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Seanan McGuire Interview
Casey: [00:00:00] Welcome again, to another episode of spoiler country today on the show we have writer, Sean and Maguire. Now Shannon has done a ton of literary fiction, done a ton of scifi stuff, done a ton of fantasy stuff. And she’s also done some amazing comics. One of which coming up soon is something you’re going to be really excited about.
So, everybody give a big hand to Shannon. Shannon, how are you doing? I’m doing all right.
Seanan McGuire: How are you today?
Casey: I’m good. I’m good. Today I actually had a comic Kickstarter and we, we funded completely over funded, which is great. That’s always a good thing. And it’s the best part is it’s done and off to worry about anymore.
Seanan McGuire: That is the nicest part of a Kickstarter,
Casey: honestly. Yes. Yes. Ma’am. So you are a writer you’ve been asked for, you know, you’ve [00:01:00] blazed a trail and I just want to know how you got from, you know, being this little girl that grew up in Martinez, California and ended up, you know, being a hot shot writer and starting to, you know, working for not only in, you know, like books that you could throw at people, but also comics that you could, you know, fold up neatly and throw at people.
If you wanted to,
Seanan McGuire: to be honest, I wish I knew because that would mean that was something replicable and tell people to do what I did. But what I did was drop out of college because I didn’t have any money left. Right. An enormous quantity of fan fiction, like just a genuinely horrifying quantity of fan fiction and write books.
I will say that the thing I do feel is most responsible for me having any kind of ongoing success is that I am a workhorse. I don’t sit [00:02:00] around and wait for inspiration. I don’t sit around and wait for the muse to be with me. I sit at my keyboard and I do the work, and I feel like a lot of people because they have this very romantic idea of what it is to be a writer and this very sort of idealized, Oh, I’m going to be sitting in my beautiful Garret in Paris while the news comes and talks to me, concept of it.
Don’t necessarily realize that you do have to sit down and just do the work. That’s what matters more than anything,
Casey: Yolo your way to the top. The Shauna. That’s so awesome though. I mean, it, you, you lit you made a place for yourself at the table by doing what you love. So how did you grow to love writing?
Like what, what was the, what about books made you go, huh? I want to do that. I can do that.
Seanan McGuire: So I grew up so far below the poverty line in California that you couldn’t see it on a clear day. There was nothing we could [00:03:00] do. We didn’t get to go to the movies. A lot of the time we didn’t have television. A lot of the time, we didn’t have heat books, though.
If you could get a library card or you didn’t mind reading slightly moldy paperbacks that your mother had pulled out of the dumpster behind Walden books, books, cost the same for everybody and they were there for everybody. And so the idea that you could be a person who made there be more books in the world was just about the most appealing thing anyone had ever said to me.
I am somewhat of a blunt realist. You know, it’s not my most friend making. Personality trait, but it’s definitely something people get used to. And I figured out by the time I was about six, that I was not pretty and I was never going to be one of the super, pretty girls who got to have everything they wanted just because they walked through life being attractive.
And that is a very reductive way of putting it. But that is how I felt as a child. So instead I had [00:04:00] to figure out something I could do that would make people like me and what I could do was tell stories.
Casey: That’s that’s awesome. And I can totally relate to growing up poor and finding, finding refuge in books and Have grown.
I grew up in a very abusive household and that was like, you know, you get knocked around and you realize like, Oh, if I stay in my room and read, like I won’t get hit today or whatever. So, I can, I can totally empathize and relate to that. So what, what hooked you? What was, what was your jam when you were a kid?
Seanan McGuire: Anything I could get my hands on really? Oh yeah. I, I read like an omnivore. My mother would bring home literal boxes of books from yard sales and flea markets. You know, she’d pay two bucks and just bring home half of some dead old ladies collection. And that was what I read. [00:05:00] And so it didn’t really matter what it was, what it mattered was that it was mine.
I had to stop using the library when I was about eight, because as you can probably guess when you are a super poor, not super pretty child, you do get bullied just a little bit. And when I was eight, some of the neighborhood kids knocked me down, took my library books and threw them in the Creek.
There was literally no way in this world that I could pay the fine for losing those books. Particulate enough yet to explain what had happened to the adults in a way that would get them to forgive my fines. So I lost libraries and all that mattered about books from that point on was that they were mine.
And if they got damaged or something, the only person losing out was me. I preferred fantasy. I figured that out pretty quickly that my biggest jam really was anything with magic, anything where fantastic stuff got to happen, because those worlds felt more open to me. It [00:06:00] felt like maybe if I was good, if I did what I was supposed to, if I listened, maybe the magic would come from me too.
Casey: That’s that’s awesome. And yeah, again, I can, I can totally see that that, that evolution as, you know, a way someone becomes a writer and I I’m really interested. You have a book coming up, which I’m not gonna really talk about just yet. What was your first foray into comics?
Seanan McGuire: So, you may have heard of a little thing called free comic book day.
That was actually started by a man named Joe field who owns a comic book store in Concord, California called flying colors and other cool stuff and flying colors and other cool stuff. When it opened, opened literally two blocks from the house of my aunt, Debbie, a lot of free babysitting for my mom. I had three children, all [00:07:00] of whom were younger than me.
And so I would wind up stuck in her house for just hours and hours and hours with these three kids and my two baby sisters. And that’s kind of unbearable when you are an overly smart eight or nine year old, who just wants to be left alone to read your damn book. So I would get permission to go for walks, you know, can I walk down to the ax if I walk down at the Y and when flying colors opened, I immediately ticked over.
Can I go and see the new comic bookstore? Can I walk to the comic book store? Well, yeah, walked to the comic book store. We don’t care. Just get out of here. You’re driving us all crazy. So I went down to the comic book store. Well, it turns out that Joe had two daughters of his own and thus very intent on operating a comic bookstore for everyone.
