Exclusive Interview: “Maeve Fly” Author C.J. Leede


As someone who’s lived in Hollywood since the mid-’90s, I’ve seen my share of weird shit. (I miss the Hollywood Witch.) Thankfully, I’ve never seen a woman coming my way with a knife in her hand and murder in her heart…unlike some of the unfortunate people in C.J. Leede’s new horror novel Maeve Fly (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook). In the following email interview, Leede discusses what inspired and influenced this slasher story.

C.J. Leede Maeve Fly

To start, what is Maeve Fly about, and when and where does it take place?

The book is about an L.A. theme park princess by day, Sunset Strip barfly by night, whose world is turned upside down when a new hockey player moves to town.

It is a story about loneliness, strangeness, darkness, the things we cling to, and ultimately is a bloody, twisted love story.

In the press materials, it says Maeve works at “the Happiest Place On Earth.” Is there a reason she works there as opposed to “Not Scary Farm” or one of Los Angeles’ other fine tourist attractions that have fun nicknames?

It really mattered to me that she was tied to the very particular ice princess she plays during the day. While I’m not so well-versed in [REDACTED]’s canon overall, I do happen to love that particular princess, and her movie, and there were a lot of tie-ins I was excited to make that highlighted what I wanted to talk about in the book.

Also…I mean, the park is just so iconic. What’s shinier than that? What could more clearly show blood spatter?

In the same vein, is there any significance to Maeve taking inspiration from Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho as opposed to, say, Henry from Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer or someone from that show Criminal Minds? Or, for that matter, the movie version of American Psycho? Or even a real life serial killer?

Totally. I’m not sure if I have seen anyone react the way that people reacted to American Psycho. I mean, it’s kind of the gold standard of shock, and I wanted to see what it would look like to have a woman occupy that space. Patrick Bateman is believable and terrifying, but he’s also not real, and we know he isn’t. I wanted the freedom and fun that I imagined it would be to move in that space, and I have to say, it was the most fun.

It sounds like Maeve Fly is a horror story. But it also sounds like it might have some underlying social commentary….

Yes, or I mean, there were things that I felt I wanted to say, just for myself. I was seeing so many trauma narratives, and that’s important and totally great and necessary for the world. It really is, and I never want anyone to think I feel differently. But I started to feel that especially with female antiheroines and villains, I was seeing only trauma stories (even like all the new Disney villainess origin movies). As though we can’t handle the idea of a woman being monstrous simply because she is. But on the other side, I was seeing male villains who just got to be villains, and people will believe that. Most of our iconic horror movie villains fit that mold. And the most iconic female villains and monsters I could think of were pretty much all possessed, and mostly by male demons or spirits, or they were brutalized and that gave them space to become monsters. And I just thought, why can’t women have that freedom of movement, too? (And for that matter, all types of folx, but this book focuses on the female). I thought, why can’t we exist in a space of a fictional woman being a monster simply because she is? And not because someone did something to her to make her this way? I wanted to live in a fictional world in which a woman could have more agency than that, could choose to be whatever she wanted to be without having to justify it morally or make her a victim of anyone other than herself. To me, it’s been very empowering. But it’s crazy how much pushback you get on a thought like that. Some people get really upset about it. It’s all been super interesting.

So, did you set out to write a story with this idea behind it, and Maeve Fly is what you came up with, or did you come up with the idea for Maeve Fly and then realize it would work better if it had some social commentary?

No, I definitely had the commentary side in mind first. But it wasn’t really commentary even. It was more just deeply wanting to explore what it would look like if a female character were to get to do what the male ones do. And there was so much joy and freedom in that, it was really pretty awesome. I felt a total freedom of expression with this book.

Why did you want to write a story about this, and what led you to the plot of Maeve Fly?

I came up with the initial ideas for this book while driving cross-country in October 2020 to visit my mother in New York. The pre-election nation was wild, and while I drive cross country all the time, it was the first time I felt open hostility from people. And such rage. Right before Covid started, I lost three very close family members, and then more during the pandemic. I was grieving, and I was afraid, and I was so, so angry the way only a grieving person can be. And I just knew I needed to find some power within myself. I knew I needed to scream. Maeve was my scream. She’s misguided and a mess and struggles profoundly within herself, even though she has every resource at her fingertips. She’s the most imperfect person. But she’s powerful, and she’s frightening, and she is a victim ultimately of herself and herself alone. And I needed that. I needed to feel that power alongside the helplessness. And I hope my readers can feel that in the pages, too.

