With The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne (paperback, Kindle), writer Tade Thompson is concluding the trilogy of novellas he began in 2017 with The Murders Of Molly Southbourne, and continued with 2019’s The Survival Of Molly Southbourne. But as he explains in the following email interview about Legacy, this isn’t your typical threesome.
Photo Credit: Carla Roadnight
For people who haven’t read the first two books, The Murders Of Molly Southbourne and The Survival Of Molly Southbourne, who is Molly, what happens in those books, and what kind of a world are they set in?
Ahh, that’ll be tricky, Paul. Murders and Survival are two very different books with different protagonists. Even saying that is something of a spoiler.
What I can say is this is in a world like ours, but slightly off. It’s in the past, talking late ’80s, early ’90s. There’s a fertility problem in the western world, just like ours, but exaggerated.
Molly is a person with a condition that leads to isolation, both from home schooling and necessary defensive measures. She’s a fighter, she’s somewhat feral, and she’s sincere.
But the question of who Molly is will require reading the books, and that’s not just a matter of shilling. It’s practically the question that all the books ask.
Which makes my next question moot, but for those who have read the previous books, and thus can ignore me yelling SPOILER ALERT, what is The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne about, and does it connect to the second book, The Survival Of Molly Southbourne?
Legacy is the end of the story. It connects to both previous books and has characters from both, although we see them from different perspectives. And that’s what Legacy is: the final perspective from which this story needs to be told. It answers the “why” question from book 1.
When in the process of writing The Murders Of Molly Southbourne and The Survival Of Molly Southbourne did you come up with the idea for The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne, and what inspired that idea?
All three come from the same idea. They’re just different directions emanating from the first premise that creatively or editorially belonged in separate narratives.
The base idea was my missus telling me that I’m my own worst enemy. She was right, but I started thinking of making that idea concrete. I wondered what it would be like fighting myself physically, not metaphorically. I dreamed up this fight scene that was fucking amazing. Then an image of a skinny farm girl in Oxford dropped into my head. It was easy from there.
The Murders Of Molly Southbourne and The Survival Of Molly Southbourne struck me as being urban fantasy stories with a bit of horror. How do you describe them and The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne, genre-wise?
Well…they’re only urban fantasy to the extent that they’re told like dark fairy tales. In point of fact they started life as science fiction stories. I worked out all the science of how it would be possible. My editor said the story would be better if we leaned into the horror elements, and he was right. It led to a leaner and meaner story.
I’m not a fan of classifying stories, but if I must I’d say sci-fi / horror / espionage mash-up. I like the Cold War element because that entire time in human history was insane.
Are there any writers, or maybe specific stories, that had a particularly big influence on The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne but not on the previous Molly novellas? Or, for that matter, anything you’ve written?
Everything I’ve written is influenced by everything I’ve read, so I’ll just blurt out some of those: Jack Kirby, Ursula le Guin, Nina Allan, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alan Moore, Patrick Suskind, Italo Calvino, Barbara Kingsolver, and Hilary Mantel. I’m a slutty reader. I’ll read Jason Aaron and George Eliot in the same week.
How about non-literary influences; was The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
Nope. But I had to watch the first season of Orphan Black to be sure there was no similarity. I’ve only seen the first season, but I can recommend it.
Also, kind of a tangent, but fuck it: Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black will play She-Hulk, who is one of my favorite characters in comics, so I’m looking forward to that show.
You’ve already said that The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne is the third and final book of a trilogy. What was it about Molly’s story that made you think it should be told in three parts as opposed to two or four or fifty-six?
Basically, the perspective thing above. There is a progression of the narrative, but it’s Molly, [redacted], and [redacted]. It makes sense for them to be in different books.
With The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne ending this series, there are people who will consider reading all three books back-to-back. Is there any reason why people shouldn’t do that?
Nah, knock yourselves out. Read them all at once, back-to-back. Just don’t read them out of order.
It’s weird. Back when I was on Twitter I’d get questions from folks who had read book 2, but not 1. Some of them said they didn’t even know there was a first book. Some people didn’t know there was a second book.
