Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Hillary Monahan?
An author, a queer woman, a basset hound enthusiast, a feminist, among other things. For the purposes of this interview, I’m a New York Times bestselling author of YA and adult horror under Hillary Monahan. I’ve received critical acclaim for my humorous YA under Eva Darrows, and I have three romances under Thea De Salle coming out from Simon & Schuster starting in February.
Your new novel, Gods & Monsters: Snake Eyes, was recently published by Abaddon. It looks rather cool: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?
It’s a modernized telling of the Lamia and gorgon myths set in the Everglades. We know what happened thousands of years ago, but let’s talk about what happens to immortals in a modern day when they are, for all intents and purposes, forgotten.
How does it fit into the overall Gods & Monsters series?
What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
Well, Dave at Abaddon said they wanted an overt feminist hand with the books and offered me the series. I was already a fan of the two previous authors, and interacted with them regularly on social media, so it was an easy sell. The inspiration for the book is as much the Greek Myths I based it upon as Mad Max: Fury Road. I walked out of that film feeling great; they featured women Hollywood historically overlooks and they portrayed them as brave. Pregnant women. Elderly women. Disabled women. The book is a direct result of that pride.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
I read Stephen King while I was still in single digit years. My parents are voracious readers and I read all sorts of crazy stuff thanks to their shelves. They figured if I was scared or confused by any of the adult material, I’d talk to them and we’d put it to bed. As such I had a solid backbone in King and Anne Rice when I was a pre-teen. It spiraled from there.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I love writing. Publishing itself is a bit of a soul suck. I’m doing alright, but I recognize it’s a business first and foremost, and unfortunately to this point it’s a business that’s catered to a very white, cis, hetero demographic. Trying to publish material that will actually represent the diverse world we live in isn’t always easy, especially considering the prevalence of cis hetero white women in agenting and acquisitions. Until we diversify the gatekeepers, authors trying to produce sensitive, accurate material will have a higher difficulty getting through the door.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
Not really beyond “I’m a pantser.” Very rarely do I write outlines unless I need to for the purposes of option material. I find I’m better in the hot seat, making it up as I go along. At any point in a book I may think of something way cooler than my original outline, and I like having the freedom to turn everything on its head on a whim.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
As I said, I love writing and I’ve done it for as long as I can remember. My grandmother was a professional writer, starting the Maxine line for Hallmark and working with people like Charles Shulz over the years. I grew up with her pecking at a typewriter, and we figured I had the “gene” when I won a writing contest in third grade writing about a ridiculous imaginary aunt who drove a pink Cadillac. I didn’t actually decide to go for the full authorial enchilada until about seven years ago, but the framework was already in place.
Do I look back on it fondly? Yes, I do. Very much so. It’s honorific of my grandmother, and she was my best friend.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
Genre fiction gets a bad rap. The moment something is deemed commercial or genre, there are the literary elite who’ll toss it aside like garbage. This is so ridiculous to me — people are reading! We should celebrate that. The qualities of fun and relatability shouldn’t make a novel less valuable, but more. So my opinion on genre is “give me more, give the audience more, and give it the recognition it deserves.”
Where do I fit into it? Who knows, but I can guarantee it’ll feature women being badasses. I’ve got a cowboy fantasy that’ll be coming out sometime soonish featuring your typical alpha male cowboy and his trans lady sidekick running from angry witches in the old west. I like to take tropes and turn them on their heads. I like to talk about the people books and films rarely spotlight. My place in genre might just be to fuck with genre’s status quo, honestly.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
2017 is a busy year for me. In February, my first romance comes out from Simon & Schuster called The King of Bourbon Street under Thea De Salle. It’s comedy porn. I set out to make you laugh. The sequels hit April and June. I’m working on the third in the series right now.
March sees Dead Little Mean Girl through Harlequin Teen, which is my deconstruction of the mean girl trope. September sees The Hollow Girl which is the book of my heart, if I’m being honest, and it’s out through Delacorte/Random House. It’s an older YA horror, about a Welsh Romani girl suffering an attack and having to do some terrible things to set the world right. This was the book my grandmother wanted to write but she passed away before she could get to it, so I did it in her stead.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I just finished Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and everyone should stop what they’re doing and go buy it right now. I loved it.
If you could recommend only one novel to someone, what would it be?
I hate questions like these. I always feel ill prepared. Okay, proooobably Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. It is the best character novel I’ve ever read, and I’ve read it five times, and while I’m not standardly a western fan, I sobbed and laughed reading this book and I still sob and laugh on rereads, so.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
That my grandmother was Welsh Romani diddicoy and a lot of the cultural practices portrayed in The Hollow Girl come straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Seeing my book babies on shelves. I wrote three books and content edited three other books this year. It’s been ridiculously busy, so the fruits of my labors will be nice to behold, I won’t lie.
Tanis Barlas is, in no particular order, a daughter of Lamia, a snake-woman, a killer and a hunter, collecting men to mate with her mother and continue the precious line. She hates it, like she hates her messed-up family and everything that goes with it.
And now Lamia’s favourite daughter has gone missing, and Tanis is sent into enemy territory – the snake-haired gorgons, whose turf starts at the edge of the swamp – to find her, starting a chain of events that will change every part of her life.
Her YA novel The Awesome is also out now, published by Solaris (as Eva Darrows). For more on the Hillary’s writing and novels, be sure to check out her website, and follow her on Goodreads and Twitter.