Victory Takes Center Stage–a Guest Post by J.L. Gribble

About a year ago, I met a young author named J.L. Gribble who reminded me so much of myself I began calling her my Internet doppelganger. After an exchange of books and author interviews, we became friends, and I was thrilled to be asked to host J.L. here on my blog.

The Steel Empires series features a vampire named Victory who doesn’t sparkle and can be violent and voracious when the need arises, but who also loves her adopted human family deeply and will do anything to protect them. Victory is a consummate warrior, an astute politician, and a patient and loving mom. She’s my favorite character in the series, so I’m really excited about the release of Steel Blood. In this third novel in the Steel Empire series, Victory faces a whole new load of problems involving political intrigue, imminent danger, and wayward young people. What’s a fanged mother to do?

I also love the world J.L. created for this series, an urban fantasy/alternate history in which Rome and Britain are the world’s two superpowers and in which humans, vampires, werecreatures of all sorts, and elves live openly (though not necessarily harmoniously) in the independent city-state of Limani. The Steel Empires series opens upon the stirrings of a new conflict within this world, but I was intensely curious about the fascinating alternate history we glimpse throughout the narrative. Therefore I asked J.L. to write something about her inspirations and the backstory behind the founding of Limani.


History of Limani

by J.L. Gribble

When I asked my friend and author A.M. Justice whether I could stop by her home on the internet as part of the blog tour for my latest novel, I told her that I was open to write about pretty much anything. She quickly returned with a request for a very specific topic: How the home city in my alternate history world came to be.

Trust me, I wish I could respond with something as amazing as “spaceships,” as in A.M.’s excellent fantasy novel A Wizard’s Forge. Alas, my fantasy series is rooted much more in the, well, fantastical. In a world that has evolved where the common person has always known and coexisted with the supernatural, historical evolution has taken some wacky turns while still staying very much familiar to what we know in our own world.

The independent city-state of Limani, home to the main characters of my series, started life as Greek colony. The alliance of Greek city-states in Europa joined in the rush to settle the “New Continent,” managing to establish a foothold along the coastline near a major bay along the middle of the eastern coastline. They snagged space between the British colonies to the north and the newly claimed Roman territories to the south.

But while the British settlements were funded by second and third children of the werewolf nobility, and the massive Roman plantations were supported by corporations led by wealthy Roman vampire lines, the Greek colonists embodied the nature of their origins. These disparate colonists, from multiple Greek cities, maintained the ideals of equality and democracy that linked their alliance back in Europa. The major factor in their favor was that a larger proportion than expected of the original group of colonists consisted of mages from every elemental faction. These were mages schooled in the Greek magical academies held in esteem throughout Europa, looking for adventure and new beginnings.

And it was what saved Limani, in the end.

Bolstered by resources pouring in from their new territories in the New Continent, the Roman Empire set its sights on expansion at home once again. In a few short years, the last Greek city-states that had existed for thousands of years finally fell. Some fought for their independence to the bitter end and ended up in ruins, while others saw the writing on the wall and signed treaties with Roma that would ensure certain freedoms for their people.

Suddenly cut off from all support from home, as the city-states suddenly had bigger issues to worry about, Limani almost failed as a colony. But the mages, already spread throughout the colony and trying to establish lives for themselves, helped to keep the farms growing food and the small manufactories creating goods needed for the survival of their city. Those who were more combat-inclined helped the colony defend itself from incursions from the north and south. But every time the British and Roman settlements in the New Continent thought they smelled blood in the water, Limani proved itself more than willing to depend its staunch independence.

Later, the British and Romans established Limani as a neutral zone between their lands. Once it heard the news, Limani kind of shrugged and kept going about its day. It had better things to do than play politics with great powers across the ocean. By now, it already had trade deals with the nearby Romans and British and was as self-sufficient as possible.

It might have been easy for the mages to say, “Hey, we kept this city running. We should be in charge.” But Limani never forgot its roots, keeping to the ideals of democracy and fair representation. Over the years, a family of werewolves showed up and sought sanctuary from their noble families who’d disapproved of a marriage made for love. Other werecreatures drifted in, found a society where they weren’t automatically second-class citizens under the wolves, and made themselves at home.

Two vampires moved in one day. One of them started a bar. The other announced plans to found a university. Limani tolerated its eccentric immortals, until they chased off another pair of vampires who killed in the city with abandon. Then Limani heaved a sigh of relief when one of the vampires finally acknowledged that she was the Master of the City. They gave her a seat on the city council with a partial vote, like the werewolf alpha and representatives of the other werecreatures.

Elves had lived in the city since shortly after its founding, but more moved in once it had a functioning university, mage school, and Mercenary Guildhall—three of the modern hallmarks of civilization. Though short a Qin weredragon, Limani was now a microcosm of the greater world. Even surrounded by empires, the city existed as a quiet power in its own right.

The city is certainly not without its share of drama. At one point, the werepanthers fought for equal representation with the werewolves on the city council. Later, a new Roman emperor thought he could march in and take over the city (see Steel Empires Book 1: Steel Victory). The city more than proved him wrong. But overall, it’s been a quiet town on a river, with opportunities for education and occupation. Limani would be happy to welcome you home.


Steel-Blood-Jacket.inddThough the vampire Master of the City leaves Limani for a short time in Steel Empires Book 3: Steel Blood, she’ll never forget her adopted home! About the book:

As her children begin lives of their own, Victory struggles with the loneliness of an empty nest. Just when the city of Limani could not seem smaller, an old friend requests that she come out of retirement for one final mercenary contract—to bodyguard his granddaughter, a princess of the Qin Empire.

For the first time in a century, the Qin and British Empires are reopening diplomatic relations. Alongside the British delegation, Victory and her daywalker Mikelos arrive in the Qin colony city of Jiang Yi Yue. As the Qin weredragons and British werewolves take careful steps toward a lasting peace between their people, a connection between the Qin princess and a British nobleman throw everyone’s plans in disarray.

Meanwhile, a third faction stalks the city under the cover of darkness.

This is not a typical romance. It’s a good thing Victory is not a typical vampire.

Buy links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2pPShZH
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/steel-blood-jl-gribble/1126268372
From the publisher: http://rawdogscreaming.com/books/steel-blood/

 

About the author:

Gribble photo colorBy day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

Parallel Paths—an Interview with Author JL Gribble

Once in a while you run across a kindred spirit on the Internet, someone whose life has followed a path similar to yours. Such is the case with former military brat, cat lover, medical editor, and scifi/fantasy author JL Gribble. She and I even gave our protagonists similar names (hers is Victory, mine is Victoria). After that, however, JL’s highly imaginative Steel Empires series bears little resemblance to my work. She posits a post–nuclear apocalyptic future where vampires, werecreatures, elves, and human mages drink lattes, go to dance clubs, and defend their city from a Roman emperor’s invading army and a group of rebels led by a conniving bigot with a “humans-first” agenda.

JL and I chatted recently about her influences and creative process. I’m pleased to share our discussion with you, and encourage you to check out the first two novels in her series, Steel Victory and Steel Magic.

 

AMJ: On your blog you’ve mentioned a group of writers and artists you with whom you meet in person regularly. How important is this group to your work?

Gribble photo colorJLG: It’s more of a social/support group than a cohort of fellow writers, but it’s just as valuable to me as my critique partners and beta readers. It’s important to me personally, because it’s a dedicated evening each week where I have somewhere to be, with space to get whatever I need to focus on completed, whether it’s more words on my current project, blog posts, or critiques.

AMJ: How do you support each other, if it’s not strictly a critique group? Are there nonwriters/readers in the group?

Gribble photo colorJLG: Everyone in the group is definitely a reader, especially a reader of speculative fiction, and that’s our major common bond. But we also have a person who writes just for the love of writing, a person who writes as part of his love of table-top gaming, and an artist. I think the fact that we are on such separate paths helps us be supportive of each other, because there is never any competition or risk of jealousy. On the other hand, this is why I also value my critique partners and beta readers, because they are all on my path and know exactly what is important for us each to succeed.

AMJ: That kind of support is vital. My critique group is cross-genre, which removes a lot of the competition, since we’re largely aiming for different audiences. But we still help each other a lot with the technical aspects of writing and storytelling. Speaking of storytelling, how long have you been making up stories and writing them down?

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JLG: Since middle school! I got my start writing fanfiction (which I spontaneously invented before discovering the internet about 2 years later). I branched out into original work in high school and have been writing fantasy ever since.

