Blog-Versary: Soren Summers Author Post Monster, Keep Running + Giveaway
When Running is the Only Option
I wrote Monster in a time of great insecurity. I was a young, relatively clean, mostly freshly-scented 30-something-year-old gay man (I still am though, just trust me on this), and most of my friends had surpassed me by leaps and bounds in their careers. They were magazine editors, film directors, graphic designers, people who lived off their art. And yes, success is subjective, and I’m not one to pine after huge paychecks or glamorous job titles, but I did know that I wanted to be more than just a freelance writer.
You may call it envy, and you wouldn’t be incorrect. I’m always envious of creators, going into fits of jealousy when I’m exposed to something amazing, whether it’s the depth and breadth of Westerosi culture and politics, the brilliantly-written tragedy of the Bioshock series of games, or the mind-shearing monstrosity of the Cthulhu Mythos.
All of these and more have made such an impact on who I am as a writer, but all I ever knew was non-fiction. I was trained as a journalist, working in lifestyle and taking on copywriting gigs. It made me so resentful to see other people baring parts of themselves, ripping entire universes out of their chests for all the world to see.
I wanted to join them. I wanted to be a creator too, because like every person on this planet I have a story to tell, and I want it – no, need it to be heard. But some stories, like the ones I love to write, are difficult to tell when you’re a gay man from a Muslim country. There’s also the secondary challenge of having English as a second language, but it’s nothing that gracious beta readers, a very (very) careful self-editing eye, and intense bouts of paranoia can’t help.
Fifty shades of gay
Soren Summers is a pseudonym, that much is clear. Summers is taken from the X-Men comics, the surname of a line of mutants know for producing psychics of incredible power. Soren has always been a favorite Nordic name, evocative of the harsh chill of A Song of Ice and Fire’s Winterfell, the Wall, and the North, and of the heartrending fates of House Stark. These are among my favorite characters in fiction and my greatest inspirations, and I counted on the melding of heat and cold to cast a cloud of steam to hide me, a personal smokescreen if you will.
I’ve since migrated to California, but I still want the safety of a pseudonym. Call it a safeguard, an assurance that I won’t run into trouble when I do inevitably return to visit the motherland. I lived in different places growing up but I spent nearly 20 years in the majority Muslim country where I was born, a place where, hint hint, even the mere accusation of sodomy has resulted in a high-ranking official being imprisoned and ostracized. I was fortunate enough to avoid outright persecution, but it didn’t quite work the same way for words. Slurs still hurt when you hear them enough, just as accusing looks do, from those who would see you as other for the way you were born, or for who you love.
There was no way I could ever be published back home, mainly for fear of being Salman Rushdied straight out of the country. I looked up other possibilities, discovering the world of self-publishing. That lit a spark. I could write nearly anything from anywhere in the world, and no one would be the wiser. I buckled down and got to work.
I planned my universe, a parallel of our own where an organization called Vertex pulls strings from the shadows. There’s so much horror orchestrated by real world corporations that it comes as no surprise that they’ve inspired counterparts in fiction, such as Alien’s Weyland-Yutani, Portal’s Aperture Science, or, as Kazza noted, one of my favorites, Better Off Ted’s Veridian Dynamics. An immoral corporation-slash-research facility as a prime antagonist is ideal as it allows me to feasibly introduce all sorts of insanity into the world: psychics, human experiments, young men loaded with both sleek muscle and emotional baggage, you name it.
Under Vertex’s pall my protagonists are always under threat of death and dismemberment. The company is massive, powerful, and above all else, relentless. All anyone can really do is run as fast and as far as they can, just to be safe. To be free. It took three manuscripts for me to realize that my stories were telling me something I hadn’t yet accepted for myself. It wasn’t just my characters who wanted to escape their circumstances.
That’s what Monster is about, in essence, a pair of not-so-heroic, psychologically-flawed young men making the best of their situation, but ultimately always looking ahead, ready to run at a moment’s notice. As Kazza pointed out in this review, that’s who Jarod is, naive at times, but intently focused on self-preservation, on protecting himself and the ones he loves. Both he and Gabriel were track and field stars in high school, always running, whether it was to reach a destination or to flee from something – or someone.
