An Interview With A. Lee Martinez on MONSTER
When did you first start writing?
I started writing around 17 years old. I’m not one of those “writing for as long as I could remember” people. I was more of a doodler up to that point. Writing was just something I fell into. I didn’t plan on it, but after I won a short story writing contest in high school, I decided since I didn’t have any other big goals, why not try seeing if I could make a living writing?
What inspires you in your writing? Where did Monster come from?
Inspiration is everywhere. There’s no single source, no muse. Sometimes ideas come from a clear inspiration, but most the time, it’s just a seemingly random collection of thoughts that congeal into something worth exploring. Rarely, if ever, is it a bolt from the blue.
The grain of Monster came from a friend of mine who is involved in animal control. The logical extension of a guy who catches weird beasts as a public service just came next. There’s more to the process than that, but it was how the whole thing started.
How is Monster different from other comic fantasies?
Well, for one thing, I don’t consider a comic fantasy. Rather, I think of it as a fantasy with comic elements. Most comic fantasies seem to fall into two basic categories: goofy fun and satires. I don’t really consider Monster (or any of my novels) to be either. They’re more pulpy adventure stories with an offbeat sensibility. It’s a fine line, and not one everyone agrees on, but it’s my perception for what it’s worth.
The big reason I don’t think of myself as a comic writer is that comic fiction is built around humor. Without that, it just kind of sits there. But I think if you took the humor out of my books, you’d still have a decent adventure story worth reading. Removing the humor would certainly weaken it, but I don’t think it would destroy the story.
I’d much rather be asked what makes Monster different from fantasy in general, and I think it’s found in its combination of fantasy and reality. Most contemporary fantasy tends to superimpose the everyday world atop a traditional fantasy concept. The two worlds touch, but they never really seem integrated. I wanted Monster to feel like a real place where magic and modern technology aren’t separated by some invisible wall.
Was there a lot of research involved in how exactly one captures a yeti without losing any limbs?
I hate to burst any bubbles here, but yetis are imaginary. At least, as far as I know. What I like about fantasy is that a lot of it is made up, allowing me to do whatever I want. If I decide that yetis like ice cream who is going to argue with me? Nobody, that’s who. Or nobody I’m going to pay attention to anyway.
Have you ever considered a career in cryptozoology?
Did I mention the made up element of what I do?
I’ve never believed in Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. I don’t think the science is there to back those guys up, and that’s a real shame because I’d really like it if they were real. And that’s probably why I ended up writing stories where stuff like that does exist.
For a while, I used to think it would be cool to take a tour of haunted America, but all those ghost hunting reality shows burned me out on that dream. You can only watch so many people bumble and stumble their way through darkened rooms, jumping at shadows, before you start thinking this would be a pretty silly hobby.
Now I just focus on trying to build my army of dinobots. Because Bigfoot and ghosts might not be real, but I know I can bring about the robot apocalypse if a really, really put my mind to it.
Is this a social commentary on how we’re mistreating our mythological creatures of the world?
The only social commentary in Monster is that life is screwy. Adding or subtracting imaginary beasties from that equation doesn’t change that.
Do you secretly wish you could keep any of the “pests” in Monster as a pet? Even just a little?
No, not really. I’m more of a dog and cat person. Wild animals don’t belong in the home, and I have to figure that dragons use a heck of a big litter box.
If you knew you were going to die in 24 hours, name three things you would do with the time you had left.
Y’know what? I have no clue. Not one damn idea. If I was going to die in 24 hours, I’d probably hang out with family and friends. Maybe watch The Incredibles one last time. Maybe play a game of Monsterpocalypse or two. Crud, I don’t know. I learned from the movie Krull that it’s a terrible thing to know one’s fate. I also learned that magic space castles disintegrate the moment you kill their evil master, but that’s neither here nor there.
Okay, let’s see. Three things?
THING 1: I’d do that friends and family thing.
THING 2: I’d eat a meatball sub.
THING 3: I’d watch Krull. Good movie.
Any interesting tidbits you can share about your next book: Divine Misfortune?
It’s about gods, but not the gods as we tend to envision them today. It’s more of a classical version, where the gods are these physical, immortal beings with tremendous power, but they’re also irresponsible, lazy, and somewhat incompetent. And instead of being objects of worship, they’re more like powerful good luck charms that mere mortals align with in hopes of getting an advantage in life.
But that’s just the premise. Let’s talk tidbits.
Quetzalcoatl is one of the characters. Always wanted to write something with the winged serpent, and this was my chance.
It features a happily married couple, something you just don’t see much of in modern fiction. At least, not the stuff I see.
It’s actually pretty funny. Yeah, yeah, I know that “not a comic fantasy writer” bit I went through earlier contradicts this, but I am a funny writer. I didn’t say I wasn’t. I just like to think that I’m a fantasy writer first, a comic writer second.
And there are no space vampires in it. Thinking about it now, that’s probably the only thing I don’t like about it. Otherwise, it’s a cracking good read. And I think you can trust me on this as I’m a very picky reader. Really, I am.