Maeve Fly is your first published novel, but it’s not the only thing you’ve written, which we’ll get to in a moment. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Maeve Fly but not on anything else you’ve written?

Definitely. Maeve Fly is in overt conversation with [Georges Bataille’s] Story Of The Eye, Ellis’ American Psycho, and [Fyodor Dostoevsky’s] Notes From Underground. Maeve imitates each of them in the book to try and find footing in her life while it’s slipping through her fingers. I mention others in the book too — [Chuck Palahniuk’s] Fight Club, Faust — it was really all about just finding that feeling I was chasing. [Grady Hendrix’s] The Final Girl Support Group and [Stephen Graham Jones’] My Heart Is A Chainsaw were both great, too. Frankly, my education in slasher was like zero before writing Maeve aside from American Psycho, so there was a lot of research on that front. I also had a lot of fun with Katee Robert’s Wicked Villains series. Look it up if you don’t know it, it’s wild.

How about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? There is, after all, an American Psycho movie, not to mention American Psycho 2 with Mila Kunis…

So I basically watched all the slashers and classic horror movies I could get my hands on when writing this book. I also watched the two [REDACTED] ice princess movies, and of course American Psycho. But really, I love campy horror and grew up on Rocky Horror as my favorite movie, and I think there’s a lot of that, too.

And what about your dogs? How did they influence Maeve Fly?

Wow, the best question. They influenced the book by keeping me sane enough to get through writing it. Even in my darkest moments, they always bring me instantly to a place of gentleness and love. My heart literally hurts thinking of how perfect they are. We fostered a lot during Covid, so we had dogs in and out, but our permanent family crew is Esme, the two-legged wonder; Bug, the one-eyed angel who is my permanently-attached barnacle; Violet, our newest who is nearly deaf and blind and is the sweetest quirkiest dog we’ve ever had; and my Chupacabra. She’s sixteen, and I’ve had her since she was five. She has made me who I am as a person, and we’ve walked this life together longer than most other relationships I’ve had. I’m very lucky.

Now, it’s already been revealed that Maeve Fly is the first of three books you’ve written for Tor Nightfire. Are the other two sequels to Maeve Fly?

This is a bit up in the air (which is very exciting and fun). I handed in a book to my editor in October that’s unrelated to Maeve but explores a lot of the same themes. I think that will most likely come out as my second book, but TBD. Official title TBD also.

As for the third, I’ve been working on two projects simultaneously, and I’m not sure what I’ll finish first or what we’ll choose, but either way I’m having so much fun with them and am really excited to release both into the world.

So, you’re not writing Maeve Fly 2: Season Of The Witch and Maeve Fly 3: Maeve Takes Manhattan?

I can’t stop laughing at this amazing question. If we decide to continue Maeve’s journey, I’ll be sure to consult you for titles.

Now, Hollywood loves a good horror story. Do you think Maeve Fly could work as a horror movie?

I definitely hope to see Maeve on the screen.

If that happens, who would you want them to cast as Maeve and Gideon and the other main characters, and why them and not Mila Kunis and Christian Bale?

Still laughing over here. The only thing I would look for in casting is that the spirit is still there. I just want her to be Maeve, if that makes sense.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Maeve Fly?

I don’t know. I mean, there’s a lot of violence and sex, so know that going into it (I guess?), but also I’m hoping the book speaks for itself. I put everything I had at that time into writing it, and I loved every minute of it. So for me, it’s been a success already. But the book tends to elicit very polarizing reactions with some people saying it’s their new favorite and some saying they totally hated it, and I feel like that’s a lot of the fun of it too!

C.J. Leede Maeve Fly

Finally, if someone enjoys Maeve Fly, what horror novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for what I now assume is not Maeve Fly 2: Electric Boogaloo to come out?

Anything by Stephen Graham Jones or Grady Hendrix. They are truly all winners, you can’t go wrong with anything either of them has written! I’ve been loving all of the Nightfire titles coming out; Catriona Ward’s Sundial and Liz Kerin’s Night’s Edge were two of my recent favs. They’re really killing it with all their books. Richard Chizmar has a new Boogeyman novel coming out, Becoming The Boogeyman, which I am so stoked for, and Keith Rosson’s book Fever House coming soon is amazing. Bret Easton Ellis’ latest, The Shards, is also so so good. And then I’d say, in the spirit of fun and debauchery (because what else is there?), if any reader has ever wanted to go read some smut or literary erotica and hasn’t let themselves, here’s your moment: Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Katee Robert, S.J. Maas (Manon Blackbeak is one of the best powerful female characters ever), any and all Anne Rice, and of course our Georges Bataille.



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