Early this year - January, I think it was - I had the opportunity to read and critique Mirriam Neal's novel Monster. Mirriam is a crazily likeable sort of a gal with crazily eclectic tastes, as she will be the first to tell you, and as you will see for yourself if you follow her blog for, oh, about a week. Monster, too, is appropriately eclectic: Mirriam describes its genre as "bioethics/semi-dystopic/romance/suspense/thriller," none of which, I may add, I usually read. But being more than willing to read anything with her name on it, I gamely started off, with my red pen, through a hardcopy.
I can't remember how quickly I read it, but I know that about halfway I abandoned the red pen altogether: I was far too caught up in the story. I also know that on the last day, it was 8:00 am when I first looked at the clock, and all of a sudden it was noon and I was finishing the last page with a lump in my throat. It's that sort of book.
and now, ladies and gentlemen, it is going to be available for you.
The release date is set for June 15, and Monster's birthday will be celebrated with a great big bash: everyone who possibly can should buy the novel on this day, which will up its Amazon ranking and bring it very well-deserved attention. (I know: I even got to write an endorsement for it.) Mirriam is celebrating the release with interviews and a giveaway and I-don't-know-what, including this here interview with yours truly. I recommend joining in the fun, whether or not the novel sounds like your cup of tea from the description: the story it tells of love and the sanctity of life is timeless.
back cover summary
chit-chat with mirriam neal
If I have tea, ninety percent of the time it will be PG Tips black tea with cream and agave. PG Tips is the standard British tea – it was in Doctor Who. I also drink a lot of black coffee – I generally have between four and eight cups of tea and/or coffee a day. I prefer horses and the occasional phoenix, and though I don’t usually wear socks, I have two favorite pairs: A pair of fuzzy purple ankle socks, and my candy cane-striped Christmas knee socks with faux fur around the top. Worn only in the spirit of the season, of course.
2. What is your perspective (or philosophy, if you prefer) on writing and story-telling in general? How do you approach the crazy business?
“Use earthly tales to tell heavenly truths.” I don’t think I have much of an approach to the crazy business other than love it and live it – I have to work at balancing out my people-oriented life with my writing-oriented life.
3. What are your top five favorite books, at least at the moment? (I’ve been kind: I could have said just one.)
…thank you for being so lenient. Five. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Ah…I love so many books, it feels like more would be favoritism! The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, The Riddle-Master Trilogy (YES, A TRILOGY. HA HA.) by Patricia McKillip, my large book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and the Bible.
4. What’s Monster all about, anyhow? (Well, I know, but others don’t.)
Monster is all about sanctity of life, the value of souls, and what true love means. For me, it was a huge growing process, and it changed the way I look at life.
5. What are some of the things that inspired Monster and kept you writing?
Monster was largely inspired by Big Bang’s music video/song of the same title. Also, I read a lot of medical/thriller-style books, listened to my Monster playlist…really, it wasn’t hard to stay inspired. It was as if everything around me inspired me, no matter what it was.
Without looking back at them, Eva walked farther into the room, rushing blood filling her ears with white noise as she strained for the smallest sound to alert her of Thirteen’s presence.
She stood still and tense, listening, for almost a minute but no longer. There were dozens of other rooms to search as large as this one. “Nothing here,” she called to the guards by the door. There was no response. “Guards!”
She turned, and her blood ran cold. The digits 6223-4897 glowed in the air in front of her. A serial number.
She found her gaze travelling upwards to meet a pair of narrowed eyes. All blue was lost in the hatred-filled yellow, and Eva had time only to turn on her walkie-talkie and shout into it before she felt a blow to the side of her head that knocked her to the ground.
She had assumed incorrectly. Thirteen had not gone looking for freedom. It had gone looking for her.6. Your writing is very character-driven, and your characters are incredibly unique. You’re going to hate me for this, but give us a one-word description of each of Monster’s main players.
I don’t quite hate you. Almost, but not quite. ^.^ Mir: Childlike. Eva: Driven. Pocky: Mentoring. Ross: Twisted. Jude: Annoying. June: A bund of cute brightness and sunshine. I mean, cute.
7. Monster doesn’t have a single genre: it’s about bio-ethics, and it’s futuristic, and it’s a thriller, and in a way it’s also a love story. To date, how many different genres have you written in, and are there any that you have absolutely ruled out experimenting with?
I’ve written…ooh, let me think. High fantasy, urban fantasy, quasi-fantasy, modern, science fiction, summer fiction, Steampunk, dystopian, historical fantasy…I don’t think there’s any genre I’d really keep my hands off of – I used to hate historical books, but I realized it depends on the author. Such a big, stupid “Aha!” moment for me!
8. As you wrote the novel, were there aspects that took you by surprise?
Mir constantly surprised me. He took on a life of his own beyond what I could ever have imagined, and after a while it was he who called the shots, not me. A lot of things – especially near the end – surprised me.
9. If a reader told you one main thing they loved about Monster, what would you want it to be?
If a reader could tell me one thing they loved about Monster, I would want it to be Mir; because Mir embodies everything I did my best to portray in Monster. He’s the heart of the book, and if people can love and understand him, then they love and understand the book.
10. What novels are you working on at present?
Oh, my. Acceso, a sort of grungy music book about a suicidal musician and a deaf girl. Not to Be, an urban fantasy/slightly Steampunk novel about a Lamia Venator on the hunt for revenge. The Meaning of Always, about a girl whose fiancée dies and shatters her life until she meets the twin she didn’t know he had. The Care and Keeping of Jupiter: a futuristic, science-fiction love story about Mercury, a girl who orders a Proto-human online with no idea what she’s getting into. Painkiller, a gothic fairy-tale sort of novel with hints of Beauty and the Beast mixed with Jekyll and Hyde. Diamond Black about a boy whose empathy could either be the death of him, or the saving grace of the people he loves.
(And that, people, is how you write a logline. In a perfect universe. My eyes particularly popped at The Care and Keeping of Jupiter, which I now want to read - a lot.)
Thoughts of a Shieldmaiden. You can learn more about her and her writing, and keep your eye out for the grand finale of the release, over there. You can also take a peek at Monster's very own Facebook page, where she reveals snippets of the upcoming sequel, book trailers, and Fun Stuff Like That. On a slightly different line, Mirriam reviews (mostly) YA books on her Tumblr account, Peic Books.