MR GRAHAM: I COLLECT BOOKS, HATS AND BLADED WEAPONS
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Year ago MR Graham released the first part of Liminality series – The Medium. It’s a story about vampires and wizards. Our next guest published a total of five books. All of them are with very high rating in amazon – one of the most sure proofs of quality.
– What is your book The Medium about?
– The Medium is a somewhat non-standard paranormal novel. The good guy is not a hero, and the bad guy is not exactly what he seems.
Lenny is a defective vampire. Shy, insecure, and literally unable to kill, he tries very hard to avoid notice until the night he is kidnapped and imprisoned by Sebastian, a psychopath bent on turning him into what a vampire should be. The situation is only made worse by Lenny’s dual nature: he is also a medium, a creature born for the sole purpose of aiding the dead, and Sebastian is definitely a dead thing in need of help. His only hope is Kim, a practical young wizard tasked with hunting Sebastian down, but her ancient and powerful family is not nearly as accepting as she. Trapped by Sebastian’s mind control and by his own pathological need to heal his captor, Lenny quickly realizes just how easy it would be to slide into evil, himself.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– The book actually originated as backstory for a much milder work, In the Shadow of the Mountains. The events of The Medium take place before and a bit during ItSotM – everything going on behind the scenes that the protagonists of ItSotM never saw. The characters were intended to be secondary characters, villains whose motivations remained mostly in the background.
But as I wrote and organized my thoughts, I began to realize that these secondary characters interested me more. There was more going on in the background than in the foreground, and on a much grander scale, and so ItSotM became an ancillary work, and The Medium became the first volume of the main series, Liminality.
Going back further, though, these were characters had been stewing in my head since high school, back when I realized how dissatisfied I was with the vampire always being a love interest or a depthless monster. I wanted to write a decent vampire (Not necessarily good. Lenny is too weak to be a white knight figure) who wasn’t even a little bit sexy and an evil vampire who wasn’t after anything as straightforward as blood or world domination.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– My biggest challenge was getting the nuances in characterization down.
As I’ve said, Lenny is a weak person, physically and emotionally. He’s not an undead freight train charging around and taking names. He can’t protect himself well and often doesn’t even try. At the same time, though, I didn’t ever want him to stray into the straight-up pathetic, and it became a very tricky balancing act, breaking him down without having him turn whiny. His struggle is not in saving himself, but in finding the strength to give it a shot.
Sebastian is sadistic, but not straight-up evil. I can’t say too much without giving things away, but his seriously unpleasant actions come with motivations I think the reader can actually find sympathetic.
Kim was even trickier. I’ve come to hate the term “strong female character,” and I didn’t want her to turn into one. I think I’ve succeeded in making her a strong character, rather than a strong female character, one whose merits and flaws can be judged on the same scale as those of the male characters around her.
The theme of the series is liminality, though – a state of “betweenness” – and so all of the major characters are walking a tightrope between two different and conflicting types. It was hard to stick to the middle line.
– Tell us something more about your main character Lenny? Is he close to someone from your real life?
– I don’t know any Lennies in real life, though parts of him were taken from lots of different people. I could point to some of my dear friends as the inspiration for his kindness, gentleness, and self-sacrificing nature. His weakness and indecision came straight from the dark parts of me, the bits I’ve been trying to crush out of myself a little at a time.
His love of maths and his knitting hobby are mine, too.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– Start to finish, about a year. Of course, that cuts out all the years of planning long before I wrote anything down. By the time I actually started writing, I knew exactly where everything was going, though I never wrote an actual outline. Including all that planning time, about eight years.
– Your other two works In the Shadow of the Mountains and The Wailing received very nice feedback. Give us some insight about both books?
– Both are ancillary works, side-books providing a little extra information about some of the characters from the main series. Both follow Daniel Leland, a grouchy old man who also happens to be undead. In 2003, he was holed up in Colorado, hiding from Sebastian Duran while also trying to corral a bunch of high school students who were far too keen on hunting vampires. (In The Shadow of the Mountains does happen to be free from most digital platforms, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.) In the 1940s, he was employed by a secret branch of the British government, quietly assassinating things as only a vampire could, though even he got in far over his head once or twice.
