Friday, December 17, 2010

Author Interview: Martin Millar - On lonely werewolf girls, vampire slayers, and the peril of wrestling Elizabethan playwrights

Recently, I had the extreme good fortune to interview one of my favorite authors, Martin Millar. What follows is a rare treat. He was able answer my thirteen questions in a way that makes them seem as though they were actually intelligent, worthwhile queries. Though this is solely due to Martin's quick wit, I do not hesitate to take full credit for the quality of this interview.


MT: First, an easy one. Which of these Internet created holidays do you prefer, "Talk Like A Pirate Day" or "Speak in Third Person Day"? And please demonstrate how one might ask for directions to the rest room on your chosen day.

Martin: Speaking in the third person would probably take less effort than talking like a pirate. All these 'Arrhh me hearties' would wear me out. Third person wouldn't wouldn't be that difficult to manage - 'Could you please show Martin to the rest room? He's in need of some freshening up.'

MT: The title of this blog is Werewolf Kibble, which is a reference to the things werewolves eat, such as tacos, ham sandwiches, small mammals, disagreeable vampires, and the occasional bowl of miso soup. I make no secret of the fact that Lonely Werewolf Girl is my favorite werewolf novel. While everyone else in the literary and film industries is neck deep in vampires, what is it about werewolves that captured your interest?

Martin: The first thing I thought of was the title, Lonely Werewolf Girl. The phrase was enough to get me interested. It started me wondering what a lonely werewolf girl might be like. It also struck me that, in obvious contrast to her loneliness, I could also write about a lot of other werewolves in a social setting, namely a clan, which was ideal for setting part of the book in Scotland, which I was also pleased to do. The book very quickly became a large saga, because of the amount of characters, and I liked that too.

I think werewolves have the capacity to be more human than vampires, which for me is more interesting. But really, the driving force was mainly that I thought I could write a good book about werewolves, whereas I'd have a difficult time coming up with anything original to say about vampires. I doubt I could come up with a better vampire than Spike.

I've never really seen why werewolves would necessarily be savage killers, unable to control their emotions when they change into werewolves. That doesn't really seem to follow along logically to me. I thought it quite likely that werewolves could manage to fit in with the rest of society, which most of my werewolves attempt to do.

MT: I have it on good authority that you are both a Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Spongebob Squarepants fan. Please rank these characters in order of who you would most want on your side in a barroom brawl:

Angelus, Patrick Starfish, Faith, Larry the Lobster, Squidward Tentacles, and Joyce Summers.

Martin: Faith - she's really tough and maybe we could go on a date afterwards. In fact, Faith was sexually aroused by fighting, and once practically dragged Xander into bed after she'd been involved in some violence, so she'd obviously be a good person to be in a fight with. Faith was so attractive. As, of course, is Eliza Dushku.

Angelus - Also tough, though I wouldn't want to be friends afterwards. I never really loved Angel as a TV show.

Patrick Starfish - he's practically invulnerable. I've seen terrible things happen to him in the cartoon and he just bounces back every time.

Larry the Lobster - He does weight training, but I don't think he's got the stomach for a fight.

Squidward - I sympathise with his intellectual leanings and artistic endeavours, though I can't see him being that much help in a fight.

Joyce Summers - Does have some hidden toughness - she did hit Spike with an axe on one occasion - but she was never that attractive a character.

(But really, we're missing the best option from SpongeBob - Sandy the underwater Squirrel. She's really tough)

MT: Through a twist of space and time, imagine you met William Shakespear in a pub one evening. After the inevitable wrestling match (It is a known fact that Shakespear had a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu and liked to demonstrate his wrestling prowess in an attempt to impress the ladies whenever possible), which of your books would you suggest to the Bard for a rainy weekend read?

Martin: I'd be wary of wrestling an Elizabethan playwright, it could be dangerous. Christopher Marlowe ended up being stabbed through the eye. And in those days, in the shadowy theatrical and literary world, you never knew who might be a government spy.

I'd suggest to William Shakespeare that he never, ever looked at any of my books, so as he'd never know how inferior my writing was to his.

MT: What is the next book in your own "to read" pile?

Martin: Epictetus - Discourses and Selected Writings. Epictetus was a Greek stoic philosopher in the 1st century AD.

MT: The characters in Lonely Werewolf Girl and Curse of the Wolf Girl listen to an eclectic mix of music. If I were to sneak a peek at your current music playlist, what would I find?

Martin: T Rex, Slade, David Bowie - various English glam artists from the 70s. Also I listen to classical music on the radio.

MT: A friend told me that an open can of Guinness will draw leprechauns out if you have an infestation of the little buggers. Have you found this to be effective?