AMJ: What were your first fanfic pieces based on?

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JLG: Of all things, Highlander: The Series, which is what sparked my interest in writing about immortals of various kinds. It’s my greatest inspiration for why I write vampires as people first and “monsters” second.

AMJ: Oh, I loved that series almost as much as the original film. (The second film, however, should be burned, the ashes encased in lead and dropped into the deepest abyss of the ocean.) Do you remember a Canadian series about the vampire police detective?

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JLG: Forever Knight! I missed the show, but I read a bunch of fanfic about it back then as well, so sometimes I feel like I watched it.

AMJ: It was great; highly entertaining and one of the first shows/films to show the human side of vampires. Anne Rice’s work was all the rage back then, so it was a natural outgrowth from there.

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JLG: I was definitely reading her Vampire Chronicles as well.

AMJ: Did any of these programs or books provide any inspiration for Victory’s character [the vampire who headlines JL’s series]?

Gribble photo colorJLG: Absolutely, along with the worlds of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Anita Blake novels. One of the major inspirations for my first novel, however, was the idea that I wanted to write a vampire book that didn’t focus on the sexuality of vampires.

AMJ: So you made Victory a mom.

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JLG: Yep! An adult in a committed relationship seemed like a novelty in the genre.

AMJ: That was one of the most interesting things about Steel Victory…that your MC was first and foremost a mother, and secondly a politician with a more or less ordinary job.

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JLG: Thanks! I liked the concept of her being a retired mercenary. Future book hint: Book 3 in the series is about her returning to that profession and finding out how much she’s changed in the meantime.

AMJ: Cool! And you also allude to a lot of interesting things in the past—particularly the family’s recent past, from the rescue of Toria in the Wasteland to Toria saving Victory’s life from an old foe…will you be exploring any of those events in a deeper way, either through flashbacks or prequels?

Gribble photo colorJLG: I actually wrote 4 short stories for my senior thesis in undergrad that cover events such as Victory and Mikelos meeting, Toria’s adoption, and Toria and Kane meeting. I’m currently in the process of rewriting them to my current standards, and considering what to do with them.

I definitely have plenty ideas for prequels, and one of my beta readers frequently reminds me of her demand that I write about characters referenced in the first book that are deceased by that time, such as the man Toria’s college is named after—who is an important person from Victory’s past.

AMJ: You do have a really rich backstory—a lot of good stories lurk just behind the steel curtain (ha ha).

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JLG: I’m totally stealing that. 😉

AMJ: Let’s talk about your upbringing. Did your parents’ military careers influence your work? Is that why mercenaries play such a big role in Steel Victory?

Gribble photo colorJLG: I think the mercenary thing stems from reading so much fantasy and science-fiction and playing a lot of table-top RPGs (such as Dungeons & Dragons). I’m one of those military brats who hated moving around so much, and swore I’d never have anything to do with the military when I grew up. So of course I married a guy in the Air Force!

AMJ: My dad was in the Air Force. We moved a lot too, and I also played D&D in high school and college. Then computer games started to emerge and I played a lot of narrative RPGs like the Sierra Online Kings Quest and Gabriel Knight series.

Did you end up adapting any of your RPG characters into your fiction?

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JLG: In a way. My concept of the warrior-mage stems from dual-classing in D&D.

AMJ: Right! You have a unique mix of modern-day and futuristic tech plus old school magic in your world. What was your inspiration for that, or the philosophy behind it?

Gribble photo colorJLG: I read a lot of post-apocalyptic stories, but so many of them take place either during or soon after the apocalyptic event. I thought it would be neat to see a world that has survived a devastating event and rebounded in a positive way.

AMJ: And what inspired you to have elves come into the story along with vampires? It’s a curious, and cool, bit of genre-blending.

Gribble photo colorJLG: Because I already had werecreatures (werewolves, werepanthers, etc.), so why not? That’s literally it. Just me challenging myself to evolve my world in increasingly complex ways while still adhering coherent world-building.

AMJ: And you did such a fine job of that too! Thanks for joining me for this talk, and good luck with the continued work on your series.

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JLG: Thank you so much!

JL Gribble Bio

Gribble photo colorBy day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

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