Author Interview with Vaela Denarr & Micah Iannandrea

text says author interview; picture shows candles, flowers, a jar with leaves, a dish with plants, and letters and books.

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  1. Ebook, paperback, hardback, audiobook?

To read:

M: I read the ebooks, but I like having physical copies. I think paperbacks are nicer to have, because you can’t really destroy the spine as much.

V: Ebooks are cheap. I’d love to have physical copies, but … yeah, expensive. Someday, though! As for audiobooks, not really my thing either. When I listen to stuff, I sometimes tune out, and then I miss half the book.

To publish:

V: Currently just ebooks, because, again, cover artists are expensive, and we want to pay them properly for their work. But we do wanna make our current book into paperbacks. It’ll probably have to be cut into three books, but that just means we get more pretty covers!!

  1. Pick a genre, any genre!

To read:

M: I like a little bit of a fantastical element to it, so mainly fantasy stuff. 

To write:

V: Generally, fantasy, science-fiction fantasy, urban fantasy; it all blends on some level.

  1. What is the first book you remember reading?

M: The Percy Jackson series. It was the first one that was actually interesting to me, so that’s how I started to read.

V: I believe it was a book by Kay Mayer, in the original German, about a fantasy Venice with magic mirrors, mermaids, and living stone lions.

  1. When did you first start writing?

M: Probably when I was around eighteen. It wasn’t really writing, just writing down thoughts about some queer beans. I did write about some poly beans. If I was any better, I would have kept going.

V: Instead, you got yourself a girlfriend who can do it!

M: Yeah!

V: For me, well, I tried when I was, like, fourteen. I wouldn’t even really count it as writing. It was — objectively — awful. Only once I met Micah did I actually start to write again. So I technically really started at 21, writing little things for our DnD characters, and then some fanfiction. Six months ago was the first time I went to writing with the full desire to publish.

  1. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

M: I … I dunno, Vaela is more the writer. What made you wanna write?

V: You did.

M: Yeah, cutie?

V: Yeah. I wanted to have an actual story of the beautiful characters you made on paper. I didn’t want it to just … keep slipping from my memory. I wanted those moments with you preserved on paper. And this was the best way I could do it.

All of our stories are dear to my heart. Every single one of our characters has a piece of me or you in them. I needed to somehow preserve that.

Aaand then it turned out to be really fun. Much more fun than anything else I’d ever gotten to do. I was finally doing something I liked. Building something I could be proud of with the person I love the most.

There is another reason why I’m now sticking with it, and that’s the money. Like, yes, everywhere you look, you’ll find people saying, “Oh, writing won’t make you rich.” Okay. But what if you wanna try, though? You just need the right audience, and we’ve got a good one. Before I was seriously writing, I was stuck in a job where my day looked like this: 8am, get up. 9am to 11pm, work, with breaks interspersed just enough to make it legal and not go over the maximum daily hours in Germany. Maybe not be too tired to eat something in the evening. Then sleep eight hours. Repeat ad nauseum.

Minimum wage, of course, so barely enough to cover rent while starving yourself. And work so demanding that after 3 weeks I could barely move either of my legs. Now, Germany is supposed to be great for sick days, right? Paid sick leave? Well, you need a letter from a doctor. For joint pain, it’s a specific one, and all the ones in my area had openings in eight months. When we got to the four month mark, I was told it was gonna be another three on top. And I just had to work through the pain in the meantime.

Fuck no to that.

So instead I started writing full-time. Rather than working for a place that I was, at that point, single-handedly keeping above water, where employees were yelled at for the slightest mistake, any raise was out of the question, and nothing was ever good enough, I poured my heart into something I actually enjoyed.

And I’m going to keep doing that, over and over and over. It wasn’t always easy. But damn was it fulfilling.

  1. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

Our recent book, The Gift of Blood! It’s 346k words of lesbian vampire action. It has found family. A slow burn. Cute queer beans. Queerplatonic friendships. A whole cast of queer characters, including an ace triad relationship (and we love us some poly beans, especially when one is a big buff cuddly woman). Also, big buff women. Lots of them. 

  1. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

V: We self-published our book. I’m not sure we’ll ever write one for our eyes only … Maybe. I guess we’ll see!

  1. How many books/collections have you published so far?

Just the one, but the next one is already in the works!

  1. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Fantasy, urban fantasy, science-fiction fantasy, horror (apparently?).

  1. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

M: Definitely research. I think it’s a multitude of both. There’s a lot that you make up for books. And then there’s stuff where you go, “Hm, I should check what happened in this time, like, what does this mean?”

V: Yeah, or, “Is what I’m writing offensive to anyone? Am I being an utter asshole by not putting in the five seconds of research? Am I being ableist or racist or homophobic, which we’d never want to do?”

M: And even the smallest of things could be interpreted as such, so it’s good to research, be clear, and see what you’re writing. What’s okay to say, what’s a way of describing something that has bad connotations.

