Exclusive Interview: Creatures Of Want And Ruin Author Molly Tanzer
In the following email interview, writer Molly Tanzer discusses her new novel, Creatures Of Want And Ruin (paperback, Kindle), her follow-up to 2017’s Creatures Of Will And Temper.
Photo Credit: ©️Max Campanella
To start, what is Creatures Of Want And Ruin about, and how does it connect to the previous book, Creatures Of Will And Temper?
Creatures Of Will And Temper is set around 1890 in London; Creatures Of Want And Ruin takes place nearly 40 years later, and in the United States. Specifically, on Long Island, a setting I chose not only because of its rich place in American literary history, but because it’s where all my family is from. I used to go there in the summers as a kid, to visit my grandmother and grandmother, who lived in a little village most people haven’t heard of, called Amityville. Ha! Of course it’s incredibly famous, but this novel takes place long before the events that put Amityville on the map.
Now, Creatures Of Will And Temper was a gender swapped version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture Of Dorian Gray. Is Creatures Of Want And Ruin also your version of someone else’s book, or is it a wholly original story that builds upon what you did in Creatures Of Will And Temper?
Well, I definitely wouldn’t say that Creatures Of Will And Temper is a “version of someone else’s book.” I’d say, instead, that it’s in conversation with the ideas of Oscar Wilde’s iconic novel, as I stated in my introduction to the book. Similarly, Creatures Of Want And Ruin is definitely in conversation with The Great Gatsby and the work of the American pulp writers of the ’20s, among them Dashiell Hammett and H.P. Lovecraft, though much less directly. Thus, Creatures Of Want And Ruin has fancy parties full of Lost Generation burnouts making cutting remarks to one another, and also unspeakable, incomprehensible evil that manifests in unusual and sometimes disgusting ways.
Where did you get the idea for Creatures Of Want And Ruin and how did that idea evolve as you wrote it?
The idea for Creatures Of Want And Ruin came as much from my love of adventure stories of the 1920s, whether they’re emotional or supernatural adventures. But, given that I came up with the idea for the novel during the lead-up to the 2016 election, and began writing it just after the outcome shocked the United States, it’s also a reflection of our political times, specifically the ways that nationalist political ideology can damage society on the macro (social) and micro (family and individual) level. That’s not to say this is some Animal Farmtype book; it’s not — but it does draw inspiration from our current political climate in a few ways.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that you think were a big influence on Creatures Of Want And Ruin that were not an influence on Creatures Of Will And Temper?
Oh sure. I’ve talked above about specifically the influence of the American pulp writers on this story. That’s most often how I research a book — by reading the writers of the times, to see what they were doing, and how they talked about the issues of the day.
I used to write more often in the Lovecraftian mode; it’s where I got my start. But I also have great admiration for Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and the crime writers of the day — for their writing chops, if (usually) not for their politics. There’s even a character in Creatures Of Want And Ruin who is also a big nerd for the pulps. And that includes Lovecraft, who is debatably the most famous and enduring of that crowd, for various reasons, but that wasn’t the case back then.
How about non-literary influences, such as movies, TV shows, and video games; did any of them have an influence on Creatures Of Want And Ruin?
Not especially. I’m trying to wrack my brain here but honestly other than possibly Midnight In Paris, the novel is mostly taking its cues from literature of the era, real Long Island history, and modern politics.
Now, in the previous interview we did about Creatures Of Will And Temper [which you can read here], I asked if you were planning on writing more than just it and Creatures Of Want And Ruin, and you said, “We shall see. I have another in mind already…” So, are you writing a third book?
Yes. I’ve actually just completed the first draft of the third and final novel in the series, Creatures Of Charm And Hunger. It’s set art the tail end of WWII, in rural England, and it’ll be out in the spring of 2020.
You also, in that earlier interview, said there hadn’t been any interest in adapting Creatures Of Will And Temper into a movie or TV show. Is that still the case?
I can definitely tell you that it’s the case that the rights are available if any enterprising filmmakers are reading.
Finally, if someone enjoys Creatures Of Will And Temper and Creatures Of Want And Ruin, what similar book of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for Creatures Of Charm And Hunger to come out?
I think anyone who liked Creatures Of Will And Temper would probably like Theodora Goss’ The Strange Case Of The Alchemist’s Daughter, which has a whole Victorian crimes thing going. As for Want And Ruin fans, Cherie Priest’s Maplecroft is a good one, that’s lesbian Lizzie Borden killing Deep Ones with an ax — how could it be bad?!