resonated as strongly as possible. And although I could look forward and plan ahead for some characters, until I actually wrote the book I didn’t always know how it would work out.

2)  How do you keep track of your series details? Do you have a book? A spreadsheet?

It’s all in my head.

3)  I love the “story so far” feature on your website where you summarize the past events up to the current release. How did you come up with that idea?

Even though I kept the world in my head, I knew readers wouldn’t be doing the same. Not only is there a lot of information to take in from my series, most readers I know are consuming romances voraciously — that means they have a lot of different worlds and rules to keep straight. There was also a six-month break between books in the series (and later, that time between books increased to over a year.) So I thought I’d help readers out and remind them of the important plot points that came before the current book in the series.

Plus, I knew that many new readers were intimidated by the length of the series. When new books came out, I often read questions like: Can I start here?

I found that question was impossible to answer. When it comes to series, every reader is different. Some *have* to start at Book #1. Some readers jump around in the series. Some new readers picked up Books #5, #6, or #7 and had no trouble following along; other readers were completely lost. And in each book, I spent as much time as I could re-explaining the worldbuilding and the history in the series so that new readers could follow along, but that explanation is always intertwined with the narrative and given in bits and pieces as the reader goes along. It’s not a straightforward explanation, and keeping track of “what went before” at the same time the book is moving forward isn’t always easy.

So the Story So Far is designed to give that straightforward explanation.

4)  Do you worry about “spoiling” the series for readers?

No, not really — and for two reasons. I assume that if a reader is starting with Book #6, that reader is going to be spoiled anyway. I’d much rather that a reader be spoiled with big plot points than be confused. (Not every reader would agree, I’m sure, but I assume that reader will see the spoiler warnings and turn away, anyway.)

Secondly, if a spoiler erases the emotional impact of a plot point, then it means I didn’t do my job very well. The *surprise* will be ruined, sure — and that is never fun, for readers or for writers. But if the only reason a plot point resonates with the reader is because it was the equivalent of jumping naked out of a birthday cake … that book isn’t going to hold up. If I do my job well, then that spoiler becomes a tease, instead. It will make the reader want to go back and found out how [that spoiled thing] happened.

For me, that is the real point of these books anyway (and any book). It’s not about a single plot element that can be spoiled — it’s about the adventure and the relationships, and all the small things that happen between the big moments. That’s where a lot of the best stuff is.

5)  I know you are an avid reader yourself.  Who are some of your romance influences? How about your writing influences, if different?

I used to be an avid reader. I haven’t read as much in the past few years. *sob*

Every time I name influences, my answer seems to change. I’m not sure why. There are days when I feel like my greatest influences are all the Harlequin writers from the 80s and 90s, because I was a category-reading fiend — starting when I was eight. But that also included a lot of older Harlequins, because my grandma had a spare bedroom full of them and I sneaked a ton of books out of there. Johanna Lindsey, no doubt. I read some of the classic bodice rippers, but they weren’t my favorites, and I didn’t read nearly as many of them as I did the Zebra hologram single-titles and the like. Then Silhouette Shadows came along and changed my life, because although I’d read other PNR romances before that, they were few and far between. Suddenly, there was an entire category line! Heaven.

So I’m sure that those books influenced me and my idea of romance as a genre — along with Jane Austen, all kinds of fairy tales, and Terminator. But so did Superman and Lois, all kinds of not-so-happy books, Anne Rice and Anne Bishop. It’s so difficult to point to a few, just because I start thinking of other books that influenced me, and the list always seems endless. Maybe I’m easily suggestible.