He didn’t do the thing where there were no unattended minors. He treated children as if they were individuals. And as long as you were well, behaved, didn’t matter how old you were. Or if I was [00:08:00] well-behaved, if I was poorly behaved, he’d put me out of the store. If you were well-behaved, he’d keep you. And so we didn’t run into that thing where all children get banned because one child was naughty and Joe knew that I was not from a very stable financial situation.
So when he saw me coming, he started slipping back issues of things into the quarter box. Cause he had already figured out, you know, I liked the X-Men. I really liked the fact that they’re teenagers, because again, it felt like I could be a part of that story. Like maybe the X-Men would come for me and that’s very appealing.
Casey: misfits are all, you know, something that’s, people are kind of overlooking.
Seanan McGuire: There was room for me in the X-Men. And so he started moving back issues into the quarter box when he saw me coming to make sure I’d be the one that got them. And I show up with three or five quarters that I had dug out of the couch and dig through that box for hours.
And that is [00:09:00] how I wound up getting into comics was one person looked at me and was like, you know, I can sense the starts of obsession in this child. If I nurture them. Now, when I am older, she will buy me a boat.
Casey: So what you’re basically trying to say is that Joe, from flying colors is a Saint he’s a living
Seanan McGuire: Saint.
He is, this is literally a man who, while running a successful comic book business turned around one day and said, you know what? Comics are expensive. We should have a day where everyone gives away comics for free to make sure comics can be for everybody and then was able to make it happen.
Casey: That’s yeah.
Yeah. And we up until a few years ago, when, when my local shut down I loved going to a free comic book day with my daughters because I have two small kids. One is 10 and the other is six and they would, you know, they would just [00:10:00] like, seeing people dressed up as their favorite characters and stuff like that.
But my ten-year-old really, really latched onto it and wanted to see like, Oh, Oh, these are books also that, that I can read. They’re not just, you know, this stuff that daddy says I’m too young for or whatever. Yeah. So, Which, like I’m not super strict. It’s just like, I don’t want her to see people getting blown up and inside at 10,
Seanan McGuire: it’s not about being strict.
It is about the fact that some things kids won’t notice. Yes. I was only forbidden to authors when I was a child. I was not allowed to read Stephen King because my mother scary and I was not allowed to read Robert Highland because my mother had heard that he was pornographic. I still don’t really care for Highland cause I kind of missed the window on learning to love his prose.
But students, favorite authors, there was a lot of sexy stuff in Stephen King that my [00:11:00] mom had no idea was there. Cause she hadn’t read him herself.
Casey: Yes. Yes
Seanan McGuire: I did you notice any of it till I went back to those books as an adult when you’re nine and reading because you want to see the scary monster. You don’t notice that there are people having sex in the background because they don’t really,
Casey: I remember reading what was it?
I think it was a stand when I was like 11 or 12 and just like, yeah, I can handle this. And then like, what what’s going on? This is weird, but yeah, totally got the the the monster and the scary and stuff. But yeah, some of that stuff just went over my
Seanan McGuire: head. Yeah. It’s, I’m not saying you should just hand kids sex manuals, but I, you know, standards are important, but I am saying that for the most part, kids will just skip over a lot of that stuff.
If it’s part of the story that is otherwise compelling, somebody getting blown up in a comic book though, you know, invincible, [00:12:00] something like that, where it’s a graphic that they have to look at. I can understand keeping that a little bit distant until she’s older.
Casey: Oh yeah. Yeah. Speaking of, of writing stuffer for younger readers, you’ve done that.
How has, how has that been and do you, do you ever feel like you were writing for, you know, baby Shannon?
Seanan McGuire: I have written books that I really needed and I was a kid. Yeah. But most of what I do for, for baby Shannon is collect generation one. My little ponies
were my favorite thing in the entire world. When I was a kid, I liked them better than I liked my family. And now I have a home and a budget and a career of my own. And I choose to dedicate of my storage space and some of my less committed spending money to collecting those plastic horses. So that’s most of where my energy for her goes.
[00:13:00] Casey: I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Seanan McGuire: You definitely will. If you are telling stories, you will tell the kind of stories that still make your inner nine-year-old go. Ooh. Yeah, that’s what I want to see. Because part of the stories you choose to tell will be motivated by a part of you that you are fully in control of, you know, your subconscious will sound off and say, okay, what we’re going to be thinking about today is X.
And that’s what you can really easily find a story in and tell a story about is the thing that your mind has already presented you with. So
Casey: I’m sorry. I was to say, go on ahead. I was I was basically saying what, what happens when, you know, you’re, you’re writing and it’s just not coming out because you, you have so many outlets right now.
You, you, you stay busy, you have so many series, [00:14:00] so many things going on. What do you do to get into the mode of writing?
Seanan McGuire: You mean as writing a specific thing, rather than just writing in general or
Casey: more specifically, like when it’s just not happening. Like when you get behind your, your, your computer or whatever, and sit down and start. Staring at that blank screen and go like, it’s just not happening. Do you do you have to recharge, do you have to step away or do you just push
Seanan McGuire: through it?
I think everyone has to recharge once in a while. What keeps me motivated and keeps me working is, you know, we have discussed because it’s trauma hour with Sean and Maguire. We discussed the fact that we both come from poor backgrounds. Well, I was homeless repeatedly before routine. And at this point I am a full-time author.
I am incredibly privileged in that. I have been able [00:15:00] to find enough of a place with my work and find enough success with my work. That that’s what I do. That’s all I do. But that’s also the, all that pays my bills. Right. I will not be able to pay my bills. The idea of homelessness, no matter how remote it is at any given moment is terrifying enough to me.
