Today on the show we have Mackenzie Lee to talk about her book Gamora and Nebula: Sisters In Arms!
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Mackenzie Lee – Video Interview
Casey: [00:00:00] That’s so creepy. All right, everybody. Welcome again, to another episode of spoiler country today on the show, we have author of Gomorrah and nebulous sisters in arms, McKinsey Lee McKinsey. How are you doing?
Mackenzie Lee: I’m so good. I’m so happy to be talking to
Casey: you. I’m stoked. I’m so I’ve read your book. I loved your book.
Had a blast reading it my 10 year old daughter also read it with me which was, which was fun. A little bit older than, oh yeah. She dug it. So, I just I can’t wait to get into this and talk with you about the book and your prior writing and all that other stuff. First off, how you been, you had a good day so far.
Mackenzie Lee: today’s been good. It’s been, I’ve been, it’s been, punishingly hot where I am, as it has been, I think in most places in the country, but we got some rain last night and today was actually. Cool enough that I can go outside with the dog and walk the dog. Not it either midnight or 5:00 AM. So we had like a [00:01:00] normal dog walk today.
That was pretty great.
Casey: That’s that’s, as soon as I get home from work, I take the dogs for a walk and today we’ve been this is boring, but tore down my deck last week. And we had a concrete patio board and I’ve been prepared, all that stuff and getting my grill stuff set up. So, I, I looked at my phone.
I said, holy crap. I got an interview in 30 minutes and I look like a pig pin from peanuts. So I jumped in the shower real quick and now I’m here. So
Mackenzie Lee: I didn’t, I didn’t prepare for video. So I’m just like hanging out in my apartment. No makeup, totally fine. I said, no, I didn’t have to turn off my video if I didn’t want to.
It’s just funny. Cause I’ve been doing press for this book for a couple of weeks since I’ve had a couple of weeks. Getting just like not a family dressed up, but way more dressed up than I’ve gotten in a year and a half to just sit in my apartment and do interviews. But part of it is like, you know, you’re, it’s part of the presentation of it and it’s fun.
I like getting dressed up and I’ve got to do it in a long time. And [00:02:00] I looked at my calendar though, and I was like, oh, a podcast today. I don’t have to address that for a podcast. It was like the first time in a week, but I haven’t been, I haven’t been dressed up for
Casey: you look great. And you know, the background is cool.
So, we’re going to rock and roll with this. So McKinsey you’ve, you’ve done a lot of writing in Yia for, I don’t know how you’ve done quite a few books. How long have you been at it? Like as a professional writer?
Mackenzie Lee: My first book came out in 2015 and I was in grad school for two years before.
I was studying history before that, with the intention of someday getting a PhD and then kind of got rerouted into writing historical fiction, because I was told my writing didn’t really suit a serious academic historical boy. And I couldn’t like do things like write dialogue for Richard the third, or like imagine themes where Henry the fifth was like, I wrote out the words with the residence, I’m pulling up these examples.
[00:03:00] Well he wasn’t really, he wasn’t really a an esteemed historian or of a historical fiction writer to.
Casey: So, yeah, yeah, yeah. Our I think it, it paid off for everybody because what you’re doing is awesome and
Mackenzie Lee: definitely comparable to,
Casey: yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I can, I can see a little bit of some, some of that high drama
Mackenzie Lee: is really my only peer.
Casey: I agree. And I’m going to say the good morning Nebula. I mean, very much very much in that line of of drama and high entry. So, holy smokes, you, you started off with all this historical fiction stuff, and then you ended up writing a book for Marvel about Loki. How did that.
Mackenzie Lee: So through lots of good luck and timing and being in the right place at the right time, essentially the editor who I first worked with at Marvel had been pitching for some time.
And this is how often these projects happen. I think lots of [00:04:00] people don’t know how, how these sort of franchise novels or comics and things get, get generated, or like where they come from. And so how it happened with mine is that the editor who first acquired me had been pitching for several years in house.
She was an editor for Marvel. She’d come up with this idea of doing a, why a fiction series about the, some, some of your favorite Marvel antiheroes as teenagers, and sort of doing origin stories for them and seeing them earlier in their timeline than we’ve seen them before in comics or films or anything.
And because of that sort of unique positioning. She wanted them to have a historical bend to them and she finally got this project approved and they said, you go out and hire a writer. And right when she was looking for a writer my book, the gentleman’s guide to vice and virtue had just come out and was, was getting a lot of press.
And so she picked it up and bred it and said about halfway through, she emailed my agent and was like, this is who I would love to be writing my Marvel series. And so I got an email from my agent that said, hypothetically, would you be interested in [00:05:00] writing for Marvel? And I said, this better not be hypothetical because that would be able to ever play in it.
So yeah, it was, it was a lot of right place, right time. And then she kind of, they came to me with this this broad outline of saying, you know, we’re going to be three books, three antiheroes three different sort of Mar and they didn’t even have all the characters outlined. The first one they said, we want to do low-key for the first one, then the other two let’s wait and sort of decide later on.
Depending on who’s popping and what’s hitting, and if there’s any sort of like standout characters. And so when it came time to talk about the second book, I think infinity war, one of the infinity end game, one of the big, last one to just come out and Gamora and Nebula both were sort of having this moment within the Marvel fandom because they both had really sort of poppy arcs in both those films.
And so we, we ended up settling on them for the second book.
Casey: That’s awesome. What was your experience with comics prior to to getting in with Marvel and writing lips?
Mackenzie Lee: So I was I was a nerd when I was a kid and I was a nerd in an [00:06:00] age when it was not cool to be a nerd. So I spent a lot of my childhood trying to hide that fact.
And I remember as a kid desperately wanting to be a comic book reader and desperately wanting to be into comics and just having no idea how to do that. And there was like one comic book shop I knew of that was by my grandma’s house. And I remember going in there and it was all about. Low lighting and it’s crowded and it’s tiny.
And it’s also like men in their forties. And I just like everything about this place was telling like, teenage me, like, this is not for you. Like you don’t belong here. And I would, I would pick up these comics and be like, oh, okay. So it’s like, I know who wonder woman is. Maybe I’ll read this one and would pick it up and be like, I don’t know what’s happening.