The future of Vertex
There’s definitely more strangeness to be expected out of Vertex. Monster itself is meant to be an introduction to the universe. My current focus is on launching three separate series that branch off from the events of the novel, each featuring protagonists from various factions within the corporation. One involves an experimental test subject, for example, while another is told from the perspective of an anomaly. Yes, they will all be gay romance novels. And no, I’m not exactly sure why everyone in this universe likes dick so much 🙁
Since everything is in the same setting, crossovers and guest appearances will definitely occur. I realize that this sounds very ambitious, but everything hinges on a central narrative, with the multiple series intertwined around it like a braid. I’m presently working on two projects, the first of which is a prequel novella to Monster that takes a closer look at one of its supporting characters. It may involve pudding. The second is a currently untitled book set immediately after the events of Monster. This means that yes, readers will be seeing more of Jarod and Gabriel. And yes, things are about to get even uglier.
I hope to publish the next novel by early 2017, and the novella earlier then that. If you’d like to stay informed on my releases, please do join my mailing list for updates. You’ll get a free copy of Siren for your troubles. Please note that Siren is a companion novella and is full of spoilers if you haven’t read Monster. You can also follow me on Twitter where I mostly gush over horror, video games, and hot boys.
On top, down under, bouncing off the walls
The response from Kazza’s review has been intense, especially on Goodreads, and it’s encouraging to know that people like my story enough to share it. It’s why I take breaks between writing and editing to mash the refresh button on Amazon, to see whether someone out there has deigned to leave a review. Reviews keep me young, you see, or maybe I’m just really thirsty for validation. In all seriousness, they’re great for helping readers decide whether the book is a good fit for them, so thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write one for Monster.
That’s why I’m grateful to Cindi and Kazza for taking a shot on an unknown, pseudonymous, first-time self-published author, a combination that would scare away readers and reviewers in droves. It grants me a chance to be read, to be heard. I might not be typing this from atop a solid gold toilet bowl just yet, but I like to think that with more books under my belt I’ll one day be able to stare someone dead in the eye and say “I make a living writing gay smut.” Because we all need to do what we love. I live to write, so it is only fitting that I write to live.
At the end of all things, we’re just insects. Tiny. Insignificant. Yet we persevere, and thrash, and keep on running, because we all long to be seen, heard, and remembered, to leave a mark that’s at least more lasting than being splattered on the universe’s windshield. It’s only human to want to scream your fears and dreams into the darkness and hope for someone to hear you, to follow the sound of your voice and see what it is you have to say. Don’t ever stop screaming. Don’t stop doing what you love.
An e-book of Soren Summers’ new release, Monster, is up for grabs. It’s currently my Book of the Month. Simply leave a comment below before Midnight, Oct 31st, (US EST) for a chance to win a copy. Thanks for stopping by and good luck!
Bloodied corridors. Mangled bodies. Deranged test subjects. All in a day’s work at Vertex, a corporation devoted to perfecting the human form by any means necessary. But even corporations make mistakes. Sometimes the path to progress is littered with corpses.
It’s up to Jarod Samuels to keep Vertex’s hallways pristine and safe. He’s quiet and unquestioning, the perfect mix of tight lips and loose morals. But Jarod’s been looking the other way for five years. Scrubbing bloodstains and bagging bodies is losing its luster.
Then a handsome young maverick named Gabriel Anderson joins Jarod’s department, this man with a huge ego and an even huger mouth. He’s infuriating but intriguing, as brash as he is beautiful, and almost enough to keep Jarod preoccupied. Almost.
But between workplace hazards, psychic sociopaths, and a mysterious formula that alters the human body, Jarod’s doubts are surging strong. Should he stay with the corporation, or run like hell? This is Vertex, after all, where the walls watch with glass eyes, the laboratories groan with secrets – and employee termination ends more than just careers.
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