How did this story start for you, in terms of inspiration, first thoughts, and so on, and how did it develop?
The Bolton Strid is a real place that really exists and I really want to go there, except for the part where I am a fairly clumsy person and I would very shortly be swept away forever, and my friends would miss me. So the story started with the Strid.
Regardless of the date posted at the outset of the story, there are cues in the language that go far to establish setting and culture. Some are quite elegant while still capturing the feeling of the era, such as: “The current was my immediate companion.” Even in the opening line: “We have traveled here . . .” evokes not only the period but the adventure. Do you do any specific research or preparation when writing in this sort of style/voice? Do you have advice for writers attempting narratives in similar styles?
Read a lot of works published in the era you want to emulate. That’s how I do it, and how I will continue to do it, because gosh, it’s fun to read things that come off as “archaic” but were once the norm.
While focused on the adventure and very enjoyable as an adventure story, the narrative also deals a lot with gender. Are there specific challenges to writing a female protagonist in this time period? And how do you deal with those challenges?
I sort of . . . ignore most of the challenges that common wisdom will say exist, because I can. I’m telling a fantasy story about a river, I think I can roll with “I would have wanted to read this story with a female protagonist when I was a kid, so I’m going to write it now.”
I feel like one of the side effects of the story is that while I’m reading it, I’m like, okay, this aspect of gender actually hasn’t changed that much. All right—we still really struggle with this. It’s like a measuring stick or a touchstone for comparing gender equality in two different eras. Is this a happy accident, or did you set out to write an awesome adventure story that also makes people think? Is it important to address social issues in fiction—or can a story sometimes be “just a fun story”?
Happy accident. I almost always write female protagonists, because they make me happy, and sometimes this, combined with the setting, will make my story read more like it’s addressing social issues. Which I also do, but in this case, I just wanted to drown some people.
I didn’t realize this until I looked up our last Lightspeed spotlight interview, for “Dragonflies” (Issue 84, May 2017), but that story also featured a character named Molly. Coincidence? Or . . .?
I like the name Molly! You will also find a lot of Elizabeths and Alexes in my work.
Since I brought up our prior interview, I’d be remiss in my duties as interviewer if I failed to query on the progression of the Poképocalypse (Pokémon Apocalypse), and more importantly, the quest to catch them all, and your cause to train them?
The quest . . . continues. The quest shall never end.
For people who loved this as a great adventure story featuring a female protagonist, do you have any recommendations for other adventure stories they should check out? If this is their first Seanan McGuire story and they loved it, what do you think they should read next?
Not in quite the same vein, era-wise, but check out Ruthanna Emrys’s incredible Mythos stories, beginning with “The Litany of Man” and continuing into Winter Tide, and Becky Chamber’s exquisite Wayfarers series, beginning with The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. If this was someone’s first encounter with me, well, there’s a lot to read in this very magazine’s archive—gasp!—or they can start my novel-length work with either Rosemary and Rue, Discount Armageddon, Sparrow Hill Road, or Every Heart a Doorway.
You post updates on forthcoming works, appearances, and so on at your site: bit.ly/2OkpcOP. And cat pics and more can be found on your Twitter feed: @seananmcguire. Is there anything coming up or anything you’re working on that you’d really like new fans to know about?
Oh, gosh! I have my first big literary fantasy novel coming up, Middlegame, releasing in May of 2019, and I am so excited for it, and I hope everyone will give it a try. It’s my weird baby, and I adore it, and I really hope everyone else will adore it, too.
Spread the word!