M: Sure! I write a wide range of fiction, from mystery through romance, to horror and back again, usually with a few twists along the way. I’m a Brit, living in the far south west of England, within sight of a disused tin mine, and—something few people know—I have an academic background in medieval and Renaissance art history. On the rare occasions I’m not writing, I can be found traipsing around the countryside with my dogs, usually getting very muddy.
Jen: Tell us about your upcoming releases.
M: It’s an exciting time for me at the moment. Breaking Faith, my acclaimed romantic drama, is still available from Freya’s Bower, and you can find a host of my short fiction both there and at Wild Child Publishing. I also have a short story coming out in Wild Child’s summer anthology of dark and twisted tales, Weirdly: Volume 3, which is due for release in June, and I’m contributing to another anthology with some fantastic authors, including Jaime Samms and Nix Winter. This project, titled Immortal Fire, focuses on immortal beings with an unusual m/m twist, and will be coming out soon with Love You Divine. You’ll be able to find full details of both those projects, when I get some release dates and links, on my website, http://lavengra.com
M: To be honest, I’ve written for as long as I can remember, and I’ve submitted, published or written a range of things under various pen names—everything from greetings card verses to small newspaper articles, reviews, columns, academic work and, once, even a multi-media art/poetry collective! I submitted my first novel for publication aged about fifteen and got a really sweet handwritten note back from the editor, along with my rejection slip. Odd though it may sound, that was actually a really encouraging experience and—along with winning an Arvon Foundation Award for a portfolio of poetry and prose, back in 2001—was one of the things that really encouraged me to keep going, despite being told on a regular basis that my fiction ‘isn’t commercial’.
It was only last year that I decided to try my hand with an e-publisher, so I submitted a proposal to Freya’s Bower, not really expecting to hear back. I couldn’t have been more surprised when, within a few weeks, the submissions editor requested the full manuscript and, next thing I knew, Breaking Faith was zipping through edits and out for release! Well, as a matter of fact, I did end up being more surprised, but only when the reviews started coming in. It was wonderful to have my first effort in this market so well received, and I owe thanks to everybody who helped bring that book to fruition.
Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
M: Yes, we’re teeming with them! My mother’s a features journalist, though she’s also published children’s fiction, and a cousin of mine was a long-time contributor to British and US sci-fi, fantasy and gothic horror journals.
Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
M: Eclectic, engrossing, entertaining…I hope!
Jen: Do you have a specific time or place that you write?
M: Not really, I tend to take what I can get. Ideas-wise, I’m never off the clock, so I’m rarely without a notepad and pen (yes, I am that old-fashioned!). For preference, I work best when it’s raining. Strange but true.
Jen: How do you shut out disruptions?
M: When I’m really on a roll, there’s very little that can distract me, but I’m not above throwing on a CD, hiding behind my headphones and pretending the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Living out in the wilds, there aren’t many good coffee shops nearby, but in the past—like many writers—I’ve been known to hole up in a quiet corner and make one cappuccino last a whole chapter.
Jen: How do you pick the character’s names?
M: I find that’s very much dependent on the character in question. Some will just pop up and introduce themselves, so to speak, and others I’ll want to use a particular aspect of sound or meaning. It’s a bit like naming babies, really; you want to make sure what you’re going to call them doesn’t sound too close to anything silly or rude, so they don’t get picked on by the other kids [LOL]. Things like census records are also really useful for picking up on the flavor of a particular place or time.
Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from and why?
M: I’m pretty flexible, I think. Certainly, there’s nothing I would point-blank just say ‘no’ to trying, though most things I write tend to be slightly cross-genre anyway. Later this year, I’ll be working more in-depth on some fantasy and historical projects, which I’ve been looking forward to, and will be something of a new departure!
Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?
M: Ooh, too many to list! Everything and everyone. I read quite widely, but it’s the little everyday details of people, coincidences and stories that stick in my head. If they’re reading this…they know who they are!
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one that you identify most with?
M: It does sound awful, but at the time I’m writing them, I can find something to identify with in all my characters. Sorry! No, it’s not a cop-out, it’s just that—to me, at least—they’re three-dimensional people that I know, and getting inside their heads is the most interesting part of writing. There is a lot of me in almost everything I write, one way or another.
Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
M: Tough question! When I got my first few reviews of Breaking Faith, the positive reception was amazing, but two of the things that hit home were the comparisons to the emotional depth and poignancy of Brokeback Mountain, and the fact that readers and reviewers alike felt the book really stayed with them. For me, that’s the best thing I could have heard, because it means the book did what I wanted it to; it’s not a gay romance as much as it is a story about people, and it’s great to see that message getting out there.
Jen: What’s next for you?
M: Well, I have a few projects on the boil at the moment. As I mentioned, Daemon is scheduled for release with Red Rose, and I’m also working on a collection of short stories for them, plus the other anthologies I’m contributing to this year. In a totally different vein, I’ve started work on The Leopard’s Face, the first volume of a historical trilogy set in medieval England and based on the true story of a merchant dynasty that rise to compete with the Tudors for the crown, but ultimately pay a heavy price. Expect plenty of intrigue! You can always catch up with the latest on what I’m up to at my website.
M: My website at http://lavengra.com has all the latest on news, reviews and releases, plus links to my Facebook, MySpace, Goodreads and Twitter profiles. Come find me!
Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
M: Well, I mentioned the comment I’d had about stories that stay with you, so what is it—for you—that makes an enduring memory out of a book? Is it the plot, a memorable character or location, the emotions evoked in a tale…all of the above, or something totally different? I’d love to know—and thank you for having me! 😉
Jen: Thank you M for joining us at Book Talk. Readers, M is giving away a download of Breaking Faith. Due to the content of the book, the winner must be 18 years or older. The contest ends Thursday, May 21. To enter, leave a comment either asking a question or answering M’s question.