Cherie Priest is an author who has tacked several sub-genres and been a huge influence anthem all. Her Clockwork Century took steampunk out of Victorian England, set it in the American West, and populated it with working class characters, which was not the norm in steampunk at the time. You can find my review of her young adult book, I Am Princess X, here. In Maplecroft, a book I adored, she pits Lizzie Borden and her axe against Lovecraftian monsters. Chapelwood brings Lizzie to Birmingham thirty years later, where strange things are afoot. You can find my review of Chapelwood on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Thank you, Cherie for finding time to do an email interview with Geek Girl in Love!
Your books have a strong Lovecraftian influence. Why is Lovecraft still so relevant and influential today?
Because although his social politics were sometimes wildly problematic, he consistently steered away from the worst of the horror tropes by making his protagonists competent, informed, and credible. Let me put it this way…there are two primary ways to make a story scary: You can make your protagonists weaker than the threat, or you can make the threat greater than the protagonists. Especially in the wake of the slasher flicks of the 80s/90s, modern audiences became accustomed to the former – and all too often that meant pretty young idiots getting mowed down courtesy of their own stupidity. But after a while, that wasn’t scary anymore. It was just messy. I think that’s a significant part of why the big horror bubble of yesteryear went bust.
Lovecraft, on the other hand, gave us characters who behaved in smart, reasonable ways that the audience couldn’t really fault. It’s easy to feel smug when the clueless loser dies in a squicky fashion – but it’s genuinely suspenseful and unsettling when the vehicle character behaves more like WE would, without making dumb decisions or rash choices. (Or so we’d like to think.)
Anyway, that’s my big takeaway from Lovecraft – to make the danger bigger instead of the characters weaker, and I think it’s a big component of his enduring appeal.
Did you know when you wrote Maplecroft that the sequel would take place 30 years later? What led you to such a huge time jump?
Honestly, when I wrote Maplecroft I wasn’t expecting to write another one, period. I really wanted it to be a standalone, but my publisher had other ideas. In the end, though – I’m quite pleased with how Chapelwood came out, even though it wasn’t part of my original plan. As for the time jump, I wrote it that way because I wanted the books to remain independent stories, for one thing; and for another, the Birmingham ax murders were really horrifying and interesting…and they happened to occur in the 1920s.
I felt that Maplecroft and Chapelwood were very different in tone and scope. Can you talk at all about how the books are similar and different, and why?
They’re both explicitly Lovecraftian, but they approach the mythos from two different angles. To oversimplify, much of Lovecraft’s horror can be divided into two camps: the oceanic, earthly horror (terror from below) – and the cosmic, outer space horror (terror from above/out there). Maplecroft draws inspiration from the former, and Chapelwood from the later.
Will there be any further books in this series? Warning: slight spoiler alert ahead!
There are none planned at this time, but I’ll never say never. If the books really take off, I’d be happy to pursue them further; thus the Chapelwood ending – where it is, I hope, clear that the Quiet Society will go on, and Ruth will be part of their future investigations. But ultimately, that’s up to the publisher and to the market. So…if you like the Lizzie books, recommend them to your friends! 🙂