That sear will motivate me if nothing else does. If there’s no inspiration there, if I’m just not feeling it, that’s fine. You are allowed, your feelings are always valid, even when they are wrong, because they are your feelings. But I am pretty much always able to make myself buckle down and do what needs to be done by just remembering, Hey, you know?
Sure. You’d rather go lay on the couch and watch top chef, but isn’t it nice to have a roof? Don’t you enjoy it?
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. Having a roof. It’s pretty cool. I got to say it was I’m the first person in [00:16:00] my immediate family to have to own a house. Congratulations. Thank you. Thank you. But it’s, it’s one of those things where it was just like, we, it was most, most of the time it was, you know, just my mom when I was a kid, it was myself and my sister and yeah.
W like. I can totally relate to being terrified of that going away.
Seanan McGuire: I think if you are fortunate enough, never to have been homeless than on some level, the fact that any degree of safety is transitory is not necessarily in the back of your mind.
Casey: Oh yeah, for sure. For sure. So where, where do your ideas come from?
What’s your inspiration? Because like we were saying earlier, you have so much going on
Seanan McGuire: legit, everywhere. You know, Stephen King, who we were talking about before used to say [00:17:00] that, getting an idea was like your subconscious farting down there. That’s just marinating all the time. And once in a while, something’s going to bubble up, but you can get an idea from anything.
I have a book that I wrote and have not yet sold. It was quite awhile ago, so you’re not missing out on anything. It would require some serious work before I’d let the world see it. But I have a book that I wrote that was literally inspired by falling asleep in the car on my way to work while a counting crows song was playing.
It’s not a story about that song. It’s just a story about that moment that was sort of contextualized by the song. And I got a whole book out of it.
Casey: So when are we going to have the, the new book by Shannon McGuire? The ranking
Seanan McGuire: that is actually mine. That was not the song in question, but I have, because I’m at my computer as we’re this podcast, I have my iTunes up here and if I sort by name of song [00:18:00] and scroll down to rain King selecting all of the different versions of rain King.
I have a live concert recordings is four and a half hours of
Casey: music. I think that you are a fan of counting crows in the same way that I’m a fan of the cure or sleep. So quite probably they were my college band. Oh, nice. Now that August everything after it was such a good album, like every song.
Seanan McGuire: Yeah.
Every song is good, but not every song is perfect, but taken as a whole, the album itself is perfect.
Casey: Yes. Yes. And for some reason, the other day, just out of the blue, I had one of those, a song from that album just kind of echoing around in my head. I’m not worried. I’m not overly concerned that, and it’s so good.
Oh, it really is. And his, his lyrics like Adam dura, it’s such a good [00:19:00] writer.
Seanan McGuire: Yeah, he still is. But I spent the entire summer when I was 25, following them around here, like seriously, it is a little sad how much I love the County, calls them the music of my pain. I just, I love them. I love the way they assemble things and I love that they are so devoted to remaining a solid concert band.
Casey: it’s it’s such a different thing to just having a, you know, seeing a concert and seeing it play. You’re hearing it over the, you know, the album recording, there is two complete different just ways of, of doing things. And some people are great in concert. Some people are great at doing the live albums.
Rarely. Do you find somebody that are great at doing the album together? The studio albums it’s, it’s rare that you find somebody who’s good at both. And they generally hit on [00:20:00] all cylinders. So yeah, they’re, they’re they’re solid band. I didn’t think we would ended up talking about, I
Seanan McGuire: was just thinking that I’m like, I bet you didn’t think this would be a counting crows appreciation day, but
Casey: they’re solid.
Seanan McGuire: totally solid. They really are. And I respect the fact that they know what they are. I think that is one of the more important things for any kind of creative, whether you are a writer, a musician, anything, it doesn’t matter. Know what you’re good at, know what you do and commit it’s okay. If the thing that you’re good at is not the thing that makes everybody stand up and go, Oh my gosh, that person is so impressive.
I may or may not. I have learned, never to say never, but I may never win an Eisner. That’s not a thing that I’m going to sit here and go. My entire self-worth is predicated on the idea that one day my comic work will bring me home in iceberg. That is not what I’m great at. I am [00:21:00] great at at dialogue. I am great at putting things in a line.
I am great at knowing the shape of the story. Karen Gillan on the other hand is going to win all the Eisner’s. His house is just like, be a wall of Eisner’s.
Casey: If you’ll allow me to interrupt real quick, of course it’ll be hard to fit an Eisner on the shelf with the Nebula, the Hugo, the locus, and all those other world science fiction awards, stuff like that.
Seanan McGuire: I will admit in that small petty. Okay. This is a horrible, want an Eisner, but it is the genuine honest reason that I want to win an Eisner. I have been attending the San Diego Comic-Con since I was 16. I had a family friend that took me with her. It is one of my home conventions. It’s pretty much the only convention that I still do because I want to, and because I love it rather than doing it because I have to for work and it’s expected of [00:22:00] me.
I love Comic-Con so much. And it has gotten so big since Hollywood discovered it. And I’m speaking of it as if it were going to be exactly the same post COVID as it was pre COVID. We all know it’s not going to, but that’s the only model I have. It’s gotten so big since Hollywood discovered it, that just getting a hotel room is you have to enter a lottery.
Casey: it’s ridiculous.
Seanan McGuire: Online. I set alarms to get up to wow. Moment. The hotel scramble opens. Obviously you don’t get your first book deal and quit your job. That would be silly. It took several years and a dozen books before I was financially stable enough in my concerns for homelessness to be willing to quit my job.
