Hello Readers and Writers!
Today we would like to introduce you to a Sci-Fi and Paranormal fiction author who loves taking everyday people and putting them into extraordinary settings. He believes diversity and representation are important. He recalls growing up and not seeing characters that showed the world who he was. in response, every story he creates has strong LGBTQIA characters front and center.
Introducing M.D. Neu!
When did you start writing as a career?
Thank you for having me here today to talk about my writing and my career as an author. I started seriously writing around 2014 and 2015 when I decided I wanted to publish my sci-fi series, A New World. I had been working on the story for years, but I started to take is seriously in 2014 when I began digging into what it would take to get the book published. The story came a long way and changed dramatically from one book to two (Contact-Book 1 and Conviction-Book 2). I had no idea I would end up where I am today. It’s been an amazing journey.
Sadly, I haven’t made the jump into full time author, so I have my day job which allows me to pay the bills and keep writing. My goal is to be able to make the break and write full time.
What's your current work in progress?
Currently I have two pieces in the works. One is a mash up of sci-fi and urban fantasy. This story is set about 100 years in the future where vampires, magic, and werewolves exist alongside space travel to the moon, Mars, and space station. It’s been fun to write, as of today I’m about 34,000 words into that story. My hope is to have the first draft finished by mid to end of January 2021. The other novel I have in the works is an undersea adventure story, urban fantasy, it involves a lost continent off the West Coast of North America. This one is only in the beginning stages of the writing process; however, the story is all fleshed out so I ‘only’ have to sit down and write it.
Of course, I have a few more ideas floating around, but they are on the back-burner simmering.
You write sci-fi and paranormal titles, among others. What attracted you to these genres?
I’ve always loved sci-fi and ghost stories as well as fantasy. I’ve always loved a great adventure. They were fun to read and always left me wanting more. With sci-fi, paranormal, and fantasy you always got great world building and wonderful adventures. They were exciting and scary. These stories offered so much and I wanted to do that. I wanted to take people on adventures, I needed to write stories where anyone could be the hero, even me. I had to show that the main character could be your neighbor, your brother, the person you pass on the street and don’t think twice about.
Taking everyday people and putting them into extraordinary settings appealed to me. Plus, I didn’t see a lot of people like me in stories so I wanted to change that as well. The idea that I could build worlds with characters of my own, dictating the colors, the smells, the setting, every detail appealed to me. What I found is that in sci-fi and these other genres you were the boss. I was in control and there were no rules. Only my imagination.
Every story I create has strong LGBTQIA characters front and center. Diversity and representation are important. Growing up I didn’t see characters that showed the world who I was. Sure, there were the tragic gay characters or the flamboyant neighbor or friend. But that wasn’t me. Then on TV you would get the ‘very special episode’ that dealt with a gay character, then poof, they were gone never to seen or heard from again. That was ridiculous.
I had to change that. So, all my novels have main characters who are part of the queer community, however, these are not romance stories, these are stories that anyone can relate to. Just because the characters are gay (not all of them mind you, the cast of characters are diverse, like our world), I still wanted to write characters that young adults and seniors could read, understand, and enjoy. My characters aren’t the beautiful people. They aren’t the models, they aren’t the stereo types people have come to know. They, I hope, are real people that anyone can connect too. Unlike many other novels in my stories the ‘queer’ is secondary, the story and adventure come first.
I find, that because I focus on the story coming first, most of my readers come from the straight community, which is great, because that means I’ve broken that status quo. The general public will read stories that have strong amazing queer characters in the lead and not care…as long as the story is good and the characters are relatable.
How does your personal life affect your writing?
My personal life eeks into all my stories in one form or another. I live in San Jose, CA so all my books take place in and around the areas I live. Of course, we venture out of the San Francisco Bay Area and go to other locations, but typically they are places I’ve been so I can write from a perspective of having been there. Also, my characters tend to be in their thirties so they are a bit older (reflecting me and the people I know, even though I’m now a bit pass my thirties). For my characters, I tend to pull in personalities of people I know to make the cast feel more real. You may have a character who uses a certain phrase or who has a way of saying things that may be pulled from someone I know.
For some of my stories I’ve pulled ideas and people directly from my life. Like I did in T.A.D.-The Angel of Death and my short story A Dragon for Christmas, both stories were written to honor people I’ve lost in my life, so the characters are fictional, but based on people and family who no longer join us. These stories are especially powerful and special to me because they hit so close to my heart.
Your reviews are very favorable, but how do you deal with criticism from readers?
When it comes to reviews I try and remember that reviews are not written for me. They are written to help other readers. Still, it’s difficult to read that someone didn’t enjoy the story. When this happens, I always try and look at a criticism in a way to help me improve my writing and my story telling. I remember the harsh criticism’s I received for Contact (it was from a Beta Reader) she hated the story, hated the characters, and the first six or seven chapters. She wanted it all rewritten. I remember being so angry and it took me days to get over it, but after I let it stew there were great points she brought up about the pacing of the front of the story. So, I checked my ego and made some changes I moved chapters around, added some additional information, cut out a lot of unnecessary fluff, and expanded a character’s presence in the beginning. These changes made the story so much better. None of that would have happened without the harsh critique.
