Thursday, April 26, 2012

Unrequited by Jay Merin: Interview & Excerpt

Mason has a past. Having fled his home he now lives out a lonely, isolated existence, doing his best to remain invisible, while watching the world pass him by with an increasingly cynical detachment. At least until a remarkable young woman captivates his attention.

Shayla has a future. With a career, good friends and a fiancé she adores, she loves her life and really wants for nothing. But for some time now something has been watching her, drawn to something about her that makes her unique.

When Mason's world violently collides with Shayla's, his past threatens to destroy her future. To set things right Mason must come to terms with and atone for what he had done while Shayla must find an inner strength she never knew existed within her. And the only thing either of them can rely on is each other.

Publication Date:  Aug 29 2011
ISBN/EAN13:  1466265957 / 9781466265950
Page Count:  252

Binding Type:  US Trade Paper

Trim Size:  5.25" x 8"

Language:  English

Related Categories:  Fiction / Fantasy / Contemporary

Amazon  |  Paperback  |   Goodreads

Get a FREE PDF copy of Unrequited

Chapter 4

He dreamed of Cordelia.
Of Cordelia's end.
Mason always dreamed of Cordelia's death.
Somehow this time the dream had changed. Instead of her being ripped apart and shredding into nothingness, Mason watched as Cordelia was devoured whole by a roesied.
And then it wasn't Cordelia. It was Shayla.
And Shayla was reaching out to him...

Mason woke screaming. He sat bolt upright, a cold rag that had been on his forehead dropping into his lap. Quickly regaining his composure he found himself on a couch, his jacket lain across its back, with an afghan placed over him. The room around him he did not recognize, though it was probably someone's apartment as he saw the TV, DVD movie collection, photos in frames on the walls, magazines on the coffee table next to him, and so on.
Someone had brought him inside. He had been hurt, now it came back to him. Mason remembered fighting the roesied, though he wished it had been just a dream.
Movement caught his attention, bringing him back alert to his surroundings. Rushing in from a doorway that looked to lead to a kitchen came Shayla, a steaming mug of something in her hands.
“My god, are you ok? That scream... maybe I'd better call an ambulance after all...” Shayla had put down the drink and was reaching for her cell phone that rested on the coffee table on top of a copy of a travel magazine featuring a picture of the Parthenon. Mason's hand moved to stop hers, holding it gently but firmly.
“No, I'm sorry, my apologies... please,” he faltered, looking at his hand holding hers and feeling a rush of heat on his face. Stoically he gathered himself, moving his legs off the couch to sit up fully, and letting go slowly of Shayla's hand as she watched his hand's retreat. “I am better, it was just a bad dream.” He looked at her face, this being the closest the two of them had ever been, and he saw it in her eyes. She recognized him, not just from their passing encounters, though surely she knew she had seen him before.
No, Shayla saw him. Knew him. Deep inside, who he was... her eyes had seen into the depths of Mason and he couldn't stop her. He didn't want to stop her.
He had to stop her.
“You...” she started to say, unsure of what she was saying, but Mason stood up, grabbing his coat.
“Thank you for bringing me in and watching over me. You really shouldn't have, taking a stranger into your home isn't safe in the city.” Mason couldn't help but scold her... it had been a dangerous thing she had done, even with her fiancée with her.
Mason started. Where was Richard Sommerset?
And then he forgot about Richard entirely as Shayla took his hand in both of hers, a distant but penetrating look on her face.
“I know you.”
Mason could barely shake his head no. “I think you are mistaken, ma'am.”
“Don't,” she said, her eyelids lowering, nearly closing completely. “Don't lie. You have watched over me.”
Mason wanted to pull his hand free, to jump back, to demand what she knew and how she knew it. He wanted nothing more than to take her hands in his and forget who she was, what he was, and just be in the moment. In the end, he could do nothing but look at her.
“I've felt you. I knew you were there, somewhere inside I always knew. I just... I didn't know who you were.” One hand came up and fingertips barely touched his cheek so gently it burned him. “I do now.”
And then, after a moment or an eternity, her eyes opened wider as if she had come out of a trance. “I'm sorry, what were you saying?” Slightly confused, she let go of his hand and moved back a step. “Were you leaving? Are you sure that you are alright? Richard should be back shortly, he's talking to the police about his car, and he can give you a ride if you need one.”
That's where the fiancé was... taking care of his vehicle. Somehow that both angered and amused Mason. Mason breathed easier... he had collected himself enough, despite whatever perceptions Shayla had surprised him with, to will his shimmer into being just enough for her to lose her full awareness of him. Regardless of Randall's admonishment, Mason was quite good at staying unnoticed and unremembered when he focused his will upon the task.
“I will be fine. The car that hit me barely clipped me, honestly, and it was more shock than anything,” he lied too easily. It shamed him, but he knew it was for her own good. He could not be part of her life... even in the smallest of ways. This, too, she must forget.
Shayla shook her head. Looking around her apartment she tried to remember what she had just been doing. And where was Richard? Her gaze fell on the cold cup of herbal tea on her coffee table. When had she made that?
Before she became too lost in her musings the door to her apartment opened and her fiancé walked in, scratching his head. She thought he looked as puzzled as she felt.
“Strangest thing... someone or something hit my car, but there were no witnesses.”
Shayla moved over to him, concerned. “Oh my... how bad is it?”
“Mostly cosmetic, but the windshield on the passenger side needs to be replaced. Funny,” he looked at her blankly, then back at the door. “I could have sworn that there should have been someone in here with you.”
The couple both looked at the couch, Shayla guessing that, like her, Richard was trying uneasily to shake the feeling that they were forgetting something important.

