You know, I think this is a first!
This is the first time I've interviewed two authors in a single sitting.
Now, you might say, "O.E. Tearmann, a couple weeks ago!"
But that's two authors who combine to write under a single pseudonym.
Micah and Vaela are definitely separate people, writing as co-authors under their names!
Micah and Vaela are a couple of queer writers in their mid twenties. Micah is nonbinary and uses They/Them pronouns, Vaela is a gay woman using She/They pronouns. The two got to know each other over a game of Dungeons & Dragons, and have been together ever since. Both of them like the same things, such as queer beans and big, buff women. So they started to write a book together, to hopefully one day fund Vaela’s move to Canada, so they can live with each other.
Short stories: https://ko-fi.com/VaelaDenarr
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
V: DnD, mostly. That’s how it started.
M: And my art also gives you ideas.
V: I saw a picture of Ryann with her tattoos and was hooked. But yeah, aside from DnD, which is still kinda writing… The raw material probably comes from just being gay. I’ve not been aware that I’m queer for that long. When I did realize, it opened up a whole new world to me. Suddenly I could see myself in stories. MY stories.
M: She definitely knew she was gay. It just took a while. Not me thinking about quoting Ryann: “You’ve been a lesbian your whole life, you just didn’t know it.”
V: Yeah, it was definitely there subconsciously. So when I finally felt comfortable writing about being queer, I had a cast of, like upwards of 30 very queer characters to work with. (Look forward to that by the way. I’m just gonna say “Polyamorous lesbian dragons + Trans lead” and leave it at that.) And then I got to know more and more stuff. It was just a matter of learning about all the different identities out there and coming to love them. Ace beans, allo beans, gay/bi/pan people, trans or cis, there’s room for everyone, and everyone is worth writing about.
As for information, I go down rabbit holes on google. Fun fact: I know exactly how much time it would take for a vampire to drink a safe amount of blood from a human neck without sucking, just by relying on the gently decreasing blood pressure–
M: Vaela’s just a fucking nerd, that’s what she is.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
M: You keep going. You just go on. You get interested in something and then you write the SHIT out of it. And then we go back and go “Damn. Did we need this part?”
V: Look, ADHD can be useful sometimes. One moment you wanna write a silly little story about a monster-eating vampire, and suddenly you end up with a 300k word novel about vengeance, rage, comfort and found family instead.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
M: Well, I usually draw. Most of the time, while Vaela’s writing. Working out is also something we both very much enjoy, and now that we have time again we’ll definitely do that more. I also sculpt stuff. Mostly eggs. Dragon eggs.
V: They paint them all pretty. Micah’s already mentioned a lot of stuff. The thing is, we’re in a long distance relationship. Have been for all of the three years we’ve known each other. We’ve only been together for two of them. It’s very hard to just… do stuff together when talking to the person you love keeps you chained to a damn desk. Which we both hate.
M: There’s so much we want to do. Like hiking. Try out parkour stuff. We wanna be able to play DnD more, since that was something we did a lot more before getting into the book.
V: Yeah, and cuddle! Lots of cuddles. The most annoying thing about an LDR for us is that we can’t touch at all. If we want the other one to know we’re here, we have to talk. And both of us would much rather just sit next to each other in comfortable silence, lean into each other, work on our art, and just be together. So that’s the plan for now. Write lots of books. Get rich. Move to Canada. Steal Micah’s cute dog.
What does your family think of your writing?
V: Well, my little sister thinks it’s great. She’s always been super supportive of basically anything I do. My big sister is more into non-fiction, but she’d probably be excited for me. We haven’t talked in a while, but she’s very supportive too. Other than that, Micah is always there for me, and they’ve been very excited to get their baby vampire out into the world!
M: My sister and my friends are also very excited about the book. My sister actually bought one of the first pre-orders!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
M: How long proofreading takes. ‘cause ho, fuck THAT shit.
V: Apparently I’m really fucking good at writing books. *shrug*
V: No, I’m not. But seriously, proofreading was a bitch and a half. Going through every. Single. Goddamn line. I mean, I still fucking did it. But if you have the money to hire a professional proofreader, you should do it. Just for your own sanity. Don’t do what I did. Don’t proofread 300k words of your own novel.
