Author Interview, Gothic Fiction, Longread, undead, vampires, werewolves

Author Interview ~ Magen Cubed

Author Bio

Magen Cubed is an Eisner-nominated writer, essayist, and occasional critic, best known for her queer monster-hunting urban fantasy/paranormal romance series SOUTHERN GOTHIC. She has appeared in the critically acclaimed TWISTED ROMANCE comics anthology from Image Comics and has bylines on the award-winning Women Write About Comics. Magen lives in Florida with her girlfriend Melissa and a little dog named Cecil.

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CMR: Welcome to the next episode of Eldritch Girl, and I’ve got Magen Cubed with me make it would you like to introduce yourself?

MC: I would, thank you and thank you so much for having me.

MC: I am a what I call a monster romance writer, I began writing fiction and weird tales about 10 years ago and meandered my way into media criticism and reviews and such as mostly like comics and visual media. Outside of that I am a published novelist, I write short stories, I write essays and I write prime- or I should say I’m primarily known for the Southern Gothic series which is my little ode to monster hunting fiction and queer romance and all that good stuff so.

CMR: That’s how I know you also, from that series.

MC: [laughs] That’s how most people know me…

CMR: And you get to read an extract from the first book.

MC: yeah so another lady actually the book is the novelization of a short story of the same name, which was originally published in 2013 by, of all places, image comics. It was a[n] anthology of romance prose and comics, And it was a huge international group of people who got together and told it is very you know off beat romance fiction and different sort of like sub genres from like historical to horror to you know contemporary and like more YA type stuff so.

My story is was asking me what’s originally in the first issue, which was you know horror themes that was pretty good.

the novelization came out February of this year right in time for Valentine’s Day it follows the main character Dorian who is an unlucky vampire from the slums of Devil’s Row. He makes ends meet working in sleazy bars and nightclubs doing survival sex work, you know, under the, I guess, watchful eye of the local vampire mafia.

He meets a human, a monster hunter named Cash Leroy. During a vampire bar fight at Dorian’s job, where he saves Cash’s life from a particularly nasty brutish vampire who’d been hunting humans and basically saves his life.

In doing so, Cash, who is indebted to Dorian, for you know saving his life and everything, and you know, putting everything on the line, agrees to take Dorian under his wing to train as a monster hunter and help him, you know, now that he’s kind of on the outside in the vampire world, like at least he can start over in the human world as a monster hunter. They become partners and best friends. But unfortunately, this is a romance so everyone catches feelings quite quickly and that you know, kind of complicates things, as monster hunting is kind of a nasty brutish and short career.

And you know, all of the the… the emotional and romantic plot kind of has to take a backseat when a particularly like nasty case lands in their laps: a pair of man-eating were-deer on the loose in town stealing hearts. And so, with pressure on to end it, they have to set aside their feelings and track down a pair of very nasty were-deer.

But yeah so that’s pretty much the setup of the book and I’m going to be reading the first chapter. I think it’s like a very good intro to the world.

CMR: Perfect, yeah.

MC: I’m not an avid I’m not an excellent you know, public speaker, so we’ll give it a shot.

CMR: That’s fine, everyone’s very forgiving.

MC: Well, I appreciate that.

Extract from Leather & Lace

Karl Dreschner wanted to scream as he ran for his life from the charging beast, but he knew there was no use in it.

No one was around to hear him as he raced down the winding footpaths of Robert P. Chastain Park. This late at night, the Devereux Police Department squad car that lingered in the parking lot to chase off loitering teenagers was already gone. The lamps that dotted the footpaths didn’t stay on past closing once the groundskeepers left, casting the entire park in deep pools of shadow. Around him, some shrubs and trees made it hard to see where he was going, tripping as he went or snagged by branches.

Above Karl, there was moonlight.

Behind him, the sound of hooves beating the dirt.

The trees shook as the creature ran between them, following Karl’s frantic breathing. He didn’t get a good look at it when it appeared outside the Werner Family Packing Plant. It was standing in the farthest corner of the parking lot that faced NE Pascal Boulevard. Karl had just left his shift for the night when he saw it stand up from a crouch onto two legs.