I’m in the middle of a story. Like I didn’t, I did not know how to read comics. I didn’t have any resources. I was too scared to ask all those intimidating promise, bookshop men. And so. Didn’t I wasn’t ever that kind of a nerd. I was, I was really into star wars. I was really into like fan fiction and things like that with very secretly though.
I never told anybody. And then as a, as an older human, I [00:07:00] guess, as an adult
Mackenzie Lee: older, I do everything possible to avoid recognizing that I’m an adult now. But as result, terrible, terrible facing reality as hard as an adult, I, the Marvel movies started coming out. And so like many people I suddenly had because of the films and access point, and I had a critical foundation foundationary understanding of who these characters were and how they related to each other and where they fit sort of in the wider universe.
And so I was able to become a comic book reader, both because the movies made the characters accessible to me. And also because comics in general, A lot more accessible and we’re having conversations about inclusion and representation, both in terms of the characters and the readership. There’s more visual literacy is more of a conversation, especially in like the children’s book worlds and among, among graphic novel readers.
And so, changes in the modern world have allowed me to be a comic book reader, but I was, I was not one as a, as a [00:08:00] kid. I was not a Marvel kid in spite of how much I wanted to be.
Casey: I hear ya. I hear you. And yeah, I think one problem with comics in general, and I think they’re, they’re finally starting to address it through like, having focus on like mini series and stuff like that.
Another Why author Maureen goo recently did a mini series for silk, which is a Spider-Man character. And it’s been popping off is really good. But the great thing about it is it’s self contained. It’s all, what you, all you need to know is in the book that she’s writing. So all you have to have are those six issues or this one book.
And you’re good. Whereas if you’re a new reader, you know, in the nineties, when I was a kid, you would be burdened with over 30 years of backstory. And yeah, that can be,
Mackenzie Lee: I would go into feeling and I still feel this way sometimes when I talk to. [00:09:00] People who are like Marvel people are the, the few times I’ve been able to speak at Comicon.
I always feel like at some point somebody’s going to like quiz me and be like, okay, so you have you have you, but what do you think of this arguing arc and the fifth issue of volume 17 of young Avengers. And can you talk about that? And I just, like, I feel like somebody is going to like check my credibility, the me not enough of a fan to be here, whether as a fan or as a writer.
And they kicked me out of the club. And I think I had that as a kid too, or as I felt sort of like, if I don’t know this whole world, and if I, even, if I don’t go in with a foundational knowledge, I felt like I’m never going to catch up.
Casey: So do you mind if I ask, how did you get,
Mackenzie Lee: I thought you were going to ask, like, do you mind if I ask, what do you think of the arc of low-key and volume.
Okay. Okay. You’re not going to, you’re not going to take my car.
Casey: Heck no, no. [00:10:00] You’re, you’re a writer and this is what you do, but how did you get into Nebula and Gomorrah? Like how did you do the research? Did you go back and read all the comics? What did you pull from?
Mackenzie Lee: Well, they’re, they’re interesting characters because Loki you have not only the history in Marvel, but you have then 10,000 years of the psychology and history and all these writers who have contributed to his narrative and his story.
And also low-key state of pretty, because he had this neurology background, he stayed a pretty consistent character in Marvel in terms of, you’ve always thought his brother he’s always been trickster. God he’s always, usually got the horn helmet. Like there’s things about Loki that don’t change.
Whereas nebulin Gomorrah are characters that came out of this. Weird seventies space, age of Marvel comics and the versions of them that originated look totally different than the versions most people know. And those are the versions from the films and, and the, the, oh gosh, I wish I could remember her name.
The woman who wrote the guardians of the galaxy screenplay with James Gunn really like redeveloped these [00:11:00] characters and created sort of a new, a new backstory for them and a new current identity in the timeline. And so reading backwards, I found didn’t actually help me that much because it’s kind of been retconned now that, that Marvel sort of rewriting history to match Nebula and Gomorrah SISU most people know them as, because of the film.
And so I read some comics for this. I also learned about with low key, because like I said, there’s so much, and I was so worried about being. And authority on the subject and feeling like I knew enough that I tried to read absolutely everything that was out there. Well, not only tried to read it, I then tried to absorb it all and then incorporate it into the book somehow.
And so I realized at some point that I was, my biggest barrier was low key was I was working so hard to make my low key and amalgamation of the north, the poetic ADAS, Loki. And I’ll you blokey and Stanley’s Loki and Tom Hiddleston as Loki and tumblers low-key and I’m going to smash them all together.
And then when you there’s no room then for any [00:12:00] sort of creative freedom and it’s very stifling. And I I’ve had to just like learn and expect that I got hired to write my dream of these characters too. And that my ideas. R Y I’ve been brought to the table. It’s not sort of, in spite of them, it’s not just dropped off or copy what other people have done.
So I did less reading this time around partly because there was less to do, but also partly because I kind of learned the hard way that, that I overdoing your research can be kind of crippling. And in a way I didn’t
Casey: expect that’s the smart way to go to go about it. And especially just having that assurity that they wanted to McKinsey, McKinsey Lee book, first and foremost, they wanted you to write this book.
And so, yeah. Yeah.
Mackenzie Lee: Well, and one of the, one of the coolest things I’ve found about writing for Marvel is that when I, first of all, I worked with a lot of people who do know every reference to everything ever. So I’ll sit in these pitch meetings with people and I’ll say like, I’ve been thinking about doing something with Faith church and like [00:13:00] maniacal based church and somebody will pop out and be like, well, actually there already exists in the Marvel Canada, the universal church of truth, which is led by the matriarch and Adam warlock and Gomorrah actually have a history with them.
So it’d be a really fun call and I just kind of go, okay. And they’re like, we’ll send you. And they have like the encyclopedia pages where they’re like, here’s everything we know that’s been in the comics about the universal church of truth. Here’s every, like every, they have like, like bibliographies with here’s every time they appear in the comics, every time they’re referenced.