Leland shows up several times in The Medium and will also play a much larger role in The Mora, the next book in the Liminality series. Because while I love Lenny’s sort of squishy sort of vampire, I also rather like the harder, colder sort.
– Who are you?
– I’m a teacher, an anthropologist, a folklorist, a Holmesian, and a geek. I have more books than I have space for and more writing utensils than I could ever possibly use. I love history, language, science, myth, theology, and culture. I collect books, hats, journals, bladed weapons, Victoriana, and improbable little skills, like marksmanship and propmaking. I am a Texan of Scots, English, and Polish heritage, and a Roman Catholic (which, as everyone knows, is a prerequisite for hunting vampires).
– What are your writing habits?
– The word “habit” implies regularity. I haven’t got any of that. I write five thousand words one day, nothing for a week, then half a sentence, then that half a sentence again as I try to finish the sentence, then nothing, then another thousand words… It’s havoc.
Every year, though, I swear I’m going to start writing consistently. It hasn’t happened yet.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book?
– Satisfaction leads to stagnation. I am not by any means disappointed by my sales – it’s thrilling that there are people willing to pay for my words, period – but I will never stop striving to improve them. I would like to make writing my primary living eventually, though.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– Honestly, not as much as I should. I’m still learning my way around marketing. However, I’ve found the most effective marketing strategy to be simple communication. Talk to people, build connections, make friends, mention that you’ve written a book, and then let it drop quickly if they’re not interested. If they are interested, ask them to spread the word. Friends are invaluable.
– When we will see your next novel?
– The Mora will be out in 2015, before March, if I get my act together. It will continue the story begun in The Medium, following Kim and the mounting tension in the wizard community, and Lenny, though I can’t say much about him for now. It will also introduce Jadwiga, a mora, a creature from Slavic lore that enters other people’s dreams and gives nightmares to the wicked.
– You are teaching Latin. How did you fail in love with the language and do you think that the history books that came to us from ancient Rome had been counterfeited in favor of the Emperors and Republic?
– Actually, I’ve recently transitioned from teaching Latin to English Language Arts. I suppose I ought to get that information updated.
I’m pretty sure it was Harry Potter that originally introduced me to the Latin language, and so my perception of it has always been colored by a tiny bit of magic. I began learning it in the sixth grade and continued through high school, taking Classical Studies as a minor focus at university.
Ancient histories in general amuse me. They tend to be as much lore as history, and are often colored by the writers’ desire to convey the spirit of the facts rather than the facts themselves. (The famous gold-mining ants of Herodotus come to mind.) I have no doubt that many of the written records we have received are skewed in favor of whomever was in power at the time. On the other hand, quite a few are so critical as to be almost comical.
– Your opinion of the greatest archaeological discovery?
– Archaeology is cumulative, with every piece of information discovered combining with every other to create a complete picture, so I don’t think any individual discovery could really be called “greatest,” at least in terms of what it contributes to the science. However, Howard Carter and company rocked the world with King Tut. If any discovery could be said to be responsible for archaeology’s current popular image, for the vast hordes of undergraduates keen to dig, for amateur archaeological societies the world over, and probably for the number and size of research grants available, Tutankhamun’s tomb would be it. It’s definitely responsible for my own interest in the field.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– Hmm, that’s a tough one. One thing I often wonder about other writers is whether their writing is for entertainment purposes or to deliver a message or moral, so I suppose I’ll go with that.
Just to clarify, I don’t think that entertainment is any less worthy a reason for writing than messages or morals. I don’t think books need a lofty theme; it’s more than enough to provide a short escape from reality. Entertainment is a necessity.
I’ve done some of both. I wrote In the Shadow of the Mountains because I wanted to. There was a story in my head, and I wanted to tell it. It entertained me, and I wanted to share that. I wrote The Wailing for the same reason.
The Medium is a little deeper. I hope that it entertains, but I also intended to turn some tropes upside down. I wanted to challenge the stereotype that “victim” is the woman’s role, that a woman has to choose between being tough and being tender, and that all men are fighters. I wanted to touch on harder topics, like abuse and the damage it inflicts.
If I did my job right, I managed that while also crafting a story people will enjoy reading.
Take a look at her books: