- Is it Meljean or MelJean? Meljean. Lowercase J.
- Do you have a newsletter or mailing list? Right here.
- What are you working on right now? The Blacksmith’s book.
- When will it be published? I’m not sure yet.
- The Guardians are finished. Will you be starting a new series? I’m going to play around with a few ideas and see what I come up with. For now, I’m trying out a new barbarian series as Milla Vane.
- Who will star in the next Iron Seas book? The Blacksmith and a woman new to the series.
- Do you have a guide to the Guardian series? Right here.
- Do you have a guide to the Iron Seas series? Right here.
- I like your worldbuilding but hate the romance genre. Will you ever write a non-romance? No.
Common Interview FAQs
I’ve always wanted to be a writer (especially a Harlequin author, because those were the first romances that I read.) But as I grew up, I tried very hard to be realistic. I know that it’s incredibly difficult to make a living as a writer, and so I told myself that it was something that I could have on the side, but never really make a career out of. So I pursued a couple of other avenues of study – not just accounting, but bouncing around between degrees in Education, History, Anthropology, and English Literature – before giving myself a little slap, and realizing that I was bouncing around because the thing I wanted to do was right in front of me, but I wouldn’t reach for it.
Eventually, I took a job as the accountant for a construction company, and although I liked the people I worked with and I enjoyed the work itself (I still love spreadsheets), I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. I felt as if something were missing. Added to that, I’ve always had a habit of telling stories in my head whenever I’m alone, and I had a long commute to that job, during which I’d play with a romantic story. I’d flesh out character, scenes, and plots on that drive – but it wouldn’t be one story for every drive. I’d use the story I had been imagining the day or the week before, and make it richer, deeper, and actually thinking of the words and sentences I’d use to describe the scenes rather than just letting them play in my head like a movie. Eventually, the commutes weren’t enough. I began writing some of this at work, too – quickly flipping between screens whenever someone came into my office.
So that was the point I told myself: I’m actually going to do this. I’m going to try to finish a story, to see if this writing thing is really what I’m going to do with my life.
I was writing fanfiction at work and between classes, mostly to see if I could a) finish a long story and b) if there really was something about writing that I couldn’t live without. I did that for a while, until I didn’t want to be stuck with other people’s characters any more, no matter how much I loved them. So I was working on an original paranormal romance when I received an e-mail from Cindy Hwang, an editor at Berkley Publishing, who had read and enjoyed my fanfic. She asked me to submit a story to her.
I did, and not much later, I was contracted for my first novella and novels — HOT SPELL and DEMON ANGEL.
When I’m not on deadline (or god forbid, late with a book) I get up early and check e-mails, reply to readers on social sites, and go over what I need to write for the day. Then I get my girl and husband off to school, come back and begin writing. I’ll take a break for lunch and to check out stuff online again, then write until it’s time to pick up the girl and husband. Then I do a few family things, make dinner, help my daughter with her piano practice — that kind of thing. Then I write until I go to bed.
If I’m on deadline or late with a book, I just write. And write and write until I fall down.
The Guardians is a romance series that straddles the line between paranormal and urban fantasy. In it, human men and women who have been given angelic powers fight demons, and fall in love along the way. The series includes an overarching storyline, but each book tells the story of a new couple who reaches their happily-ever-after, with a self-contained romance and plot (as a reader, I love a happy ending—as a writer, I’d never offer anything less.)
My Guardian Series Primer contains an overview of the series mythology, including the origin of the Guardians, and a The Story So Far feature, which will give you enough background to dive into any book in the series.
The Iron Seas features an alternate history where much of Europe and Africa fled to the Americas during the 15th-18th centuries to escape the oncoming Mongol Horde. Zombies roam over much of both those continents, giant megalodons and kraken terrorize sailors, and airships are the best way to travel – unless a ship full of pirates comes after you. The series combines nanotech and pirates with a gritty, gaslit Victorian atmosphere to create swashbuckling steampunk romance…with an emphasis on the steam.
For an overview of the Iron Seas world, including a map, click here.
I like both. A lot of worldbuilding goes into the books, and in a novel-length story, I have a lot of room to explain and to allow things to happen. Characters can more believably fall in love in a long story, I can play out the mystery or a plot over a longer time, and I can explore more parts of the world and the characters. So writing a novel is definitely more labor-intensive and takes more time, simply because there is so much more going on.
