Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interview - Monica Marier, author of Must Love Dragons

Writers are artists, as well as painters, dancers etc. But you know that person who sings, dances, writes and also plays five instruments? That's an 'Artist'. Please meet Randomities' honorable guest, the multi-talented Monica Marier, author of Must Love Dragons and much more. 
Monica Marier is a caffeinated stay-at-home mom, artist, writer, composer and eccentric. Her debut novel Must Love Dragons is coming out through Hunt Press September 2010. She writes a column on obesity in America for Frum Forum and draws/writes webcomics for the company she co-created: Tangent Artists. Monica lives in the D.C. Metro area with her very supportive husband, blogs at the Attack of the Muses and is also on Twitter.


Mari: Welcome to Randomities Monica. It's a great pleasure having you here. :) Since Must Love Dragons is your first novel, it's inevitable asking how you became a writer. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? 

Monica: Pleasure to be here. My mother introduced me to Fantasy when I was around 11 when she read me the Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. I found myself wanting to create my own worlds with characters that were as enchanting as Tolkien's and Lloyd's.

I started writing my "great epic fantasy" when I was twelve and the project evolved well into my twenties. But after nearly ten years of work, I looked at what I had and realized it was crap. I had written an overly-dramatic, Mary-sue novel. I scrapped the project and it was one of the hardest things I'd ever done in my life–I'd pretty much convinced myself that was I not a writer and never would be.

I started getting into comics and began drawing those in my spare time. I didn't know it, but I was still writing. I thought was only 'creating stories' for comics and animation. I didn't think of it as writing.

Late in 2008, I decided to do a comic chronicling the events of a D&D game (which Later became CRIT!) but the problem was that the game was moving faster than I could draw and I was missing a lot of subtle things. Plus I wanted more. I wanted to know more about the characters histories and drives. Things like that wouldn't have come across so well in a comic.

One evening, I sat at the computer and wrote out as much as I could remember and after eight days, and at the end I had 30,000 words. It was the start of what became my first book. I finished it during NaNoWriMo and titled it Must Love Dragons. The process changed me, but it changed the story too. It had evolved beyond the game, and turned into something that took on a life of it's own.

Mari: What's different about Must Love Dragons from all those epic tales around there? 

Monica: I'm going to stay away from the word 'epic', first off. The word has been used by Hollywood a million times in the last few years to sell movies. Clash of the Titans, Alexander the Great, Sparta, etc. all were described as EPIC to the point where it's almost funny. ie: "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" where the tagline is, "An epic of epic epicness." My brother and I have joked that we're boycotting the word 'epic.' The other consideration is that since my book is a comedy, it's almost disqualified from use of the word epic (unless it's ironic). Some unwritten rule is that you can't be "epic" unless your story is deadly serious.

Must Love Dragons is for Fantasy fans who don't take themselves too seriously. It’s about real-life, but all painted on a traditional swords and sorcery background. It’s my world, so I can have people chasing dragons and scouring thieves dens while they deal with paperwork and credit unions. A lot of Linus Weedwhackers problems are problems anyone could face: going back to work, idiotic teammates and, of course, being a parent.

Mari: Interesting point on 'impossibility' of a humorous epic tale. You gave me something to munch on, thanks! :) 
If you got curious about Monica's book -- I certainly did -- here's the cover and blurb.

Everyone knows that Heroes slay Dragons. Not everyone knows that Heroes also change diapers.
It's the oldest story in the world; boy meets girl, boy marries girl, they have a family. 
But what happens when the girl makes more money than the boy, and he stays at home to raise the kids? What happens when pregnancy is rough on her, and he has to go back to work? And what happens when she's a dragon, he's a ranger, and a day at the office involves trolls, elves, magic, and lower back pain?
Linus Weedwhacker (shut it, he's heard 'em all) knows first hand.
Mari: Please tell us how you approached Hunt Press, or how they've approached you if that's the case. If you don't mind, could you give us some inside information about the deal closing? We're always curious about that, heh. 

Monica: Believe it or not, my deal was entirely thanks to Facebook gaming. I received a friend request from someone who wanted more neighbors for the FB ap Tiny DD and Farmville. It was Tammy Takahashi, author of Zenschooling. One day on her status feed she announced that her publisher, a micro-press called Hunt Press, was accepting submissions of Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels. I asked her about Hunt Press, (what kind of contract, how was distribution, where would the book be sold, etc.). There was no query or agents involved, I sent the completed MS in an email along w. a million prayers to every patron saint of writing/arts I could think of.

A month later, I got a response saying that after some “substantial editing,” they wanted to publish my book and I did a happy dance in the living room for 20 minutes.

Mari: Who'll say Farmville is a waste of time after that, eh? lol In my view, you asked the right questions in your first contact with your publisher-to-be. Very wise of you! Now, I see that Hunt Press has a particular submission process. Are there other aspects on their practice that diverge from what we generally see on the publishing market? 

