Today I’d like to welcome Lynne Murray, sci-fi & fantasy author of Gravitas and The Falstaff Vampire Files. Can you give us your quickest description of your books?
Right now, I’m juggling two series. The Gravitas series featuring Sybil of Planet Valkyrie and the Falstaff Vampire series featuring Sir John Falstaff, Vampire, undead and misbehaving in San Francisco.
I’ve seen your cover of Gravitas all over the place and love it – keep meaning to read it, will soon! From just the descriptions of each series, I’m guessing the two storylines are completely different, correct? Do you write them at the same time, or how do you keep yourself in the right genre/mindset for each?
I guess I’m a serial storyteller, I can only live in one alternate world at a time. The idea of Sir John Falstaff as a vampire living in San Francisco was so strong that the character immediately stood up and told me where he wanted to go—the Big and Tall Men’s Clothing Store, and what he wanted to do there, have me pay for a new wardrobe, followed by a nice dinner feasting on the diners who ate at a restaurant that served pork loin and sack sherry.
Naturally. :) What are you working on currently?
I’m in the middle of writing The Falstaff Vampire Ghosts. San Francisco is plagued by hordes of Hungry Ghosts. In The Falstaff Vampire Files, The Ghosts helped Sir John and his friends, but once unleashed, they wander out of their graves and into the streets, scaring humans and threatening San Francisco’s undead community with exposure to the humans whose ignorance the vampires depend upon for survival. There’s also a ghost-haunted famous movie actress who has made a deal with the devil and a pulled pork food truck operator whose brother-in-law has become a zombie.
Well, THAT sounds interesting! I can’t not laugh when thinking about pulled pork and zombies… Anyway, where did you come up with those ideas?
The Hungry Ghosts played an important part in the first Falstaff book, but they seemed like the kind of critters who might get out of control if they could get out of their graves whenever they scented some of their favorite aromas. In some Asian traditions Hungry Ghosts live on scents, and they particularly like roast pork. The pulled pork food truck drove into the story when the owner, who was besieged by Hungry Ghosts had to deal with his brother-in-law Lenny who had come back from a New Orleans vacation in a zombified state, and with the power of communicating with Hungry Ghosts. That would be particularly awkward if the health department came around the food truck when Lenny was hanging around.
I love that mix of ideas. What is your favorite scene you’ve written? Can you give us a peek?
I have to go with one from Valkyrie on Planet Fury. Sybil is about to renew her wedding vows to her true love, Josu, with the three husbands she married in his absence standing by. Sybil may lose her estate because she has chosen to have only Josu and no others in the past, a practice frowned upon on by the Clan Mothers of Valkyrie. In a desperate ploy to keep their estate, they have invited Kyr-Brelkin, an infamous seducer to attend the wedding:
Marcus, Delan and Enfer had lined up next to the Chief Priestess. Josu and I stood next to them, holding hands. The guests stood waiting and the Chief Priestess was setting up the ritual instruments to begin the ceremony when Kyr-Brelkin walked in.
There wasn’t the smallest risk that anyone would miss his entrance. A murmur of surprise followed him through the door. Everyone turned to look at him. He was worth looking at. I’d forgotten how compelling he was in person. He was not a conventionally handsome man. He was tall, though not as tall as Josu. He must have been about fifty years old, with pleasantly abundant flesh. He was well past his first youth with short cut, curly brown hair laced with gray. The most compelling thing about him was the constant play of amusement in his dark eyes. He was clean-shaven with a sensuous mouth framed by laugh lines, I stared along with everyone. Then I flinched when I realized I had work to do here. I let go of Josu’s hand, took a deep breath and walked up to the most famous seducer on Planet Valkyrie. “You must be Kyr-Brelkin. I have heard of you.” I reached out and grasped his hand.
Every guest in the room gasped.