And so it can be helpful when you don’t have to do the reading because someone just like sends you the spark net.
Casey: Oh yeah. Yeah. And I actually had a question that pertained to that. So yeah. Yeah. So. You did a T it looked like a ton of world beer. Excuse me. World-building within this book. How open was Marvel to let you explore and build these new worlds?
Like the mining colony and all that other stuff.
Mackenzie Lee: They were super open. I honestly went into this project thinking and being totally fine with like, okay. So they’ll give me an [00:14:00] outline. I’ll have to write off this outline maybe once in a while, I’ll get to like, write my own Quip, but I won’t get to bring a lot to the table.
And they really were incredibly open and collaborative, and I think it helps that they are, like you said, they’re contained stories and they’re contained books. So they kind of have to, everybody has to come out without any, like, I couldn’t, I couldn’t rewrite things in that, like, I don’t know, Gomorrah camp.
Lose, both her legs and her head at some point and give her a place that’s like a Barbie head. Like, I don’t know if I was a terrible example. So it’s a little bit of dislike. It’s like a monster of the week kind of episode, rather than something that’s going to be fitting into a larger story. So because of that, there’s, there’s a ton of freedom.
And so with the Maura and Nebula, well, let’s back up with Loki. We knew we wanted to do a historical setting and they sort of brought because people, you know, Loki’s timeless than he lives. I mean, we had so many conversations about how as guard years relate to human years. And if we say Loki’s 118, does that mean he’s six, like [00:15:00] nightmares didn’t know I was going to have to do as guardian age math.
When I find that for this project, you
Casey: aging low-key and dog years, is that how
Mackenzie Lee: it felt like it was trying to like work backward and do the formula? Why I was not a math major. But so we, we had talked about, you know, Loki’s timelines different so he could write. We can have placed him in other parts of the human timeline of the guardian timeline.
And so we sort of talked from the start. They brought me a couple of time periods and they said, you know, what, if we, what if we put it in like game of Thrones, medieval, what if we put them in the 1920s? What if we put them in Victoria in England? And that was the one I latched on to. And they kind of came with these specific time periods.
Cause they were like, you know, we want to do something that’s kind of, that’s recognizable that has like a pop culture presence. So people aren’t going to be like, I’m sorry, what is Loki doing in like the 1630s, Dutch to mania? Like people have some sort of context for the wider, the wider historical time paid around in feed off to spend so much time doing historical world-building.
[00:16:00] And I latched onto Victoria in England because there were a bunch of things I wanted to write about in that time period, like, spiritualism and faith mediums and these like death clubs that existed and these trains full of dead people that went like, it just, it for me, I was like, yeah, this is what I want to do with Gamora and Nebula.
I went in with a much more clean slate because they don’t exist in the human world at all. And so we were, we knew we were going to do a Saifai one with kind of a historical sensibility to it. So I went in saying, I want to do a space Western. I love Firefly. I love dune. I love mad max. Like I want to draft off these, these, these things that I already love.
I grew up in Utah. And so I had a lot, I spent a lot of time in like the red rock and Don was sort of the, the myth of the American cowboy and on these ranches and things like that. And then. As I got older ended up sort of deconstructing and starting to recognize how many people had to be exploited and, and, and walked all over and ignored in order for this myth of the American cowboy to exist.
And so [00:17:00] this is what I brought to, this is what I brought to Marvel was like, let’s write about exploitation than the old American west. And I want to talk about mining and been by mentalism and the way religion prays on vulnerable populations and shockingly, they were like, yeah, let’s do it. So a
Casey: lot of my
Mackenzie Lee: there’s so much in it that I remember not the least of, which is most of the dialogue for the grand master, who is a character in it. There was so much that I wrote into the first draft, but I was like, well, obviously they’re gonna make me take this out, but I’m going to see like how, you know, just like, get it in there, see what I got away with so much.
It’s always the things you don’t expect them to have an issue with. They’re always the things they flag and I’m like really. I talk about this and not about the like, joke about pop tabs, like, okay.
Casey: So some of it even made me think of like the battle of Blair mountain in regards to the minors, you know, causing a ruckus and stuff.
And that I, I really [00:18:00] love that, you know, the historical parallels that you had with the old west and, and the struggles that the, the miners had. What was the inspiration for you to have mining as a plot point in the book? I know it’s, it’s all very Saifai but did you do any research into the actual mining practices?
Or The effects like the effects of chroma kite. Is that how you say it? I’ve
Mackenzie Lee: never said that word out loud.
Casey: Well, the effects of the substance there, mining on the miners were pretty gruesome. Did, did you do any research into the health conditions like black thyroid damage, et cetera calls from the money here on earth?
Was that any?
Mackenzie Lee: I, I did actually shockingly I, so my, my grandfather on my mother’s side was a minor and died from a lot of things, but died before I was born in part from complications to where he, yeah, it’s due to working in mines. And [00:19:00] again, grew up in Utah. There’s a ton of mining is so much a part of the.
The, not the culture. That’s the wrong word. The history here. Like there’s, there’s old silver mines and there’s gone down in like abandoned mine shops, totally legally as a kid. And I also have my, my dad is my dad is he works for a power company and he oversees power plant construction.
And so, we’ve talked a lot about coal energy versus like solar energy in our family because we’re very cool great dinner table conversations, but these are all kind of things that I had just, that were in my, in my brain and sort of existed within me. And then I ended up diving deeper and read about, yeah, like you said, I read about some of the old west mining and things like mining tunnel collapses and even like the coal mining, there’s a book.
I, when I worked for a university press for a short time as an intern and one of the books, I like proof-read for them was a book called colon, our veins. That was a history of I think it was primarily Welsh immigrants coming to the west to, to mine. It was like a very one of those very, very niche, university practice, circle books.
And I was [00:20:00] fascinated by it. Like I read it like two or three times and ended up like purchasing a copy afterwards. And I referred to things like that. And then also was reading about like the strip mining that happens in in places like, especially over in like Appalachian and North Carolina, West Virginia places, all those places.