Tell us about your current release.

Unrequited is my first completed novel as well as my first published piece of writing. I put it up on Amazon August of 2011, so it's been nearly a year since its release. I'm currently working on a non-related high fantasy novel, but am still in the very early planning stages of that despite having, more or less, been working on it since about January.

The story to Unrequited is about two people who are drawn to each other that, on so many levels, are not meant to be together. Even more specifically it is speculation on the question “if you truly love someone would you really do what's best for them even if it goes against your own self interest?” When I first came up with that main concept of the book in 1997, I half-joked to a friend that I was planning on writing the anti-romance novel.

It reached roughly seven thousand words at that time before it was put aside. I didn't touch it again until about 2010.

Anyway, there's a hidden world behind our own, the world of Irrean. It's a place of pure will, where those who live there, the Others, can shape themselves and their home to meet their needs and desires. Others share experiences and knowledge with each other as they are all connected to each other and to Irrean itself. Interactions between humans and Others, any travel by one people to the world of the other, is forbidden.

Mason is an Other, but one who's living an existence of both self-exile and hiding, from his people and from Irrean, in the human world. He's been on Earth for a long time, but recently has fallen in love with a human woman named Shayla. From a distance, that is – he feels he is a curse upon any who know him, and refuses to contaminate Shayla's life with his nearness. And, besides, Shayla is happily engaged to a man she adores... and more than anything Mason wants Shayla to be happy.

Shayla's wedding is near and Mason has planned to move on, stop watching her, once she is married. But before that date can arrive events unfold that force him into her life, and their meeting, combined with horrors they find themselves facing, change both of their lives forever.

I think that's probably more than enough information about the story. :)

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

The simplest answer to that would be to say that a couple teachers in elementary school redirected my interests, and Marion Zimmer Bradley cemented it.

In more detail...

In grade school, from kindergarten until about fifth grade, I drew comic books. At the end there I had a “company”, as in I had collaborated with five other kids and we were drawing and selling comics to the rest of the kids in school... and it was that level at which the school itself shut us down as we were being “disruptive.” One of my favorite teachers actually had taken aside one of my cohorts and told him he was “wasting his time” on something “so meaningless.” That got back to me and crushed me. Then, in sixth grade for a small throw-away assignment in spelling class, I turned in about ten hand-written pages about a week late for what was supposed to be a one page story and it really impressed my teacher. Another student told me he overheard the one teacher talking to another sixth grade teacher about how she would have accepted that story much later because it was so good.

So, effectively, one teacher's condemnation of drawing comic books backed by a school's attempt to keep order followed shortly thereafter by effulgent praise of my non-drawn writing shifted my young focus from drawing to writing.

A high school writing class had me submit one of my stories to Marion Zimmer Bradley's magazine... it didn't get published, but I did receive a quite long and complimentary letter from Mrs. Bradley. It was personalized enough and encouraging enough that I decided, then and there, that I was probably a decent writer and maybe I could do it for a living.  

How do you react to a bad review of your book? 

Curiosity, mostly. I mean it certainly depends on the quality of the review, and as I only have the first novel out right now I'm rather short on the number of reviews to look at. But there have been negative critiques.

First off, you have to take it in stride. On the one hand no book is going to be loved by everyone who reads it. Not one. So it isn't the end of the world if some people don't like yours. If it's well-written, you like what your wrote and believe in it, then there's likely an audience out there for it. Finding that audience is key. Romance novel fans aren't likely to enjoy graphic horror stories, and Tom Clancy's audience isn't likely to react positively to J.R.R. Tolkien's work. You get crossover fans, surely, but my point is that people like different things and to write well you have to write your book the right way for the story you are trying to tell – and doing so will by default eliminate potential readers by simply being the kind of book those readers aren't likely to enjoy. You can't write a story for absolutely everyone, and the more you try the weaker and more watered down it'll become.

I've always rebelled at the notion of “writing to an audience” because often that was used to say you should look at what is popular and fit your work to the mainstream of the moment... but if you take it to mean that what you are writing fits a certain genre, even more importantly a specific sub-genre, that then you need to write the story so that it fits well into that style of story. It's the style of story you are already telling and you want the people who enjoy those kinds of stories to enjoy yours, after all.

Of course, even science fiction fans might like Clarke but hate Asimov, so even a paranormal romance fan who dislikes your paranormal romance novel doesn't mean it's bad – just that said fan didn't enjoy it.

Secondly, there are jerks. People trolling you. People who are jealous that you finished something, put something out there for others to criticize, that they are unable to do but, deep down, they really want to. Their critiques are usually very easy to spot – they are short, very generic, don't mention specifics of your story, and tend to use emotionally charged, ad hominem attacks on the work or you, the author. These it's best to just ignore and move on.

But back to the curiosity – I want to know what it is they didn't like. I had one person read my book, Unrequited, who said she couldn't get into it partly because I had a group of people referred to as “the Others” (generic, I know – it was meant to be, but yeah... generic) and to this reader the term was “owned” by George R.R. Martin via his A Song of Ice and Fire novels. I'd never read them, though I intend to at some point in the future (I really want to watch the HBO series, mainly, but also because David Gaider of BioWare said those novels were a big influence on one of my favorite computer role-playing games of the last decade or so, Dragon Age: Origins.) So I found that interesting.

I've had a few people tell me the beginning of the novel is much slower paced and feels really different than the rest... namely the part that is all of the Amazon preview plus maybe another chapter or so. And I've had a few readers tell me that the main female protagonist, Shayla, feels too “perfect” at the beginning as well. No “Gary Stu” mentions yet, which I'm happy about (I think that gets tossed out WAY too much), and so far other than a couple very undetailed Good Reads “reviews” my book has gotten very high praise.

I'd love a lot more critical reviews, however. You can't fix your mistakes if they aren't pointed out to you... and you grow as a person by learning from your mistakes, not by basking in praise. More reviews overall would be great. 

I'll take positive ones, too, you know, if people want to give them. 

If I came to visit early in the morning would you impress me as being more like a chirpy bird or a grumpy bear?

Grumpy bear. So very much not a morning person. My wife got me a t-shirt that reads “Keep out of direct sunlight.” So, yeah.

What would you consider to be the best book you have ever read? 

That's a tough call, but I'm going to bite the bullet and say The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I love that book, and Adams is my favorite author bar none.

What are your favorite TV shows?

Above all else, JMS's Babylon 5 is my absolute favorite TV series. The intricate story-arcs, the well fleshed-out characters, the focus on story-telling over big set pieces and action sequences... I cannot think of another show that comes close to the perfection that this little low-budget syndicated gem reached.

Closest to B5 would be Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've found in life that people either love or hate Whedon's dialog... me, I love it. The characters are strongly written, the themes of the episodes and seasons are strongly compelling, and some of my favorite characters in all of fiction come out of this series – Xander, Willow, Angel, Faith...

Following very closely behind BTVS is the Bruce Timm / Paul Dini animated series Justice League / Justice League Unlimited. I'm a comic book geek, and am not ashamed of my love of super-heroes. Cartoons (non-Japanese animated shows, at least) tend to not be a favored source of entertainment for me, however, since so many cartoons are clearly aimed solely at children. Timm and Dini did a great job with their TAS shows for Batman, Superman, etc., but I hadn't really watched them. Justice League, for whatever reason, hit at the right time to catch my attention. And it's easily better than most shows on television, period, in my opinion. Great plots, excellent characters, a serious show that never quite took itself TOO seriously – there isn't another super-hero series that comes even close to this, not even the recent crop of excellent Marvel movies.

To round this out I'll drop in an old favorite, a formative series for me – the Carl Macek “re-imagining” of three separate anime series, Robotech. This series, more than anything else, generated my interest in Japanese animation as an art form. But more than that it came at a time in my life where I was swearing off all animated works as being too childish. Understand that at the time I saw Robotech the contemporary cartoons on American channels were the likes of Care Bears, He-Man, G.I. Joe … and worse. Even an eight year old can notice and grow cynical about reused animation cells and sequences, not to mention people fighting with machine guns, missiles and even swords but no-one ever getting hurt. Robotech depicted a war in stark terms, and, while soap opera-y and science fiction, it was far more realistic than many live-action shows on prime time. People died. Relationships fell apart. Two-thirds of the way through the first third of the series the entire Earth is all but destroyed. To say I had never seen anything like that before would be an understatement. I understand there are anime purists who hate Macek and only will watch the original Macross, and that's fine... and I am painfully aware of how bad, at times, the dialog and story-telling can be in the series. But the overall experience is something that reaches a B5 level meaning to me.

What are you passionate about these days?

New media, methods of distribution, niche markets and creator – fan connections.

I've long been a fan of the internet and the world wide web, specifically how it allows people of similar, non-mainstream interests to get together and share what they love as well as how creators can have more control over their creations by targeting directly at niches that big publishers or investors would never think profitable enough to pursue. Web sites and forums were the start, followed by blogs and social media and the like – but now we are getting even more into it with sites like Amazon allowing authors to self-publish and sell with no real middle-man, and especially things like Kickstarter which allows creative people to raise money from their audience instead of from bean counters or other big money people looking at profitability and not final product.  Add to this the rise of interest in open source and Creative Commons, that rise being intricately tied to the internet I might add. Open source is based on the thought that if you allow more people access to the source code of programs then the programs can only get better, stronger, more robust as many, many minds work at fixing bugs and improving performance. And since open source let's ANYONE work with the code, everyone can profit from the efforts and works of everyone else. Creative commons, on the other hand, is sorta the anti-copyright... especially the kind of copyright espoused by corporations like Disney. People who create works and put it under Creative Commons are, in varying degrees decided by the creator(s), allowing others access to their work – free distribution sometimes, other times allowing people to alter or include the work in their own efforts with no financial gain, and some may even let others produce derivative works for profit as long as attribution is given. I firmly believe that a creative mind should stand on his or her work, not on popularity of one idea or by preventing others from also using his or her idea.

If you make a good product and let people sample it, many will still pay you afterward. Sometimes just because they appreciate what you made, and even more often because they want to support you in making more. I feel THIS is the model that truly creative works grow from... not the established model of publishers, focus groups, marketing and investors getting majority control.

Do you have a Website or Blog?

My author blog is There isn't much there yet as I tend to keep it only about my writing, but as I continue to work on my next novel more posts will appear there on a somewhat regular basis.

I do also run a genre entertainment website called In Genre at

Jay Merin has had a life-long love affair with fiction. He loves when a story can take him somewhere, make him feel, and he especially loves those moments when reading a book or watching a movie where something so amazing, so well-crafted, so moving happens that he has to stop and just bask in how great experiencing that moment was.

Jay wants to share that moment, to give that moment to others. He wants his stories to hook readers, draw them into fascinating worlds and make them never want to leave. In the end, if Jay can give one person out there one of those moments with his work he will consider himself a success. The more people who experience those moments the better, of course.

For a very long time he has written various different kinds of stories for a myriad of mediums, from comic books to movie scripts. But Unrequited is the first novel length work he has finished. It is a labor of love and he dedicates it to his family who supported him so much in making sure that it got finished.

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