About a month ago, I won an advance copy of Seanan McGuire’s Ashes of Honor, the latest in her October Daye series. (Read my review here.) I loved the book, and after I posted my review, I wrote to Seanan and asked her for an interview. To my delight, she agreed.
Seanan is the author of the October Daye and InCryptid urban fantasy series. In addition, as Mira Grant, she is the author of the Newsflesh trilogy of books, which I can only describe as “zombie politico-medical thriller.” I am thrilled to have her here on CC2K today.
How would you describe the October Daye books for someone who has never read them before?
Fairy tale noir. Veronica Mars meets the Brothers Grimm. It’s urban fantasy, but very grounded in both traditional folklore and modern snarky fiction.
Where did the idea for the October Daye books come from?
A trip to the Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Gardens. That’s part of why the Park has been such an important setting in several books.
What is your favorite thing about writing in Toby’s universe?
The familiarity, at this point. I’ve ‘lived’ there for over a decade, one way or another, and writing there is like going home.
One of the things I love about Toby’s world are the complex, vivid secondary characters, like Tybalt, May, and the Luidaeg. How do you develop your characters? Do you have a favorite supporting character?
There’s often this assumption that characters are developed or constructed? And I guess that’s true for a lot of writers? I don’t know. For me, they just show up, and there they are. I write what my brain gives me. Who my favorite is changes pretty much constantly, and frequently involves people no one else has met yet, so I’m going to take a pass on this one.
Last March you released Discount Armageddon, the first book in the InCryptid series about a family of cryptozoologists. What is a cryptid and how does one become a cryptozoologist?
A cryptid is any creature whose existence has not yet been proven by science. Right now, that means Bigfoot. In the past, it meant the Giant Panda, and the gorilla. Science marches on. To become a cryptozoologist, one decides to study things science insists can’t be real. And who knows? You might just be right.
Unlike most urban fantasy series, the InCryptid books focus on a family rather than an individual character. Why did you decide to go that route, and how has the experience of writing from that perspective differed for you?
Toby’s story is very limited: it’s her story. Other people come and go, but it’s always hers. The Price family, on the other hand…it would have been unfair to say that everyone’s story had to be filtered through a single person’s point of view. Changing narrators is a way to broaden the world, and give myself a lot more freedom. The books are still first-person, so the writing process is basically the same. I just change who’s talking every few books.
Who (or what) have some of your writing influences been?
Oh, the usual: Shakespeare, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Chris Claremont. The X-Men, Doctor Who, and most classic horror comedies have also had a lot of influence. I also try to take a lot of my work ethic from the Disney Imagineers.
You have a full time job, but (if my count is correct) you’ve also published three novels in the past year and your list of ongoing projects seems to keep growing. Aspiring writers everywhere want to know: how do you do it?
I neglect my social life, don’t sleep unless my body makes me, and have always written faster than most people. I will be honest: what I’m doing isn’t healthy. This is me trying to run far enough uphill that I can leave the day job behind before I collapse under the weight of my own imagination.
How does the writing process work for you? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you outline? Do you have a long-range plan for your series?
I’m a hybrid. I always have a long-range plan—I know exactly where things end—and I plot in very clear, coherent strokes. But I’m perfectly willing to let the story run away with me, if that’s what the story needs to do.
With the popularity of True Blood and Twilight, urban fantasy has become one of the hottest genres in the market today. What do you think it is that speaks to so many people?
Urban fantasy has always been an integral part of our culture. Once it’s had a few years to age, we call it ‘fairy tales.’ Seeing that magic and wonder—and yes, monsters and terror—can exist side-by-side with the modern world is important to our sense that everything is still as it was intended to be. There is always a deep dark wood. There will always be monsters.
Is there anything you can tease about your upcoming releases?
I try not to tease. I have two baby sisters, and when I tease them, I get sent to my room without dessert. It doesn’t seem fair.
Thank you so much for doing this interview, Seanan!
Thank you for having me!