And and I think we don’t, we don’t realize the toll. The total, even like harvesting or harvesting, that’s the wrong word. Creating clean energy, what we perceive as being clean energy. And so many of the things that we perceive as of, as being environmentally friendly or organic or, or what have you, there’s still too much.
Abuse of the planet behind that. There’s still so much exploitation of workers and of people like there’s, there’s still a lot of nastiness behind the scenes, which is not to say this is a super, I always have to like pause my, my diatribes about environmentalism and be like, this is a super fun book.
It’s a Western it’s really fun. It’s just also about like strip mining and the dangers of, of of that.
Casey: If you’ve ever seen the [00:21:00] aftermath of strip mining, it is fricking heartbreaking. As an aside, my great grandfather was a safety inspector for mines here in Alabama. And when I was a kid, he had long since retired, but he had a finger that had somehow been lost by a minor in one of his minds.
And he had it in a jar with formaldehyde and. It stayed in there, like dining room. There’s like the dining room, like cupboard with like the fancy plates. My grandmother like hid it behind one of the plates. And one of like the is so weird. One of like the rites of passage when I was a kid my cousins and I would like sneak into the dining room, pull it out, look at it.
And so girls put it back real quick, but yeah, totally. My grandfather had a somebody, his finger, it wasn’t his cause he had all 10
Mackenzie Lee: 11 at one point it could
Casey: be, could be [00:22:00] one to think that, but yeah, some, some poor guy
Mackenzie Lee: yeah, it was a rough business that didn’t. That didn’t pay very well. And didn’t protect its workers in the short or long-term and still really doesn’t in a lot of ways.
Casey: Yeah. There, there is a minors on strike about 20 miles away from my house right now. And yeah. Yeah. So, but look guys what was the inspiration for all the religious bits in the book? Not only for like the deep cuts with like, an, a more lock and magase, but the inherent hypocrisy and the ways in which it made this world so much bigger was I love that aspect.
What was your inspiration for including the universal church of truth in the story? I remember you got into that a little bit, but were you already willing to go there?
Mackenzie Lee: I was actually, I, again, when I came with this pitch, one of the things I talked about wanting to write about. Well, like I said, I grew up in Utah, so Mormonism is also a really sort of [00:23:00] intrinsic part of the history here.
And my, my editor at Marvel and I actually, the first thing we sort of like bonded over as, as people was that we were both raised Mormons and are no longer part of the church, but sort of talking about that, that history and that foundation, and both of us have sort of a fascination with the way large religious groups can be both very exploitative to their population, but also can be like a tremendous source of strength and community and, and, and good, and how those two things can kind of exist within, within one organization.
And so I came in saying like, this is something that’s always been interesting to me. When I think about the old last, they always think about religion because, because of the Mormons, but also because of the. That was a part of it and that wherever, wherever people were traveling west these sort of like these creatures and these religions and these Colts would also show up and take advantage of people in a lot of ways.
So yeah, I went in being like, I would like to write about this and I think this would be a cool element to have in it on sort of the other side of [00:24:00] the, the, the minors we have the, this charge. And one of the sisters kind of falls in with the church. And one of them falls in with the, with the rebellion that’s being led or the, the strike that’s being led against the mining corporation.
And little did I know that the universal church of truth already existed within the Marvel Canon and. When,
Casey: when I first saw that, when I first read it in the book, I was like, oh my gosh, he’s going there. This is great. Okay.
Mackenzie Lee: It’s fun. Like how many people who are like again, and this is part of, what’s fun about these books and what’s fun about the Marvel universe is that you can be a casual fan and you can read this book and be like, I have no background about what the universal truth is, but like I get it two pages, then I get, this is a like a mega mega maniacal shirts.
That’s controlling people. And yet, like, you can, you can get that or you can understand it in the bigger context. And it’s been fun talking to people like you who are kind of comic centenarians and who read the comics. And immediately the first thing they geek out about it was like, you have the universal truth in there and, and the matriarch.
And, and so, it’s [00:25:00] been fun that people experienced that on sort of both.
Casey: Those deep cuts are always fun and, and layer on. I’m sure if somebody just absolutely just love this book and wants to get further into the Marvel mythos when they see stuff like that, they’re like, holy crap. This is wow. So yeah, that was my, that was me nerding out.
I, I really enjoyed it. Also I really enjoyed the, the relationships in the book. You have many characters here who live hard lives, but occasionally we’ll get glimpses of like some emotional depth and connection there in can you speak on how you go about bringing like the humanity to these characters that are so otherworldly and so different from, you know, you were right.
I mean, you are a grown human
Mackenzie Lee: person. I am a grown human Teresa and Nebula and Gomorrah are, are grown. Then we’ll be in and, oh, I can’t remember. Now I’ve got to show off. I can’t remember it. Nebulous[00:26:00]
starts with an Al I’ve been reading about this for a long time. I should remember it. So I think part of what makes Marvel a franchise that so many people, but the whole world has really gotten into. Look, I’m going to bring this full circle is also part of the reason that so many people love Shakespeare and the reason we like still still perform Shakespeare and talk about Shakespeare is because no matter what sort of set dressing, surround them, the things that appealed to people and the things that people come back for are these universal human stories and the emotional core epicenter of these stories like, yeah, like captain America.
Cool. We love captain America, but I think what most people really stick around for, with captain America is a story. Somebody who’s, who’s nobody. And who’s, who’s skinny and scrawny who then becomes this like incredible, super human hero. And like, that’s something we can think of. Like what if that happened to me?
And that feels like I’m also a scrawny. Nobody. What if I can, what if I could have this impact on the world and it’s, and especially, I think it’s the relationships between the characters that keep people invested and keep people coming back from [00:27:00] war. And that have really been the foundation for this extended universe that now exists.
And so with, with Nebula and Gamora specifically, I read a lot about trauma and about growing up in an abusive household, then what happens when you, when that’s just your normal and that’s your default and you don’t know anything different. And how do you start to recognize that you have an abusive parent and how do you, how do you start to recognize your trauma?
