Interview with author and poet MD Neu

MD Neu
MD Neu

Today, I welcome MD Neu to the blog. He and I met online a few months ago, while I was promoting my latest book, Life’s Little Things: The Quotes. We got along famously right away.

While I am not into science fiction, MD’s story and work struck a very positive chord. I hope you will feel the same way after reading this interview.

Cendrine Marrouat: Hello MD! Thank you for answering my questions. First, tell us about you.

MD Neu: Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.  I really appreciate you taking the time to host me on your blog.  So my name if Marvin Neu Jr. (my author name is MD Neu) I work for a nonprofit in San Jose, California and on nights and weekends I write.

My genre is Science Fiction, Paranormal and Fantasy stories. My debut short story is coming out in December 2017. My debut novel will be released in January 2018.

As a child and as an adult I’ve been obsessed with Science Fiction (Star Trek & Star Wars), Disaster movies (Earthquake & Airplane), and Paranormal/Fantasy movies (Poltergeist & Lord of the Rings). As a gay man I bring a very different view to traditional Science Fiction, Paranormal and Fantasy stories. I’ve also spent some time in theater and it showed me a way to express my creativity, which has impacted my view of the world, my day job and my writing.

I’m happily married to my biggest supporter and my harshest critic, Eric.  We love to travel and these experiences have been integrated into my writing and have certainly freed my imagination in ways I never thought it could.  

Living in West Germany, as an exchange student, before the fall of the Berlin Wall was quite possibly one of my most exciting adventures and today I know that it is what started my love of travel and writing.

I hope that paints a picture of who I am.

CM: You are a poet and author. When did everything start for you? What’s your story?

MDN: I’ve been writing for years.

I really started writing during my time as a foreign exchange student in West Germany. I kept a journal of my trip and it included poems and random writing about what I saw. When I got home I continued to write and keep a journal. It was a way for me to explore my feelings and to grow to understand that I wasn’t like everyone else.

During my active and emotional twenties, I wrote tons of poetry.  Some of it I think is good (what I post on my blog) and some of it was horrible.  All of it was to help me process and allow me to explore what I felt in a safe way.  Also, during this time I started dabbling in writing stories. I have a lot of started works from that time, but only one came to anything and that is the Sci Fi story I’m currently working on.

Anyway, now I try and write every day. Sometimes, it’s for the TV show, it’s poetry, my blog, sometimes it is some new crazy idea, but mostly it’s for my various works in progress.

CM: You blog regularly. Do you find the writing process different from the rest?

MDN: The process of writing a blog is completely different than any of my other writing because I don’t always know what my blog will be about until a week before, or when I start writing it. So there isn’t any planning.

I love it.  I can write about things I love; travel, cooking, writing, reading, author interviews, life, etc. In a way it’s kind of like my journal (my edited public friendly journal).  

CM: Let’s talk about your other projects. I am especially interested in learning more about Change Lives for Good. This monthly half-hour cable show tackles important topics around poverty with host Gregory R. Kepferle and a variety of guests. You write the scripted informational segments. How did you get involved in the project?

MDN: I got involved was a few years back. Our Chief Communication Officer, for my non-profit day job, came to my office.  She sat across from me and said, “I talked to Greg and you’re going to help me with our new agency TV Show.  You have a theater background and it will be perfect.”

It turned out to be a seamless fit in that I’m creative and bossy (two of my favorite things). I drew on my past experiences and created the set, helped create the shows music with a composer I know, do all the makeup and scripted segments.

The show is called Change Lives for Good. Poverty and the hard work of getting people out of poverty isn’t very sexy, but it’s important to get these stories out there and I really love it.  I also created the ending tag line, “… and remember until next time to speak up, reach out, and change lives for good.

Between the Chief Communication Officer and I, we do it all.  We have help of course from the great people at CreaTV and we couldn’t do it without them.

This show is something I’m very proud of.

The first couple of episodes were rough, but we learned and we all relaxed and it has  morphed into something I’m completely in love with and thrilled to be a part of.

I joke about how it all came to pass but it reminds me how lucky I am to have the life I have today; good education, a house and good job. I also see every day the pain and suffering associated with poverty and feel privileged to be able to help in anyway I can.

CM: Which show has impacted you the most so far? Why?

MDN: All the shows are special to me, because I work on each one. I love when we go on location and get to chat with people like the Mayor, Board Supervisors, and other Executive Directors of nonprofits.  

However, if I had to pick one. We did this episode on location at one of our partner agencies’ (Charities Housing Development Corporations) housing complex.  The episode was about affordable housing and homelessness in the Silicon Valley.

Greg Kepferle, the CEO of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, interviewed a former Vietnam Vet. He and his wife became homeless after he took earlier retirement.  They lost their home because their rent got too expensive.  So, here is this man, a military vet, who worked all his life and got priced out of his apartment and ended up on the streets with his wife and dog.  It was awful. I remember being angry and frustrated when I heard his story.

Look, I get it, not everyone wants to follow the rules and they choose to live on the streets, but this wasn’t that couple.  Homelessness is a monster of a problem and there are no easy solutions.

Anyway, the couple won the housing lottery, which is how competitive it is for housing, they got an apartment in a Charities Housing affordable housing project.  It was such a powerful episode–one I don’t think I could forget. One I believe people should watch.

CM: In your bio, you say that you “always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who {you were as a gay man}. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, {you} decided {you} wanted to change that.” Your goal is to tell good stories that reflect our diverse world. How do you achieve that? And how has your work been received so far?

MDN: Oh man, I knew those words would come back to bite me in the butt.

When I decided to start writing, really write, I wanted strong characters that anyone could relate to, but just so happened to be gay. The gay wasn’t the focus.  I wanted to see gay characters attack the Death Star and blow it up.  I wanted to see an Officer on the bridge of the Enterprise who had a partner on ship. I wanted to see a gay couple have to deal with a paranormal attack on their family, and have to flee in the night with their kids, as coffins blew up out of the ground around them.  I wanted to see a gay character go on a quest to save the realm from an evil demon lord.  I wanted to see a gay character be cheered for in the theaters and no one bat an eye at the fact that the person they were saving wasn’t someone of the opposite sex. I wanted to see real gay people living in these worlds.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s when you would hear the passing joke about ‘gay’ this or that but there were no openly gay men or women on TV or in the movies. Star Trek was off the air and Star Wars showed us an exciting universe. But again no gay people and not a lot of diversity. Now, I can’t complain too much. I saw a lot of people who looked like me, but as I got older and I started to realize that I wasn’t interested in girls, I didn’t see any other options.

Then AIDS hit and I remember hearing how gay equaled AIDS and that didn’t sound very good. What does ‘gay’ stand for?  Got AIDS Yet.  Ugh, that was a joke that went around school.  It bothered me then and it bugs me now.

However, what AIDS did do for society, after thousands of gay men died, was to give us tragic gay characters and it stayed that way into the 90s.  It was big news when a TV show or movie would have a gay character or a gay kiss.  And Sci Fi forget it. Star Trek: The Next Generation didn’t have a gay character.  Nor did Babylon Five.  There was a big fat void of people who I could relate to in the only world I related to and loved.  And the people who did reflect me all were tragic characters or comic relief.

Sure there were art house films that started to come out and I ate these up.  But still in Sci Fi, or Paranormal, or Fantasy there wasn’t much.

In my stories, I try and show a mix of characters who are good, bad, straight, gay, trans, etc.  Although I haven’t released anything yet with a trans character, but I’m working on it.

In my upcoming novel coming out in January, The Calling, the main character is a nerdy shy, not very attractive gay man.  In my upcoming short story scheduled for release in December, A Dragon for Christmas, the main character is an eleven-year-old Latina lesbian.  In one of my works in progress the main character is an asexual being and another is a Drag Queen and in another I’m working on, it’s about a gay man who is married and lives a normal life until Aliens arrive.

When it comes to the reception of my works, so far the people who have read them (mostly my publisher and my writers group) they have loved the characters.  I remember one of my writers group members telling me, after he read a very emotional scene, that he didn’t know how to explain to his boss why he was sitting in his office crying.  The reader was heterosexual and was devastated by what happened to a gay character in the story.  That was amazing.  The character isn’t tragic, it was just an emotional point in the story.  So, I hope my work continues to be received like that.

CM: What do you think is the role of an artist in this world?

MDN: Artists remind the world of what and who we “really” are. All of us.  Artists don’t censor for good and / or bad – and in my case my art is my stories.  They show the world, as we see it and in cases, help people not feel so alone.  

Maybe one of the goals is connection.  We show people the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, what can be, and what should never be.  Artist start dialogues and that is part of what I want to do.

CM: Your next two books will be released in a few months. You must be excited! Tell us briefly about them.

MDN: This is truly a dream come true. I can’t thank NineStar Press (my publisher) enough. I still can’t believe it, it doesn’t seem real.

My short story, A Dragon for Christmas, is about a Latina girl, Carmen who has been cursed from a young age. She needs a Dragon to help her fight off the curse so she can stay alive.

In the story I wanted to see the world through the eyes of a child.  A child who, at the age of 11, knows she’s going to marry her best friend Mattie, another girl. Her gayness isn’t an issue. However, her mother does comment on it. But the focus is the curse, not who Carmen will marry when she grows up.

How many lesbian Latina characters have you seen?  I haven’t seen any, and I wanted to make people aware that gay is cross-cultural, gender and economics.  I want a young Latina Lesbian to have a hero who is like her. Someone she can root for.  I want her to go hand in hand with Carmen on her adventure and to know that she isn’t alone.

In my novel, The Calling, Duncan is an average Joe. He has a few friends but no love life and he works in a dead end job.  Until he comes to the Bay Area for a vacation and he is introduced to the world of Immortals.  

I mentioned earlier about how I wanted to see gay characters having exciting adventures, well this is that story.  Everyone can relate to feeling invisible.  Everyone can relate to wanting something more from life but not knowing what it is.  Duncan isn’t a super model, he’s not one of the beautiful gays we get to see on TV or in movies.  People need to see and realize that he’s like most people, like them.  Why can’t he, and by extension other normal everyday people, have an adventure?  So, in the book he does, he gets the adventure of a lifetime and he learns a lot about himself along the way.

It is my goal to make people aware of how we are all different and yet the same. That yes, these characters are gay, but when it comes down to it, they are just like you and me.  

I hope my writing shows the world as we are; a mix of every color, shape, religion, size, sex, and sexual identity.

CM: Anything else you would like to add?

MDN: I want people, when they read my work, to relate to the characters.  To be able to see themselves in the world that I have created. It’s like with the TV show Change Lives for Good.  We show the world as it is, warts and all, and that is what I want to do.  Well maybe not the warts, but I think you get my meaning.  

To learn more about MD Neu’s work, visit http://www.mdneu.com/

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