And so for the first week, while I was writing full time, I would literally take two hours of my vacation time for the year and spend them on the San Diego hotels.
[00:23:00] Casey: Wow. Wow.
Seanan McGuire: It’s not okay. But. If you win an Eisner once one Eisner, for any reason, you get a free hotel room for the rest of time. Oh shit.
Really? Really? Yeah. You said at the beginning that we, that you didn’t drop us straight into recording because you wanted me to have a moment to get my F-bombs out. I want you to know how much effort it took me not to drop one, Justin.
Casey: I mean, you, you, there there’s no prohibition on it, by the way. It’s just, you know, I didn’t know what audience you, you know, you want
Seanan McGuire: it.
I try to be polite and match the audience. I think I’m talking to, but yeah, no, you get a fucking freak telling me you’re dead. I want that hotel room so badly. I want that free hotel room. And I want to never have to go through professional credentials, not validation again, which are both things that they give you.
If you win an Eisner. Do I know that my comic work is good enough to justify [00:24:00] giving me an iceberg. No. Have CA have Eisner has been given to people where I genuinely as a comics fan do not feel their work was good enough for them to warrant that Eisner. Yes, absolutely. So thus, do I deserve an Eisner if they deserve one?
Casey: Oh my gosh. I’m rooting for you from now on.
Seanan McGuire: Maybe that is the silliest most pure IOL reason one ever, but it is a reason born of true and absolute love of the convention and the community. And I just, I want it, so it might not fit well on the shelf. Don’t really care. The real prize here is not the Eisner itself.
The real prize is the hotel room that comes with
Casey: it. I mean, honestly, that is the most realistic and like, I can totally relate to that reason for wanting an Eisner, because I mean, you’ve wanting an award for something that you’ve done and you’ve gotten paid for is kind of silly as it is. So, if you get a [00:25:00] free hotel room out of it, hell yeah.
Won’t that free hotel room.
Seanan McGuire: Even the cost of the hotel, I would be happy to pay them for it. It’s the part where you don’t have to make the reservation.
Seanan McGuire: yes. Do it. And you get a room no matter what and Oh my gosh. Seriously. The last thing I did before COVID shut down the world was flight fly home to Washington from a convention that I had attended in Biloxi, Mississippi, where?
Yeah, that was like, last time I left my house was coming home from Mississippi and I was literally sitting in the departures lounge. You know, the gate really cause it was Alaska and they don’t have a departures lounge at at the new Orleans airport, which is what I flew in and out of. But I’m sitting, waiting, quite dealing with texts and emails about the San Diego hotel rooms, because we had just finished the scramble and I had actually managed to secure a really nice room for [00:26:00] San Diego, 2020 a bummer.
I think I was more upset to lose the room that I was to lose the con
Casey: I’m reading for you 20, 22. Thank you. So, yeah, cause I think 20, 21 is not, not happening either at all.
Seanan McGuire: Yeah, I don’t think so. They did just officially cancel the convention itself. And talking about maybe doing something small in the fall.
I believe the eyes nurse will move forward. Most of the awards have been moving forward just in a virtual sense, but I don’t really think I’m a contender for this year. I would love to be, and when the right end period comes around, I will absolutely tell people. Right. Because I meant that
Casey: I don’t blame you one bit.
So, w w we were talking about music earlier. Is that something that you do while you, while you write, do you, do you listen to anything or is it you know, no, Sean is writing. Shawna needs to have it quiet.
Seanan McGuire: I have my iTunes playing 24 seven. [00:27:00] I always have music on, and that is because if I don’t do something to fill up parts of my brain, It, it will just keep going.
You know, my brain does not shut off. It does not calm down. It does not take a chill pill or a fricking nap. It just keeps going all the time forever. So that’s fun being me is exhausting. And the music helps a little bit, cause it gives my mind something else to focus on.
Casey: What are you listening
Seanan McGuire: to?
I am listening to my entire iTunes library. Okay.
Casey: So, so it’s not like a curated playlist or anything. It’s just like, just put it on a random,
Seanan McGuire: I am listing to be a huge amount counting curse. There’s a lot of counting crows in here. I have the entire Taylor Swift , you know, I’ve got a lot of Broadway musicals, a lot of American folk, a lot of modern country.
A lot of soundtracks of various things that aren’t Broadway musicals, but nonetheless gave me a [00:28:00] soundtrack album. So not ashamed to admit, I still have literally the entire Gleed discography.
Casey: I totally missed that entire show, but I know that I had a few people in my, you know, in my circle that were nuts about it. So the
Seanan McGuire: thing about glee is I really do. I think that it did a lot of good things. It was a lovely show and I enjoyed it at the time, but because of what has happened with, and to some of the former cast members, I’m not sure it is possible to watch it for the first time now and enjoy it.
Casey: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I wonder if that’s Oh, I’m sorry. No, go ahead. I was about to say, I wonder if it’s going to have a similar effect with, with Buffy now that we’ve kind of heard some of the the creepiness that was happening on set with that and [00:29:00] how painful it was for some of the things. Yeah,
Seanan McGuire: I wish I could say that.
I think it is going to make a lasting impact. But none of this was new. Like all of the stuff that’s just come out about Josh Weeden, people have been saying for literal years they just have not been saying it that loudly and every comes out, people are startled by it and they explain over it and then it goes away again.
So I am dearly afraid that it’s not going to make a really lasting impact and it should,
Casey: yeah. It, it sucks because like I was kind of, completely and totally oblivious to all of that. And now it just, I’d only heard like, Oh, he he’s such a good guy for, you know, women in movies and feminism. And he’s like, a good male feminist and you know, which is great, but it turns out he’s just [00:30:00] using that as a cover to be a CRE, which sucks.
