Hello, I’m Elizabeth Noble and thank you for joining us today for Genre Talk here on The Novel Approach Reviews. As always a big thank you to Lisa and her crew for having us here! Let’s give a big, warm welcome to DSP Publications Marguerite Labbe. She’s here to tell us about her newest horror/scifi book Pandora!
Check out this blurb:
Haunted by the screams of the men he murdered, ex-Marine medic Riff Khora is serving a life sentence on board a prison ship. Seeking more punishment for his crime, he strikes a deal with the corrupt Captain Vidal—an exchange of pleasure and pain—and forges a new life leading the team that surveys space wreckage for salvage.
Ship engineer Zed Jakobsen’s psychometric abilities make prison a sentence worse than death, and the barrage of emotional stimuli is an unending torment. His only regret is that he didn’t kill the monster who sent him to prison, and only a glimmer of hope to escape a judgment he doesn’t deserve keeps him clinging to a brutal existence.
When they board derelict ship Pandora and discover a lone survivor, the hell of prison life plunges into abject horror. An epidemic of violence and insanity consumes their ship, driving the crew to murder and destruction. Mutual need draws Riff and Zed together, and their bond gives them the strength to fight a reality they cannot trust. But Vidal possesses the only means of escape from the nightmare, and he’s not letting anyone leave alive.
Elizabeth: Hello, Marguerite and welcome! First question: Would you tell us about your genre?
Marguerite: I’ve always been a cross genre kind of girl. I like to stir things up. Same when I read. My bookshelves are full of science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, horror, paranormal, and so on. I write the story my crazy muses give me, no matter the genre. When I first came up with the idea for Pandora it was supposed to be a straight up horror. The first scene I wrote was pretty intense and stuck in my head for years, but I couldn’t quite make it work. I began batting around the idea of doing a story for a science fiction anthology with some writing friends of mine and I realized escaping from a prison was too broad. I needed my characters to be confined, trapped, and a space ship was just the place to do it on.
I’ve always loved sci-fiction, and space has always fascinated me. It’s this amazing combination of freedom and restriction. There are all these planets and star systems to explore, but you’re limited by the tech around you to keep you alive. If something goes wrong, you’re suddenly vulnerable in a way you didn’t expect. In Pandora Riff and Zed escape their prison, but unless they can find a way off the broken ship, they’ll die there.
The horror stories that fascinate me the most are when the characters are fighting the demons inside them. Or when the monster terrorizing everyone isn’t the real horror, it’s the monster inside people. And that’s what Riff and Zed are fighting against.
Elizabeth: Tell us about Pandora.
Marguerite: Wow, I think my brain just exploded a little because for me there’s so much to Pandora that I’m not quite sure where to start. It’s a multiple cat and mouse game with a twist. There is Riff and Zed and their salvage team on one side. The captain and his cronies on the other.
It’s an exploration of humanity, what drives us positively and negatively, and how far we’re willing to go to reach that “goal.” Captain Vidal is obsessive in his possessiveness. The ship and everything on it, equipment, crew, and prisoners are his. He cannot let any of it go even if it kills him in the end. Riff and Zed and their team are determined to escape, not just because the ship is their prison, but because it’s literally a matter of survival. However, Riff and Zed also each have a code of honor and if comes down to sacrificing their code or their well-being, they’ll stick to the code. Pandora is also a story about the ties that bind us. How they provide strength in the darkest moments. How they give us something to fight for even when it seems the most hopeless. There were times writing it when I creeped myself out and times when it broke my heart.
In the end though it’s about two men who are deeply wounded who find acceptance in each other.
Elizabeth: How do you define “diversity” in your writing, and how you explored it in this book?
Marguerite: Diversity in my stories is important to me. It wasn’t something I thought about consciously including in my writing at first, it just happened. I have characters of different ethnicities, different religions. There are characters whose closest friends are of a different generation. I write stories that no matter how fantastic they can be, how strange the setting, they still reflect my world. In Pandora, Riff is Hindu and his faith is a big part of him. Zed is different because he’s a psychic. People with psychic abilities aren’t unheard of, but they’re not entirely accepted or understood by most either.
I have half-Vietnamese cousins. Several other cousins who are gay. I have many Muslim friends, another who’s Mormon, and several pagans. I married a wonderful black man from Birmingham, Alabama and both families embraced each other in a way that makes me feel incredibly blessed.
But diversity in writing really hit home for me when I reading a fantasy series out loud to my husband and son. My son stopped me about halfway through the book and said ‘mom are there any black characters like me’ and I realized there weren’t.
Elizabeth: Pandora is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for genre novels that don’t necessarily focus on or even contain romance. Tell us about the relationship in Pandora and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Marguerite: To be honest, Zed and Riff did not have time for romance in Pandora. At the start of the story Riff belonged to the captain. He was about as hands off as a man could be and both characters knew they were putting each other in danger just by being attracted. When they do get free of the captain their first driving goal is escape. Sex and a relationship is an abstract idea for when they are safe. They have their moments together and they have their growth as a couple but it is not what’s uppermost in their mind.
They’re also both damaged characters in deeply personal ways and those scars have to be addressed as well. Zed can’t touch people without uncovering their deepest secrets. Not only does that make people shun him when they find out, but frankly Zed doesn’t want to see that much into most people anyway. As his abilities expanded, he found it more difficult to be around people. Riff doesn’t believe he deserves love, doesn’t think he’s capable of giving it. And he uses the memories of his past to continue to punish himself. Zed scares him in many ways because Zed wakes up long buried needs.