Martin: Well, this is more of an Irish question than a Scottish one, I have no real expertise in Leprechauns. Guinness may work in Ireland, but it would be an alien substance in Scotland, and might produce unforeseen consequences.

MT: If you could write a tale featuring any character at all, what character or characters would you write about? (Doctor Who episode, Batman comic, Sherlock Holmes story, Bleach story arc, Great Expectations sequel, etc.)

Martin: I'm having trouble answering this. Nothing comes very strongly to mind. I think I may have outgrown the enthusiasm I once had for many characters. Although I would still like to write a Buffy story.

To answer a slightly different question, if i was a writer at another time, I'd like to have been an Athenian playwright at the time of Aristophanes.

MT: In 200 years, a literature class is studying the collected works of Martin Millar / Martin Scott. What is the title of that course?

Martin: Minor Scottish Authors

MT: In Lonely Werewolf Girl, the title character is rude, brooding, self loathing, insecure, and neurotic, yet she still comes across as quite lovable. What was your inspiration for Kalix MacRinnalch, exiled daughter of the werewolf ruling family?

Martin: All of the rude, brooding, self loathing, insecure, and neurotic women I've had relationships with.

But seriously. She is just a figure from my own imagination. She has no real inspiration. However, most of her problems, neurosis and addictions are based on those of various people I've known.

MT: I love Anarchy in the U.K. by the Sex Pistols and I love the U.S. rock band Motley Crue. The Motley Crue cover of Anarchy in the U.K., however, makes me want to jam chopsticks in my ears. Why is that?

Martin: It just wasn't a suitable record for Motley Crue to cover. I think it was too far away in style and culture for them to understand it properly. Motley Crue singing about girls in LA is fine. There, they know what they're talking about. But Motley Crue trying to do justice to a record which really depended on it's 70s background of poor London council estates, strikes, inflation, and so on, filtered through the Sex Pistols' childhood in a country still affected by the post war poverty of the 50 and 60s, and then filtered again through the early 70s English music of The Faces, pub rock, and glam rock, was a big step too far for Motley Crue to manage.

Actually, Motley Crue make a spirited start in their version, but quickly run into trouble because they can't resist adding in flashy guitar solos. This is something you really can't have in 'Anarchy in the UK,' it destroys the whole concept of the record. After listening to Anarchy in the UK for the first time, you're meant to feel that you can immediately start your own band and make music, even if you don't know yet how to play an instrument. That feeling vanishes if the record is blighted with complicated guitar solos.

By extension of the above, listening to Anarchy in the UK can also make you feel that you can also go and write your own books, something it did for me.

MT: What is next for you on the writing front?

Martin: A Graphic novel set in ancient Greece, and probably a third werewolf book about Kalix.

MT: (In lieu of writing a response let the record show that I just did a backflip with a double twist at the mention of a third Kalix book. Hooray and ouch.) In closing, here is your chance to either reinforce or dispel a widespread stereotype about Scottish cuisine. Have you ever consumed a deep fried Mars candy bar and, if so, is it as wonderful as I imagine it would be?

Martin: No, I'd be scared to try it. I moved to London a long time ago, and while I remember Scotland as keen on it's deep fried fish and chips, I don't think the mania for frying such things as mars bars had arrived when I still lived there. I understand that anything can now be deep fried in Scotland, from chocolate to pizzas, but I've never tried any of this. It all sounds like a very bad idea to me, but I am ridiculously picky about the things I eat. My relationship with food is strained at the best of times, so I couldn't go around risking dangerous items like deep-fried mars bars.

MT: Thank you very much, Martin. On a scale from Angel Season 4 to Buffy Season 2, I rate this interview a Buffy Season 2 all the way.

Martin Millar is a critically acclaimed Scottish writer from Glasgow, now resident in London. He also writes the Thraxas series of fantasy novels under the pseudonym Martin Scott. He won the 2000 World Fantasy Award for the first book of the Thraxas series.

Connect with Martin on Twitter, his blog, and his website. Also, don't forget to pick up Lonely Werewolf Girl and Curse of the Wolf Girl.

If my endorsement isn't enough for you, see what a gentleman named Neil Gaiman has to say about Martin in the introduction he wrote for The Good Fairies of New York. Apparently, Mr. Gaiman dabbles in writing, too.

1 comment:

  1. A most excellent interview.

    I'm a huge fan of Martin's work and Lonely Werewolf Girl is my favourite book of recent years. I love the universe he's created and the unique and wonderfully weird characters that populate it. I have all of his books now and am gradually making my way through them.

    Like Martin I'm also a huge Buffy geek, which is something I didn't find out about him until after I read LWG. I love how he says in your interview that he'd like to write a Buffy story. I'd kill to read that. He should drop Dark Horse a line and volunteer to write something for the Season 9 comic. How bloody brilliant would that be?