Seanan McGuire: So, and like we had, what about a week of people examining their relationship to Wieden’s properties? And now we’re back to Josh Weeden is my master now. So expand accounts are posting just like our it’s all continued down. Exactly the same lines. The only difference is it’s a little harder to plead ignorance than it used to.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. It’s so weird because I mean, When people were watching that show, it wasn’t that they weren’t watching it for, for Josh. They were watching it because they, they connected with the, the property. But still like, I can’t watch a Woody Allen movie and, and think at school because he’s in weirdo.
Like I don’t want to deal with that shit. I don’t want that echoing in my head while I watch it.
Seanan McGuire: The thing to remember about Buffy is that unlike with glee where the issues are with some of the former cast [00:31:00] members with Buffy we’ve had, other than the Nicholas, Brendan, who has had several domestic violence claims against him, the most part, the cast has remained the people that we thought they were.
Yeah. Amber Benson, who played Tara is actually a friend of mine. And she has some lovely stories about her time on the show. You know, they were not. They were not happy with jaws. He was scary, but he was also not interacting with them all 100% of the time. He didn’t write a huge out of the show. Really well.
Look at the writing credits on any given episode show runner is not sitting down and scripting every single episode. Your show runner is kind of like my editor for ghost spider is Devin Lewis. Yeah. He puts his stamp on every comic. He has to approve of every comic and make sure that anyone who’s writing a comic for him [00:32:00] is staying within the lines that have been sketched for them to stay within it this time.
But he is not writing the dialogue. He doesn’t have time. He’s got too much else to do so didn’t did write some episodes, but most of the really iconic lines that people like to quote from Buffy are from other hands.
Casey: So were, were you a like when, when it was kind of, I was a
Seanan McGuire: Buffy, the vampire Slayer fan.
Casey: So it’s got a staying like now, like having that that information, or I guess when, when you found out,
Seanan McGuire: when I found out it stung really bad, especially since, you know, you were asking, how, how do you become a, you I became me in part by writing so much Buffy the vampire Slayer, really, but it came to the attention of the person who is now my agent.
Like I literally got my agent for writing [00:33:00] fluffy and faith on top of a motel in Buttonwillow.
Casey: That’s that’s, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. We actually went this route. We got so Buffy.
Seanan McGuire: It is, it is, you know, the way the world is, we don’t get to remove influences from our hearts and from our lives, because we find out later that they were created by toxic people. We just have to try harder to not be toxic people ourselves, and to not do things that are going to cause us to inadvertently do harm down the line.
Casey: That actually leads me to my next thing, because I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about you on the I’m joking. We’re going to name names now. No, I’m joking. You you, you got really into Buffy and that led you to, to writing the fan fiction and stuff. You’re also a massive X-Men fan.
Seanan McGuire: More than anything, you
Casey: you’ve actually [00:34:00] been able to write some X-Men and stuff.
Yes. How was that? And what again, were you writing for baby Shawn? Or what was this? Something that they handed you? How, what was the
Seanan McGuire: process for that? My first X-Men story was effectively, they handed me one because my first X-Men story is the the X-Men gold annual number two, which was a backfill story about kitty pride written during the period, when it looked like she might actually marry Colossus, a colossal mistake are, are, are I’m really glad that they backed out of that.
Yes, they I was contacted by Mark creepy. Yeah. Oh yeah. And I was contacted by Marvel by an editor who knew my work enough to know that she would like to work with me. But had not really researched me on social media well, enough to know that I have literally been begging Marvel to hire me on Twitter for [00:35:00] years.
So she’s just like, Hey like your work, do you have any interest in the X-Men? And then I became non-verbal for like, I, I’m not kidding. I literally, and legitimately could not speak because I was so overwhelmed by the possibility that maybe this was a thing that might be able to happen. We joke a lot about Marvel having snipers that is not entirely a joke.
Marvel has some pretty good ironclad NDAs. And one of the things that you figure out very quickly, whether you’re working for Marvel or not, is that if you want to work for Marvel, you should absolutely not tell anyone. If you finally get the call. Well, I called my brother immediately. And then I didn’t tell him, I just made bat noises.
And he was like, okay, you’re making, making squeaky noises, but you’re not crying. So whatever it is is that good? Like that was the first [00:36:00] jump he made on. She has gotten news so exciting that she cannot speak Oh nice. But because they knew where they wanted that story to fall, they basically said, we need a kitty pride story that fits in this gap that involves these elements.
And that is something she would never have told anyone so that it can be a new story without being erect con. And that is an interesting set of restrictions work through. So I was able to build a story based off of what they needed and what I already knew that they needed. And that is an approvals process.
You pitch what you want to the editorial team and the editorial team discusses it. And they either come back and go, yeah, no, you’re not doing that. Or they come back and go, yeah, you can do that with these changes or they come back and go, yes. Yay. This is perfect. Great roll tide. And when we finally hit the point of me being given permission, [00:37:00] I I went ahead with the storyline that they had approved and that is, you know, basically how every comic book is born kids.
Hey and started writing. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a comic script. There are different ways to format them, but they’re all essentially the same because a comic script is a form of structured poetry. It’s just a structured poem. That is 20 pages long. So I opened my file and I know how to do a comic script.
Cause I had written some comics for thrill bent a couple of years back, but I opened my file and I wrote page one, panel one, and then I sat at my computer and I cried and I know how utterly stupid that sounds. But I knew in that moment that anything I described in that panel, anything I said was there was going to be canonical.
And the very [00:38:00] first panel is just talking about trees because the first panel of my first script is basically a pan in two exude saviors. And I was so overwhelmed by the FA that I was creating canonical trees in the X-Men universe that I couldn’t, you know, how people on the internet will say, I just can’t even, I found my, I just can’t even.
