With me today is award-winning, bestselling author, Carrie Vaughn, who’s world’s encompass werewolves, superheroes, and girl fencers who lined up on pirate ships.
Carrie Vaughn: Thank you.
JMW: And congratulations on winning the WSFA Small Press Award for “Amaryllis” your new nominated short story.
You’re not excited about that at all, are you?
Carrie Vaughn: No. I’m super excited. I worried. It’s like [inaudible 00:48] speech going. I don’t know if people realize I really, really enjoy this. This is great. I mean, that story got so much attention. It got more attention than any other short piece that I’ve written. And it’s just been so gratifying.
And, the number of people who come up to me and talk about that particular story is just…
JMW: And did you know when you wrote it that it was going to explode, if you will?
Carrie Vaughn: I knew it was a little different than anything else I’ve ever done. I didn’t really know, but it’s like everything. I had hopes but I do with a lot of things that I write that don’t get that kind of attention. I had help. I have to give kudos to John Joseph Adams who actually asked me if I had a science fiction story to send him, which gave me the excuse that I needed to write it. And also [inaudible 01:43] who courageously, very graciously critiqued the first draft for me. And because I [inaudible 01:53] much encouragement and was able to really put some things in the story at a level I never really done before.
So I knew it was special when I wrote it but I think that about a lot of things. And you don’t know, you’re a writer. You know that you don’t know until it’s out in the world how people are
JMW: The question that struck me when I started reading “Kitty and the Midnight Hour” many, many years ago, where did you come up with the idea of a werewolf named Kitty?
Carrie Vaughn: Well, interestingly enough, if I go back to the very, very first draft of the first story, I don’t think her name was Kitty. It was something else but it was one of those things that the idea was in my brain and I kept turning it around and once I thought about calling her Kitty, I couldn’t possibly call her anything else. And it was just one of those, already the talk radio advice show idea was crazy to begin with and it was like well, if you’re going to go crazy go all the way. You don’t do something like this by half measure.
So of course I had to call her Kitty. But it’s thee only name that makes any sense.
JMW: I love the way that you took the standard view of the werewolf as the ultimate victim and turned it completely on its head with Kitty.
Was that part of your original conception of the book?
Carrie Vaughn: Maybe not necessarily in terms of the werewolf. It’s metaphoric, simple in its own but I wanted to tell the story of someone learning to stand up for herself and learning to be powerful. I didn’t want someone who was super powerful right out the gate.
And I wrote about werewolves because I felt they kind of gotten short- changed over the last 100 years in story telling. It’s always the beast within takes over, you can’t control yourself, you do horrible things, and then you die. And I thought let’s just get past that. Let’s assume that werewolves are okay and they can handle it and what stories can we tell then.
And then taking the pack structure, which is another different thing that I wanted to bring to the werewolf story. And if you got someone who’s at the top of the pack and someone who’s at the bottom and it progressed naturally in the course of telling the story and developing the story and it wasn’t something I necessarily consciously set out to do.
I really was just trying to tell this one person’s story and it got big very quickly and it got a lot bigger than I ever originally thought it would but it’s worked out very well. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on that. It’s turned out to be, struck a chord, I think.
JMW: Yes. As a military brat, I love the fact that I’m interviewing another military brat. But I always wondered, having grown up in the military, did growing up military influence the way you view pack structure, in your werewolf world?
Carrie Vaughn: Not really because I see those same structures replicated everywhere. I never thought of it as an exclusively military thing and when I do explicitly deal with the military in a lot of my writings, I tend to be really sympathetic to it and that’s just because I’ve seen from up close that the military is not a big model organization. It’s a lot of individuals doing lots of things with lots of different personalities and I try to treat it as such.
But on the other hand, the werewolf pack structure you see on sports teams, you see it in high school girl clicks, you see in the business world.
JMW: they are vicious.
Carrie Vaughn: Oh, yeah. It happens in the book story world. You get pecking orders absolutely everywhere and so for me the werewolf pack was kind of a amplification of that I think. It was just a way of kind of make it really explosive and then, dealing with it in a very explosive way rather than kind of having them following around.
I think, specially here in America, we like to think we’re all egalitarians so we tend to kind of smooth out some of those pecking orders as much as we can. But they’re there and we’re all dealing with them all the time.
JMW: Absolutely. But what fascinates me is you aren’t just staying in that urban fantasy universe. You expanded out to both YA in terms of “Steel” and several other, “Voices of Dragons”, I believe. And more importantly, you’ve gotten to superheroes.
How did “After the Golden Age” come about?
Carrie Vaughn: I’ve always loved superheroes. I grew up with Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman, and Superfriends cartoons, the Incredible Hulk, on and on and on. It was the golden age for superheroes in television and it was a great way to grow up.
I also grew up reading the George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series and I was kind of my introduction to prose and I’ve been reading all of them since High School and a few years ago I got the opportunity to write for them and that was just cool. That was a kind of a dream come true for me. So I wrote “The Wildcards” for a while and then I had a story I wanted to tell.
I kind of started with the cliché, which is the daughter of the superheroes who doesn’t have superpowers of her own. But I wanted to kind of follow that to its logical implications so I think you probably see a lot more of my military brat background in that one that in the werewolf ones because it’s a daughter grappling with her parents expectations, dealing with the reputation of her parents and trying to carve out her own space in this world that has been imposed on her. And it’s a family drama that just happens to superheroes and it is what it really is.
JMW: And dealing with the fact that you’re not sure if mommy or daddy are coming home.
Carrie Vaughn: Yes.
JMW: Because that’s a big thing that I think is universal for military children.
Carrie Vaughn: Yes. And something I realized from about ’82 to ’85, my father was stationed at [inaudible 08:02] Air Force Base and his job was piloting B-52’s and he was part of the nuclear mission. He was [inaudible 08:08]. And this is the same time that movies like “Red Dawn” and “War Games” and “Day After” all the post-apocalyptic craziness was going on. I was about 10, 11 years old and at the time it was normal and this is what is kind of bizarre to me now. It was completely normal. That was just the way things were. It was life, it was kind of cool. In family day I got to go play on the B-52, which how many kids get to say that. And that was really awesome.
And it’s only in my 20’s and 30’s when I’ve talked to other people about their childhood stuff, kind of like looking back, wow. That was really messed up.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.