All Karl knew was that moonlight bathed its shaggy fur and head of antlers in what looked like silver ribbons.

Then the creature charged at him.

Karl ran and never looked back.

A sound of a thick branch snapping caught Karl by his frayed nerves. He turned to look behind him as a massive silhouette barreled down the footpath. Karl didn’t turn in time to see the creature in front of him emerge from the brush. Their bodies connected in the sudden violent impact of a soft human hitting a slab of dense muscle and fur. Karl stumbled back and hit the sidewalk, his head spinning and lungs burning for oxygen. He blinked, and when his vision cleared, he saw it.

The stag appeared with the body of a musclebound human and a deer’s narrow, black-eyed face. It towered overhead in seven feet of brown fur, black hooves, and a gnarled spread of bony antlers. Before Karl could scream, the creature picked him up by the throat. He wheezed, vision growing hazy and dark as it squeezed the breath from his aching lungs.

Death didn’t wait long for Karl as the other stag charged at him from behind. The creature that had pursued him was much larger than the one before him, a lumbering giant with a head of massive antlers protruding in sharpened points. The antlers pierced through Karl, breaking his rib cage and tearing through his lungs. He died a violent death, listening to his own bones shatter.

Once Karl Dreschner’s heart stopped beating, the beast who crushed his throat used the other’s antlers to steady his body. The stag tore into his chest, peeling back the skin and bone to take his heart. Holding the organ up in a meaty paw, the creature licked its mouth with a long black tongue.

Karl’s body left to the dirt, the stags—one large, one short—underwent their transformation back into their human forms. Their antlers receded into round human skulls; their dense, speckled fur shed to reveal their vulnerable skin underneath. The men the stags hid inside of stood naked and bloody under the moonlight. They were middle-aged men with gray hairs at their temples and in their mustaches, crow’s feet gathered in the corners of their eyes.

One was tall, Black, and sturdily built. The other was short, white, and round.

“Just his heart?” asked the taller of the two men. His name was Paul W. Garrett. Flecks of muscle and bone clung to his coarse grayed hair where his antlers had receded into his skull. He swallowed, feeling queasy.

“No.” The shorter and rounder of the two, named Mathew Lane, smirked under his mustache. “I want all of it.”

Tonight, the weredeer feasted.

~ Magen Cubed, Leather and Lace, Ch. 1, pp. 3-5

Magen Cubed Interview

CMR: Yes, so yeah that’s such a good intro to the world it’s such a good opening and in terms of your world building because there’s such a lot going on in that opening section so what are the dynamics of monsters living alongside humans and and what are the main conflicts that you wanted to play with about that?

MC: Well, in this world monsters basically have been living incognito I guess you could say among humans for a few you know hundred to 1000 years depending on where they are in the world, you know monsters are basically evolutionary offshoots of humans, so they ran parallel to humans and are naturally occurring in the world, so in this world, you know, monsters lived in London in the natural world and in trees, in caves and forests and the plains and all these places, you know, and mountains, until humanity started to encroach upon them so more, you know, indigenous cultures had more of an understanding of a relationship with monsters, while those who tended to empire build would rather to sort of pave over the top of them or kill them outright so.

Over the course of history monsters have either like been killed because of you know, violent skirmishes with humans, you know, killing livestock or eating children… those are like nasty things that happened when they sort of bump up against each other and don’t know what to do… Or have been slowly sort of folded into human society.

There’s basically three kinds of monsters in this world, only two of which that we we do see in this book, you have shape shifters like you know, Paul and Matthew, who are able to shift between fully human form, a sort of hybrid form, like the man-stag, and then like a full animal they’re able to completely blend in and live normal human lives and pay taxes and all that stuff and more or less navigate without any problems, and then you have vampires and other what they call ‘deadlocked’ monsters, which are totally locked into their forms. They can’t shift so while they’re more humanoid you know. Then, say, like a bigfoot or like a mermaid which are like more like corrupted you know and can’t speak can’t communicate with us and can’t blend in. They are human enough to sort of pass, but have to like hide their appearance and kind of hiding in plain sight.