And you know, I did that. I did the mystique one shot for the X-Men black series. And then I got stolen a little bit by the spider office, which is where I’ve mostly been up to this point. And even when they called me to say, you know, Hey, we’re interested in working with you, the editor, Devin Lewis, again, off with, we know that your heart is with the X-Men, like we know who to commit an act of minor theft here, but we want you, and they were offering me something in that moment that the X-Men line, the X-Men office couldn’t offer, which is they were offering the, a title and they were offering me a title who [00:39:00] is accidentally.
Very very important to me. You know, I talked about Joe and how he would slip back issues into the box. Well, some of the back issues he put in, there were things that he thought were important. They were key issues that were just not in good enough shape to be worth a lot of money. So he would try to make sure that I had a decent grounding in comics since he could tell where my love life, where, where my love was starting to lie.
And he despite the fact that I was years too young to have encountered this thing in the wild, normally I am not actually old enough to have experienced the death of Gwen. Stacy.
Casey: Did he slip you the Wednesday
Seanan McGuire: system to me? The death of Wednesday? Well, he slipped me Spider-Man because in the beginning I was very into Spiderman.
Like that was, it was basically X-Men and Spider-Man for me in, at the beginning of things. And he had just a beat to shit. Copy of the death of one Wednesdays. And after I had been getting into Spider-Man for a little while, he made sure that [00:40:00] I got my hands on that. And you know, I talk about seeing yourself in story.
I think that’s something that is very, very important for people is to have the opportunity to see yourself in story and for other people to see you in story, because that is how we learn empathy. That is how people learn to relate to one another is by seeing other people in stories. And so Gwen, Stacy, for me at that time in the Marvel universe was the closest I had come to seeing myself in story.
She was a smart blonde girl. She didn’t have any super powers, but he hung out with the superpower people, which when you’re a kid reading comics as a pretty good Nate she spent a lot of time with them and I knew that she would never be the star. Because her name wasn’t on the cover. She wasn’t Spiderman, but she was there.
She got to be a part of things. And then they checked her off a bridge. And that level [00:41:00] of awareness of knowing that she wasn’t the star messed with me a little bit in that moment, because I had already internalized the comic book. People could come back, but you only got to come back. If your name was on the cover, Gwen was dead forever.
Unquestionably. When was gone forever, they had had in their universe, they had a version of me basically running around and then they threw her off a fucking bridge and I cried a lot. And then I didn’t read any Spider-Man for years because I could not handle the idea of. Of going back to a place that had hurt me that badly.
You know, when you only have so many quarters and your choices are the place that has hurt you or the place that has not, you stick with the place that has not. So when, when into the spider verse was first announced the, the Connick event, and they said, we’re going to have a version of when Stacy who became Spiderman in her universe.
I basically went, yeah. Okay. Whatever, [00:42:00] you’re not going to let us keep her. You’re going to take her away again. That’s what you people do. That’s what you did over in ultimate. You dangle a Gwen at us. And then she turns out to be a clown or evil or just dead. And this is a big event. You’re going to kill people.
There’s no way we’re keeping her. And then she stuck around, which I did not know how to process. I couldn’t cope with that, but she’s still there. We’re, we’re moving forward in time now. So we’re not going to be on this backstory forever. But she had been dead for so much of my life and she had been absolutely forbidden to me for so much of my life that she wasn’t even on my bucket list of characters that I wanted to write for, because she was just not an option.
Like you’re not going to get Gwen, don’t get your hopes up. And then the spider office called me and said, Hey, we were just wondering if you might be interested [00:43:00] in writing for Gwen and sound stopped. Like the, there was no noise left in the universe, everything just shut down. And according to people who were on that call with me, I was very proud.
I was very polite and very professional. I don’t remember. I was no longer there. This, the shop you have reached is NOLA is disconnected or is no longer in service. There was just this dial tone in my head, just this infinite humming sound. But I said that, yes, that would be very pleasant. And I thought I could do a lovely job with her.
Thank you so much for thinking of me. And then I wrote a 27 page pitch explaining exactly what I wanted to do and I, I didn’t get to do a third of it, you know, cause again, your editors, they have to work with all of Marvel, not just with the author who thinks they have the best idea ever. And every choice made in every comic affects every other comic.
I got to do enough of it and I got to write for my girl. And that was just, that [00:44:00] was literally a dream. I know everyone says writing for comics is a dream come true, whether they’re having a good time or not, but that was literally an unquestionably, a dream come true. And I think my greatest resentment about COVID is not the conventions that took away or the other things that canceled, but the fact that it disrupted our store, we were finally in one of the storylines I had been really excited about for a long time, and then COVID happened and shut down our printers.
And that really gutted our sales. I don’t think we ever stood a prayer of bouncing back from COVID. You know, it was never like the best seller at Marvel, but it was doing well enough that we were holding on. And then we lost basically three issues that they had been counting on to be, these are the issues that are going to turn it around.
Casey: That’s, that’s gotta be a more than a, a punch to the gut, [00:45:00] but,
Seanan McGuire: but you know, it is what it is. We universe turn. Yeah.
Casey: And it’s still turning because, I mean, you, you have Wyndham versus carnage, which is how was this proposed to you? Or was this something that you you were like, Hey, let’s, let’s try this and
Seanan McGuire: pitched the basic storyline of Gwen and versus carnage.
Oh, nice. Spider storyline ages ago. Like that was one of the first things I wanted to do. Was having the, it’s not a surprise anymore. It’s on all the covers, you know, having the Mary Jane carnage coming in as someone that Gwen would have to deal with. And then the time was not right for a long time because they were doing other things with symbionts in universe and they have to balance it all.
