M. B. Weston is known as Michelle to her colleagues and friends. With her flowing dark hair and brilliant smile, Weston captivates as she walks to her designated table at any given science fiction or horror convention. Attendees can browse through the covers of her novels, which spark even more interest in this vibrant author, but it is when she begins to speak that this talented lady truly captures the attention of fantasy and paranormal enthusiasts. That is, of course, if they have not already had the pleasure of reading her stories.
As a featured guest author of Undead Con 2013, hosted by Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat Fan Club (ARVLFC), as well as the 25th Annual Vampire Ball, both to be held in New Orleans this October just before Halloween, Weston will be hosting a panel along with featured guest authors Allan Gilbreath and Kalila Smith.
Per paranormal author, lecturer, and New Orleans Haunted History Tour guide Kalila Smith, "I am honored to share a panel with not only Allan Gilbreath but award-winning author, M. B. Weston. Michelle writes everything from steam punk and fantasy novels to poetry. I consider it a privilege to sit alongside such a distinguished author and speaker as she."
Kalila continues, "We will be discussing 'The Nature of Good and Evil' on Friday, October 25, 2 - 3 p.m. at the Undead Con. Given Michelle's background in writing not only fantasy fiction but also religious devotions and a column called 'Faith's Perspective,' she should bring an interesting perspective to the subject as it applies in both fiction and non-fiction genres."
Upstart author/orator/publisher Allan Gilbreath added his second sense as well. 'The Nature of Good and Evil' - a very lively panel about what makes a character good or evil and from whose point of view. Just how clear cut are those lines?"
"Michelle Weston is a truly wonderful person,' shared Gilbreath, "with a serious passion for writing. She possess in equal parts and an adventurous spirit, manic curiosity, and permanent sweetness. (This, of course, makes her one of my favorite mental sparring partners.)"
For more information on "The Nature of Good and Evil" panel, go to arvlfc.com/undeadcon.html and click on Friday's events.
Michelle was generous enough to take some time from her busy lifestyle and offer some detailed answers to this reporter's questions!
Dionne Charlet: Speaking as both Examiner.com New Orleans Literature Examiner and Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat Fan Club (ARVLFC)’s press coordinator, it’s a pleasure to have you join the ranks of Undead Con authors.
1. As you are working on the third installment of your wildly popular “Elysian Chronicles” novels, can you give our readers a quick synopsis of all things Elysia, and let fans of your beautifully-detailed and action-packed series know what to expect next?
M. B. Weston: “Wow. All things Elysia in a quick synopsis? All righty. Here we go. Take a look around you. Imagine that surrounding you, in an unseen dimension, a battle is waging between angels and demons. The demons want to destroy humanity; the angels are charged with protecting it. Their war has been arduous, bloody, and long. The only thing giving the angels hope is a book of prophecies they’ve had for thousands of years. The prophecies don’t seem to be coming true, however, and many of the angels have questioned the validity of whether the fight for humanity is worth the sacrifice they’ve made. That’s the basic premise of ‘The Elysian Chronicles.’ Of course, it’s not just an angel/demon series. I’ve taken the idea that mythological characters such as dragons, unicorns, trolls, and dwarves actually exist and live in the angel’s dimension, which I call Heaven’s Realm. That gives the books a little more flavor—especially the political issues between the races. Next in line for the Elysian Chronicles: ‘A Prophecy Forgotten’ and ‘Out of the Shadows’ are the first two books in the series. I have a short story with two of my main characters, Davian and Eric, which was just published in a sword and sorcery anthology called ‘Thunder on the Battlefield 2’. Another short story that takes place between ‘Out of the Shadows’ and Book 3 should come out soon in an urban fantasy anthology. Book 3, currently called ‘The Sword of the Vanir,’ I’m working on finishing. That will be kind of a ‘National Treasure’ meets ‘Lord of the Rings’ story…but I don’t want to give too much away yet. ;)
2. I love the word “mornacht.” Where did you come up with it?
Weston: “I knew I needed a name for my demon creatures. Calling them demons was too clichéd. So I took the German word for night, ‘nacht,’ and added the letters ‘mor,’ in several of the romance and Latin languages means dark. I was specifically thinking of the Spanish word, ‘moreno,’ which means ‘brunette.’ At first, I tried ‘nachtmors’ but that reminded me too much of the Nockmaar castle in the movie Willow, so I switched the words and came up with ‘mornacht.’”
3. With your writing talent, it’s a real treat for M.B. Weston fans to find you moving onto writing in the paranormal realm. Please tell our readers what you have planned!
Weston: “I’m actually taking a break from the Elysian Chronicles to write a paranormal thriller about a woman who discovers that the person stalking her is 1) responsible for 90% of the world’s unsolved serial killings and 2) not human. It’s actually a story of forgiveness and redemption—with a very sinister otherworldly beast. It opens with the death of the Beast of Gevaden in the 1700’s and links that tragedy with Jack the Ripper, the Axeman of New Orleans, and a few other notorious serial killings. I’m also working on a paranormal/horror/thriller short story anthology. I’m not sure where my interest in writing paranormal came from. I love epic battles between good versus evil, and I think the paranormal genre epitomizes that battle. Also, I love how paranormal/horror plots force the characters to make difficult choices. Choices made in difficult times define who we are, can change who we are, can teach us who we are and our weaknesses, and show our humanity. I believe each of us, if put in the right circumstances, could make the wrong choice. We’re all human. That’s why I love redemptive themes and stories. We all screw up. I like stories that give the characters a chance to make it right.”