My writing influences come from everywhere, and the same thing happens when I begin to name them. Basically, I write what I like to read — and so I think about the things I’ve liked when I write, and those influence me the most. For pure technical issues, Stephen King’s ON WRITING was the only book on writing I’ve ever felt spoke to me and my process. And when I was struggling with my novella writing, I read a few favorite paranormal/SF novellas over and over to figure out why they worked for me. Those included Patty Briggs’s “Alpha and Omega,” Marjorie Liu’s “A Dream of Stone and Shadow,” Angela Knight’s “Roarke’s Prisoner,” (AK also has a great article here about keeping novellas simple), Kresley Cole’s “The Warlord Wants Forever,” and a few others.

6)  How do you feel that the series has come to an end? I’ve been reading reviews and readers were thrilled with the final book, feeling you really delivered, yet sad that the series is over.
I didn’t do everything I wanted to do with that last book (I cut out a few subplots that would have tied up a few minor plot threads), but for the most part, I’m really satisfied with how the series ended and that I accomplished almost everything I set out to do at the beginning. I’m glad I stuck to my plan of eight books and gave a solid finish. I could drag it out, because the world is complex and I could always fit more stories in, but the big story I wanted to tell is done and I feel like I should leave it there.

Which doesn’t mean I might not revisit these characters for small stories. I have a novella planned from one of the cut subplots (a companion story, but not something necessary to read to understand/enjoy GUARDIAN DEMON) and there is one other loose thread that I want to tie up — but if I do, it would probably be a story with an entirely different feel to it than the Guardian series. I can’t see that as a series, though, but just a one-off.

7) What is next for Meljean Brook?

More Iron Seas and steampunk romance! I’m working on THE KRAKEN KING right now. And I’m tossing around a few ideas for other books, some in series and some standalones, but there’s nothing official yet.

You can find out more about Meljean and her books at her website or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

8 Comments

  1. Book Club discussion, Red Sonja, and Read-a-Romance Month
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 12:38:55

    [...] DEMON is the subject of Dear Author’s August Book Club chat. There’s an interview up now. I won’t be participating in the book club discussion, [...]

  2. Estara Swanberg
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 13:57:26

    I really enjoyed the book. I was wondering how Michael was going to become touchable enough to be a hero for Andromeda ^^, especially considering what she had been going through and then where he ended up, really emphasising how non-human he actually was.

    So getting to the nitty gritty of him and showing her the part he really didn’t want to show anyone who didn’t already knew it (his fellow surviving grigori) worked really well. I enjoyed the way that Andromeda got to express her amiration/hero-worship and how that changed and became something real the more contact she had with the post-frozenfields Michael.

    Of course the more I read about his past and the explanations he gave to Andromeda while successfully reconnecting to her (very fast, but the narrative trick of what happens after the horrifying thing really made it digestible to me) of how he developed to be who he is now across the milennia (!) the more I wondered at his name – I mean it’s the English version, but none of the other grigori or demons of similar age have an English name, heh.

    I loved Andy’s fixation on his looks, which she never lost ^^ – and the way he catered to that.

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    Although I really thought the emphasis on his d*ck size was a bit over the top, heh – the mental sex already fulfilled all the kinks she had.

    The integration of the other Guardians came at just the right level, space and amount, to drive the story forward and not be nods from the cast to remind you of them. I hate spiders but Alice was so awesome in this one, and Jake and Rosalia and Irena shone, but then she’s a scene stealer anyway, as are Lilith and Sir Pup. The full horror got me with Savi’s and her beloved’s fate.

    I wonder how the conservative Christian reader will deal with Michael’s musings on angels and god, but I expect they won’t read a superhero action series about angels and devils in the first place. I thought they made sense for his experiences and the world created, which is why the very final twist and the visit of the person so desperately beseeched before took a bit of the shine from the accomplishment for me.

