A Boing Boing exclusive: authors Stephanie Chong and Marjorie M. Liu interview each other!
Stephanie Chong (left) is author of the paranormal romance series The Company of Angels.
Marjorie M. Liu (right) is the New York Times bestselling author of the paranormal romance series Dirk & Steele, urban fantasy series Hunter Kiss, and is the writer for Marvel's Astonishing X-Men comics, including the infamous issue #51 featuring Marvel's first gay wedding.
Stephanie Chong: What parts of researching your books have personally interested you the most?
Marjorie M. Liu: I love to read all kinds of crazy non-fiction -- histories, science -- magazines, newspapers. I never know what’s going to inspire me, and once I’m inspired, I read like a maniac about that specific idea or topic. Research is the best, but it never stops.
I loved the international setting of Demoness. Did you do any personal travel for your research?
SC: I wrote about Venice from memory. I’ve been there three times, but the last time I went was seven years ago. I did a lot of research online. Venice is a small city, and memorable, so it was manageable.
My next book is set in France, and while I’ve spent a lot of time there, I did take a trip to Paris and Normandy specifically to map out the characters’ journey. It was a great excuse to take a vacation, and an interesting way to travel.
ML: Was there a key book that inspired you?
SC: I think every book I’ve ever read has inspired me in a different way. I was one of those kids who was constantly scribbling, and I knew at a very early age that I wanted to be a writer.
In terms of writing paranormal romance, I started to think, “Hey, I could do this!” right after I read Kerrelyn Sparks’ How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire.
And of course Tiger Eye inspired me (and I’m not just saying that)! Honestly, you have always been one of my biggest inspirations in this industry. Knowing that a young, Asian-American lawyer-turned-paranormal romance novelist existed made me realize that the transition from law to writing was possible. I seriously don’t know if I would have done it without knowing it could be done.
Speaking of Tiger Eye and your writing in general, you have a wonderful style that ranges from very poetic and lyrical to action-packed and intense. With regards to paranormal romance in particular, I’ve always found that you have a very tasteful way of writing love scenes. How do you do it?
ML: Well, there’s a difference between a love scene (in my mind) and a sex scene. Sex scenes are so difficult for me at this point, that if I never had to write another one, I’d be thrilled. Maybe I need to read some more issues of Cosmopolitan for inspiration! But right now, I’m of the opinion that sometimes leaving it to the imagination can be way more erotic for the reader.
Now, love scenes...that’s a different story. I think of love scenes as those moments of vulnerability and intimacy that develop between the main characters -- often times unexpected -- and those are what I enjoy best. Those quiet, sensitive, secret moments that create lasting bonds, that become trust, that become love. Because the sex doesn’t really change (the sex scenes that I write, anyway), but each character and their most important romantic relationships are uniquely different. That’s what holds the book together -- these revelations and developments that lead to love. Writing them, though...the way it all comes together, is dependent entirely on the characters themselves. So I play it by ear. Each book is different.
What’s your take on sex scenes and love within the genre?
SC: I also find it increasingly difficult to write love and sex scenes. But I try to focus on the progression of intimacy between the characters, and how their physical relationship mirrors their emotional relationship.
ML: Also, in The Demoness of Waking Dreams, you took on this incredibly difficult task of taking two characters who couldn’t be further apart -- and then weaving them together in a beautiful, believable, and loving way. That’s incredibly difficult to do, but you made it look easy. How was it for you, bringing Brandon and Luciana together? What was the inspiration when you began developing their love story, and how did you go about building intimacy and trust between an angel and a demon?
SC: It was like pulling teeth to get Brandon and Luciana to interact on the page! It took a long time for them to warm up to each other - it was almost like working with actors who had just met each other. My characters, and these characters in particular, are pretty vivid when I work with them, even before the story begins. They have preferences, and they’re stubborn - especially Luciana. As the story progressed, they seemed to build their own chemistry, though.
The inspiration for the book really grew out of the first book. Luciana, to me, was the most interesting secondary character in that book. And she needed to meet her match.
ML: What is it about secondary characters? It seems like they’re the ones who become most alive in the process of writing a book -- which is great, because they inspire more stories!
SC: In general, do you have any advice for writers who are starting out?
ML: Read! Read! Read! There’s no magic bullet, other than reading and writing and writing and reading. But everyone is different -- we all have our own path.
What was the turning point for you? Was there a moment where everything came together for you as a writer?
SC: I’m still waiting for that moment! Just kidding (partially). I definitely feel like I’m still developing as a writer, and I hope I never stop learning. That’s part of what I love about the craft - there’s always something to learn, and to me, it’s endlessly fascinating!
ML: I feel exactly the same as you. We never stop learning.
SC: What’s your next adventure, whether in writing or in life?
ML: I’m working on the next Hunter Kiss book, Labyrinth of Stars. And, as always, the comic books -- in this case, monthly issues of Astonishing X-Men.
ML: I have the same question for you, Stephanie! What’s next?
SC: I’m working on Book III of the ‘Company of Angels’ series.
Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me today, Marjorie! It has been an absolute pleasure!
ML: No, thank you. It’s been wonderful speaking with you.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.