Because of the Gravitas, Valkyrian women touch a man in public only to openly acknowledge lovers. I felt the rush as my Gravitas surrounded him. This close, he loomed over me. I stood on tiptoe to say loud enough that everyone could hear, “We haven’t met before, but now that we have, I have the most alarming desire to get to know you better.
Kyr-Brelkin leaned down and inhaled my Gravitas as if savoring a fine wine. “Give me a chance to exercise my seductive charms on you, my dear, before you drag me off,” he whispered softly in my ear. “At my age, instant attraction has been replaced by infinite skill and irresistible charm.”
He was right about that. With my Gravitas pulsing around us like a hot cloud, I wondered if I was in real trouble here. I held his hand and looked up into his eyes and couldn’t think of a thing to say.
I rose up on tiptoe again, putting my hand on his arm for balance as I whispered in his ear, “Help me out here, you’ve done this before and I haven’t a clue how.” Everyone else in the room seemed to be holding their breath as much as I was. I finally managed to say almost too loudly, “May I speak to you in private?”
“So bold, I think I’m in love already,” Kyr-Brelkin declared with a devastating smile. “You are as beautiful and your Gravitas as intoxicating as every man who has seen you testifies.” Then he leaned forward and captured my arm to keep me from stepping back. His face lit up with pleasure. His smile somehow made everyone else in the room disappear. I saw why women would make fools of themselves in front of everyone they knew and loved for a few minutes of this man’s total attention.
If ever a man was made for mischief, Kyr-Brelkin was that man.
Your whole world-building setup for your story is really creative. Do you enjoy making up this culture for your characters? What’s your favorite aspect?
I really enjoy turning cultural ideas upside down. Sybil of Valkyrie came about because I wondered what if monogamy was considered disgraceful? What if my heroine wanted only one husband, but her culture demanded that she marry as many mates as she could support.
I had so much fun exploring the woman-ruled planet Valkyrie, where an aphrodisiac pheromone, Gravitas, is the main export. So for the sequel, I created a sister planet, Fury, where the women rulers secrete Wroth, a pheromone that produces anger, revenge, merciless destruction.
Yep, I’m definitely getting this book. What is one question about your books that you wish more people would ask?
“Where can I find these books, I want to read them all?”
Every author loves hearing that one! So where CAN we find them – do you have a favorite retailer? This year I’m experimenting with putting the Gravitas/Valkyrie series on Amazon Select so those who have Kindle Unlimited can read them for free.
Gravitas: Valkyrie in the Forbidden Zone –
Valkyrie on Planet Fury –
The Falstaff Vampire books are available in all ebook formats and paperback too. Pearlsong Press lists them all HERE.
(PSST! Quick promo for anyone who wants a discount copy — Gravitas is on sale for $0.99 starting Friday, February 19th, through Monday, February 22nd.)
Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?
I confess, I don’t like books that are “too much like real life.” I want to be swept away on the wings of stories. My heroines do the things I wish I could do in the way I wish I could do them. In terms of my personal experiences, I often get a “do-over” of a situation where I didn’t handle it the way I wanted, or it didn’t turn out the way I wished. My characters (and the readers) get a victory. I consider that as snatching fictional victory from the jaws of reality.
That is a great approach – having your heroines do what you wish you could do. By extension, of course the readers get that same sense of “Yes!” Even in your fantastical stories, how else do you think your characters are relatable?
I try to write about unapologetic and unconventional heroines. My motto is “Everybody can be heroic!” That is one part of real life is one I want to bring into my stories. I crave humor in the books I read as well as what I write, but I never use, or tolerate put-downs or ridicule of characters. One of my author heroes is Joseph Hanson, who wrote the detective novels featuring David Branstetter, a gay sleuth. Hanson put it eloquently: “Rarely in life can we know a real human being as completely as we come to know good fictional characters. When a writer scrupulously models his characters on the way men and women really are, he opens to his readers the opportunity to widen and deepen their understanding of others and themselves, and this can only make the world a gentler place for us all.”
Thanks, Lynne, for sharing!