So even though there’s romance and sex it’s secondary. Riff and Zed still have a long way to go and they are characters, and this is a world, I’d love to revisit someday.
Elizabeth: Lightening Round! What do you do for fun?
Marguerite: Role-playing games, Dungeons and Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars, Scion, wow, so many games that I can’t even begin to list them all. I’ve been roleplaying since I saw my first Dragon decorated game at the BX on base. Then I met my husband when I was fourteen and he was into it too and we’ve been playing together with various groups for almost thirty years. A few years ago we became friends with this group of people out of the Virginia Comic Con and we formed what we call the A team and make podcasts of our games. It’s called Role with Us. It’s such a great way to let off steam and have fun while still being creative. This group is like a family to me. I love them all.
If you’re interested at all in listening to our craziness it can be found HERE. There is a B team as well. Fair warning, our language is not safe for work, we can be highly inappropriate at times. We’re such a mixed bag of people who are likely to say whatever comes into our mouths when we’re together. But it’s fun.
Elizabeth: And because everyone likes to talk about what they’re doing the old standby: What projects are you working on now and what is coming next from you?
Marguerite: This actually ties back to what I do for fun. I got it in my head that I needed to do a contemporary romance trilogy, to push my writing boundaries. But I could not think of one concept that got me excited. I was sitting at my husband’s table at a local con, looking around at all these people who I’d become friends with and thought to myself why the hell am I not writing about small comic book conventions? As soon as that hit me the ideas began rolling in and I walked away with six new characters in mind.
The first book A Little Side of Geek is about Morris Proctor, indie comic book artist and writer who falls for a local chef Theo Boarman who has no geek side to speak of. The second book A Whole Latte Sass is about Morris’s best friend and cosplayer Felipe Suero and his pursuit of the con’s silver fox Trask Briscoe who owns a gaming store. The third story is untitled, but it will be about the promoter for the local cons, Brenden Wade and his step-brother and nemesis, Dakota Nye who does a podcast on geek culture. I’ve written the first book and it’s with betas. I’m halfway through drafting the second. And I have the general idea and characters for the third. I have to say, it’s been such a fricken blast writing these.
Elizabeth: Marguerite has brought us a wonderful excerpt.
Tuputala shook her head and turned back to what she was doing. “It’s another impossibility. We’re all seeing and hearing things,” Tuputala said, her voice gaining confidence. “If we keep this up, we’re all going to be jumping at every shadow and machine knock.”
Zed wanted to believe her, but the weight of all those missing souls on the ship got under his skin. He tried telling himself it didn’t matter how they died. The captain was only concerned about salvage. He tried to tell himself he didn’t give one damn about any rich corporate types. They sure as hell hadn’t shown him or his niece any consideration.
Telling himself didn’t help for jackshit. They’d been people who left behind loved ones. Even if he couldn’t pass along any messages, at least he might have an idea of their fate. It should be safe now with life support on. Zed turned his back on Tuputala and gently worked the gloves off his left hand. A broken pipe, old blood and hair matting one end, lay nearby. Zed crouched, hesitated, and then brushed his fingertips over the clean end.
Rage. Hate. Violence. Lust. Fear. Emotions slammed into Zed, stealing breath and sight. He fell back with a cry, shaking and nauseous as he curled his hand tightly against his body. He tried to grab a hold of the fleeting images that came with the emotions, but they slipped away tenuous and undefined.
“Fuck, Jakobsen. What the hell?” Tuputala said. “What happened this time?”
Zed shook his head, reaching for his gloves, his heart pounding a frenzied tattoo. His shaking made it difficult to get the gloves back on, much to his intense frustration and dismay. Images began to seep through the shock of emotion. Swinging the pipe. Hitting again and again into a body long dead. Pummeling almost like a need for sexual release.
Kill. Kill. Kill.
His stomach lurched, and Zed squeezed his eyes tight. He fumbled, searching for the talisman he wore under his suit that he used to ground himself. He pressed the threaded bolt into his skin and used the discomfort to shove the images and emotions away. Shoving it deep into that box in his mind and latching it tight. The coping mechanism didn’t take away the memory, but it took away the bite and immediacy.
Elizabeth: Whew! That was awesome! Don’t forget to enter the RaffleCopter give away. It’s listed below and is also on our Facebook page under the giveaway tab in the left column. Marguerite is offering the winner an eBook of her Dreamspinner Press titles.
Elizabeth: A little about Marguerite:
Marguerite has been accused of being eccentric and a shade neurotic, both of which she freely admits to, but her muse has OCD tendencies, so who can blame her? She loves writing stories about the beauty of love with all of its fascinating quirks and the strength of family, whether it’s the family you’re born into or the one you create. Marguerite was born in New Hampshire, grew up as a military brat, moving from one end of the U.S. to the other before settling down in Southern Maryland. She married her next-door neighbor and best friend, and they have one son and two cats who rule them. To her dismay, she has failed to convince her Alabama born husband to move north, where being a passionate Red Sox fan is perfectly normal. She runs Apocrypha Comics Studio with her husband and they often trek off to comic book conventions on the weekend where they celebrate all manner of geek culture. In her spare time she loves reading novels of all genres, enjoying a table top role-playing games with her friends, many which end up on the Role With Us podcast, and finding really good restaurants where she can indulge in her love of food and wine.
Elizabeth: Join us again next week, May 2, 2017 when J Tullos Hennig brings us Historical Fantasy. That sounds like amazing fun.