“The Monkey Trap” opens with a library that would make a bibliophile swoon. I really appreciated the nod to and exploration of pen names. Have you ever read a story or novel only to later learn that it was written by a favorite author under a different name?
I know that it has happened a few times, but I cannot make my reply more interesting by specifying an author, as my mental filing system refuses to come up with a specific book as example. I found out about “Robert Galbraith,” for instance, when the world did, and did not read “his” mystery novels until afterward—and actually before J.K. Rowling did a little bit too much talking. And there I cut off further commentary.
There are layers upon layers of this story, many sturdy, others as light as fine vellum, each offering something new to consider, another perspective. What can you tell us about the inspiration behind the tale?
This is a dark reply to recent obsession with the worst things creators have done, either in their personal lives or in their public pronouncements. I fear that, given what amounts to omniscience like the bookseller’s unspecified “sources,” damned few creators would survive with their reputations intact. And then there are the names of people safely dead, like the story’s specified Al Capp, whose deeds are downright sickening—but who are, again, gone. (I have not and will not throw out my beloved “Fearless Fosdick” collections even if, were Al Capp living, I would not seek to meet him or get his autograph, and would be more vocal about making sure everybody knew the contemptible criminal he was.) This discussion has become constant, but I confess that I have no easy response to it.
“It was only that Amber knew herself even more intimately . . .” Of all the genres, it’s been said that horror teaches us the most about ourselves. What would you like readers to take away from the story?
A spooky chill, and perhaps recognition.
Would you have stayed to listen to the cataloging secret of one of your own favorite authors?
I have lived long enough to find out things about creators of work I adore, things that I would gladly take a carrot peeler to my brain matter in order to remove. I mention some actual cases in the course of the story. You will notice that I refrain from naming one person, whose sin is described in the course of the tale; her sin is very real, and it struck me as creepy, but it also struck me as pathetic and sad, and I saw no reason to bring it to the forefront. The celebrated, the famous, like so many of the other names mentioned, are one thing; the failed, the tragic, are another, and I will not expend the focus of specificity against them.
I should clarify one thing. The story names several authors who have been the source of no dark knowledge, as far as I know. This is teasing. Honestly, I have no reason to believe certain of these names have vile, pernicious secrets. I do, however, recognize them as human, and am certainly aware that as possessors of that sad medical condition, they must have some value of “the worst thing they’ve ever done.” Maybe he’s filed under that time he double-parked. I have no idea. Generally, in this story, if I know something terrible, I either specify it or I allude to it with reasonable clarity, rather than just say that the person’s name is there.
Fans want to know “what’s next?” but let’s turn the tables. Any movies, comics, or books that have piqued your interest? Are there any projects you’re looking forward to?
There are always upcoming movies I see, and always comics I would like to read (though in these cases, they are usually things already released that I have not caught up with). Generally, if I loved your last book, I want to read your next book, and boy, that list is teeming.
Spread the word!