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.
AMAZON LINK: CLICK BOOK COVER OR HERE
Monster sounds amazing. I would love to read it.
As I mentioned to Kazza on Twitter, it’s received rave reviews from my mother… who hasn’t actually read it. *shrug* That’s probably for the best.
It’s a thing of beauty to be able to write anywhere in the world, but it has to attack the creative juices when you’re worried about your sexuality as well as the content of your writing. Anything Got is my kryptonite and Aliens is pure classic.
The morally bankrupt corporations are all around us and the ones you named might be fiction but they’re not a stretch by any means. Not at all these days so it makes Monster sound in the thick of today’s reality. I’m a bit of a CT myself. I’ll check Monster out.
I still have to catch up on the last two seasons of GoT honestly, but I did inhale the books. Too good to stop, haha. And I know it’s a controversial opinion, but as much as I like the Alien franchise, I didn’t think Prometheus was all that bad. Honestly, when it comes to evil corporations, I don’t think you even need to be a CT! So many instances in history like the rainbow herbicides, Chiquita Banana, or basically any company involved in sweatshops or child labor. Maybe that’s why I turn to fictional corporations for “comfort.” Sometimes real life… Read more »
Sorry to jump in but I can’t resist. I liked Prometheus too! I can see why it wasn’t widely well-received but I found it quite profound in many ways. The mythology was fascinating but I particularly enjoyed the (somewhat bleak and all-to-realistic) statement made on certain aspects of humanity. Michael Fassbender’s performance is one of my most-favourite of all time. I heard from a friend who also enjoyed the film (our numbers are growing!) that there is to be a sequel which will entirely veer away from Alien – possibly the franchise’s final nail in the coffin but I’m excited… Read more »
Don’t be sorry, I’m a huge nerd and I can’t ever stop talking. I’m glad at least one human being out there liked it too! And same, the mythology was a huge part of why I liked it. I remember being so excited for Magneto Fassbender based on that short “David” clip. Big fan of Charlize Theron’s character and performance as well. Did you read the theory that she might have been an android too? I don’t know if it should surprise me that I felt most drawn to the most unfeeling characters in the film but hey, there it… Read more »
I’m always drawn to androids and the “emotionless” characters too. I usually find them more “human” than the humans! Loved the misadventures of trying to fit in by Dr Swartz and Seven-of-Nine from Star Trek Voyager (oh I’m not a nerd at all haha!). Interesting theory on the captain from Prometheus. Now I have to re-watch it… Thanks for the awesome chat. The internet is amazing at linking the like-minded. I know you mention the difficulties of being who you are in your home country, but at least you are among friends here. Hopefully one day we can heal the… Read more »
It’s sad that you can’t just be who you are everywhere, but I know it’s a sad reality with the way the world is. I’ve heard authors say that writing is their therapy. I can understand that in a lot of ways.
I’ve been eager to read Monster since Kazza and I discussed it not long after she started reading it. This is a Cindi book if I ever saw one. 🙂 Her review proved that.
Thank you for the great post and giveaway and for helping us celebrate our 4th year!
You know, the weirdest thing is that I had no idea writing my first drafts *was* therapeutic until I went back and reread everything. It’s crazy, but I guess it’s why journaling comes so highly recommended for figuring out personal issues. Things will want to reveal themselves in the writing, whether or not you want them to! You know, it really was a tough call when I was studying the preference guidelines you and Kazza set down. That email took a while to write, mainly for picking which of you to request, lol. It made me feel bad for having… Read more »
I live in Australia the same as Kaz does. We don’t have marriage equality here and I joke with friends I’m moving to Canada, it might sometimes have snow up past my balls but they have the right to marry someone they love and I love Canada. Maybe I love Justin Trudeau? Doesn’t matter. Then I read your post about being fearful to be a gay man and I don’t think you used these exact words but you can die for just being who you are and loving who you do. Wanting to write about it but maybe being Salman… Read more »
It’s still so depressing to think about LGBT rights and marriage equality. Exactly who are we hurting with drag culture, or same sex parenting, or just about anything else? It’s especially infuriating that we’re still accused of an agenda and the eventual downfall of morality and civilization, as if homosexuality was a recent scientific discovery and had no links to, oh, let’s say, gay samurai or the ancient Greeks rooting each other’s brains out. Did I use that right, rooting? I’m doing my best here. And don’t get me started on Monsieur Trudeau. I would let that man do horrible,… Read more »
I’m in love with the visuals you all picked out for this. The Weyland-Yutani and Veridian Dynamics pics especially are a reminder that I should get someone to sketch up a badass logo for Vertex at some point. That Jon Snow GIF for the pudding dialogue made me laugh out loud, partly because of who the stand-in for the Night’s King is in that scene, and because Kit Harington is really not that distant from how I picture Jarod :3 Happy blogaversary, Cindi and Kazza! The banter’s been great fun and I’m looking forward to hanging out in the comments… Read more »
You really do need a Vertex logo. I thought the same thing when I was writing the review. Glad you liked the selection I put up because I always give it a bit of thought 🙂
I’m looking forward to more of this series. It’s exciting to see where they go, and Jarod and Gabriel have me dead keen to see what happens to them next.
Thanks for the blog-versary wishes, Soren.
I can tell from this piece that you are a great story-teller. Your non-fiction, journalistic experience, coupled with your fervent imagination has ensured this. I have no doubt this book is the first of many awesome tomes to come from Soren Summers (love the name reference btw – any chance there’s a bit of Buffy Summers in there too..?) I must say that it’s refreshing to find a kindred spirit – more of the world should love sci-fi dystopian writing …and dick. Just sayin’. Now, please excuse me as I’m off to add Monster to my reading list and re-watch/play… Read more »
Never thought that writing about restaurants and music festivals would ever come in handy for fiction but here we are. Very kind of you to say. Definitely looking forward to several more books (and several dozen guest posts across the web, seriously, I can’t stop talking). Unfortunately I never did get into Buffy, but I did a google search and apparently Joss Whedon nearly linked their worlds by making her and Scott Summers/Cyclops of the X-Men cousins. Would have been very cool. Agree with you 100%. We need more fans of sci-fi dystopian dick stories, and more of those stories.… Read more »
This looks really good. Thanks Kazza for pointing us in the right direction and to the author for the great post and giveaway.
Thank you for such an interesting post, Soren, for sharing part of your story with us. In my country, marriage equality laws were passed fifteen years ago. It is a quite free country, although there are still bouts of homophobia which I find really despicable. But sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live in a country where you can marry whoever you want, and can say it aloud without fear.
I’m really intrigued by your book. You mention some of my favourite topics and myths. I’ll make sure to add it to my TBR list.
Thanks for your comment, Susana. It’s just how the world is I suppose. Even here in California, of all places, there are still instances of homophobia and racism. Perhaps the world will correct itself given enough time, and maybe one or two generations down the line bigotry will be a shadow of what it is today.
Glad you found something to like about Monster, but I’m especially glad that some of our favorite things align! It’s always nice to find others who have similar interests in the darker side of entertainment.
That was an incredibly interesting and refreshing read [particularly given I had, not long ago, spent nearly two days knee-deep in 5-Methoxypsoralen (and associated) literature!] But whilst I have never been a huge fan of dystopian settings, I find that one of the more intriguing aspects of the genre is the incredible range of worlds you can create from a singular theme. You could possibly say the same thing for many other genres, but – with dystopia – it amazes me how humans can make a seemingly infinite amount of horrifying possibilities just from a singular lust for power, or… Read more »
That’s such a wonderful (and optimistic!) interpretation of the genre. It might be part of why people read dystopian fiction to begin with. We want to see man survive, to be told that our race isn’t doomed. We’re rooting for the protagonists to, you know, not get eaten by the deformed mutant cannibals roaming the nuclear-blasted wastes. Hope! Yeah, that was my point. All that to say that yes, I agree with you, 100%. Utopia and dystopia are two sides of the same coin. Lilies growing out of the muck and all that. It’s like one of my favorite exchanges… Read more »