Cause when we see them in the movies, they’ve, they’ve kind of, they both recognize, like we didn’t grow up in a great stable environment. We were
to views. Yeah. And so this happened before kind of, we see them in the movie. And so I got to kind of go back and fill in the holes and say, okay. So when we see them, they’re starting to work through this trauma, but what about before they recognize that this is a thing that had happened to them? And what is that moment of like, recognizing that I’ve been abused my whole life, I’ve been pitted against my, my sister, my whole life.
Not for any real reasons, but just to keep us from like, recognizing how much stronger we be together and how much stronger we’d be as allies and how we could [00:28:00] overpower this person. Who’s abused us if we can just like trust each other. Those are the, those were the, kind of like the, the core emotional beats that, that define the characters and that define the story.
And I knew from the start I wanted to write about them recognizing, or how do I say this without spoiling too much, recognizing the, the, the foundational lies that had been, or the lies that had been the foundation of their upbringing. And then trying to challenge them and realizing that the trauma and the abuse goes so deep that they still can’t.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah, I get it. That’s
Mackenzie Lee: very carefully.
Casey: So, yeah. Yeah. I, I really enjoyed this book and just, it always blows my mind when, when somebody takes something like this, you know, it came from, from comic books, which for the longest was considered like low art. [00:29:00] And now it’s finally starting to get its due and you have a really smart Grown adult humans who are very well-educated running books in, you know, in that universe.
And just kind of exploring those characters and in shaping them and giving them more depth and humanity in some cases that’s that means a lot. And being able to write this for for a I thought that was cool also just, it, it seemed like it was a bit a bit different in terms of like the other Y stuff that I’ve read before.
A little bit more deeper had a little bit more to do with like relationships and emotions and stuff like that. What was your inspiration to, to go into why a writing.
Mackenzie Lee: I think it was so, so I, I was a big reader when I was a kid. But I don’t think I was a very good reader. As I looked back, I mostly read [00:30:00] star wars novels, like the franchise Scholastic book, order novels. I also like came to age at this glorious time when I, I was too young when the prequels came out to realize they were garbage.
And I was just so excited that there was more star wars that I just like love the prequels and still really do. And one of the few times, the only time I would say I’ve ever been booed at a book event is when I stated that I love the prequels and nobody can take that away from me. And a room full of librarians booed me horrifying,
Casey: terrible. I was old enough at the time where I was like this kid stuff about star wars. And then when they did the, the new ones I had. My daughter was, I think she had just turned five. My youngest, my oldest daughter had just turned five and she saw it and said, oh, there’s a girl in there. So of course, yeah, dad’s going to take her to see star [00:31:00] wars and it was great.
You know, we’re on board.
Mackenzie Lee: I have, I’ve the quickest sidebar story. So my sister never we’ll start with kids growing up and grew up idolizing princess play. I loved Leah, but then when the prequels came out was all about pat may because she’s the only girl in the film. And I wanted my mother to make me for Halloween every year.
I was like, please make me a pat may draft, please make me upon may drop. And she never did because there obscene the concept of beautiful seemingly complicated.
Casey: It’s like the big head or,
Mackenzie Lee: yeah, exactly. Exactly. I wanted that so bad. And so I’ve always asked my mom, she she’s like, this is beyond my capabilities.
And so we, as a family went and saw the the. Not last jet. I first awakened that was embarrassing. When we, we all went in, saw the fourth, the weekends together, and as the credits are rolling, you know, we’re all sitting there talking about it. My mom says, I just love Ray. And I was like, yeah, Ray is great thinking.
We’re going to have this great [00:32:00] conversation about like representation in media and things like that. And my mom goes that costume is going to be so easy to make for
coffee, stay in a bed sheet, rip it up, wrap your kid in it. And you’re like, really? That’s your tape. She’s like, I had to deal with Todd may for years. Ray had one outfit, the whole movie, it would have been so easy. Okay. Mother. Anyways going and going way backwards though, to your original question. So I read a lot of star wars books when I was a kid and that’s kind of all I read.
And then when I hit an age where young adult literature was not really a thing, but I was growing up, I hit an age where you were sort of expected to graduate from reading kids, books, and reading adult books. And especially like reading the adult books that were assigned to you in high school, English classrooms.
And I hated those and I couldn’t get through them. And I felt stupid every time I tried to pick one up and just was not interested in them. So I decided I was not interested in books in general. And I just didn’t like reading [00:33:00]
Casey: and writing.
Mackenzie Lee: It’s a natural progression. Look at my BFA is actually in history cause I wanted to be a historian.
And so while I was doing my history, I really thought I was going to do a PhD and become an academic. And I actually lived in the UK for a little bit because I was studying the wars of the roses. And so while I was over there, I was, I was traveling a lot and needed something to occupy me on. On all these trains, planes, and automobiles, and sort of like what what are these bookstores things that are in all these airports and transportation hub?
Maybe I’ll try one of them. So I, I started reading again and reading books that I chose as opposed to reading books that were assigned to me and was like, these are fine. This is fun. I like this. And then through sort of chance ended up picking up a book, some books that I had read as a kid and really loved the kid and had that were not, I mean, I did read the star wars books all over again, but not start with books, other books and just have this like mind blowing moment of like, oh my gosh, like these books made me the person I am, and I didn’t realize that.
And I’d completely forgotten. [00:34:00] Like, it’s weird how things can exist and be a part of you. And you don’t sort of recognize where that part came from until years and years later when you sort of encounter it again. And so I felt like reading the books of my childhood, kind of. Made me more in tune with who I was as an adult.
And then as a result of that, I started reading a lot of was a fairly new genre at the time and really liked it and felt like these were, these are kind of the fun coming of age stories. I love coming of age stories because like, we all feel like we’re coming of age all the time. Like we never ever feel like we haven’t figured out.
And so I think why is really universal in that sense and that we all, we all feel like we’re, we’re, we’re messing it up and figuring it out as we go. And I love WIA cause it’s just a little, it’s a little less self serious than a lot of adult literature is. There’s some inherent, I think a melodrama just in the way that teenagers experience the world, like everything happened.
On a huge scale when you’re a teenager. And not just the nature of being a teenager. You’re like, I think about like [00:35:00] the way I had friendships as a teenager, I was obsessed with my friends and I was obsessed with sitting up in a car at midnight at the football field talking about like things that I thought were so deep and philosophical at the time.
Like those, those feelings are so big when you’re a teenager that it lends itself. I think so well to, to fiction and create this like real exciting, emotional moments in your life to ground these stories in. And also I think why is exciting and fun because for as a teenager, you’re experiencing so many things for the first time.
And so there’s a sort of, you, you lose the sort of jaded, the jaded hardness of adult literature, and a lot of senses,
Casey: Hey, sorry about that. My kids just got home. That was all I had to say.
Yeah. So yeah, that being that age and having all those experiences for the first time, it really does lend itself to to a lot [00:36:00] of drama and a lot of, you know, a lot of good questions and stuff to talk about. That’s cool. How did you get into your creative mode?
Mackenzie Lee: Oh, you know, I really don’t like when, when this is your job, if you just kind of have to do
Casey: it really, really you’re you’re in that, like the mindset of like, I’m going to sit down my computer, I’m going to bang out a few pages and I can get it done.
Mackenzie Lee: I, I hate to take away the romance of, of writing novels. But yeah, for me, there are lots of days where I’m like, Hey, I got a deadline. So I don’t feel like writing today. I don’t feel inspired, but I got to bang out 1500 words in order to hit my deadline. And then there’s other days, but I’m like, oh my God, I’m on fire.
This is the greatest thing anyone’s ever written. The views is speaking to me. And usually when I go back and reread what I’ve written, I can’t tell the difference between those two. For me. So much of writing is just like getting words on the page. And I think that’s. When I, when I talk to aspiring novelists or sign writers, so [00:37:00] many of them, their biggest barricade is just getting the words on the page.
And so many people, you know, have whole worlds that existed in their head and they come up with these great stories and they’ll sometimes they start writing them and they get about 10,000 words in, and then you hit the first plot hole and then it gets kind of hard. And you’re like, oh my gosh, this is, you know, it’s not as fun as it was the momentum kind of worn off.
And then they get another idea and they’re like, oh, okay, well that one, that one seems better. That one’s easy and new and it’s never going to betray me like this one did, and it’s never going to get hard. And then he started writing that one and then about 10,000 words in the same thing happens. And so I really think that as a, as a novelist, the best thing you can do is finish what you start and just develop a habit of completing your projects and learning to write when you don’t feel creative and learning to write, when you don’t feel like the muse is sitting beside you or, or.
Or even like, I think a lot of people fall back on like, okay, I get asked a lot about like writing rituals. Like you have like a certain drink or a certain music or a certain whatever. And I’m like, yeah, there are, there are my preferred places to write and I have preferred conditions to write under, but at the end of [00:38:00] the day, I have to get work done.
And so sometimes I have to write in an airport and sometimes I have to write without my favorite pair of slippers or whatever the thing is. I think being a real, a real artist and a real creative person is learning to produce under all circumstances. And like I said, I don’t want to make it sound unromantic because it’s wonderful and it’s great.
And it’s such a great job and such an incredibly fun thing to get to do, but I think even the most fun job. There are days you drag yourself out and you’re like, I don’t want to be here today.
Yeah. It is still a job. It’s how I pay my rent and I pay my bills. And so there are lots of practical factors to take into consideration. And I think if I, if I sat around waiting for my creative mood to strike, I I’d never had anything. And I also think there’s two, there’s a myth of like, feeling like you’re going to be ready at some point, whether it’s ready to start writing your first book, or I always, when I’m doing historical research in preparation for writing something historical, I always wait for the moment.
I feel like I know [00:39:00] enough about the time period to feel like I’m ready to sit down and start writing. And the truth is you never feel ready. And so part of it is you just have to learn kind of to start before you’re ready and realize that it’s not gonna be perfect. You’re going to have to work things out as you go.
You’re gonna have to change things. You don’t have to change course. You’re gonna have to change your plot points. And, and the most important thing is, is you have to start.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. While you’re writing, do you, do you listen to music or anything like that?
Mackenzie Lee: I do. I do. I do. I I need playlist for every book.
Yeah. That are sort of like, some of them are more atmospheric playlist. Like I’m trying to think. I haven’t listened. I listened to mega more and Nebula playlist in a while. Because I also then listen to them so much. I get so sick of them and I’m like, I can never listen to any of these songs again.
It was riveting. You can cut this out later on your, on your podcast. So this had a lot of the Gomorrah and Nebula podcasts had a lot of kind of folksy or stuff on it. Like I had some traditional like, down to the river [00:40:00] to pray and leaning on the everlasting arm and those kinds of like traditional Western folk songs and hymns and things like that.
I had a lot of like the Lumineers and the high winds. And and then also things like trying to find the most Bostitch by dojo account is also on,
Casey: I was thinking like a mix between like Woody Guthrie and like trap pop, like trap music and w like, what is it? The the dumb techno music and like
Mackenzie Lee: how’s electronica. Yeah. Yeah. I also, I’m a big musical theater nerd, and I always ended up listening to, I kind of booked like attach themselves to different musicals in my head, even if they’re totally unrelated.
And I often will listen to the same musical soundtrack, like over and over and over again. Well, so for Damara, Nebula was a musical called Haiti’s town, which was actually one of the. The things I put on my vision board for my initial pitch tomorrow. Cause it’s the [00:41:00] re-imagining of the myth of Orpheus. And Eurydice see that in this sort of like gospel jazz age, new Orleans town, where hell is at the end of a railroad line that leads to this mining town where they’re mining forever and they’re always building this wall.
And so that was one of the things I, I just seen the show when I pitched the book to Marvel and it was really on my mind. And then I ended up just like bingeing the soundtrack over it. It totally messes up my Spotify, but at the end of the year. But I’ve got, I th I mean like that one actually makes sense.