Monica: Well, Hunt Press is a micro-press so there’s not as much pressure and protocol as a huge publishing house. Hunt Press takes care of the copyright and ISBN fees and helps with the printing and marketing (they gave me my spiffy cover, for example). They also have experts in layout and editing to make sure my novel is at it’s best. I’ve been working really closely with my awesome editor and publisher, over the months, and we worked on a proper schedule. While distribution and marketing are smaller, and I’m responsible for a lot of my own promotion, they have my back and are always ready with help and advice.

That being said, a lot of the success of the project depends on pre-orders. The more money we have in advance, the more money we have to spend on the launch. In addition, Must Love Dragons will have online distribution in both digital and paperback versions through pretty much all the world, but it won’t appear in your local store unless you ask for it. I have to ask people to go to their local Barnes & Noble and WHSmiths and ask if they could carry “Must Love Dragons” by Monica Marier.

Mari: Must Love Dragons can be pre-ordered at the Hunt Press website dear reader. ;)
Now, I hear you not only write books, but you have other artistic inclinations as well. Can you tell me more about Tangent Artists and your other projects?

Skeleton Crew
Monica: One of my projects is Frum Forum’s. “The Fat Diaries.” Danielle Frum, (who encouraged me to publish my book in the first place) read an essay I wrote for my friends about my fight with obesity. I recently lost about 70lbs after being morbidly obese for 3 years. She then asked me to do an article for them every Friday about America and its nutrition problems (1 in 5 Americans is obese). I started doing a cartoon to follow each article, for the hell of it, and I ended up doing one every week.

Donuts for Looking
Tangent Artists is a webcomics company I cofounded in 2006. We have 3 series running, “CRIT!”, “Donuts for Looking” and “Skeleton Crew,” I do some writing and artwork for all three. We’ve been on local TV, appeared at East Coast conventions, and we’re starting to get pockets of following all over the English-speaking world.

In the future, I’m looking to publish my sequel to Must Love Dragons, and my story Madame Bluestocking’s Pennyhorrid will be hosted at Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders

Mari: You were on TV? So I'm interviewing a local celebrity? *grinz* 
Don't be shy, tell us about your musical aptitudes. ;)

Madame Bluestocking's
Monica: I’ve been playing piano since I was six and composing music since I was nine. I was a complete dunce at reading music, I still am–can barely read a note­– but I constantly heard music in my head, usually underscoring my life or my stories. Most of my compositions were “soundtracks” to whatever I was writing/drawing at the time. When I was 13, my parents decided to switch from piano lessons to composition lessons where I learned to write my compositions on the computer. Right now, I write scores in a midi program and then mix them in Garage Band. I still have a lot to learn, and I’m not composing as much as I used to since I started writing, but I like to practice when I can.

My music will be showcased along with Madame Bluestocking’s Pennyhorrid.

Mari: Thank you Monica for your lovely visit and best luck with your book and your many interesting projects! 
*heads off to read Madame Bluestocking’s Pennyhorrid
Oh wait, before I go, I leave you with an excerpt of  Must Love Dragons. You can follow the audio with the text below. Have fun! 

