Today’s 7 Questions are with fantasy author and occasional ninja, J. C. Steel.
- Vampires on a boat? Talk me through that…
It’s true, most people expect to find vampires hanging out in mouldering piles of ancient stone, preferably up around the Transylvanian border. It’s convenient stereotype for all those vampires who enjoy steel band music, beaches by moonlight, and a climate where the prey comes out to play after dark; no one expects them.
From vampires in the Caribbean, it was a short step to vampire hunters in the Caribbean, and vampire hunters need both cover, and a way to haul ass out of town fast. The Caribbean is home to fleets of yachts in every variety, and since I grew up on one of them, it made the setting too easy not to use.
- You’re a ninja, what’s that about?
I discovered I enjoy fighting. Most of all, I enjoy being able to throw bigger and stronger people over my head – the look of surprise can be priceless. Even when I lose, it can still be fun: you learn from fighting someone better, or trickier, or even simply luckier. Martial arts are great exercise and better stress-relief.
Funnily enough, my start in martial arts circles back to stereotypes, too. You’ve probably heard some of them. My all-time favourite is ‘The average man is simply stronger than the average woman, it’s biology!’. That one’s won me more sparring matches than I can count, because what most people don’t know is what the word ‘average’ actually means. An average is achieved by dividing the sum of the values in the set by their number. In this scenario, ‘average’ describes one person in a set of about 3.5 billion. Happily for me, I’m not exactly average (‘brick shithouse’ is a phrase that has been used), and to said shithouse, I’ve added a few years of training in various martial arts disciplines.
- What’s an Oxford comma, and why should I care?
Ah, the Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma. Tossing this topic into a group of writers is pretty much guaranteed entertainment – kind of like cracking a ‘mom’ joke in a redneck bar.
I use it because it makes sense to me (over and above the trolling opportunities it presents in forums), and one of my favourite examples where an Oxford comma might have been useful is this one: ‘Highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.’. With an Oxford comma strategically inserted after ‘demigod’, the presence of the dildo collection then becomes just another item in the list, rather than the immediate focus of fevered speculation (speaking, of course, only for myself).
- Who do you admire?
Lots of people. Those who can show up at 0730 on a Monday immaculately coiffed and made-up, for starters. You’re lucky if I’ve brushed my hair. People who can build furniture from scratch. People who can deal with the public all day without getting violent urges. The folks who clean the enormous expanses of glass on the high-rises downtown while dangling from a bitty length of rope. I may think some of the above are certifiable, but I do admire them.
- What are you working on at the moment?
I’m completely incapable of literary fidelity, so right now I’m pursuing several projects: a box-set of the first few books in my sci-fi series, a novella in the same series, and the fifth book of the series. Whether the novella beats the box set out the door or not will depend very largely on my endurance for manuscript formatting versus the entertainment of writing sci-fi mayhem. There’s also two urban fantasy projects on the back-burner – a cat-were detective story set in Vancouver, and another about a part-siren, part-asshole ‘acquisitions specialist’ on a hunt for the Peaches of Immortality. Unless or until someone develops reliable clones, I have no idea when those two are going to get the attention they need.
- Describe your ideal sandwich.
It’s hard to go wrong with cheese. Specifically, having spent some of my formative years in France, the kind of stinky cheese that you can easily see being the catalyst for intelligent life after we blow ourselves up. If said stinky cheese can either be melted, or have spent a few days in a warm kitchen to attain that special gooey, spreadable state, then so much the better. Give me that, and some fresh baguette that isn’t so crusty you’re afraid your gums are about to bleed, and I’m a happy eater.
- Pet couture, yes or no?
*Shudders*Hard no. If you have one of those very skinny, short-haired dogs and live in Alaska, then I accept the need for a warm blanket and foot protection for walks. Any time I see someone covering their pet’s ears in a beret and posting ‘ooo-sa cutie-pie den?’ photo, I get an urge to put a carpenter’s vise over their ears and tighten. Humans have a less-than-endearing tendency to see animals as playthings; in my view, if you want to play dress-up, there are entire clubs that cater to that.
And you can find J. C. Steel all over the internet: