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Vanessa Len Books In Order

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Publication Order of Monsters Books

Only a Monster (2022)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Vanessa Len
Vanessa Len is an Australian writer of Maltese and Chinese-Malaysian heritage. Since she is an educational editor, she has worked on everything from language learning programs to STEM resources, to professional learning for teachers. She is a graduate of the Clarion Workshop in San Diego, and lives in Melbourne.

Vanessa was originally inspired by the feeling when the hero of a story is not necessarily the hero of your story. While she was growing up, there was not a whole lot of representation of people that looked like her in the huge blockbuster action films and television series that she loved. However she did occasionally see herself represented in the ‘bad guys’ of the stories. She would notice that sometimes Asian characters would show up just for the fight scenes.

She has a line in “Only a Monster” about how in films, the camera follows the hero after all the bad guys have been killed. However she knows that in her own experiences, she can find herself highly aware of the few people that look like her onscreen and in books, which sometimes means being aware of folks lying dead on the ground while the camera moves away.

So the first seed for the story was that feeling when some hero, maybe even an upright, good, and decent hero, ain’t necessarily on your side; when they are fighting against you instead of for you.

She wrote the novel for her teenage self, and included a bunch of archetypes and tropes that she loves (heists, a magical underworld, enemy soulmates, and time travel). And as she grew up, she had always wished that she could read about characters that sounded and looked like her having exciting and big adventures, so she created a main character with a similar background to her own.

The book started life at a dinner with some of her friends. They had gotten onto the topic of writing, and it turned out that they had each been thinking about writing novels. They all made a pact to do it, and “Only a Monster” is only one of the novels which came out of this dinner. Two were published in 2021: “Dark Rise” by C.S. Pacat and “She Who Became the Sun” by Shelley Parker-Chan.

She also did a six week live in writing workshop in San Diego called Clarion. A bunch of her favorite writers attended it, and Karen Joy Fowler, one of Vanessa’s all time favorites was an instructor the year she went. The idea is that you write a short story every week for these six weeks, as you also critique everybody else’s work. She learned a lot from all of the talented writers all around her.

Before she began writing the novel, she did a lot of work, years of it, developing her characters, their backstories, the world, and even the rules of time travel. The premise for the story had come first, as she always knew that this would be about a monster fighting some monster slayer. However then she had this huge world inside her mind, and she had to figure out how she could put all of it into a novel in the form of a coherent story.

She studied the hero’s journey, which she had believed would be the most interesting structure for a monster protagonist. It helped her a lot to put it all in order, and to weight all of the paradigm-shifting and emotional “moments” that she had imagined while she developed the characters’ relationships and this world.

Vanessa also loves moments of reframing, so she overlaid a structure of revelations, a series of things which you learn about a world and the characters which alters your understanding of them.

She’d initially believed that she was writing a single, stand alone novel, because she had never written a novel before, and she was such a sweet summer child. She quickly learned that you are only able to fit so much story into a single novel.

Vanessa was also lucky enough to get the chance to go to London before the pandemic. She had already written the majority of the novel by that point, and visiting these settings in person was both strange and yet amazing. She had spent so much time exploring London through Google Street View, and imagining the characters in these settings, that it sometimes felt as though she was walking around in her own head.

She loves young adult books, because characters often experience things for the first time (first grief, and first love) and through these experiences they can adapt, change, and grow, and she finds these change arcs interesting to explore.

“Only a Monster” is the first novel in the “Monsters” series and was released in 2022. It should have been the perfect summer. Joan, age sixteen, is sent to stay with her late mom’s eccentric family in London and she is determined to enjoy her time. Joan loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when Nick, her super cute co-worker, asks her out on a date, it feels like everything is beginning to fall right into place.

However she quickly learns the truth. Her family are not only eccentric: they are also monsters, and have these hidden and horrifying powers. And Nick is not just some cute boy, but a legendary monster slayer that will do anything he has to in order to bring them down.

While she battles against Nick, Joan is forced to work with Aaron Oliver, ruthless and beautiful, who is the heir to a monster family which hates her own. She will be forced to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to ever save herself, and her monster family. Because in this story, she is not the hero.

“Only a Monster”, with pacing that will leave you breathless, introduces a captivating new voice in fantasy with a dynamic story which blurs the lines between monster and hero. Heart wrenching and mind bending, so don’t feel all that bad if this novel tricks you into actually rooting for the monster rather than the hero. Vanessa has penned a masterful debut novel, and readers loved the star crossed romance, the time travel, and all the monsters.

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