And we didn’t quite manage to get there before we were canceled, but because my editor denim Lewis had seen my pitch for for the MJ carnage for Glenn’s version of carnage. He remembered [00:46:00] that. And when they were looking for tie-ins for this particular event, he called me. So it’s kind of a combination of did they pitch that to you?
And did you pitch that to them? You know, I brought them the original idea. They came to me and said, you could do it here. And it was so nice to have her back for, you know, even three issues.
Casey: I bet. I bet. So when you’re writing these characters, I mean, extensively they’re marbles, but you make them, then you make them yours through, you know, do they, it sounds silly, but I’m sure you know, what I’m talking about.
Are they in your head or have you just kind of learned,
Seanan McGuire: I mean, when you’re writing them, I think that they absolutely have to be in your head because if they’re not, you’re not, they’re not going to sound like them. And one’s version of every of every character is going to sound a little different. Leah Williams.
Who’s currently writing X factor and is a friend of mine. She and I are probably the two [00:47:00] biggest Emma Frost fans in the world.
Casey: Oh yeah. Yeah. I’ve I’ve heard her go on and on about it via her Twitter.
Seanan McGuire: Oh yeah. But it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a dead tie between the two of us on who loves Emma more. But we will still disagree about points of interpretation.
And if you handed us both the same pitch and said, write me five pages of script, the dialogue would not match. You have to have your own version of that character in your head to be able to write that dialogue at all, much less, have it sound true to character. And you know, so they are absolutely marbles.
One of the things I’ve always been very careful about and occasionally gotten into arguments with people about, because they’re like, you don’t have to be that careful is I do not make sweeping statements about what the characters are or like, or do that are not backed up by the
Casey: yeah. Eventually they go back in the toy box.
Seanan McGuire: Exactly. And I always knew that that was the case. You don’t always know [00:48:00] that, you know that when you take the gig. That you are borrowing someone else’s things and you’re going to have to return them. And you hope that you won’t have to return them until you feel like you’re done with them. And you said everything you have to say.
I have a lot more to say with and through and about Gwen. And I do hope I have the opportunity to say a little bit more of it, because I think some of it is important. You know, there are character defining runs. There are moments that matter more than others, but you’re, you are completely correct in that.
You always know that they don’t belong to you. And you always know that you have been given custodianship of something precious that could be taken away at
Casey: any time. Does it, does it staying, seeing other people right. For those characters or are you are you into it? Are you like, okay. Let’s, let’s see what, what goes on here or once you’re done with her or you just like you wash your hands and move on to the next
Seanan McGuire: project.
So the, the downs, [00:49:00] like the, the upside of being a comics fan that gets bright for comics is you’re writing for comics. Holy shit. How is this happening? And like, not to be, we all sexism. Yay. But I’m a girl. I spent a huge portion of my childhood being like, I want to write for comics and being told you can’t do that.
They won’t even let you in the door. So being a girl that gets to write for comics is kind of like having a day every week. That’s fuck you to the people that were shits to me in high school, you know? And that’s amazing because I am a petty vindictive creature. But you can’t walk away from these characters when you’ve loved them, your whole life, just because they’re not yours.
Play with me. It doesn’t work that way. It does sting a little bit. If the writing is happening in a context where you’re like, well, they could have offered me that job. Why did that offer? Why did they offer that to some, did I piss somebody off? Did I upset someone? And [00:50:00] that is, you know, that’s a valid concern to have because everyone involved in every chain is a human.
So it is not out of line for you to pause and go, am I not on this project? Because somebody didn’t like me, they’re generally not that petty. They prefer money to pettiness, but you know, it’s, it’s kind of where the brain will go. Cause we’re people it stings much more to not hear about things. You know, I, I never signed a Marvel exclusive, so there was no point where I was going to the story summits.
I didn’t hear about the 20, 99 stuff until after it already been set and was just like, well, I would’ve written those spider 2099. I think that could have been a really cool why, why didn’t you tell me that there was this party going on so that I could come to it. And that I think stung a lot more for me than, you know, Vieta getting to write, go spider for her own annual.
[00:51:00] Casey: So kind of moving away from the comics. I see that not only do you do your your novels and your your comics, you write under several pseudonyms, but, but specifically the mirror grant was that a A conscious decision to, to be able to do it so that you could then move your writing in a different direction.
What was the what was the impetus behind that sexism?
Seanan McGuire: Really? Yes, really. I, I, you know, I try not to sound like a raging feminist all the time, although I am one all the time, but my primary work is Sean and Macquire is urban fantasy, which is a cousin John rhe to paranormal romance. And it is frequently dismissed largely by male readers as being vampire porn.
There’s just a lot of, Oh, well, that’s, that’s not for real readers. That’s just, that’s just, that’s for girls. That’s girly [00:52:00] stuff. And that is a very common attitude even today. And if you look at the copyright dates on the earliest, Sean McGuire and Mira grant books, the first shonen book came out in 2009.
The first mirror book came out in 2010 things were different then. You know, we don’t necessarily like to think about how quickly some things have changed, but people were even more dismissive of romance in 2010 of the idea that some books would be written from a different angle. And readers do not like it as a general rule when things don’t match up with their expectations.
We knew for a fact that if we publish feed, which is the first mirror Graham book, which is a zombie political thriller, it’s a biotechnical science fiction, novel about an engineered plague causes zombies. We knew that if we published feed under my own name, it would [00:53:00] get people dismissing it as being vampire porn.