                “Listen, Quince, I appreciate you wanting help, I really do. It’s downright decent of you. But here in the northwest provinces, the UUGA is in control of contractual rules and guidelines.”
                “And what is that... the yooga.?”
                “Well, that stands for the United Union/Guild Association. They consist of the five main nomadic trades, generally people who patrol several towns or provinces and cover a wide range of tasks. Members of said organizations are all licensed to carry weapons, and wield authority... of a sort. It all depends, really. All the trades have their own union or guild. Each union, in turn, answers to the UUGA which governs all activity...”
                Quince’s vacant stare, was beginning to worry Linus. How much of this was he really taking in?
                “It’s like a big club, alright?” he said slowly.
                Quince nodded thoughtfully, or perhaps he was trying to see his own eyebrows. It was hard to tell.
                “What is it you do Quince?”
                “I can hit stuff with my axe!” answered Quince, pointing to a double-headed monstrosity the size of a lamppost.
                “Okaaaaay, Warrior,” said Linus weakly. Figures, he thought. “Well, you need to know that there’s a Warriors Union. Their job is to make sure that all Warriors are given good pay and treated well by towns and cities. They want to see that the Warriors are happy so they’ll go to meetings and pay lots of dues.”
                “They’re the good guys?” asked Quince with infuriating density.
                “Sort of,” agreed Linus with reluctance, “But what the Union also wants is for ALL Warriors to be in the Union. They don’t like Warriors who aren’t in the Union to do jobs for less money or for harder terms. Do you follow?”
                Quince pondered this for a moment. Linus couldn’t help noticing that when Quince had to mull something over he had to stop walking to do it. Apparently he couldn’t handle more than one command to the brain at a time.
                “They want all the Warriors to be in the Warrior’s Union so they can protect them, then?” asked Quince slowly.
                Linus was about to debate this fact; about how non-Union Warriors could charge less because they didn’t have to give the Union a percentage of their fees, and pay monthly dues, but Quince was obviously not up to the stimulation. He decided to take the easy way out.
                “That’s right. So I’m afraid you can’t be a Warrior around here without a membership, do you understand?”
                “That’s okay,” said Quince. “I don’t need any protection!”
                Yes, but whos going to protect me when the Warriors Union wants to know who collaborated with a non-member with no contract? Theyre gonna break my damn legs, he thought glumly. He hadn’t dealt personally with the UUGA in a good while, but he knew enough about the nature of people to suspect that they hadn’t changed much. Quince was going to be trouble; Linus decided to shift tactics.
                “If you don’t have a contract, Quince, you’re not entitled to any of our payment.”
                “Oh, I don’t want any money. I’m only here to stop those nasty Kobolds.”
                The blood drained from Linus’ face. A non-member with no contract working gratis? Forget about the broken legs, they’d never find his body.
                MORRRRRFFF? he called in a panicked voice. He’d need backup on this one.
                “What?” asked Morf running up. Linus motioned him in closer so as not to be overheard. He needn’t have worried. Quince was a good two feet in the air from their bowed heads.
                “The silly bastard’s not affiliated with anyone–no contract, no license, nothing–and insists on helping us…” Linus choked a little, “…free of charge.”
                Linus suspected that Morfindel’s face probably looked like his had a second ago, his slack jaw practically banging against his chest plate.
                “Can he do that?” he asked, stunned.
                “No one’s been stupid enough to try! He says he doesn’t want any money, he just wants to help out!”
                “It could be a trap, Linus,”
                “What, like he was sent by the UUGA?”
                “Yeah, to see who’s hiring outsiders.”
                “Good point,” said Linus, casting a calculating glance at Quince. Maybe he was just pretending to be thick. The big ox was in conversation with Wendria right now in a battle of the blondes.
                “I’m trying to remember what kind of fruit a quince is,” said Wendria thoughtfully. “Is it the small orange fruit that has a peel like a citrus or is that a kumquat?”
                “Woah! They named a fruit after me?!” said Quince agog.
                Linus relaxed a little.
                “I’m guessing he’s just a moron,” he said flatly to Morfindel.


  1. So enjoyed this interview. And that IS a very spiffy cover, Monica. Congratulations!

    Did have a listen - great voice

    It is always terrible when someone is not certified by an union. :D

    Thank you Mari-girl for inviting Monica to share the spotlight. :)

  2. --Marisa: You can't imagine what these people are capable of! heh

    Psst, I've read the book, so I know what I'm talking about. Can't wait for the sequel!

  3. @ Marisa Thanks! The Ranger's Union jokes were my first real jokes for MLD. It started out like a comedy routine and sort of exploded from there.

    @Mari Thanks again for giving me this super-great opportunity! I had a lot of fun doing this!.

  4. That's really interesting that Marisa found her publisher through Farmville on Facebook. Never again will I refuse a Farmville invitation, haha. (That actually would be a really good book; "how I landed my first publishing deal through farmville.")

  5. And I thought that landing my publishing deal through Twitter was an interesting story - I've been well and truly trumped!

    Don't mind a bit though, great interview - nice to learn more and get excited too, Monica is one of my favourite Twitter pals and I have fantasies of a future collaboration once my current book lets me go... Let's all make "Must Love Dragons" a huge success!

  6. What a wonderful story and a great interview, Monica and Mari :) And what a great pic - I'm sure people are always telling you you look like Dexter's sister!

  7. What fun! And I mean the interview, books, and comics. Monica, you must be well and truly caffeinated to manage all that and raising kids!

    Srsly, Monica is one of my favorite Twitter people, and it's nice to get to know a little more about her. Thanks for doing the interview, Mari!


  8. Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments! I'm really happy that you all enjoyed the interview as much as we did. :)

  9. Terrific interview Mari. I just love Monica's personal story and wish her the best with this book. It sounds like a fun read.

  10. Thanks so much for this great interview and for everything, you guys! Loved it! Someday I will get this book, I promise!! But congratulations to Monica, and great interview, Mari.

  11. --G.P.: Thanks! It is a fun read! I too was most interested in Monica's story. There's much to learn from her experience. :)

    --Phyl: I hope you do dear. I think you'll have a good laugh with it, hhe.

  12. Thanks for the well-wishes and comments! I've enjoyed this journey so much, and every turn of the road has introduced me to some of the nicest, warmest, most wonderful people. I've never felt so alive or "surrounded" by so many positive encouraging people.

  13. The book sounds adorable! I like this woman's mind. Great interview, Mari.

  14. --Jodi: Thanks! I especially like Monica's take on epic tales. Where's the rule saying that a story has to be deadly serious to be classified as "epic"?


Recent Popular Posts