The other harsh criticism came for my novel The Calling. It was another Beta Reader and they told me my characters were too nice and to polite, that people, even vampires, were not that formal or polite. They said even my human main character, who is supposed to be an everyman, came across as unbelievable and stuffy. Basically, she loved the idea of the story but my characterization needed work, that was hard to hear, because the story had been completed and ready to go to my publisher. So, I had to go back through the book and make my cast of characters more human and relatable. Again, a lot of work, but the story is better for it.
One last little tidbit about criticism from readers. I was doing an in person reading, back before the pandemic, and I was in room with about forty people. In T.A.D.-The Angel of Death. I refer to Rudy Giuliani being America’s Mayor and how right after 9/11 people wanted him to run for President. That went over like a lead balloon. I got jeers and boos. Granted at that point in the book it was 2002, so historically it was accurate. I had to stop my reading and address the crowd and remind them that during that time in the story I was historically accurate. Needless to say, I didn’t sell any books that night and only two or three people showed any interest in my other works that night. It was a difficult event, I’m so glad I wasn’t alone, but I pulled through and I did have one person come up and tell me how much they loved the story and they did give me a hug. So, it worked out, but man was it difficult. I no longer read that section of the book when I do live readings.
You also write poetry. Tell us about your history with poems.
Poetry, for me, has always been a way to share my emotions. I started writing poetry in high school and kept up with it. I don’t write nearly as much of it as I once did, however poems have always been a way for me to work through something I was going through at the time. Also, I find, when I’m moved to write a poem I can typically write several of them in one sitting and build up a backlog to work on later. It’s as if the floodgates were opened and emotion spills out all over the page.
Do you plan writing goals?
When it come to writing goals that is difficult. I mean, of course, I would love to have my books become a best seller and be turned into a movie, but how do you plan that? You can find an agent, work with a script writer, but none of that is a guarantee. You have to really have the time and, sadly, the money to go after something like that. It’s happens, of course, look at The Martian and Fifty Shades of Grey. Both indie books that did amazingly well.
So, my goals are more on what I can control and do. I have two series that I need to wrap up, so I’m working on those, the next book in my A New World series and my The Calling series will be out next year (Conspiracy-Book 3 and The Called respectively). From there my plans are to keep releasing books and short stories, building up my readership, finding new opportunities to share my writing with broader communities (including seeking out speaking opportunities and book events either virtually or in person once that is allowed again), and to improve my craft. You have to keep trying new things and break out of your comfort zone, so that is another goal.
Also, myself and several other local authors have formed a group called the Bay Area Queer Writers Association (BAQWA) where we can join forces and look into pulling our resources and sharing what we’ve learned. Our group is about supporting and lifting each other up. We’ve been at it for a year and we have some wonderful writers. We’ve hosted several virtual readings, they have been small but continue to grow.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success can be different for different people. I guess, for me, success would be me being able to quit my day job and write full time. I would love to have my writing pay my bills. That would be amazing. But short of that, success is hearing from a fan who loves my books and can’t wait for the next one. Hearing from fans makes it all worthwhile.
Talk to me about the path you choose in publishing.
There are so many options for publishing these days. I was blessed by being picked up by my current publisher NineStar Press. They have offered me a home for my works and I’m grateful. How I got there, was a long road. At first, I was going to self-publish because I had no idea how to find a publisher or an agent. I didn’t have any contacts and I knew since my books were queer themed the big publishing houses were almost a no go. I dug around into what it would cost to self-publish. I didn’t want to slap on a cover and pump out trash, so I understood I would need pay for a professional cover, professional editing, formatting, all that. As I was doing this, I joined an on-line writing group called Scribophile to help me go through my various books; cleaning them up and fixing as much of the little edits and story problems as I could. It was a long process.
From there, I met people and got to know more about the publishing industry and how difficult it is. Anyway, I learned about several indie publishers and thought I would look into them. I found a list of ten LGBTQIA publishing houses and found out what I could about them. Once I had The Calling ready for submission I started to shop it around at these publishers. I got very lucky and NineStar picked up The Calling and offered me a contract for that book. Once I was in I submitted my short stories The Reunion and A Dragon for Christmas and then my epic sci-fi novel. To date they have continued to support me and my writing for which I’m blessed.
However, not everything I’ve written has gone to NineStar Press. I’ve written a short story (Election Night) that will be part of an anthology with a release in mid-January 2021. And I’m looking at submitting some of my other short stories to magazines. I’m doing this in an effort to expand my reach as an author and to help build my readership. Exploring these other avenues will diversify my portfolio of work, which I’m hoping will make me a more sought out author.
What are you reading currently?
As of now I’m reading a couple of different books. One is a vampire romance called Slay My Love by Lee Colgin the other is The Shoreless Sea (Liminal Sky: Ariadne Cycle Book 3) by J. Scott Coatsworth. Both books are amazing and I’m enjoying them greatly. They are both available on Amazon, if folks want to check them out.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
I hope nothing but good things. Currently I’m in the middle of the editing process with my two upcoming releases The Called and Conspiracy-A New World(Book 3) and then I have my other two unnamed books in process. I have my short story Election Night coming out in the anthology titled: A More Perfect Union which should be out in January 2021. Plus, I have more poetry that will be coming out on my website: www.mdneu.com and then I have several short stories that I’m working on to be published hopefully in various magazines, but there is nothing firm on that yet. Plus, I have a weekly blog where I interview authors and have guest bloggers over to share their thoughts. I also share all my latest and greatest news there along with my own thoughts on what is happening in the world and what is happening in my life.