People would dismiss the book as something. It was not, and was not advertised as, because my name was on the cover. And I have anecdotal evidence to back this up because I’ve had multiple people come up to me, its findings events to say, this is my favorite book. This book changed my life. If I had known you wrote it, I would never have picked it up.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. And I actually have a friend who was an editor of a newspaper and she she just uses her initials because when she used her full name, she would get, you know, angry letters in you, bitch. You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And it’s like, when she started going just by her initials, the default is dude for asshole.
Seanan McGuire: assuming when I’m a guy.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s, it sucks. And it’s horrible. And [00:54:00] I sincerely hope that my daughters don’t have to deal with that shit though. I’m sure they probably will because people are terrible.
Seanan McGuire: It’s taking a while, but things are, are getting better gradually for which I am very grateful and I’m very grateful to be Mira grant because one of the things that.
I have figured out over the course of my career is that I write really fast. Like I knew that I was a fast writer, but I didn’t realize I was a dis fortunately fast writer until I had to deal with it. I write really, really fast and you can’t publish as fast as I write. It’s it’s literally impossible to get bookstores to stock books published at the rate.
I write them. I am a fundamentally lazy person. I love to write. I don’t like to do much else. So self-publishing was never really an option for me because self-publishing requires a level [00:55:00] of hustle that I just don’t have in my body. There is not room for that much hustle with all the counting crows music that I’ve got stuffed in here.
But by being multiple people, I can publish as much per year as two people can. And that’s fantastic. Like everyone should have the opportunity to be two people. But I became Neeraj entirely for brand recognition and sexism or not because I wanted the sexism because I hadn’t sexism. I became kind of cut off some of the sexism.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, that’s awesome that you’re able to do that as, as a workaround. And it, it also benefits you in that you get to put more stuff out there. I’ve, I’ve actually heard that from, from another author who I’m blanking on his name right now, but he, he has like detective novels. He has scifi stuff.
He has KGU stuff and he’s he puts them out like super quick [00:56:00] and It’s it amazes me because I’m not that type of writer. Like, not even really any type of writer. I have one thing that I’ve done and that just happened. So, but it’s like pulling teeth. I know where I want to go, but you know, it takes me, you know, waking up at 4:00 AM to get ready, to go to work, taking a shower and going like, Oh, that’s what happens four months later after I you know, have already hit the wall on that storyline.
Right. So hopefully I get, I get on your level one day, but right now it’s not like, do you have any any tips for, for achieving like that discipline in your writing and also, how do you keep up with that shit? It’s a lot of stuff.
Seanan McGuire: My brain is really active. I said earlier, it’s exhausting to be me.
I was not kidding or looking for praise. It’s just tiring in here. But you know, a lot of it is you can’t go ever, [00:57:00] ever comparing your art to someone else’s because it’s not anyone. Else’s. You’ve got two kids. I’ve got four cats. You know, you’ve got a day job still. I managed to escape from mine because I got really lucky and hit the end of the zombie boom with feed and had more success than was necessarily warranted for where I was in my actual career.
You know, timing and luck play into a lot of things. If I were still working a day job, I would not be working. I would not be writing as quickly as I am. If I had children, I would not be writing as quickly as I am. Children are wonderful choice. I am not saying that there’s any mistake. They’re just saying that that influences certain things in the future.
So my biggest advice for developing discipline is figure out how many words you can comfortably write on a good day. If a good day for you is 500 words. That’s great. If a good day for you is 5,000 words. That’s great. If it’s more than 5,000 words, that’s bad and you will give yourself a repetitive [00:58:00] stress injury.
But once you have that number. Sit down and go, okay. I can comfortably write 500 words a day on a good day. I want to write a 5,000 word short story. I don’t think that I can have 10 good days in a row. The girls are going to need me. I’ve got other stuff I need to do. So I think that I can reasonably commit to having 10 good days out of a 15 day period.
Okay, cool. And now that you’ve got that write down that you are going to do your best to have a good day every day for the next 15 days, you won’t succeed, but that’s okay because you built that in. And at the end of 15 days, you will have the first draft of a 5,000 word, short story. You don’t get to move on to anything else till it’s done.
You’ve given yourself a deadline. You’re just going to do it. But the first and most important step is do not in any way meter that daily [00:59:00] count against anyone else. It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard them say. It doesn’t matter what you think, what matters is what you are comfortable doing. If you wrote a hundred words a day for a year, you’d have a novel at the end
Casey: that that’s definitely something that, that I think more people need to hear who are think that that is out of reach for them like writing is that it’s definitely something that I can take to heart.
Is there anything else that you want to to bring up? I know that gwenan versus carnage is is a huge thing. Is there anything else that you have coming out that you want to talk about?
Seanan McGuire: Mostly what I want to talk about at this point is that COVID has really reduced you to speak for long periods of time.
So after an hour I have a sore throat.
Casey: Okay. I was, I was tonic. Sean, and it has been a pleasure talking to you. I’ve really enjoyed it. And rooting for you on that Eisner by all means, doctor you have something else you’d want to to talk about on the show. Let us [01:00:00] know. I’d love to talk to you again because you were super fun to talk to.
Seanan McGuire: I did stand up comedy for years. It leaves you with a tropism toward charming. So really? Yeah. Why don’t we go
Seanan McGuire: Hey, I’m on, I am a constant box of wonders and horrors. It’s like opening a toy chest in the attic. Are you going to find Barbies? Are you going to find hot wheels? Are you going to find spiders?
Mostly. You’re going to find spiders. So thank you so much for having me today. You were lovely. A lot of fun. I hope you have a great
Casey: evening. Same to you. I’m going to go make some food for some some butthole kids and maybe have a beer great plan. All right. Have a good one, Sean. And, and it was a pleasure and we’ll put all the stuff in the show notes that we talked about, so.
Seanan McGuire: great. All right. Be well, you too. Bye.