Hello everyone and welcome to another Saturday Spotlight. Today we’re so excited to welcome Sarah Monette (penname Katherine Addison) to Stuck in the Stacks to talk about her upcoming novel The Angel of the Crows.
About the BookThe Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison
Published by Tor Books on June 23, 2020
Genres: YA Fantasy
This is not the story you think it is. These are not the characters you think they are. This is not the book you are expecting.
In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.
Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.
About the Author
Sarah Monette was born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the secret cities of the Manhattan Project. She studied English and Classics in college, and went on to get her M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature. Monette’s first four novels were published by Ace Books. She has written two collaborations with Elizabeth Bear for Tor: A Companion to Wolves and The Tempering of Men, as well as the award-winning novel, The Goblin Emperor. Her short stories have appeared in lots of different places, including Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Weird Tales, and Strange Horizons; Monette has published two collections of short stories, Somewhere Beneath Those Waves and The Bone Key. She collects books, and her husband collects computer parts, so their living space is the constantly contested border between these two imperial ambitions.
1- I was surprised (and excited) to realize this was a Sherlock Holmes retelling. What inspired you to take on such a classic text?
I’ve loved Sherlock Holmes since I was a kid, and I love retellings of all kinds. The Angel of the Crows started as a game and only gradually turned into a novel.
2- One of my favorite things about this novel is how you used the familiarity of the Holmes story to challenge people’s expectations about the characters — without spoilers, can you talk about what inspired you to make some of these changes?
One of the things that make the Sherlock Holmes stories both great and frustrating is their sheer VICTORIANNESS. This makes them amazing as a period piece (my favorite Holmes will always be Jeremy Brett), but also means that they are racist, classist, and sexist. I wanted to retain the Victorian feel, but undercut those underlying assumptions that the stories never examine.
3- In this alternative history, you bring together a large number of supernatural creatures who live together in various levels of harmony (or not). How did you go about creating such a complex world?
I started with the angels, who have some idiosyncratic rules of existence, and then asked myself, if angels exist, what other creatures might exist? How might they fit into the Sherlock Holmes stories? Like I said in question 1, it started as a game, so I was challenging myself to be as weird as possible.
4- Do you anticipate writing any additional books in this world?
5- Are you working on any other writing projects?
Right now I’m finishing The Witness for the Dead, which is about one of the secondary characters in The Goblin Emperor, and working on a sequel to Witness called The Grief of Stones.
6- One thing I love about both this book and The Goblin Emperor, is that even in the darkest times, the characters hold on to an undercurrent of hope and optimism. They aren’t specifically “happy” books necessarily, but they leave the reader feeling hopeful for a better future. Is this an intentional decision in your writing and, if so, what do you think drives this?
I don’t see any reason why books have to have horrible characters to whom horrible things happen. I much prefer to write about people who are trying to do the right thing, even if they’re in a bad situation. If we want people to behave ethically and with compassion, it’s not a bad idea to model that behavior in the stories we tell.
7- The blurring of history, fantasy, and retelling made this book so enjoyable to read. What inspired the decision to link together the fictional world of Sherlock Holmes with some of the most well-known crimes in London history?
I’m not the first person to pit Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper. It’s in fact a rather obvious thing to do, since they are contemporaries. I also have a long-standing fascination with both and it was fun to write a book that combined them.
8- Did you always want to be a writer? What are some of the books that shaped your love of reading?
Yes, as soon as I figured out that books happened because real people wrote them. Conan Doyle (of course!), Tolkien, Heyer, Sayers.
9- Do you have any reading or writing quirks?
I do a lot of writing longhand and have a small collection of fountain pens. My favorite is my Pilot Custom 92.
10- When you are not writing (or reading) what do you enjoy doing?
I’m a dressage rider. (Of the two Olympic equestrian sports, one is the show-jumping, which is very exciting and dramatic to watch. The other is a person riding a horse in circles and is godawful boring. That’s dressage.)
Rapid Fire Questions
1- Coffee or tea?
2- Dogs or cats?
3- Favorite place to read?
4- What types of books are in your reading wheelhouse?
5- Lastly, where can our readers learn more about you and your books?
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