Martin Millar’s Lycanthropian Soap Operas

Curse of the Wolf Girl, by Martin Millar / cover art by John Coulthart

“In London, Kalix is on her way to remedial college to try and improve her reading skills, Vex is going too, and Daniel is still pining over Moonglow. Yum Yum Sugary Snacks are refusing to rehearse, Dominil is getting annoyed and Decembrius is wondering what to do with himself. In Scotland, Markus, now thane of the Werewolf Clan, is wondering if he should tell his girlfriend about his habit of cross-dressing. Malveria, Queen of the Fire Elementals, and Thrix, Werewolf Enchantress, have some important fashion engagements coming up, but the werewolf hunters haven’t forgotten about them, and neither has Princess Kabachetka, Malveria’s deadly rival.”

The above is the author’s  own spirited synopsis of Curse of the Wolf Girl, a follow up to his previous effort Lonely Werewolf Girl, which introduces and follows the tale of  Kalix, the titular lonely werewolf girl, and a cast of gloriously oddball and yet remarkably compelling characters.  Their story – fraught with grunge and gore and violence galore, and underscored by a strange dark humor somehow both sly and ingenuous at once – makes for a gleefully irresistible read.

Martin Millar’s complex series – a veritable lycanthropian soap opera –  features said oddball characters, along with “multiple races, enchanting fashion trappings, business, family dynamics, music, sex, enduring love, romance, business, eating disorders, drug addiction, back-alley fights, epic battles, politics, and, most prominently, the contrary nature of werewolves”.

Millar has also authored The Good Fairies of New York, Suzy Led Zepplin and Me, and The Thraxas series (as Martin Scott) for which he won the World Fantasy Award in 2000.  See after the jump for our Q&A, in which he thoughtfully discusses past and present influences and future endeavors, while hitting The Sex Pistols, Jane Austen and T Rex in between.

Martin Millar

COILHOUSE: I recently read the following quote “Millar has done more for the urban fantasy genre with Lonely Werewolf Girl than most authors. He lifts the entire oeuvre of werewolf stories up, in a manner similar to what Joss Whedon has done for vampires.” – which, wow.  I know you are a fan of Mr. Whedon.  How do you feel about that comparison?  And why werewolves?

MARTIN MILLAR: I like the comparison. I admire Joss Whedon. I started writing Lonely Werewolf Girl because I was disappointed about Buffy the Vampire Slayer coming to an end. I was aiming for something with a similar tone, but minus the vampires.

I’m not certain why I ended up writing a werewolf character, although many years ago, in my third novel, Ruby and the Stone Age Diet, their were some stories told of a werewolf named Cynthia.

I have always been fond of werewolves, possibly regarding them more positively than some writers might. I’ve never thought it was that sensible that when they transformed, they’d suddenly feel homicidal towards humans. I mean, why would they?

As it turned out, werewolves proved very suitable for making into a large Scottish clan. I like the imagery of Scottish Clans, though the city I come from in Scotland – Glasgow – is not the sort of place you’d find Highland clans.

Your characters are entertaining and unexpected…not the clichés or the caricatures that one has come to expect from the stereotypical characters of this genre.  You’ve taken otherworldly creatures with roots in the horrific and or fantastical and crafted them into characters, all with very human issues, faults and failings.   (as opposed to one-note werewolves with anger-management issues, etc) What led you in this direction? Are there any in your cast of flawed folks that you have a fondness for?

(….or any characters you would look forward to scripting should the opportunity presents itself?)

I can’t really comment on other characters in the genre, because I have to admit to not being up to date with much current werewolf fiction.  (But this is not a bad thing for any author. You don’t want to become distracted by what other people are writing.)

I know I’d be very bad at writing heroic characters, and I don’t think I’ve ever done this, in any book. Characters really only become interesting through their flaws. And their flaws can become funny too. Both of my werewolf books contain quite a lot of humour.

