Today's interviewee is Reilly McCann, author of The Love Song of Numo and Hammerfist. In this case, I read Reilly's wonderfully off-beat query letter, which appeals to my love of strange and curious things. If I were an agent, I'd be requesting pages!
But enough about me. Thank you, Reilly, for journeying all the way to Elflandia!
Why don't you tell us a bit about your book?
Reilly: It's a speculative novel--a love story about two homunculus-slaves who, in my head, look like a potato with limbs and a werebadger, respectively. ...Crap, that's a really bad logline. I haven't quite worked out the logline yet. But it's sort of like Spartacus made snugglebunnies with Wall-E on a mattress made of Alchemy and Shit I Made Up and produced a big fat baby.
I notice there's a revolution in your book. Was it inspired by any thoughts about real revolutions?
Reilly: The revolution in the book is, at the outset, built on the general notion of a slave rebellion. But it turns into something bigger. The characters all have their own agendas and use the revolution for their own purposes, so it kind of snowballs...
I don't think I was aware of any specific thoughts I had on the business of revolutions. Which is a really boring answer. But it's sort of a backdrop against the question of freedom, which is a significant issue for all of the main characters. Numo, the MC, starts off having no idea what a revolution is and no concept of being "free," really, or why it would be a good thing. The story, for him, is all about the evolution of his own thoughts on the matter, and ends with his own personal rebellion, which involves stabbing people in the face and using a dead whale as a weapon.
Are politics a big part of the book, or is it basically apolitical?
Reilly: Oddly, yes, I made it kind of political, but not on purpose, and it's all fantasy politics. I don't mean to make any statements about real-world government with it, if that's what you mean. But it really surprised me when my stupid little love story ended up also being about overthrowing the (imaginary) government and gender divisions and stuff. I suspect all that will either go very well for me or very very badly.
What inspired you to write this story?
Reilly: I have no idea what inspires me to write anything. I just seem to do it, like farting, but it takes a lot more time and effort.
But as to how this specific story came out...There was some idea about messing with common tropes. Insta-love and lovers-not-meant-to-be and the like. Trying to turn those things into something fresh; facing their typical failings head-on.
And I'm pretty sure the subconscious influence of Winnie-the-Pooh had a lot to do with it. I fucking love Winnie-the-Pooh.
Who was your favorite character to write?
Reilly: Numo, the main character. Hammerfist, his love interest, has given me a hell of a time because her mental state fluctuates so much. Both of them are difficult, actually, because they're unreliable narrators to some extent. The third POV character has been "easiest," because she is human and actually knows what the hell is going on in her world. But Numo's my favorite because he's cray-cray adorbs.
Do you ever kill characters? (You don't have to answer that!)
Ever? Yes. I'm a violent heartless dickface.
Tell us a little about yourself. What are you reading these days?
Reilly: This is a weird time for me because I've just finished three years of internships at literary agencies. So I've been reading a lot of unpublished manuscripts that are all over the map, with very little time for pleasure reading, which is awful of me. But now I have time. And I have a huge fucking reading list. I'm working on Fade to Black right now. Next on the list are Sacre Bleu because I love Christopher Moore, Lone Survivors because I'm a dilettante anthro dweeb, and Divergent, because I haven't read nearly enough YA and someone told me I should read it. I'm very susceptible to suggestion.
What do think of dragons?
Reilly: Most of them are far too nice to humans. I appreciate a dragon who knows how to throw down. Although, I have to say, if I could have my own pet Toothless, I'd piss myself with glee pretty regularly.
What are you working on, now? Do you have a sequel planned, or something new?
Reilly: Right now I'm still working on this book...it is currently pretty rough, and the ending is the literary equivalent of a toddler's smeared-poop painting on the kitchen wall. After I deal with this one, I plan to go back and try to salvage my first two manuscripts, which might be too stupid to work.
I don't have a sequel planned for this book. I'm honestly kind of awed by people who can think up sequels to things. It's an amazing gift that I might not possess. Yet, anyway.
I have an idea for a new story. Something about a professional jellyfish-stabber and a cannibal who eats her legs. A romantic comedy, in other words.
...I'm not quite sure about it yet.
It's my observation that books seem to reflect their writers. What aspect of you is reflected in your book?
Reilly: I'm told that it's weird. Or that it sounds weird, anyway. I suspect people are right, even though it seems to me like it's the least weird manuscript I've ever written. But I guess I'm predisposed to the ridiculous in any case. ;) I might be a ridiculous person.
Would you like to leave us with a quote from your book/query?
"Numo, if he is to think anything, should only think of his masters’ needs. It is only proper, after all, that a slave and homunculus devote what little his fatty brain can offer to their service, especially for two of the most esteemed alchemists in the city.
But instead, he can't stop thinking about Hammerfist.
Hammerfist, a lady battle-homunculus, has eyes like the purest embers, a mane like a sea of moon-glitter, and a horrible brain disease that is slowly eroding her sanity. The pain of squishing other slaves' heads the arena is a most ponderous weight to bear, and if she snaps, her owner will cut off her legs and dump her in the woods. Numo desperately wants to help, but presents of flowers and tree sap aren’t enough. She needs a way to get out of the arena. She needs a revolution.
Numo only wishes he knew what a revolution was.
But it doesn’t matter. If it will save Hammerfist, he’ll do anything to help. Except, of course, the things he’s too stupid to do. Things like keeping the plans for the revolution a secret from his masters.
THE LOVE SONG OF NUMO AND HAMMERFIST is a [word count] fantasy. Thank you for your time."
A quote from the book:
"The smell of the master struck him first, and the sight was equally odoriferous. Balbus was the sort of man who looked like he slept in a barrel of brine and kept company with rogues, scoundrels, and harlots. Numo did not know what a harlot was, but he often heard the word in association with things like knaves and stinkards, and he imagined that it was some sort of dirty animal that carried diseases and squirted men with milk from its poisonous bosoms."
Thanks for everything!