Q: I was reading your biography on your web site and you state that all your fiction has strong biographical information in it. So, were you a "Bride of Frankenstein"?
Well, I was an ugly duckling as a kid and certainly never felt as though I really fit in with the more mainstream crowd. I also had that Ur-writer's experience of being sick in bed a lot, with severe asthma, which contributed to my reading time.
But I had a very happy childhood for the most part and was lucky in that I found my niche early on - I read The Lord of the Rings when I was nine, made friends with other kids who'd done the same (more difficult to do in the mid-1960s than now), and was a huge fan of the original Star Trek series (which, oddly enough, my mother also liked). And I adored monster movies, Chiller Theater and its ilk, film noir, all that stuff.
One of the things I really wanted to play up in Pandora's Bride is how it's possible to create your own family, out of people like yourself - something the SF fandom community has done for decades, as well as the gay community, and which is now being done by millions of people via internet sites.
But I could never get my hair to look like the Bride's, no matter how hard I tried.
Q: You also worked on DC Comic's ANIMA, with Paul Witcover, who wrote the DRACULA: ASYLUM book. How was that experience? How did Dark Horse approach you to write a book based on the Universal horror movie?
One of the few (and very remarkable) constants in my career has been my editorial relationship and friendship with Zelig-like Dark Horse editor Rob Simpson, who worked with me and Paul on PANDORA'S BRIDE, ASYLUM, et al. Twenty years ago, Rob was assistant editor at Twilight Zone Magazine, where my very first story was published; he then went on to be an editor at Bantam, where we worked together on my first few novels.
And then in the early 1990s Rob was at DC, where he asked if I wanted to create a new series. I said absolutely, if I could work with Paul, who's been one of my closest friends since 1980. Paul and I came up with Anima, which was one of the best experiences I've ever had - working with two friends and a team of great artists, in particular Steve Crespo (now at the Cartoon Network). Anima was way ahead of its time in dealing with adult themes - drugs, gang violence, homosexuality, AIDS, teenage runaways, rape, mental illness, suicide. Oh yeah, and alternative music, and poetry, and the Jungian unconscious. All this and super-powers, too!
Anima was dark stuff, but it was also a very funny series. I know that everyone connected with it is extremely proud of the work we did. Now I watch something like HEROES and think, Yup, we were there first.
Rob went on to work at Dark Horse, where he edited my 2006 story collection Saffron and Brimstone. When he brought up the Universal Monsters project, I jumped right on board - I'd work with him on anything. Bride of Frankenstein is one of the favorite movies, so I grabbed that title immediately. It's also one of the few classic films to make room for a female character. Even if the Bride has relatively little screen time, her presence is riveting.
Q: As with the other recent sequels, like DRACULA: ASYLUM , there's no continuity with the other movies... did Dark Horse specify that the stories weren't to tie-in to the movie continuity, that they be "stand-alone" novels?
Yes - we were given free play as to what we wanted to do with the characters. I love German Expressionist films, and I loved Gods and Monsters, the haunting movie about James Whale in which Bride of Frankenstein is the major subtext. And I love Weimar Berlin, and since I was a teenager was really into Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden and their whole Berlin sojourn. So the whole project just unfolded from there, with the Bride at center.
Q: In PANDORA'S BRIDE you really fleshed her out and took the story into an unexpected direction. What was the appeal of the character for you?
A lot of it is that she is this remarkable, iconic presence who has never been given a voice - quite literally, as she never speaks in the James Whale film (although she memorably hisses). In the movie, Elsa Lanchester plays both the Bride and, in the introductory framing sequence, Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein. I tried to write the sort of story I thought Mary Shelley might have come up with, if she'd been hanging around Weimar Berlin with the likes of Auden and Isherwood and watching movies like M and Pandora's Box and The Blue Angel. I was also inspired by Angela Carter's brilliant novel The Passion of New Eve, which plays with feminist tropes as well as cinematic ones.
Q: I liked the Fritz Lang references to "M" and "Metropolis" and also a bit of REANIMATOR thrown in for Pretorius, Peter Pan's "Lost Boys" and even a meat-eating horse from the "12 Labors of Hercules" myth (which is another Greek myth, like Pandora). What prompted you to have these references?
Basically I just love movies, and myths. And monsters. I tried to hit as many bases as I could with the classic German films, though I know I missed some. The Wild Boys were an actual social phenomenon in Weimar Germany - I found some great books on some of the darker cultural and sexual aspects of that period and drew on them, though I obviously had to tone stuff down for the mass market.
I wanted to capture the spirit of the original Bride of Frankenstein, a movie which takes place in this surreal no-woman's-land, with all sorts of cultural and historical references gleefully tossed into the mix. You have the framing story set in the early 1800s, a gravestone with a date in the late 19th century; telephones and 20th century hairstyles and clothing; German peasants who seem to have wandered in from a touring company of the operetta "Hansel and Gretel;" Expressionist camera angles, and that beautiful sequence in which the Bride comes to life. And, of course, the fabulously camp performance of Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorious.
It's all so completely, blissfully over-the-top that I felt like I'd be doing it a disservice if I wasn't going to respond in kind. So I did my best.
Q: What are your upcoming books?
My punk noir novel Generation Loss will be out in trade paperback from Harcourt this coming spring. And I'm completing a YA novel about Arthur Rimbaud for Sharyn November's Firebird imprint at Viking.