4. What are the differences between writing epic fantasy and paranormal thrillers?
Weston: “I would say the main difference is in the world-building. Paranormal thrillers take place on earth in the real world. Rarely do characters venture into the paranormal world, so the author doesn’t have to worry about creating an entire world with its geography, cultures, language, and history. With epic fantasy, I have to create all of those things, and that includes the magic system. I’ve even had to come up with new constellations, etc. World building takes a lot of research and brainstorming. I tend to have a lot of epic battle scenes in The Elysian Chronicles, and that involves research in the military, weapons, and battle strategy. My main characters are angels. Because they have wings, their battle strategies and weapons development would be different from that of humans. I have to take those things into consideration when I write. Paranormal stories, on the other hand, often take research if they take place in a real locale. For instance, Unleashed, the paranormal thriller I’m working on right now, takes place in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. I’ve had to do ample research on that area in order to write the book. That kind of research is tricky because if you miss a major landmark or have a road going in the wrong direction, people will notice. The Elysian Chronicles are doubly difficult because they take place both in Elysia and on earth—and in very specific places on Earth. My second Elysian Chronicles book: ‘Out of the Shadows,’ took place at the Naval Academy. Talk about research!
5. How do you keep your characters true to themselves?
Weston: “Wow, that’s a great question. Keep the characters true to who they are, i.e. not forcing them to do something they wouldn’t actually do, is integral in making your story feel real and connect with the reader. I probably use a few techniques. First, I write the story ¼ of the way through and let my characters just become who they are. Then, I figure out their base personalities, which includes their drives, their strengths, and their weaknesses. I also “dog test” my characters, meaning that I figure out if they are alphas, betas, or gammas. (Gammas are your loners.)
“(I do keep an Excel spreadsheet of all these things.)
“Second, I write the first draft to really get a feel for my characters. They tend to take on a life of their own, and more of their personalities show up during the first draft. Most of character development is about ‘feel.’ When I write a scene, I try to ‘be there’, preferably in the head of my point of view character. This means I have to get into the heads of Davian, Tommy and Gabriella—and even Marcus—in the Elysian Chronicles series. Spending time in your character’s heads is a great way to get to know them better. I guess you could call it imagining the story as someone else…
“Third, I try to pay attention to the flow of my scenes during my second and third drafts. If a scene doesn’t flow or keeps needing to be rewritten, it might be because I’m trying to force my characters to do something they wouldn’t do.
“Fourth, I listen to my beta readers. They let me know if a character is acting out of character. In the 2nd Elysian Chronicles book, ‘Out of the Shadows,’ almost all of my beta readers told me they couldn’t feel Tommy, and didn’t know who he was. I had to go back, figure out who he was, and then rewrite 1/3 of the book."
6. You’ve written so much fantasy, and now that you are delving into the paranormal, have you ever thought of what it might be like to write about vampires?
Weston: “I’ve definitely thought about writing vampires, especially since I’m probably going to be delving into werewolves and because I’ve done a lot of research on Vlad the Impaler. (I like to go straight to the original mythology when it comes to fantasy characters.) The very nature of being a vampire—of needing human blood to quell hunger—can create such conflict, both between characters and within each of them. I’m sure vampires will eventually find their way into my stories.”
7. As a featured guest of Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat Fan Club’s Undead Con, I see that you have a special panel planned with authors Allan Gilbreath and Kalila Smith. Can you give our readers a ‘sneak peak’ of what to expect on that panel?
Note to readers: (Weston had no idea this reporter had already asked Kalila and Allan to discuss this panel AND their feelings on Michelle earlier in the article!)
Weston: “I believe that panel is called ‘Good vs. Evil.’ I don’t want to divulge too much—as none of us have actually talked about it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a little debate ensues—especially with Allan as the token skeptic. I adore Allan and Kalila, and I love that we can chat about these types of subjects on a panel without getting personal. (And it’s always fun to see if I can get to Allan—although it hasn’t happened yet.) I can assure you that I am preparing to defend the side of good.” ;)
8. Could you please share some of your experiences on what it takes to write and publish novels and short stories?
Weston: “Writing novels is quite possibly one of the hardest things I’ve done. It’s not the writing of novels that’s difficult. It’s trying to complete a novel while balancing family life and work and keeping your friends from thinking you hate them. It’s also hard to get through that second draft, when you feel like you’re trying to mold a football field’s worth of play-doh with only a scalpel. I enjoy writing short stories much more because they are quick and easy to manage. Some writing comes easy. Some is more difficult. I wrote my steampunk story, ‘The Survivor,’ in 48 hours. (No sleep. That was a marathon.) It took me three weeks to write ‘The Cherubian, The Lindworm, and The Portal’ for the sword and sorcery anthology. I can’t explain why some stories just flow and others feel like you are wading through cement. I just know that the one thing that I’ve noticed about all authors who have published a lot of books: they don’t give up. That’s the ticket. You don’t fail until you decide to throw in the towel.”
Michelle will also be appearing along with Allan Gilbreath and Kalila Smith at CONtraflow III in New Orleans. October 18 - 20. This science fiction convention will be located at the DoubleTree by Hilton New Orleans Airport in Kenner, LA.