“St. Polycarp’s Home For Happy Wanderers” is the sixth part of the Family Teeth collaboration you co-authored with your husband, J.T. Petty. Was transitioning from the previous story in the series difficult?
It was pretty natural. We’d both talked about which aspects of the story we planned to cover. I knew I’d be taking the story from the grown daughter’s perspective, while J.T. covered her father as a young man.
Did you decide on a strict blueprint of the narrative beforehand or just play off each other’s ideas as it progressed?
We shot around a lot of ideas, but it’s all just talk until it’s on the page. So I read what J.T. came up with, and started from there. I had a fair amount of freedom in where I took the story. It’s eight or nine parts, but each explores its own generation.
Werecoyotes are certainly one of the lesser known entities in the supernatural world. What made you want to pursue them for this project?
Coyotes are cool. They’re smarter than wolves, better at observational learning than dogs, and tend to survive even in places that are populated by humans. They’re also mean—their packs are small because they fight amongst each other. Finally, they can mate with wolves and dogs . . . maybe humans?
The characters in both stories can never quite get comfortable in their current situations. Why were they so self-destructive?
I don’t see my character as self-destructive. She’s a kid. That’s the tyranny of childhood. Adults do bad things to children and children have no choice but to tolerate it. When they grow up, they’re drawn to that same abuse, either by their own hand or someone else’s, because it’s what they know. I’d argue Susannah’s the opposite. She’s a survivor despite mammoth obstacles. That’s why I like her and felt she was worth writing about. She’s slowly worn down, but ultimately triumphs.
Your story is aesthetically different from your husband’s. Was that on purpose?
I wrote in my own voice and J.T. wrote in his own voice. I’m not sure how readers will like having to adjust to that, but we’re both such strong writers that it didn’t make sense for either of us to mimic the other. You lose something when you do that. Take the awesome Looper. Joseph Gordon Levitt tempers his natural charm in order to seem a little more like young Bruce Willis. The movie is so good it doesn’t matter, but I did find myself missing Levitt’s Fred Astaire brand of buoyancy. So, for Family Teeth, I’d rather hope the reader indulge in something less consistent, in exchange for a more interesting ride.
This is our first real collaboration—with the exception of a radio play for the Tales From Beyond the Pale series. He directed, and I wrote. This time, we both wrote. It was fun—the work came quickly and naturally. I’d like to do it more often, for bigger projects. So I’d love to hear peoples’ reactions, both what works and what doesn’t.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Nightmare Magazine has a short story coming out from me in a couple of months—my second. It’s a real treat to work with John Joseph Adams. He pays, he promotes, he edits, he’s respectful. It’s rare.
I’ve also got a story in the Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women. In addition, I’ve just finished a partial of a YA series called Kids, and over the next six months, should also have finished a screenplay called “Glen Cove,” a collection of short stories (We Have Never Lived Here), a partial adult science fiction series (Rapture), and my fourth adult horror novel, Empty Houses. So, those should be out in the next few years.