There’s other books that I’m like, I’m writing this book about, about, I don’t know, The 17 hundreds and I can’t stop listening to Jesus Christ superstar my brain, for some reason, lax is on it. I think I like the, with the musicals and the sunscreen musicals. I liked the, the storytelling and the propulsion of the story throughout that, through the music and the high emotion of the music and those things, I think subconsciously affect me and subconsciously put me in the right head space for it.
Casey: I’m in a microscope [00:42:00] all day at work. It’s really insular. I’m just sitting at my, at my desk, in my microscope and I’ll listen to podcasts, but lately I’ve been listening to musicals and I’ll listen to the entirety of assassins the other day, then flip and tastic. I love that
Mackenzie Lee: genius. I time is, I mean, it’s not a controversial opinion to say Sondheim is a genius, but that one in particular, there was like an over COVID.
There was like a special for the anniversary of it. So they talked to Stephen Sondheim at a bunch of the actors and people who’ve worked on the different iterations about shows. And I remember somebody talking about how, if you listen all the different, like the different songs by each of the assassins, the way the song is structured is rooted in folk music, American folk music of the time.
And like it’s it’s such a great, fantastic show. It can be
Casey: heartbreaking sometimes just listening, like their, their backstories were. No flipping [00:43:00] wonder.
Mackenzie Lee: I mean, if you want to talk tomorrow, if you want to talk about humanizing villains and humanizing people who do really, really terrible things. And one of you asked earlier about the comics I read.
My favorite one that I read for research was a comic about Diana was actually in about fantasy sort of misspent youth. And in particular, his, his friendship with this personification of, of death and how he sort of becomes obsessed with this idea of, of chaos in life, order in depth, that then becomes the defining the defining terms of his life.
And that leaves him fitting infinity sounds and all of this. And I, I love this comic because not only was it, are we looking at sort of the backstories of these two heartless assassin women? We’re also looking at the backstory of the abusive tyrant who made them that way.
Casey: Yeah. I love by the way that you.
Went to his original muse in the book. I don’t want to get too much deeper than that, but I love the movies. I [00:44:00] thought that the guardians of the galaxy films were great. And I thought that the end game and all that, I thought everything, you know, they landed at. Right. And I understand why they wouldn’t have his original muse in the films because it’s kind of, it’s kind of different, but yeah, exactly.
I appreciated that you, that you picked that up and ran with it. I’m glad it was so well done. Do you have anything like, so obviously this is, this is out now, right? It
Mackenzie Lee: is available. Wherever books are sold.
Casey: So Gamora and Nebula, sisters, and arms you also have the low key book and God, you have one of the, the gentleman’s ma guide device and virtue, the ladies guides to petticoats and piracy.
Holy smokes, you have a ton of great books. And do you have anything else that you’re working on that we need to know about?
Mackenzie Lee: So I’ve got one more book with Marvel coming out in September of 2022, we’re [00:45:00] rounding this out with stories. And before you ask, because I’ve been asked at every interview, I cannot say about the red Marvel sniper dot would appear on my forehead if I, if I dared to reveal any, any details about it.
But I’m working on that right now and that’ll be out next year. So there will be three. Books and this sort of like Marvel antiheroes series. And then I also say, you’ve mentioned, I wrote a series of historical adventure novels featuring characters that have traditionally not gotten to home.
Those kinds of adventure novels for some public gentleman’s guide to vice and virtue. The second one is the lady’s guide to petticoats and piracy. And the third one called the nobleman guide to scandal and shipwrecks. And it is out in November. Oh,
Casey: nice. Nice. Oh my gosh, you don’t sleep. Do you?
Mackenzie Lee: I sleep.
I sleep too much waiting for that creative, that creative views.
Casey: That’s awesome. So, what do you take in like when you’re, when you’re not riding? Cause you’re, you can’t just [00:46:00] throw stuff out there constantly without getting anything back to be inspired by and to, to say your your need to be entertained.
So w what are you into now?
Mackenzie Lee: Oh, gosh, what am I into right now? I mean, I, I, when I’m working really, I go through periods where I work really intensely on something, and then you’ll have sort of an outfit of a month where I’m just like relaxing and I’m, I’m just coming off like a really intense period of work.
So, and it’s been doing promo for this book, so I haven’t been consuming a ton of a ton of media lately. I’m trying to think of things I’m into I’m reading a book theories called the rivers of London. The first one called the midnight riot. I can’t remember the author’s name. They’re a British crime procedural series that then has magic in it.
So it’s a little Dr. Who they’re really fun. I they’re very British, which I really did. And I’m, I’m enjoying the crap out of those. Like, they’re just a fun, funny reads. And I love, they have a lot of [00:47:00] sort of things in common with British writers, like type project and Douglas that, and I love that certain sensibility by just the door.
So I’ve been really, really enjoying those books lately. Another, I promise I do a thing other than read books, but another book series that I’ve just been obsessed with for the past year is Gideon the ninth by Tams in New York. And it’s CQL hair, the ninth which is the, the logline of them is lesbian.
Necromancers in space, but really they’re just like so much weirder than that. They’re so off the wall and just like fantasy, like I’ve never, never read before. And you just dropped in this world that you have no idea what’s going on, but it’s so fun and gross and I love it.
So yeah, I’ve been, I’ve been reading a lot of things. I just watched the television show hack on HBO, max
Casey: flip in hilarious two episodes behind I think, but [00:48:00] Yeah, really enjoyed it.
Mackenzie Lee: I was, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it and how, how often it made me laugh out loud. Like actual actually LOL.
And then I mean, this is a very on-brand answer, but I’ve been enjoying the crap out of the low-key series right now. Oh my gosh. It’s fantastic. And I, I had a brief interaction on the internet with the creator of, at Kate Heron. Somehow we like, if it’s one of the things where I was like, okay, so the book doesn’t tie into the series.
The book came out like two years ago. I didn’t know anything about the series before it came out. It didn’t even know what’s happening. And so it’s not like the book, my, my Loki is not a tie into the, the TV show, but she, and I must be on some kind of similar wavelength because it’s very much like if you like the TV.