Unlike my other trilogy, the Rosewater books, these are more interlocked.
That said, I’d love to see the surrealist effect of reading them in reverse order. I hope it’s trippy. Some people eat mushrooms; some drop acid; others read trilogies out of order. Whatever floats the reader’s boat, man.
Then let me ask this: For people who already read the first two, is there any reason why they shouldn’t reread them before diving into The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne? Like, is it unnecessary, should they put space in between them…?
Nope, no space necessary. Ideally, read all three in a single sitting, in whatever order you like. Personally, I’d recommend having “The Man Who Sold The World“ by David Bowie on repeat, but it isn’t necessary.
Now, along with The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne, you also recently released a novel called Far From The Light Of Heaven. What is Light about, and when and where does it take place?
Far From The Light Of Heaven is a murder mystery patterned after a Poe story. It takes place in a star ship and it’s what happens when what should be a milk run turns into a nightmare. It’s also my love letter to the Apollo astronauts who were (are?) my heroes growing up, and the current astronauts like Chris Hadfield who did a lot to demystify space flight.
And is it also part of a series, a stand-alone novel…
How do I put this? There’s more to this story, because the world is vast like my round, but muscular belly, and the characters have more to do. That said, I can’t divulge much at this stage because of powers beyond mortal ken.
Given their close release dates, is it safe to assume you wrote them back-to-back or simultaneously?
Ha! You noticed. I wrote three novels back-to-back during the pandemic lock down. These are the first two. The third is being copy-edited as we speak.
So then how do you think writing Far From The Light Of Heaven influenced The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne, and vice versa?
I don’t know how they influenced each other because they both needed to be in different narrative voices. They’re probably both affected by lockdown, but I’m too close to the material to be able to tease out the specifics. I’m sure the readers will.
In a similar vein, Far From The Light Of Heaven and The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne are very different books, in different genres. How do you think this influenced both Heaven and Legacy? Like, does Heaven have a lighter tone because Legacy got heavy, or something?
Both of them are heavy in tone. Heaven‘s pretty dark, man. The body count is comparable in both, although that depends on your position when it comes to clones. Is a clone alive? Does a clone “die”?
Earlier I asked if The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But I’d like to flip things around and ask if you think Legacy — and the other Molly Southbourne novellas — could work as a series of movies, a show, or a game?
Because I do some screenwriting I’ll say this: both could work in either movies or TV. But it would also be an excellent game as re-spawning is already baked into the idea. I’ve never written games, but the world would have to be expanded.
Far From The Light Of Heaven would also probably work as a game like Alien: Isolation (remember that? Super tense).
I do. So, if someone wanted to turn the Molly Southbourne trilogy into a series of movies or a TV series, who would you want them to cast as Molly and the other main characters?
Sorry, mate. I can’t answer this. Both of them have been optioned and me even speculating on casting would be bad form. I can’t say a word. I mean I’d get in trouble if I said something like, [Game Of Thrones‘] Lena Headey would be fantastic as Molly’s mother because of her turn as Sarah Connor, but I’d never say that.
So, is there anything else that people interested in The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne and this trilogy should know before deciding whether or not to buy it?
“Decide”? What the fuck is that? Everybody, make with the clicky and order the book. Owning it will automatically make you attractive to the kind of person you desire, and if you’re aromantic, the book’s warm embrace will form a force field around you. Don’t think; just buy. Paul will give you your money back if you don’t like it.
Having read the first two, and the Rosewater trilogy, I’ll take that bet [offer void in the United States, Canada, Europe, this plane of existence…].
Finally, if someone enjoys The Legacy Of Molly Southbourne, which of your other novels or novellas would you suggest they read next?
Hmm. See, that answer isn’t as straightforward as it should be. My books tend to be different. If you put me in a Peruvian Necktie, I’d say go read Rosewater. Because it’s my favorite and it got me an Arthur C. Clarke win and a Hugo nomination for best series.