M: You say that, but you’re probably gonna proofread the other ones yourself too, aren’t you?
V: I made stylistic changes up until the minute of the actual release. Damn straight I’m gonna do it again. … Okay, that looks good. You wanna add anything?
M: Just a sigh.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
V: One, read a lot and figure out what you like. Two, don’t restrict yourself to what you’ve read. Try out your own things. Write it the way you’d want to read it. Three, actually sit down and write your book. You’re never gonna become this perfect author if you don’t actually practise writing. It doesn’t matter if your start is bad, because, trust me, it’s always going to be nowhere near as good as you want it to be. Everyone is dissatisfied with their first draft, and every first draft could use revisions. Stop being afraid of making mistakes. You have to make them to learn how to fix them.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
M: Honestly, I wasn’t really writing… But after a while, trying to help look through and mark things that needed to be edited again over and over was very exhausting.
V: Sorry for putting you through that.
M: It’s fine *heart emoji*
V: For me it was BOTH. I mean, editing definitely sucked. Writing was alright. It’s definitely more fun when things are just on the page and you get to see them. That’s the energizing part. Seeing your work, reading it and thinking ‘Hell yeah. That was awesome. I would read the shit out of that.’
M: I agree with that.
V: But yeah, overall, I think the process was kinda exhausting. I’m still gonna put myself through it again and again, though.
M: Already fuckin’ thinking about the next fuckin’ book, goddamn…
V: Look, I’m gay. I can’t help it.
M: We be known.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
M: Confidence is good. But too much is definitely not good.
V: Yeah, sometimes you need to put your ego aside. Especially if your book is fucking YIKES. If you pay any attention to author discourse, you’ll notice this happens a bunch and it’s always a moment of “How? Someone actually wrote something so offensive? Without a sensitivity reader? No research? No shred of human decency? Where was the editor? Or were they also just a terrible human being.” Basically… be confident, but don’t be an asshole.
M: This also applies to just basic proofreading and editing stuff. A second opinion always helps. And if you’re not willing to look at what they’re telling you, then why do you even have a proofreader or editor?
V: I mean, feel free to disagree with them. But actually and genuinely consider their position. Because they’re not criticizing you to hurt you. At least they shouldn’t. They’re trying to help you. And if you look at their suggestions and don’t like them, then it’s always up to you as an author to say “Thank you, but I like the way it is now.”
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
M: Kinda both? Originality is fun in books. People love to see new things. But also people like to read the same. So if you did a hundred books of lesbian vampires, they’d still fucking read it.
V: Yeah, we definitely like putting our own spin on things - mainly bc we just wanna read and write the stuff we like. But at the same time, there’s also this writer discourse of “Oh, this thing has been done before, I can’t do that again” that is just silly. Like… If people look at your book, or a similar book, and love it so much that they read it over and over, and more and more people love it, why is your first instinct to go “Oh, better not do that again!”? Give people more of what they like! Werewolves! Vampires! Necromancers! Eldritch horror! Polyamorous queer space lizards! The opportunities are endless!
M: I don’t think most people have those in their books, but sure…
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
V: Absolutely yes! You don’t have to write emotional to be a good writer. And if you don’t feel emotions strongly, you can still write emotional. The thing to remember as a writer is you’re an artist. And I see a lot of writers being like “You have to THIS” or “You can’t do THAT THING”. It’s… really kinda silly. You’re creating a world of pure fiction. If you wanna use guidelines, great. But going off and doing your own thing is not suddenly gonna make your book terrible. If we all just went with the “rules”, none of us would still be enjoying reading or writing. You have to write something that you want to read. And some people prefer their books with more emotion, some with less. There is never a reason why someone wouldn’t be able to do art. Everyone has a perspective. Everyone has something to say. It’s up to them if they enjoy writing as a medium and want to bring out their voice in that. … Um, Micah, did you wanna add something?
M, giggling: I think you’re good, nerd.
(V: For the record, if we’d gone with just Micah’s answer, it would have been “HELL YES!!” and that would have summed up my point in two words.
M: Yup. You’re welcome.)
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
V: Every single book is in some way connected. Characters that are major in one, might show up in another. Protagonists from one story might just be the antagonists in the next.