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    Why do angels get to show up at all to say they’ve heard the prayers but were only allowed to come afterwards if they haven’t been allowed to do so in 1000s of years? Why simply decide to give Hugh and Lilith extra-long life because they “like them”? It cheapens their sacrifice for each other a bit, even though I totally got Lilith’s desperation when she talked about it with Andromeda – it reminds me of the Loretta Chase book with the Venecian courtesan with lots of customers in the UK who manages to marry the hero ad the end AND GETS ACCEPTED IN SOCIETY! The same thing goes for Andromeda’s brother. Life doesn’t always have every loose strand nicely tucked in. And why the comment that Lucifer will rebel again, because it’s “in his nature” – when we have seen in Michael that millennia can change a person, like they changed Anaria into a oblivious bigot? The fact that demons who get killed go to heaven did leave a slightly bitter aftertaste, but my main thought was “good riddance, free will means that we won’t have to worry about everyone suddenly being saintly anyway, and now those few Guardians left at least have a breather”.

    But, as always in a Guardian book, I liked that Andromeda ended up in a position of choice finally, running things and being adored by Michael and no longer manipulated. Good stuff!

    Now let’s see if that spoiler tag still works…

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  3. Susan
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 16:52:08

    I think Jane has just upset my plans for the weekend.

    I have most of these books in paper, but have never gotten around to reading them for some reason (eh, life happens). But I read all of the Psy/Changeling books on Jane’s say so a couple of months ago, so I guess I need to do the same with this series. I figure I’ll have better luck with an ebook now, so I just downloaded the first book in the series . . .

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  4. Estara Swanberg
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 17:58:20

    @Susan: I hope you’ll enjoy it ^^ – although (like the Kate Daniels series) I’ve heard readers say that they thought the second book was an easier entry. I really love Lilith and Hugh and wouldn’t have wanted to miss them.

    ReplyReply

  5. Estara
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 18:08:12

    @Susan: Also, there’s a great overview of the heroines (with some spoilers) of the whole series here at Brie’s Blog: http://romance-around-the-corner.blogspot.de/2013/07/heroine-week-day-4-demons-warriors-and.html

    ReplyReply

  6. Christine
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 20:53:38

    Fantastic interview! I’ve always loved Meljean’s writing since day one back in 2007 when I first picked up Demon Angel. Her world building, overall series plot arc, character developments and simply the intensity at which her stories unfold have always been exemplary, in my opinion. I’m currently catching up on a few books in the series, but am definitely looking forward to Guardian Demon in light of all its stellar reviews!

    Meljean’s “The Story so Far” feature for the Guardians series has been really fun to read as I re-read the series and play catch up to this most recent release. I can see how it would be incredibly helpful for readers who are looking for a refresher and don’t want to re-read books.

    ReplyReply

  7. Lynn S.
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 22:17:40

    I have loved reading this series but Guardian Demon fell on the loopy end of the Meljean Brook spectrum. Taylor and Michael were the paranormal Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy and they were belting out Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life, yet half the time I felt the song coming by way of Madeline Kahn. Like I said, loopy. I’m still wondering what happened to the amazing book that started in the first two chapters cause it got lost somewhere in the unending midsection and that’s a darn shame.

    But much respect, and many thanks, to the author for spinning out an engrossing tale across all these books and for, thank the Good Lord, not making Khavi into a bestselling paranormal romance author.

    Best book of the series: Demon Forged which has everything good about this author in one epic package as well as the queen of all heroines in Irena.

    Favorite book of the series: Demon Marked cause I have a girl crush on Ash, Nicholas is a right-proper bastard, and the story is possessed of the good kind of loopy in its homage to category romance.

    Favorite Couple: Hugh and Lilith from Demon Angel. These two just loved each other to death and back and back and back again and made me love them in return.

    Most Memorable Moment: Jake’s wings. Damn it, I actually cried over this. All the hell Ms. Brook put her characters through and this one thing is what still gets to me.

    ReplyReply

  8. Susan
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 23:00:15

    @Estara: Thank you, Estara. I’ll check out the site. And I’ll keep your warning about book #1 in mind if I find myself flagging, but I’m one of the readers who really liked Magic Bites so maybe I’ll be OK. :-) Looking forward to a good series.

    ReplyReply

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