V: It might come as a surprise, but a lot of authors don’t do that. And it makes us sick that those books end up critically acclaimed and called “masterpieces,” like … blatant racism on the page and nobody bats an eye, what the FUCK is that??

M: Yeah, Jesus …

V: I’m not even gonna go into all the other stuff. Point is, if you’re a new writer — please, please, PLEASE do your research. You can make someone’s day infinitely better by caring just the slightest bit.

  1. To plan, or not to plan your plot?

V: Define “plan.”

M: At first, plan. But then it kinda goes off the rails, and then we add more stuff, and then we gotta go back and change things … Mm-hm. Totally planned.

V: The extent of our planning are two documents in my google drive titled “Outline,” containing some ideas for scenes from The Gift of Blood, and “Outline 2,” containing ideas and notes and dialogue for scenes from the sequel to The Gift of Blood, a WIP poly romance book, a far in the future poly book with a bunch of pan- and bisexual people, notes for the ace werewolf series, a spin-off series about a band, and lots of notes about a planned series about queer dragons having fun growing up and also sorta conning people into giving them treasure. On top of them growing up, helping their siblings out, and gay panicking over every other girl, guy or nonbinary person that comes along.

  1. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

M: Self-publishing. Definitely sticking to that for a while. We aren’t necessarily rolling in the kind of money you need to just be patient as you query.

V: Honestly, even if we were, I don’t think I’d want to query. I don’t want to take the chance to maybe wait five or ten or twenty or thirty years for an agent to look at our manuscript and think, “Hey, I can probably make the people above me believe that this is worth selling.” Which it kinda boils down to. We don’t need to traditionally publish to know our books have worth.

M: People like what we have in store. And self-publishing feels more like our thing. It just feels right.

  1. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

M: Honestly, before all the bullshit, I would have said the ‘overrated wizard book’ universe. But no fucking thanks.

V: Yeah. Maybe to burn it down.

M: The Locked Tomb universe comes to mind. But it’s kinda too depressing.

V: What, you don’t like everyone you love and cherish dying in the cold, unfeeling void of necromantic space?

M: Yeah, I’m good, thanks.

V: Damn, I’m gonna have to give back those space shuttle tickets.

M: The Percy Jackson universe would be pretty cool. Magic and gods and shit? Hell yeah.

V: … Honestly, I’m gonna have to choose my own books. I know it’s against the rules, but yeah … I don’t know any setting that is like it. Our settings are all interconnected. Limitless possibilities. Everyone is queer. Buff women everywhere. That’s the only world I wanna live in.

  1. Do you currently have a WIP?

M: Yes! We have a few, technically. We have some stuff for some necromancy books, involving eldritch horror and space dragons. But that’ll take a bit. And then we have the one that we’re doing now, which is a short romance about three poly beans from The Gift of Blood! And then, obviously, the dragon books …

V: Yeah, the dragon books are gonna be a huge project. But the current romance one is just gentle, soft, and sweet. Lots of cuddles. Two girlfriends getting together with a cute girl who wants to date them both. Low stakes slice-of-life.

  1. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

M: Oh, god … Dearest to your heart? That’s hard, to just pick one. I don’t even know … I could say Nomi. She just started out as a DnD character I was excited to play, and so much happened to her in the span of barely a month. And she became so important to both of us. I don’t wanna spoil anything, because she’ll be shared with the world when we get to our dragon books. She’s a gentle, soft bean, and totally different to who I am as a person, so it’s interesting playing her and seeing her grow.

V: It’s probably Calia. Unlike Nomi with Micah, Calia is a lot like me. I’ve had her for quite a long time. And together with Nomi, she also grew a lot. And I grew as well, becoming a better person. Learning to trust myself. Learning to like myself as who I am. I also don’t wanna spoil anything, but Calia embodies strength, kindness, and love. Some parts of her I identify with very strongly. Some serve as a goal for how I want to be.

  1. What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

V: I mean … We only wrote one book, but it’s our first one, it’s the size of three books, and it’s fucking good.

M: Not to brag or anything, but it is pretty fucking great.

V: First try. I mean, yeah, maybe I should have looked at how long novels are supposed to be (80k-120k are you serious??).

M: Honestly, we just figured that out when we were getting there. And then we added more. I don’t think it would have even mattered.

V: I’m just now realizing that I wrote three goddamn books. In like six months. I can apparently be productive when I want to be. That’s a new feeling.

  1. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

Yes, we do! Well, actually, maybe not a favourite, but we have a lot! We’ll start with Meg, who is not actually romantic with anyone (yet). In The Gift of Blood, she and the main character, Ryann, share some pretty emotional moments, after which they become much closer as friends. It turns from casual friendship where you hang out together and hunt monsters into a queerplatonic relationship. Basically, more than a friendship, but not on the level of dating.