But writing a shorter format isn’t necessarily easier. Every single aspect of the story has to be sharper, and I have to fit so much into a shorter format without making the reader feel as if they are missing a lot and/or cramming the information in. And even though the plot and romance must be simpler, they can’t be any less satisfying for a reader – and that’s always difficult to pull off, whether the story is long or short.
I do like writing them both, though. Novellas allow me to explore small parts of the world that don’t fit into the longer books, or they let me tell a side story whose plot wouldn’t sustain a full-length novel. So they can be a breath of fresh air between the long and complicated books.
Mostly, because it’s fun! But I know that the idea of steampunk romance is a head-scratcher for some readers of both genres – the two genres seem quite different. Steampunk often possesses a gritty, industrial aesthetic and a story that challenges (or at least comments on) a socio-economic and/or political status quo, whereas romance often tells the story of beautiful people, sex, and normalized happily-ever-afters.
On the surface, it does seem as if an unbridgeable gap exists between the two genres, but I’ve found that two particular aspects of steampunk lend themselves spectacularly to romance. One is the technological component – not necessarily the gadgets (though those are fun), but the effect of changing technology on society. Setting the series in the middle of that cultural shift opens so many avenues of conflict, whether it stems from characters who resist the changes, from alterations in class structure, or from an individual character’s uncertainty about where he fits in this new world (and, of course, the conflict that always arises when a character’s idea of his place clashes with society’s idea of his place).
The second aspect is simply invention, which we see over and over again in steampunk. Technology can be used to oppress and dehumanize – but its creation can also be rebellion, or a triumph of human ingenuity. And a sense of wonder, adventure, and danger so often accompanies invention; it’s that new idea that may very well blow up and kill whoever tries to explore it…but the potential gain or discovery is well worth the risk. So a steampunk setting – a world crammed full of inventions – doesn’t allow for wimpy heroes and heroines. Whether they’re desperate or driven, they have to venture out into this world, and that exploration may very well kill them.
…and I’ve just used a lot of phrases that describe my ideal love story. A steampunk setting provides plenty of external conflict, and the opportunity for the kind of adventure that I love writing and reading. But more importantly, the romantic conflict echoes everything I enjoy about steampunk. That means I write about characters who might resist the emotional and social changes a burgeoning relationship forces upon them. It’s an examination of where they’ll fit in someone else’s life (and it’s always best if they don’t fit easily.)
And as for love … well, we all know that love can be oppressive, and a powerful tool. But falling in love with someone can also be liberating, and require a great deal of bravery – particularly if the characters know that, if something goes wrong, it can blow up and destroy them…but once again, the potential gain is worth the risk.
Steampunk romance isn’t going to be for everyone. There will be both steampunk and romance fans who will read The Iron Seas series with a “What in the world is this? I can’t believe some author thought this would work” caption floating above their heads. But in my opinion, the genres fit together beautifully – and I’m only surprised that there aren’t already dozens of steampunk romances in bookstores.
Hopefully, there soon will be.
The Iron Seas FAQs
(There’s not really one definition of steampunk, but this is the way I’m approaching it.)
Steampunk is essentially historical science fiction — and for steampunk, the advanced technology is usually steam-based technology (steam engines and locomotives, for example) but also with various other forms of tech: clockwork machines are common, steam- or clockwork-powered automata (these can be small, like a singing mechanical bird, or a giant robot).
Which probably sounds more confusing that it really needs to be. Basically, if you look at something like J.D. Robb’s In Death series (I’m just using it as an example because so many people are familiar with it), you can see how the technology and the cultural issues of today influence Robb’s vision of 50 years from now. Most of the technology is based on computers, but they are really GOOD computers. Everything runs on electricity or batteries. Mixed race and same-sex marriages are common. Food is primarily soy based.
Those are all speculative on the author’s part, but you can definitely see where the ideas are rooted in the reality of today’s world. It’s the same thing for steampunk, except that instead of rooting the reality in the year 2009, you go back 200 years, and speculate what the world might be like if the technology they had in the Regency had advanced in a different way than it did.
So you have a historical setting — in my books, that’s a world that resembles a late-Regency/Victorian era, but steampunk can be in any historical era — but there’s a twist. I think anyone who reads historical romance will feel right at home, though, just as reading an In Death book is a step or two outside what we’re familiar with, but not TOO far.
So, IMO, steampunk isn’t just the gadgets — it’s the technology and the effect that has had on the culture. Think about the impact the Industrial Revolution had on the western world … and now speed that up and multiply it. That’s where I’m going with mine (and also with some post-colonization issues, thanks to a technologically advanced culture that invaded all of Europe several hundred years before the books begin.)