As Lonely Werewolf Girl and Curse of the Wolf Girl are set in present day London, the werewolf characters interact with a lot of humans, all them them fallible, all of them with the sort of problems that people have. So it makes sense for the werewolves to have these sort of problems too. They suffer from depression, loneliness, vanity, anger, unhappiness, that sort of thing, the same as people do.

I’m particularly fond of Kalix, though to some people she might not be the most appealing character. Despite her multiple issues – her self harming, her drug abuse, her depression and anxiety, her hostility in some situations, I’d say she was actually based solidly on people I’ve known.

Music plays a large part in your story telling; if I recall, your main character, Kalix was obsessed with the Joan Jett and the Runaways, and then there are the drunken twin werewolf sisters with rockstar aspirations… so…  were you in a band yourself… perhaps  played an instrument…or maybe were a roadie…or sang in choir as a schoolboy?   Your fondness for punk and rock and roll is evident; what are you listening to now?  Any recommendations?

I did used to play music, though I was never good enough to play in bands. I’ve played guitar, mandolin and flute. I’ve been a rock music fan and a teenage punk rocker and in the 80s and early 90s I was part of a squatting community in South London where there were a lot of traditional music players. I’ve played along with the sort of jigs and reels that the fairies play in The Good Fairies of New York.

Music has always been a big influence on my life and work, and I have mentioned before (quite often, probably) that the Sex Pistols were the biggest influence on my writing career. It was the punk explosion in England generated by the Sex Pistols that got me started with writing in the first place. Without that, I’d never have had the confidence to write my own books. I’d have kept on assuming that writing was something other people did,

After a long time keeping up with modern music I now seem to have regressed to listening to music I listened to when younger, namely the early 70s rock of Led Zeppelin and the mid 70s punk and glam. This, I expect, is because I’m ageing. I remain a dedicated T Rex fan.

Martin Millar

Speaking of music… and pop culture in general – comics, videogames, television sitcoms even fashion, to an extent  –  what are your impressions of what’s out there right now?  Do you find much inspiration in any of these things?  Or are you more classically inspired?

I will have to more or less pass on this question. I’m not very knowledgeable about contemporary culture, and I’m probably best just admitting that, rather than trying to fake some knowledge.

I am classically inspired, and the best writer in English is Jane Austen. Possibly the best story teller is Charles Dickens. The best humorist is certainly PG Wodehouse.

Although… I have been inspired by more modern works. I’ve already mentioned the Sex Pistols. Some other things which come to mind that I took some inspiration from, or started looking at writing differently because of, would be the film Clueless, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Manga. I’m keen on manga and read quite a lot of it. My favourites change often, but at the moment I’m reading Fairy Tale and Claymore.

I read a lot of history too, which I expect finds its way into my writing, though probably in a more subtle way.

I do like video games. I like my PS3. I recently finished Prince of Persia, Forgotten Sands, and I loved that game. But I don’t think I’ve had any writing inspiration from games.

Future projects or pie- in- the- sky ideas for potential schemes?

I’m writing a graphic novel called ‘Peace.’ It’s set in ancient Athens, and that’s going well. I have a long term interest in ancient Greece, and I’ve wanted to set something in Athens for a long time. Previously, I’ve never quite found the right format, but the graphic novel is going well. The plan is that it will be drawn by Simon Fraser, who draws for 2000AD at the moment. The graphic novel features Luxos the Poet, an early ancestor of Lux, who I wrote about in Lux the Poet.

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3 Responses to “Martin Millar’s Lycanthropian Soap Operas”

  1. On The Borderland Says:

    Another great interview! And I totally agree with Mr. Millar re: PG Wodehouse!

  2. Rob Myers Says:

    Two of my favourite things come together. :-)

    Great interview, thanks!

  3. Thea Constantine Says:

    Just found out you love ancient Greece and Rome too. Amazing. I’m curled up with Curse of the Wolf Girl incapable of returning to my own flagging novel. Thank you so much for so many hours of enjoyment.