M: We technically didn’t mean for some to be interconnected. It just kinda happens if you RP scenes while writing a book.
V: Or if your DM runs out of short notice ideas and just goes “Portal to another world! Suddenly, DRAGONS!!” It’s all good tho. It turned out SO WELL.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
M: We realized how much we don’t need to do. Vae was like “Oh, 100k words is the normal amount.” And then she went “Our book is 300k. Whoops. How did that happen?”
V: I just got really into it…
M: But for the next one, we know it’s okay to have shorter books. It doesn’t need quite as much worldbuilding.
V: Before settling on 300k we looked for any way to shorten our book, but… It just wasn’t gonna happen. Not without removing whole characters and scenes and damaging the story in the process.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
V: Commissioning our book cover!!! We wondered for quite a while who we’d ask, and eventually settled on a friend of ours that really should have been our first choice (Lexa @rocket_bird)
M: Yeah, mostly because she’s great at drawing muscles. Ryann has the cake and the beef, and Lexa was down for drawing both of those things.
V: She really made our baby into a full course meal. Micah looked at the cover and went “Well we don’t need to advertise anymore. Look at that. The lesbians are gonna flock.” I added “Like a Hunger of thirsty gay vampires.” (Hunger is slang for, like, group in our book. We were gonna use Murder, but we couldn’t do crows dirty like that.)
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
M: Anything from The Parasol Protectorate! It has representation of queer characters without being super in-depth about their personalities and stuff. They’re kinda nerds, mostly. Also there’s a butch lesbian and I’m here for her.
V: Five minutes ago they said “It’s written kinda bri’ish, that’s what I like about it.”
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
M: I don’t necessarily have one, but it’s cute that Vae has figured out who she is as a person from all the subconscious projection on her characters.
V: Yeah, my characters knew I was gay wayyyyy before me. And apparently each one has a little trait from me. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Who knows, at this point. I’m in deep.
(So, yeah, it could be any one of my characters. But I tend to default to Calia, who is a big, gay dragon with some cute wives and lovable kids. You’ll get to know her someday.)
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
V: Lots. We can’t even give you an exact number, because anybody who likes our writing would be so upset.
What’s the best way to market your books? In our experience?
V: Put a lot of queer stuff in it and share it with SO MANY queer people. People love seeing themselves represented on the page. It also really helps if it’s something you’re already passionate about.
M: And also saying you have really big buff women in the book really helps
V: I was about to name that as our example. It made marketing very fun for The Gift of Blood, to get to stare at Ryann’s cake I mean arms every single time.
What do you have coming next?
M: Well, obviously the next big book is for Ryann.
V: We can’t spoil why, but it’d be a crime not to make hers the next.
M: But we have some short stories for characters coming up first.
V: Basically a collection of short chapters about some of our poly beans getting together. Very soft, very low-stakes slice of life, but very queer nonetheless!
M: As for bigger projects, those won’t be for a bit, but some werewolf stuff! Possibly. Or the dragons. Who knows.
V: Werewolf story would be something like “College rivals to lovers while also finding your identity and wanting to kill your dad.” Dragon stuff… Well. That’s uh. Okay, so, I mentioned “polyamorous lesbian dragons + trans lead”. That’s not quite accurate, I realize now, there’s bi dragons too. Actually, every dragon is queer in some way. It would be easier to mention the non-queer ones. Zero. There’s zero.
I don’t want to spoil the dragon books, but basically… there’d be a lot of them. Most basic premise I can give is “Cute trans druid goes on a pilgrimage to come into her own powers, happens to meet soooooo many gay dragons along the way.” And that’s it. Anything else is spoilers, but it’d be a lot of books. Like, a LOT a lot. Oh, and then we also have other dragons who are equally queer, but we actually get to see them grow up and be cute. And that’s gonna be very self-indulgent.
M: The point is, we have a lot of dragons in books and a lot of stories we want out.
V: We forgot about the space necromancers fighting eldritch abominations.
M: And that’s all you need to say.
V: But my plans for romance books–
M: No! *jokingly*
Something in the darkness came alive. Her night vision was ruined by the golden glow of a lamp further down the street, so she only noticed this new person running at her when they splashed through the puddles. She immediately backed away and fell into a fighting stance, hunched, fists at her jaw to protect her. A knife flashed in the dark and she felt it bite cold into the skin at her arm.