So you will also like the, the low-key book, we have very, very similar sensibilities. There’s sort of a time travel element. There’s even a like fight on a train, which I was like looking at a hot blonde on a train, which is like a very, a very nice Venn diagram. I didn’t expect to hit with the TV [00:49:00] style, but I’ve loved.
I loved the show. I’ve loved it. I’ve loved it. I’ve loved, I’ve mentioned this. I love the doctor who kind of sensibility of it, but it’s very doctor who, and I love that. And Like doctor who, before Steven Moffitt got involved, we made everything way too complicated. And I loved one division. I thought one division was absolutely phenomenal.
And the fact that Marvel is like, Hey, we’re doing this new thing. We’re trying to new format of these shows. And they come out of the gate with this big swing of we’re going to talk about grief and trauma through the lens of sitcoms. Like I’m like how, how, as someone who knows how hard it is to get things approved at mobile, I’m like, how on earth did you get this?
Like, how did you pitch this and get this approved? And then they pull it off in justice. An absolutely gorgeous way. I really loved one division and I was a little as little skeptical about the shows I kinda was like, I dunno if I need more. I love that Marvel is diversifying across content because now there’s so [00:50:00] many different ways, whichever way you enjoy your media, you can now enjoy these stories that way.
And I didn’t know if the TV shows were going to be for me. And Nan wan division came out swinging. I am such a fan of,
Casey: I was very impressed by that show and I appreciate it. They stuck to like the sit-com link format, but yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s great. And on the low-key show the low-key show is you can’t look at a show.
Mackenzie Lee: There’s no like the catchy name and it’s just like low key.
Casey: When I call it the low-key show. It makes me think like he should be wearing like a bill Cosby sweater or something.
Exactly, exactly. But I really enjoy his dialogue. And the show, and then there’s like a massive distinction between, you know, how he talks and his, you know, his diction, how he phrases things and then, you know, everyone else, he stands out. But it’s believable. He’s, you know, that actor is I’m [00:51:00] terrible with actors names, but he’s incredible.
Really good job. Yeah.
Mackenzie Lee: Yeah. I’ve, I’ve enjoyed in general, the progression of low-key as a character. And so the MCU and the sort of wider world of Marvel, where I think when we first saw him in Thora and we first time in Avengers, even, he’s a very kind of self, serious character. And, and has this sort of they’re they’re talking about, you know, Trauma and his power thirst and his, his like sibling complex, you know, like these really, these really serious things about him, which all are part of his character.
And then you have Taika YTT come in who I am. I’ve been, I’m such a huge fan of Tyco. YCT have been a fan of his since before backdrop. And really, I think runoff was such a turning point for Marvel in terms of like embracing the, like really embracing the sort of inherent silliness of superheroes and the inherent absurdity there while still taking the story very seriously and taking it, the characters, like the balance of that is perfect.
And I think type [00:52:00] of ICT is a perfect filmmaker to do that. And so seeing low-key gets to be kind of a goofy or character in that and leading into even a little bit more the flamboyance and the gender, the gender fluidity, and he’s just like kind of,
Casey: they went there and go for it.
Mackenzie Lee: Yeah, I, I was also delighted by that.
One of my favorite things on on Tumblr I’ve ever seen is when, at the beginning of Ragnar, when Loki’s and disguises Odin, and someone on Tumblr had written like the hypothetical dialogue should have been, but Loki’s like, how did you know it was me and far as like, you were watching theater in your fancy self bathroom.
And it’s like, yeah, the fact that we, the fact that we’ve now hit this, this incredible balance in the show where it low-key gets to be his sort of like dramatic, flamboyant theatrical self, while also being a serious character and like having this like real relationship with his mother and his, his relationship with his family is so like [00:53:00] central.
I I’m really excited about the show and I know when the podcast will air, but I’m so excited to see where they go with it. I know it’s not enough. How are we halfway through.
Casey: My kids wouldn’t go to bed last night. So I couldn’t watch and I couldn’t watch all the new one. I was like, oh my gosh.
Mackenzie Lee: Yes, I am. I am both single and childless.
So I’ve watched low-key whenever I want. My brain, my brain wakes me up at like 7:00 AM on Wednesday morning in spite of having like I’m self-employed I could watch it whenever I want, my brain will literally like wake up and be like, Hey, to watch Loki at 7:00 AM your dog’s like mom can’t think about anything else.
Well, my dog is, she does get to go outside first, but she’s also at a St. Bernard. Yeah, she’s half asleep at all times, so she’s very in favor of anything. Keep that in bed for longer, which is usually what the local
Casey: well, McKinsey I’ve, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. Thank you so much for coming on [00:54:00] and talking about Gomorrah and nebulous sisters and arms.
You guys go out find this book, McKinsey Lee Gamora and Nebula sisters in arms. Yeah. Yeah. I enjoyed the hell out of it. And I can’t wait to read the new book that you can’t talk about because yeah, yeah, yeah. So, you said a sniper is involved, maybe. So now
Mackenzie Lee: the sniper on the other side, on the other side of my living room being like, don’t you say it don’t say it
Casey: I’m still going to speculate that it not
Mackenzie Lee: really narrow it down.
That could really be.
Casey: But I think Mr. Frank castle might have, well, thank you again so much. And by all means next year in November, November, 2022, hit us up. Come back
Mackenzie Lee: December. Yeah, it was wonderful. I enjoyed it so much for having me this
Casey: and for coming on and I [00:55:00] hope you enjoy the rest of your evening and I’m gonna go upstairs and make some dinner for some kids that are, that are yelling at me.
Mackenzie Lee: I’m going to make some dinner for a dog who’s staring at me.
Casey: McKenzie. Thank you again. And we’ll we’ll, we’ll shoot you a message when this goes up and I’ll, I’ll tag you in all the stuff and make sure that people see this book. Cause it’s fantastic.
Mackenzie Lee: Great. Thank you so much. This is one of the best conversations I’ve had for this.
Casey: I appreciate it. Thank you so much. You have a good one and we’ll see.
Mackenzie Lee: Yes, definitely. Definitely.