The wonderful Molly Tanzer’s astonishing Vermilion is out and you should read it. Yes, you should.
Set is the Wild Weird West, Publishers Weekly described it as “…a splendid page-turner of a Weird West adventure … this hugely entertaining mixture of American steampunk and ghost story is a wonderful yarn with some of the best dialogue around.”
Here, Miz Molly talks about killer cocktails, Mr Vampire, and the parenthetical lessons of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.
1. What do readers need to know about Molly Tanzer?
As my mother would say, “need is such a slippery word!” I’d certainly like readers to know that I’m a writer of short stories and novels, and that said fictions are available online and for purchase via various retailer and e-tailers—and that I think they will please anyone who like things such as historical fantasy, picaresque, Lovecraftiana (sometimes), gender-bending, genre-bending, and sexy times.
I’d also like them to know that I mix a killer cocktail.
2. What was the story/book that made you think ‘I want to write!’?
I have no idea! I remember getting really excited about learning about parentheses from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe?
When I was a kid, my father read to me every evening he was home, and I think that—along with seeing him and my mother reading almost constantly—instilled in me a love of story more than any specific, individual text. That most of these books were fantasy novels—the aforementioned chronicles of Narina, Prydain, etc. I believe contributed to my desire to write speculative fiction!
3. From whence came the inspiration for Vermilion?
All over the place! Certainly the seed was planted by the 1985 kung fu horror comedy Mr. Vampire, when I saw that in grad school. Moving out to Colorado, and seeing the amazing landscape at my doorstep set the scene, and I’ve had a lifelong obsession with quack medicine and dubious curative treatments. Since the novel is definitely a salad bowl of pretty much everything I like, it’s hard to pin down one thing!
4. Who is your favourite fictional villain?
Oh man, that’s so tough! Thulsa Doom, from Conan the Barbarian, is always foremost in my mind when it comes to excellently-drawn villains, but a recent re-watch of Avatar: The Last Airbender reminded me of how wonderfully wretched Azula is. Hannibal Lecter is also a strong contender, as is Bayaz from The First Law trilogy.
5. Who is your favourite fictional hero/heroine?
That’s even tougher! Right now I’m digging Antimony from Gunnerkrigg Court, and also Thorn Bathu from Joe Abercrombie’s YA series. Finn from Adventure Time?
6. Who were/are your literary influences?
Roald Dahl I’d definitely say was almost a primordial influence for me, and H.P. Lovecraft needs to be on there as if I’m known at all, it’s mostly for my Lovecraftian fiction. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of Carrie Vaughn and trying like hell to learn something from it… the Kitty the Werewolf books are great, but I’m most impressed by her Golden Age series. The writing is so buoyant, and her ability to write about human problems is astonishing. I’d also point at Jeffrey Eugenides… Middlesex is probably my favorite novel, and it haunts me, knowing someone out there wrote something so perfect.
7. You are allowed to invite five people, dead or alive, to a dinner party – who are they and why?
Thomas Day: I’d like to ask him all about his Pygmalion scheme to mold the mind of a child into that of an ideal bride.
Jane Austen: The opportunity to talk to one of my favorite authors, and ask her about my weird theories about her work, is irresistible.
Laura Ingalls Wilder: I’ve loved her books since I was a wee Tanz, and I’d love to talk about the ways her daughter edited the Little House books, and not only that, but I’d love to ask how close her novels really were to her life…
Roald Dahl: The man loved food, and loved to talk—I think it would be fascinating to spend a few hours eating with him.
Cheng Pei-Pei: I’d love to talk Hong Kong cinema and martial arts with her.
8. When you’re in the mood to read, who is your first choice? Do you have a favourite you re-read?
I’m re-reading The Secret Garden right now, which I re-read almost every spring. It’s a problematic novel but a fascinating one, and my edition, which has illustrations by celebrated muralist Graham Rust, is a joy to read as the leaves start to green.
I’m not sure who my first choice is when I’m just in the mood to read… I tend to read more fantasy than anything else, which is odd as I write horror. I also always seem to have a stack of my wonderful friends’ wonderful books that I’m perpetually behind on, so that’s always helpful when it’s time to make a choice!
9. What’s your favourite short story ever and why?
Very possibly “The Beautiful Gelreesh” by Jeff Ford. It’s so lush and delicious and sad. It’s so perfect as it is, and yet I wish it was longer. Reading it now I wonder if Bryan Fuller didn’t read it when he was conceptualizing the new Hannibal show. The Gelreesh is definitely Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter, dressed like the fop-werewolves from that one vignette in The Company of Wolves, by way of the Comte de St. Germain. So yeah, everything I like?
10. What’s next for Molly Tanzer?
My next novel, The Pleasure Merchant, is out this November from Lazy Fascist Press. It’s the story of the ambitions of a young wigmaker’s apprentice turned personal servant, so definitely in my usual picaresque mode, but I confess there’s next to no speculative element. It’s very loosely based on Thomas Day, who I alluded to above, and his quest to train a wife. But since no novel could ever be as good as Wendy Moore’s nonfiction book about it, How To Create The Perfect Wife, I just allude to the story.