V: This relationship is very important to me personally. (I think all of them might be, but let’s agree that they’re all special.) This wasn’t planned. It developed naturally over the course of the book. And in the rewrites, it got a lot more explicit about the nature of it. Ryann and Meg spend a good chunk of a chapter just openly talking about their feelings. It’s not a big scene, or one that stands out, but I love it and it’s very dear to me. It’s a special kind of friendship, and seeing it communicated well is important to me.

Another relationship we love dearly is Kay, Logan and Nemo, who are in a triad together. (For the uninitiated, a triad is a form of polyamory where three people are dating each other. Easily our personal favourite.) Kay is ace and sapphic, Logan uses She/They pronouns and is nonbinary, but still goes by girlfriend, and Nemo is bisexual. They all live together, go on dates together, and support each other with love and cuddles.

M: We really love them. It shows two very stoic characters being very gentle and soft with their girlfriend and each other. And hopefully it shows a good polyamorous relationship, because they all communicate with each other and love each other (all of our poly relationships are gonna be like this). They’re good representation of a healthy polyamorous relationship. It’s nice to see soft beans being happy and not seeing a weird love triangle.

V: Yeah, I really love them for that too. Polyamory is pretty dear to me, I guess? It’s a kind of relationship that doesn’t work without communicating well and actually loving each other. The whole basis, core and point of a polyamory is understanding and love. And that’s why I absolutely loathe love triangles. First off, it’s not a love triangle unless there’s at least one queer person in there.

Second, when I see a love triangle with polyamory shoe-horned into the end as a convenient solution, it just … it feels dirty. It feels pointless and stupid. Like, we understand why people do that, and that’s because THEY don’t understand.

M: Yeah, people go, “Oh, I’ll make them poly now”. You could just have had them poly from the start.

V: And you’d think that wouldn’t be obvious. But it really, really is. It’s not that far removed from being queer, at least in my experience. You FEEL it. Deep in your bones.

The only thing worse than a love triangle is people representing polyamory as cheating. That’s not polyamory. That’s being a shitty person. You can’t have a relationship of kindness, respect and love by removing the kindness, respect and love. Stop it. Same with polyamory as a result of cheating. Cheap drama isn’t worth this. Maybe if you make the forgiveness and the incredibly arduous journey to becoming trustworthy again the focus of the book. Otherwise … nah.

Ryann and Rachel, our slow burn main couple for this book (and future books in this series.) The two of them start hanging out sort of by accident. But they very quickly feel comfortable around each other. Still, neither of them is really in a position to want a relationship, logically. Doesn’t stop them from falling for each other, though. It just … It takes some time until it clicks. Slow burn.

M: We wanted it to be a slow burn because Ryann was already dealing with a lot of stuff. And Rachel was a baby. A baby gay, as you will. And I think slow burns are fun. You get to see them fall in love. And then they spend time together. And then … maybe something happens and maybe they get together.

The found family aspect also developed as we were writing. There’s just a bunch of characters who wouldn’t let someone struggling just be left to their own devices. And, well, if you’re queer, found family is not exactly that new. For Ryann, who is queer and an orphan, finding people who wanted to and could give her the support she never had was pretty important. She had some, but nothing compared to what she’s getting now. 

And having a gay big sister who will just drag you along to the gym to help you achieve your goals? Hell yeah. Especially if you already admire her because she’s just a queer icon.

  1. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

V: We listen to all kinds of music. Usually it’s the playlists for the characters we’re writing about. That usually gets me in the right mood pretty quickly. If I only listened to a single song, I’d get bored. But I need something to keep me in the right headspace. It’s gonna either be music, or Micah cuddling me. One of those.

M: Honestly, ‘Upside Down’ by Elliot Lee is pretty great for anything we’re doing.

V: A definite favourite.

  1. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

We do! Some of it is from even before we started seriously considering the current release (The Gift of Blood). Here’s some pictures of Ryann, lesbian kickboxer vampire and MMA athlete. Then there’s Rachel, Ryann’s slow burn love interest, Carver, who helps Ryann handle the transition from human to vampire, Kathleen, Kay, Vivian, Kris and Fang, all members of a werewolf pack called the Warm Embrace (with Kathleen being the leader). Then there’s Meg, who is a friend of Ryann’s that helps her out, and Nemo and Logan (she/they) who are Kay’s girlfriends. These were all done by Micah.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

V: Just write. You’re never gonna get better if you don’t write. A book with flaws is still better than one that was never written. As long as you’re not setting out to hurt someone with it.

M: Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not gonna happen, or that you’re not gonna get anything from writing a book, or that it’s not a good job. Just do what you want.

V: Yeah, in general, don’t trust anyone who goes “Oh, there’s no value in writing books,” whether it’s in general or towards a specific genre. Clearly they don’t know what they’re fucking talking about. Follow your dreams.

  1. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

    The Gift of Blood | Vaela’s Goodreads | Micah’s Goodreads

3 thoughts on “Author Interview with Vaela Denarr & Micah Iannandrea

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