If you’re wondering, “WHY steampunk?” and not just “WHAT IS steampunk?” I try to answer that at the Book Smugglers’ blog.
For a preview of my series and a look at steampunk in action, you can check out the excerpt for Here There Be Monsters, an Iron Seas companion novella.
Absolutely. Although some characters will show up in more than one book and novella, each story will have a self-contained plot and romance.
In our history, two significant events helped form the shape of our world: In 1241, Ögedei Khan, son of Genghis Khan and second khagan of the Mongol Empire, died just as his armies were poised to invade Vienna and continue their conquest of the European continent. Upon receiving news of the Great Khan’s death, Ögedei’s general, Batu Khan, withdrew from Europe, but did not immediately attend the council to formally elect the new Great Khan. Although Guyuk was eventually named khagan in 1246, he died shortly thereafter. Subsequent arguments over succession divided the Mongols and fractured the empire. Though each khanate was still powerful, they did not reattempt their European invasion.
In 1266, Kublai Khan—grandson of Genghis Khan and the ruler who eventually established the Yuan dynasty—entrusted the Polo brothers with a message to Pope Clement IV, who died before they arrived in Rome. The message requested that the pope send one hundred Christian missionaries, including scholars and engineers. The man who would become Pope Gregory X received the missive, but only sent oil from the Holy Sepulcher back with the Polos, who were this time accompanied by Marco Polo.
In the Iron Seas history, Ögedei Khan still dies, but Batu Khan, leader of the Golden Horde, and son of Jochi—Genghis Khan’s eldest son—is named the successor over the wishes of Ögedei’s descendents and their supporters. In the civil war that follows, Batu, a brilliant strategist, crushes his opponents, but the effort prevents him from immediately returning to Europe. He relinquishes his westernmost holdings and consolidates his power in the east. His son, Sartaq, continues to strengthen the reunited empire, establishing strong civil and military presences in the outlying khanates. He is both generous and ruthless, ensuring their loyalty.
The empire is relatively stable by the time the Polo brothers make their first journey along the Silk Road to the emperor’s seat. Though not Kublai Khan, Batu’s successor is not a fool, and he takes similar steps to establish a relationship with the west. Batu and Sartaq had taken pains to maintain their trading routes and roads, so the Polos’ journey back to Rome passes quickly, and they arrive before Pope Clement IV dies. The pope partially fulfills the Great Khan’s request; though he didn’t send one hundred, a handful of scholars and engineers returned east with the Polo brothers, eager to spread both knowledge and Christianity. None were heard from again—except for Marco Polo, who escaped and related horrors of workshops, of men forced to invent machines of war, and who was ridiculed and called mad. For two hundred years, the history of the western world progressed similar to our own, aside from rumors about strange technologies in the east, all of which were dismissed as fables.
Then the first war machines rolled into western Asia, followed by the Horde.
Five hundred years later, the populations of Europe and Africa that managed to escape the Horde have fled to the New World, buffered by the protection of the oceans. The Horde has never developed a navy, but its armies and its machines have spread across Eurasia and Africa. What the Horde hasn’t destroyed, it has occupied—levying crippling taxes and enslaving the people, controlling them with the nanotech infecting their cells…and subjecting many to the horror of having their bodies modified to better suit their labor.
England, however, recently broke free from almost two centuries of control, and in a bloody revolution, overthrew Horde rule. But their freedom is tenuous, their position in the international arena weak, and the wounds of the occupation haven’t had time to heal…
Guardian Series FAQs
“Falling for Anthony” in Hot Spell (Nov 2005)
Demon Angel (Jan 2007)
“Paradise” in Wild Thing (May 2007)
Demon Moon (June 2007)
Demon Night (Feb 2008)
“Thicker Than Blood” in First Blood (Aug 2008)
Demon Bound (Nov 2008)
“Blind Spot” in Must Love Hellhounds (Sep 2009)
Demon Forged (Oct 2009)
Demon Blood (July 2010)
Demon Marked (Sept 2011)
“Ascension” in Angels of Darkness (Oct 2011)
Guardian Demon (Aug 2013)
Most of Demon Angel‘s Part One takes place before “Falling for Anthony.”
Aside from Part One of Demon Angel, and the novella in Must Love Hellhounds (which takes place after the events in Demon Forged) the chronological order of the stories is the same as the publishing order.