These two classes kind of clash amongst themselves, you know, because you have one that you know the shifters who are very good at like simulation and hiding and copying humans and living among them, then you have those like vampires who are kind of struggling for their freedom kind of like living under humans, and you know, obviously it was either fold into human society or die, you know so they those who survived, yeah, made the choice.

Yeah so it’s forced assimilation, it’s not like these were happy times.

You have monsters like I said kind of living incognito and the rule is basically keep your head down, pay into human economies, you know. Property, food, whatever way that you can. Taxes if you’re a shapeshifter, all that good stuff if you can have a job… But you know, keep your head down. Don’t do anything to bring attention to yourself and do not kill, do not attack humans, like that’s the rule.

Those who step outside of that rule, those who attack humans those to draw any attention to themselves – that becomes the business of monster hunters who are like a class of labourers basically who are you know brought in by human governments, local law enforcement, whatever, to you know just handle the nasty stuff of dealing with monsters, because human governments don’t want to deal with it, they don’t want to they don’t want them in prisons, they don’t want them to have rights to do anything it’s, just as the as long as they keep their heads down it’s fine.

If they act up whatever a hunter is called in to take care of it. It’s swift ugly you know brutal justice. And monsters are essentially just like – they know they have no rights they know they know there’s no there’s no due process, you know if you step on the line you’re dead.

But most of the conflict is between the relationships in this series, and in the book specifically is between monsters and hunters. Because hunters are like a discrete class that are like on the fringes of society, you know they’re basically stateless you know they Simply exist to kill monsters and police and basically but, on the other hand, when monsters can’t police their own or someone is drawing attention to them, or like finding a social contract in some sort of way, monsters will also call in hunters to deal with those that they don’t want to deal with themselves, you know, sometimes it’s just easier to sort of like pass the buck on to someone, and you know wash your hands of a Community Member who’s causing a problem or you know doing nasty things that will you know brings attention back to the Community so.

The conflict is mostly between you know hunters who know that they’re hitmen, basically. That they’re operating outside of the law and have to do very nasty ugly things under the guise of keeping humans safe when it’s mostly just to avoid paperwork and bureaucracy for human governments and police and all that.

CMR: Yep.

MC: And then monsters who understand that, like the cost of not dying is you know behaving, essentially, living up to this human contract that is forced on them and navigating that relationship where they don’t necessarily fear hunters, they don’t like them, they’re just sort of a part of the everyday life.

You know, and in that negotiation of like hunters who are like marginalized maligned in human society and monsters, who are completely at the bottom of any social hierarchy because they have nothing you know.

And so, so that that that the conflict is is sort of like negotiating like what is justice what is fair, how do you sleep at night, you know. How do you navigate any of this. That’s the core conflict between humans and monsters in this world.

CMR: What drew you to Southern Gothic as a vehicle for storytelling as opposed to another kind of spec fic genre? I think it lends itself quite well to the darker themes of those sorts of struggles and things like that, so what what is it about southern Gothic for you, that makes you think like, oh yeah this is kind of the aesthetic I want, this is that the genre that I want to use, was that a deliberate thing or did it just kind of organically happen for you?

MC: It kind of … I’ve always been intrigued by monster hunting fiction. And like you know in America, where I live, it’s always paid lip service to like the ideas of southern Gothic I think in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of the aesthetics of life on the fringes and, like, the dilapidated American town, and dealing with the scars of industrialization and economic exploitation and racism and the fallout of the American Civil War and a lot of these other things you know.

It’s a very common thing to sort of paint hunters as like, bad men who do bad things, and wear the aesthetics of the low-brow salt-of-the-earth labourer like a costume, you know, they drive fast cars, they live in these dark dreary towns, you know they’re sort of gesturing at the lack of agency, like the the death of infrastructure in the American South and poverty and class disparity, and they sort of like gesture towards these things, and you know and it’s all fine but doesn’t really meaningfully engage in that sort of like, the trap of like generational poverty. You set stories in mining towns but don’t actually explain what a mining town is, and how people got there, and why things are the way they are, and you know, how you can have people living amongst monsters – well you know if the guy running your town is essentially a monster, like what’s the big… what’s the big difference??

But um, I’ve always been very interested in telling stories about the lived reality of the American South like I’m from Texas originally, which is more like Southwest, it’s a little further removed from a lot of these sort of places, but like a lot of my family come from the places that these kind of stories are set and the kind of cultures that are being like gestured at.

