Calico in Conversation: Monsters Are People with J.L. Gribble

Steel Victory Launch 1Welcome to Part Two of Calico In Conversation with J.L. Gribble. If you missed Part One: Boosting Confidence, feel free to click here to catch up!

Editor’s Note: this interview was originally conducted in March through June of 2016.

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Let’s move on to influences: as writers, we all have them. What do you think influences your writing the most?

There’s never a simple answer to that question! I draw my inspiration from the other media I consume (books, television, movies, graphic novels, role-playing games, etc.), courses I’ve taken in school, and the people I meet around me. But that’s a pretty cliche answer in and of itself, so instead I’ll talk more about the challenges I’ve set for myself in my writing.

My favorite take on the concept of immortality is that presented in the television show Highlander: The Series, where even people who live forever are still people. I wanted to write about paranormal monsters who are also still people first. In addition, my debut novel, the thesis I wrote for graduate school, started out as a reaction to the Twilight craze. I wanted to write about a vampire who can be a romantic creature, but whose story wasn’t necessarily a romance. Thus, the character of Victory, a vampire in a mature, adult relationship, was born. But characters don’t exist in a vacuum, so I gave her a family, friends, and a career. The conflict of the novel was born from taking all of those things away, one by one.

The rest of the Steel Empires series continues along the vein, with other challenges that I decided to set for myself. Steel Magic could be considered a coming of age story for Victory’s daughter, inspired by a class I took in college on the female coming-of-age novel. Book 3, Steel Blood, was deliberately structured around the scenes set by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. And book 4 is going to be a time travel book…because I freaking love time travel stories.

Interesting…. It’s funny, because you’re reminding me of a Tor.com post written by Alex Bledsoe regarding his Eddie LaCrosse series, wherein each book of the series was written in response to a particular THING the author was inspired by or wanted to explore. I can’t begin to explain HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS APPROACH. While I haven’t read Bledsoe’s series (and I’ve only read your first book), I imagine it gives each book a unique approach, despite the characters and the world tying it together into one series. Thoughts?

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Calico in Conversation: Boosting Confidence with J.L. Gribble

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J.L. Gribble

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook, and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

Editor’s Note: this is part one of a three-part interview. Parts two and three will be published July 12th and July 19th, respectively. Also, this interview was originally conducted in March through June of 2016.

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Now, to get started, I ask all of my interviewees the same starting question, and that’s this: how do we know each other?

Hi, Shara! We both attended Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. Our terms overlapped by a few years, and I’m so glad that gave us the opportunity to meet. My earliest memory of you is that your first residency was the year we all gave ourselves Battlestar Galactica names. I was Officer Dualla and you were D’Anna Biers. I have equated you with the badass Lucy Lawless ever since.

Badass Lucy Lawless? I’LL TAKE IT. Hell, why don’t I cosplay that more? I’ve totally got the hair and the jawline… just not the muscles.

I’m glad you brought up Seton Hill. Back then, it was a Master of Arts, which has now become a Master of FINE Arts in Writing Popular Fiction. I never went back for the “F” in my MA. Did you do that, and if you haven’t, would you consider doing that, considering this point in your career?

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Steel Victory

I’ve been in a bit of a funk the past few days, and the less said about that, the better. Can we blame the weather? Yes, let’s blame the weather.

Steel Victory
Cover Art by Brad Sharp

What does it take to get me out of that funk? Why, the cover art of a good friend of mine’s debut novel! J.L. Gribble and I attended the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction Graduate program together, and Steel Victory was her thesis novel. It’s finally found a home with Dog Star Books, which is an imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. So what’s it about? Let me tell you:

One hundred years ago, the vampire Victory retired from a centuries-long mercenary career. She settled in Limani, the independent city-state acting as a neutral zone between the British and Roman colonies on the New Continent.

Twenty years ago, Victory adopted a human baby girl, who soon showed signs of magical ability.

Today, Victory is a city councilwoman, balancing the human and supernatural populations within Limani. Her daughter Toria is a warrior-mage, balancing life as an apprentice mercenary with college chemistry courses.

Tomorrow, the Roman Empire invades.

I can’t wait to read it. It’s been years since I read the thesis draft, and I can’t wait to see how the book has evolved since Gribble graduated!

To learn more about Steel Victory, author J.L. Gribble, and artist Brad Sharp (there’s a great gallery of his Dog Star covers!), just visit Dirge Magazine here. Or click the cover art.