Like the first novella in her Danielle Cain series, The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion, Margaret Killjoy’s The Barrow Will Send What It May (paperback, Kindle) is yet another punk fantasy that skirts the edges of horror and, in doing so, takes influence from those most horrible of punks: Scooby, Shaggy, and the rest of those meddling kids on Scooby-Doo.
To start, what are the Danielle Cain books about, what is The Barrow Will Send What It May about, and how does this second novella connect to the first, The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion?
The Danielle Cain books are about a crew of anarchist demon hunters, centered around our protagonist, Danielle Cain. In The Barrow Will Send What It May, our heroes are now on the run after the mess they ran from at the end of The Lamb. In Barrow, they find their way to a small town in western Montana, where a necromancer has been up to no good, kidnapping and murdering and resurrecting. Our heroes join up with a crew of squatter librarians to investigate the occult.
Where did you get the original idea for The Barrow Will Send What It May, and how different is the finished novella from that idea?
So far, both Danielle Cain books have had their origins in some sort of metaphor about the nature of power. That metaphor was a bit more literal in The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion, but in The Barrow Will Send What It May, it’s at least as present. This time, the power metaphor has more to do with the lengths people will go through for what they perceive, often falsely, as love. The book came out of my head pretty fully-formed, definitely unlike Lamb. I sat down and hashed out an outline, then I wrote the novella. Characters don’t always do what you expect them to, and I wasn’t quite sure how everyone was going to handle the climax of the story until I got there, but overall the story stuck to what I wanted it to do.
In our previous interview about The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion [which you can read here], you said that novella could be classified as punk fantasy, though you clarified that it was punk as in punk values, not punk rock. Would you say the same about The Barrow Will Send What It May, or is there another subgenre of fantasy, or combination of them, that describes this book better?
It’s funny to me, I’ve realized that my books are sometimes classified as horror. And that’s not untrue. It’s just funny to me because I didn’t seek out to write them as horror, but writing about our own world with the addition of magic really just…just leads to horror. At least for me. It’s hard to write about punk rock squatters who suddenly have the power to commune with demons without some pretty terrible things cropping up.
But I don’t tend to focus too hard on what genre I’m writing, when I write. It sounds cheesy, but I just focus on the story I want to tell, and I let any interested publishers or readers figure out how they want to classify it. Or at least, that’s how I aspire to do it…sometimes I probably give in to tropes.
So are there any writers or stories that had an influence on The Barrow Will Send What It May that were not an influence on The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion?
I know this is kind of a cop-out answer, but I didn’t have a lot of conscious media influences on this book. Instead, I was influenced really heavily by friends, and the strange lives lived by my friends. The fierce woman who’d rather be watching TV because life has no meaning; the face-tattooed man who wants to be a better feminist than he is; the wandering thief who fucks with fascists and winds up dead way too young; those aren’t specific people I can point to, but they’re the amalgamation of a lot of people I care about. The sign on the anarchist-run library, about not stocking The Anarchist Cookbook, that I got from the anarchist book store Firestorm in Asheville, North Carolina, where I wrote about half the words of the book.
There is a lot of influence from writers on this, but that’s more structural than anything else. I wrote the outline of this drawing really heavily on what I learned at Clarion West a few years back, and in particular the plotting advice I got from Tobias Buckell.
It’s not that I don’t consume a rather large amount of media. I do. I’m sure it influences me, but I usually try to keep its influence unconscious.
And is Scooby-Doo as big of an influence on The Barrow Will Send What It May as it was on The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion?
Oh, the whole thing is twice as Scooby-Doo now: they’re actually driving around in a van investigating the paranormal now. The parallel, which I didn’t really specifically intend, makes me rather happy.
You previously said that the Danielle Cain series would be an ongoing one. Is that still the case?
My contract with Tor.com was for two books, but there’s still a lot more I want to say about Danielle Cain and her adventures. These two books are it for now, but I’m sure I’ll be writing more.
The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion and The Barrow Will Send What It May are both novellas, as were your previous books What Lies Beneath The Clock Tower and A Country Of Ghosts. What is it about the novella as a literary form that you like so much?
Ha! Well…I tend to write short. I’ve had to really consciously learn, in both my fiction and my non-fiction, to actually elaborate on ideas, or let the reader sit in moments for longer. I also have a short attention span for individual projects, and it’s nice to finish books while I’m still excited about the whole thing. I do write longer — I’ve ghost-written a few novels, and have two works in progress that are full-length novels — but I really like the ability to either write episodically, like the Danielle Cain series, or just to tell simple stories, like in A Country Of Ghosts.
Do you ever worry you might snap one day and write a 4000-page multi-book novel like Marcel Proust’s In Search Of Lost Time?
Oh man, of all the ways I figure one day I’ll be absolutely strange, that one sounds rather nice. I think it’d be more likely that I’d write some endless series of vignettes that all take place in one world, like if Ursula Le Guin’s Orsinian Tales wound up being a multi-volume encyclopedia.
But that’s maybe because I grew up reading too many D&D sourcebooks and not playing enough D&D.
In our previous interview, I asked if there had been any interest in turning The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion or the Danielle Cain series into a movie, TV show, or video game, and you said, “There has been, but I can’t really say any more about it.” Can you say any more now?
Still not much I can say, unfortunately.
No worries. And finally, if someone enjoys The Barrow Will Send What It May, and they’ve already read The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion, what novella would you suggest they read next?
They should read Everything Belongs To The Future by Laurie Penny. Quirky gang of anarchists in far-future England fighting the ultra-rich.