A special treat for everyone on the blog today – we’ve got an interview with the inimitable Emmie Mears, to celebrate the release of her debut novel THE MASKED SONGBIRD which come out FREAKING TOMORROW!
So read onwards my friends, and enjoy my five scintillating questions for Emmie and her beyond wonderful responses!
THE MASKED SONGBIRD is about a woman who gains superpowers from chugging a radioactive soda and the action takes place against the backdrop of the Scottish referendum on independence. How did you decide to use this point in time as the setting for the novel and how does it shape into Gwen’s development as a hero?
Scotland has always been close to my heart for many reasons, and I’ve followed the gradual move toward independence for most of my life. It seemed like a natural fit, as it fit in with something I care deeply about and was an unusual setting for a superhero story. As for Gwen herself, she’s someone who has always just sort of gone along with whatever anyone tells her to think for a long time. She is proficient at denial and evasion, and her decision-making process about the referendum (as well as the way the impending vote catalyzes her story) is very much an outward manifestation of necessary changes within her own personality. Ultimately, she has to face the responsibilities of difficult decisions for the first time in her life — and what box to X on referendum day might just be the easiest among them. 🙂
Many superheroes are affiliated with a particular nationality when created (Captain Britain, for example) and are always tied to that affiliation. Others, like Wolverine, begin with a national affiliation (Canada) that becomes distant to the character over time. Do you think Gwen will always firmly attached to Scotland and her Scottish heritage, or will we see her galavanting about the globe in future stories?
I think that Gwen’s identity is very much tied to her sense of Scottishness. She knows where her home is and also feels that it’s where she belongs. That said, she is an increasingly curious person, and I wouldn’t place any bets on her remaining within Scottish borders for the rest of her life.
Based on the cover THE MASKED SONGBIRD looks like she has a bit of a Catwoman meets Midnighter (Google him if you have to kids) aesthetic. What was the thought process in developing Gwen’s costume and look and were there any particular current superheroes you took stylistic cues from?
Gwen’s costume on the cover is a bit different than what she wears in the book itself. Her alter ego, Shrike, is styled after a wee birdie (a Great Grey Shrike, as it were) and takes its cues from the bird’s aesthetics. Dark grey spandex, black gloves, black boots, and a black stripe of a mask across the eyes only. I wanted her costume to arise organically out of the story, and like Peter Parker modeled his after the spider that bit him, Gwen’s is an homage to a very distinctive and dapper bird.
Diversity is one of the most prominent topics in fiction right now and with good reason. With #WeNeedDiverseBooks picking up steam in the publishing world and mainstream comics introducing more new and diverse characters like G. Willow Wilson’s MS MARVEL it seems like THE MASKED SONGBIRD fits right in. Where do you think THE MASKED SONGBIRD fits into the burgeoning diversity movement in fiction?
Gwen popped into my head in a fit of indignation, actually. I was watching the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man, and the Tobey McGuire trilogy was still so fresh in my mind that seeing it rebooted so soon made me see red. Where was Wonder Woman? Where was Storm? Captain Marvel? Black Widow? BUELLER? And here they were rebooting Spider-Man after what felt like a summer hiatus. Batman and Superman have had a flobbity jillion movies. Part of my brain sort of shorted out, and I thought, “Well, if they’re not going to write a goddamned story with a female superhero, then I sure as hell will.” And then I blew a big fat raspberry. I’m not a screenwriter, so I turned to the novel format I love — though I would happily turn cartwheels if Gwen made it to the silver screen.
So where does she fit in? I wanted to write a woman who people could relate to. At first she’s very much a doormat, and a tired one at that. Trod upon by her boss, her boyfriend, and pretty much everyone else in her life, Gwen’s sort of the quintessential child of the recession. She’s broke and a little desperate. The world feels like an orange someone’s gone and squeezed most of the juice out of before handing it to you. She looks around and sees people who seem to have it together, and the biggest thing she has to learn is that strength is not something you’re born with; strength is something you build. She’s not particularly bombshell-y or boobalicious. She’s a woman with a lot of struggles who has to learn to make her own choices. I think the diversity movement above all else is a call to tell stories we can see ourselves in, even if the protagonist sees someone who doesn’t look like us in the mirror. I hope Gwen will be that for some people. If she’s that for anyone, I didn’t tell her story in vain.
5. Last one – let’s say five years or so from now THE MASKED SONGBIRD gets her own comic series – who is the one artist you’d like to see draw her adventures and why?
Oh, gods. Ben Templesmith. He’s dark and gritty and has this fluid style that makes dark and gritty somehow lyrical at the same time. I’m kind of obsessed with his art and have been ever since 30 Days of Night. He did some work recently on a series called Ten Grand, and it’s just fantastic. I think he could capture the creeping darkness of Gwen’s world in a way no one else could.
Much thanks to Emmie for stopping by the ol’ bloggy space and now here’s a little bio and blurb from her to get you super amped for THE MASKED SONGBIRD’s release. DID I MENTION IT WAS FREAKING TOMORROW?
Emmie Mears was born in Austin, Texas, where the Lone Star state promptly spat her out at the tender age of three months. After a childhood spent mostly in Alaska, Oregon, and Montana, she became a proper vagabond and spent most of her time at university devising ways to leave the country.
Except for an ill-fated space opera she attempted at age nine, most of Emmie’s childhood was spent reading books instead of writing them. Growing up she yearned to see girls in books doing awesome things, and struggled to find stories in her beloved fantasy genre that showed female heroes saving people and hunting things. Mid-way through high school, she decided the best way to see those stories was to write them herself. She now scribbles her way through the fantasy genre, most loving to pen stories about flawed characters and gritty situations lightened with the occasional quirky humor.
Emmie now lives in her eighth US state, still yearning for a return to Scotland. She inhabits a cozy domicile outside DC with two felines who think they’re lions and tigers.
Mildly hapless Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a flatmate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty quid until payday and not antagonizing her terrifying boss.
Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. All of which come in handy the night she rescues her activist neighbour from a beat-down by political thugs.
Now Gwen must figure out what else the serum has done to her body, who else is interested and how her boss is involved. Finally—and most mysteriously—she must uncover how this whole debacle is connected to the looming referendum on Scottish independence.
Gwen’s hunt for answers will test her superpowers and endanger her family, her friends—even her country.
You can preorder THE MASKED SONGBIRD here! Released in a box set, you get four great paranormal and urban fantasy books for less than $4!
Follow Emmie on Twitter @EmmieMears and join her on Facebook!