Ryann’s thoughts were racing. She tried to steady herself, to get her bearings and fight back, but it was all happening too fast. She managed to step out of the way of the person and tried to dodge as the knife slashed wildly at her. Her assailant growled loudly in a way that wasn’t human.
Another glint down the alley caught her eye, and she immediately cursed herself for taking her eye off her attacker. As she dodged to the side, away from the knife, Ryann could see the sword wielder toss their weapon up. They caught it below the cross guard, pulled back, and threw it like a spear.
Ryann slipped again in the dark on the wet stone street. Her knee hit the ground just as the sword pierced her attacker with a sickening crunch. She scrambled back against the wall in shock, and stared up at the hooded figure. They just stood there, then looked down at the three feet of steel emerging from their ribcage. Ryann couldn’t see their face, but she imagined they were similarly shocked. They fell to their knees in the rainy street and slumped down. The knife clattered to the ground.
Rain filled Ryann’s ears with its loud drumming, mingling with the sounds of her quickened breath. It beat down onto the stones and water with a gentle pitter-patter. The sound was so complete and unbroken that it felt deafening to her. She almost welcomed it when it was broken.
Heavy steps approached, splashing gently through the shallow puddles. Ryann remained huddled where she was, wet, with blood scent in her nose, holding her cut arm. She stared up at the approaching sword-thrower. She wasn’t sure what she had expected. Maybe she hadn’t expected anything at all. But the woman stepping out of the rain and into the half-dark where Ryann could see was somehow exactly what was fitting for the circumstances.
She was huge, over six feet tall and thick with muscle that her sweater clung to wet and black. Her stern face wore its three long, dark scars with an imposing dignity. Her eyes, which regarded Ryann with a stoic wariness, were the colour of varnished oak. Wavy, black hair fell to her shoulders wet and in a style so casual that it conveyed the no-shits-given attitude better even than the firm line of her mouth, which didn’t twitch or pull in any way to give her thoughts away.
When she spoke, her voice was deep and smooth, and Ryann couldn’t help but be intimidated by the profound effect it had on her. “You okay, kid?”
The Bloods jeered as Ryann slowly approached them. One of them stopped and pointed his gun right at her head, grinning. She stopped, waiting for the moment he’d fire. She didn’t fancy her chances outrunning a bullet, but she could dodge if she caught his tell, the moment before the attack.
He just laughed and looked to his Hunger for approval or recognition of his mighty deed, that being him pointing a gun at an unarmed opponent seven metres away.
That split second of distraction was enough. It had to be enough. Ryann called on her blood, trying to summon a specific gift. The hand she had raised before her flickered, like a ripple of water going over it — then she was invisible. The Bloods immediately pointed and howled. Ryann ran. As fast as she could, she closed the distance. The Blood who had pointed the gun at her was stunned, standing there. The two others with their guns rushed forwards. Ryann grabbed the gun hand of the first one and rammed her claws into his throat. Blood sprayed out and her invisibility flickered away as she lost the gift.
The gun clattered to the floor as the Blood grasped at his throat with a gurgle. Ryann pushed him aside hard. The second Blood’s eyes went wide. He was almost past her already, and now he swivelled. He was too close for a kick, so Ryann punched him in the throat hard, already noting the third gunman’s position. The second gun went off wildly as its owner choked and clutched his throat as well. The others rushed in, but Ryann already spun with the full force of a well-practised roundhouse kick.
She caught the wrist of the third gunman with perfect precision. It broke under the impact and his weapon clattered to the side uselessly. Ryann immediately went back to the second gunman, the only one who hadn’t dropped his. The two Bloods at the back were rushing towards her, eyes bloodshot and fangs bared. The second gunman tried to aim at her again. His expression was a grimace of pain, confusion, and fear.
Ryann was on him in an instant. She grabbed his face and slammed his head into the wall behind him with the full force of six feet of thickly layered muscle and burning rage. The impact shot up her arm up to her shoulder and back. Blood squirted out around the impact zone in a thin circle.
She huffed once, pushing the air out of her hot lungs and releasing a little bit of her fury in it.