Please join us in welcoming author Tam MacNeil today to chat a bit about her new novel Salt and Iron, a book I really enjoyed. And that cover… So pretty!
Now, here’s Tam:
Reporter: How does it feel to be a member of such a famous family?
James van Helsing: Well, it’s a privilege that I’ve thought a lot about. I mean, growing up with a name like this is like living in a history lesson. You sort of discover that everybody knows about Grandpa van Helsing, because of the stuff that happened with Dracula, and that’s always the first question people ask. [Laughs] But the fact is, we’ve been monster hunters as long as there’ve been records. Any time I look at a text on magic or on monsters, there’s a… a, you know, a grandma or a great uncle or somebody saving the world.
Reporter: That sounds like a lot to live up to.
JvH: Yeah, it is. But… I’m up for it.
Reporter: Are you?
Abe van Helsing: Of course he is. He’s a van Helsing. It’s in his blood.
Poor James van Helsing. Like many a child or a grandchild of immigrants, the world is a little extra complex for him. On the one hand there’s family, tradition, expectation, but on the other hand, this is the US, where individuality is praised and applauded. That’s a tough tension to navigate. Worse still, with a name like van Helsing, it’s pretty obvious that you’d grow up to be a monster hunter, even if your family is thoroughly American now, and even though there hasn’t been a vampire in the county for fifty years. With a name like van Helsing, nobody is going to ask you if that’s what you want. It’s what you are from the second you’re born.
There’s probably nothing much heavier than being born with the weight of a famous name, and there’s probably nothing more stressful than always failing to measure up to your illustrious ancestors or, heck, even your big brother.
So what happens when no matter how hard you try, you just can’t make yourself be the person the world thinks you ought to be? What happens if, in spite of everything your well-meaning brother tells you, and in spite of all the power and prestige of your family, you’re something they don’t want you to be? And what happens the day you decide to come clean about that?
Growing up, I loved reading stories about the dark side of the Faerie realm, the Seelie and Unseelie courts, about ghouls and vampires. I loved reading Dracula and even made a point of staying on the same block where it was written when I was in Whitby, UK! But I couldn’t help wondering what would happen to the other van Helsings. The brothers and sisters and the children of the famous Doctor. Their name and their blood would make them an enemy of the unseen world, no matter how they felt about the matter. And I wondered what it would be like to carry that name around in the modern world, to have your destiny laid out for you the moment you were born. What would happen if you could change destiny, and not just your own?
Excerpt: “Mr. van Helsing.” She speaks sotto voce, hardly above a murmur. “I was just telling Mr. Marquez that I have advised Mr. Lennox to say nothing in this matter.”
“Is that right?” James asks, not speaking quietly. “Mr. Lennox asks for a meeting and then isn’t going to talk?” He looks at Lennox. The guy is middle years, bad haircut, hair going a little thin, gingery in color, cheeks ruddy from the sun. He looks more like a farmer than a witch, but then James is still waiting to take down somebody who actually looks like a Hallowe’en witch. When he does, he’s taking a selfie and posting it on everything. “You wasting my time, Mr. Lennox?”
“No, I want to talk,” Lennox says, lurching forward suddenly. Chains rattle. The blues are smart. They’ve dealt with a lot of supernatural stuff, and they keep their witches in iron, just in case. “I want to tell my side of the story. I can explain.”
“Yeah?” James asks.
He goes over to the table, and Lennox looks back at him, and his eyes open up a little bit more.
“Holy shit,” Lennox whispers. Behind him, time ripples like water. It should freak James the fuck out, the way it suddenly appears, but the booze has steadied him. He’s so glad he had those drinks. “Holy shit,” Lennox whispers again, and he subsides as if someone let all the air out of him.
“Don’t let me stop you,” James says.
The man shakes his head. “No, I… I didn’t mean it. I got bad eyes. I….” He looks from James to Gabe and back to James again. “I’m taking my lawyer’s advice,” he says and shuts his mouth so hard his teeth go clack.
Time rolls on like a river behind him and then settles out too, so James can’t see it anymore.
He looks at Gabe, and Gabe looks back and shrugs. Then he sighs and goes to the table and sits opposite the witch. “Mr. Lennox, we arranged this meeting because you requested it.”
“Didn’t have all the facts then,” Lennox says. He tries to cross his arms, but he can’t. The shackles don’t allow for a lot of movement, to prevent incantation. “Changed my mind.”
Blurb: James van Helsing is the youngest son of the famous monster-hunting family—and the family’s big disappointment. He’s falling in love with Gabe Marquez, his oldest friend and son of the family the van Helsings have worked alongside for years. Things get even harder for James when he becomes what he and everyone else despises most—a magic user.
He didn’t mean to evolve into such a despicable person, and he knows using magic is illegal, but there’s nothing James can do about it, no more than he can stop himself from loving Gabe. Just when things can’t seem to get worse, he and Gabe are called to help nab a network of magicians who are changing destiny. Not just any destiny, but the destinies of the van Helsing and Marquez families. James foresees a terrible fate, one in which monsters emerge from the cracks, along with his dark secret. And that’s when people start to die.
Buy Link: Dreamspinner Press
Contact info: I write stories of magic, mayhem, and the supernatural under the name Tam MacNeil, and sweet, silly, m/m contemporary romance with a side of angst under the name T Neilson. You can find me at Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or, even better (because inside scoop and book giveaways!) you can sign up for my newsletter at Mailchimp. C’mon over and say hi!