It was great to get a chance to chat with Seanan McGuire, author of Sparrow Hill Road, the October Daye series, and the InCryptid series. In this interview we talked primarily about Sparrow Hill Road, and she gave some insights into this book. I love getting an author’s perspective on her own book because it can be so illuminating.
Zen: Rose’s story begins with her death. That has to change a great deal about your approach to writing the story. Did you find anything particularly difficult in writing about a dead character?
Seanan McGuire: Actually, it was very freeing in a lot of ways. The worst thing that most people can do to a character is kill them. Well, Rose is already dead. So what do I have left to threaten her with? It was occasionally hard to keep her from seeming too callous—after all, why should she worry about preserving the living? She’s doing just fine among the dead.
Zen: Rose’s life ended in the 1950’s. Do you have an affinity to that era, or was it simply a matter of doing the math fifty-ish years back from modern day?
Seanan McGuire: It was mostly about the math. I’m a big fan of the modern era. Things are slowly getting less awful, and I really appreciate that, even as the ongoing awfulness makes me want to hide under my bed.
Zen: One of my favorite things about this book is how its structure mimics Rose’s existence. It’s non-linear and episodic. Most stories rely on a linear construct to tell their stories but you didn’t have that luxury. What was your process for deciding how her story would unfold?
Seanan McGuire: Amusingly, it was the origin of the book. Sparrow Hill Road was initially published in serial form, in a magazine called The Edge of Propinquity. It’s been heavily edited and revised since then, but those original stories sort of locked me into a very serial format. And then I just figured out when the big things would fall based on what would leave me with more story to tell.
Zen: The Maggy Dhu/Scooby Doo scene had me laughing out loud. Did you plan the humor in Sparrow Hill Road to lighten the grim elements, or is humor an intrinsic part of your writing style?
Seanan McGuire: Humor is a very intrinsic part of how I do things. I tend to laugh at danger, and then run away as fast as my legs will carry me.
Zen: The holidays are approaching. How does that impact your ability to do your multi-faceted job as a writer? Please tell me you have all the answers on how to manage doing everything. 😉
Seanan McGuire: It helps that this is my full time job now, and that I’m not a big party person—I never really have been. I make to-do lists for every day, and I get through them one item at a time. Sometimes it takes morning to night, but as long as it happens, I know I’ll be okay. I also try to make sure I never commit to more than I can handle.
Zen: Finally, since it wouldn’t be a WomenOfBassery interview unless I said the word “badass” a few times, who are your favorite female badasses in movies, film, or even real life?
Seanan McGuire: I have a huge soft spot for Starla Grant, in Slither, Alice Abernathy, in the Resident Evil movies, Emma Frost of the X-Men, and Megara, from Disney’s Hercules. Oh, and Sgt. Calhoun, of Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. I am very straightforward in my heroism.