For a printable list, please go here.
They don’t have to be read in order. The events within each book do have an impact on the characters in succeeding books, but I’ve avoided spoilers as much as possible and given the necessary background and setup in each book so that if you start in the middle of the series, or skip one, you won’t be lost.
There are overarching sub-plots between the books in the series that are referenced — but everything necessary for a reader to know from previous books is explained in the storyline, and each story has a self-contained plot which can be read on its own.
If you are starting in the middle of the series, and want to have an overview of the story arc so far with only mild spoilers, you might want to take a look at my “The Story So Far” section of the Guardian Primer. You can choose which book to start with, and discover what you need to know going into that story.
I would say that Demon Angel and Demon Moon are the most closely linked, and the characters in Demon Moon have been deeply influenced by events withinDemon Angel. Even so, both novels stand alone.
“Falling for Anthony” is a Regency-set paranormal.
The first part of Demon Angel is set in medieval England, with vignettes from the thirteenth to the twentieth centuries — but the majority of the story is contemporary.
All of the other stories are contemporary.
The Guardian Series is finished, and includes 8 novels.
For a look at the Guardians, their history and their mission, please visit my Guardian Primer (which includes character bios, a series overview, and a glossary).
KYE-lum (it rhymes with phylum, and has a hard ‘C’)
Oh, yes. It’s called GUARDIAN DEMON and it’s available now.
I think all reviews are great! Positive or negative (because I can’t count how many times I’ve bought a book after reading why someone else hated it), I think reviews are the best way for readers to discover books.
Sometimes readers ask me how or when to post a review. Usually I answer, “Whenever you feel like it and however you feel like it!” But to put it more succinctly:
1) I don’t care when you review my books (near the release date or years after) or if you purchased the book before you review it. I’m just glad you’ve given my work a try.
2) I don’t care where you post your reviews. Amazon, Goodreads, Booklikes, your blog, over your back fence to a neighbor — I think any mention at all is great, wherever you feel comfortable posting it. I will never ask you to post to a specific bookseller or site.
3) I don’t care whether it’s positive or negative. Do I hope you love the book? Of course! I don’t want you to feel that you’ve wasted either your money or your time. But I don’t love every book I read, and sometimes I shake my head over books other people love. So why would I expect readers to love every book I write?
4) I don’t care whether you use your real name or an anonymous one or a fake name that you invented for the internet (Meljean Brook isn’t a real name, either!) I don’t care if your review is five words long or five thousand. I trust readers to decide whether a review is trustworthy and/or helpful — and they all make that decision in different ways. Some don’t trust five-star reviews. Some don’t like short reviews; others hate long ones that give too much info. So the more variety, the better.
5) Reviews are for readers, not for authors. Of course I love it when my work is reviewed! I might even ask to use your review to promote my work. But please don’t feel obligated to write reviews for my sake or for the sake of my career. Only do it if you feel like doing it. You are not responsible for my livelihood. I am. So please don’t feel as if you taking something away from me by not reviewing and/or writing a negative review.
I also generally make it a policy NOT to comment on publicly posted reviews of my work, because I feel that author intrusion stifles reader discussion, and I don’t believe it’s the author’s place to tell readers how they should read or review a book. Sometimes I will make exceptions to that policy — if I’m really familiar with a reader/community, or if I can clarify some non-story issue (about pricing, dates, or so on) — but typically I will try to stay away from such posts.
Sometimes I will retweet review links; sometimes I don’t. Generally this has nothing to do with the review itself or the person who tweeted it — I’m not always on Twitter, so sometimes I just don’t see the links. Sometimes I feel that I’ve already blasted too many reviews/too much promo at my readers, so I hold back.
So this is all a very long way to say that I appreciate reviews and discussion about my books more than I could ever say — but I will generally NOT take part in any online activity regarding the reviewing or discussion of my work. So if you feel that I’m ignoring you, I’m not. I just don’t like to step on readers’ toes, and it’s often very hard to know who does and doesn’t mind a little author intrusion, so I err of the side of caution.
That said! If you want to point me to your review, please feel free to send me an email. Often during release week, I’ll highlight reviews that have come in and try to point readers to those blogs and reviewers, or I’ll add quotes to the book page on this website.
Also, if you ever have a question about my books (or if you and other readers are having a discussion and need clarification on a point) also please feel free to email me. I’m always willing to discuss my work; I just don’t feel comfortable barging in on readers’ spaces.