And you know I’ve always been very interested in like getting that perspective from some like from someone who like is familiar with that kind of life and understands, instead of like poverty tourism, actually giving dignity to people who live in these conditions.

CMR: I think it’s really interesting how you engage with the American class system, if you like, the US class system, which is very different to like a British or European conception of class, and I like how your work, seems to be quite socially conscious as well anddigs into those sorts of things and then like puts monsters and monster hunters within that context and deals with it within that. Again, is that something that you did deliberately is that something that you found yourself drawn to because of the particular themes and the it just sort of lends itself to that?

MC: Yeah it did. I kind of ran into it. Because I’m like, I come from a working class background, you know, it didn’t make sense to me to have hunters be just a cool guy who does cool things and has no engagement with his material conditions or anything like that, so you know. In the case of like Cash and everything, yeah he’s a human character, his family is split. His mother’s family comes from Mexico, they’re a monster hunting dynasty essentially, they’ve been doing this for generations. His father’s family comes from like the Bayou of Louisiana. Both sides of his family are you know very like low working class, you know, and he kind of just met in Texas, he grew up there.

But you know he’s in the Mexican-American, he has a French name but so do a lot of people, you know Dorian is a vampire he has a French name, his family just sort of ended up with the name. A lot of vampires and and monsters, a sort of end up with the names. It’s a mishmash, at least in the region of the world that this story takes place, is a mishmash of like Spanish and French and Creole and yeah the name you just sort of end up with is this a name you end up with you know it’s all just this melting pot, you know and monster system don’t get to choose their names it’s just named at the end up with you know because of as assimilation and they learn English and a sort of just learn English and bits of Spanish and bits about the things that just becomes the sort of identity that they construct, but they have no, they have no relationship to like human colonialism, they don’t know where any of this comes from it’s just handed to them and they had to take.

In Cash’s case you know he is between two worlds, his father was what they call a civilian and his mother was a monster hunter. You know he’s Mexican-American you know he’s so direct to a lot of different tensions, you know, and then on top of that he’s a monster hunter he doesn’t make a lot of money it’s a dangerous stupid job and they don’t live very long so it’s kind of like you know, there is no, even though he is basically part of like a fantasy class, you know because monster hunters aren’t real, they have their own like insular culture and values and and history and wasn’t all that stuff like you know he’s still can’t divorce himself from the reality of you know, being a gay Mexican-American kid from Texas.

I guess it’s just sort of like honouring the things that I’ve seen and the people that I’ve met in my life, who I know have very similar sort of like class backgrounds and relationships with structures of power and like race and all that stuff.

CMR: Yeah and the main story is not about that, it’s about him killing monsters right.

MC: Yeah there’s only so much I can get into when it’s like you know, this is not an authentic story about a man’s trials and tribulations, he does kill monsters for a living and he hangs out with a vampire. So you know, we can only go so far.

CMR: yeah exactly, and I think like and Dorian and Cash’s relationship is a really interesting one, and you’ve got that – well it’s not exactly slow-burn, is it, but they do have a foundation of friendship to start off with, don’t they, like they kind of grow on each other, I guess, but it’s like that healthier kind of couple, as opposed to the Gothic horror couple where it’s all very toxic. You could easily have gone that way, I think, with those sorts of dynamics, like a monster hunter and a vampire like and you’ve got potential power dynamics and power and balances at play and considering where monsters are in the whole social structure so like you’ve got those elements to play with, and I think it’s it’s really interesting that they’ve got like such a nice relationship like it like a relatively much healthier one. So is that again something that you wanted to do on purpose, because you wanted it to be a healthy romance?

MC: Yeah it’s it’s kind of like a weird route how I got here because, like I said the the whole thing was originally based on like a short story.

CMR: Yeah, yeah.

MC: It was it was just like a fun little snapshot and it wasn’t particularly developed, but they always had that like fun best friends sort of like buddy-cop sort of relationship, you know from you know because, like the crux of their whole thing is that, like they hang out at like karaoke bars when they’re not at work, you know, hang out at diners and they go eat at like food trucks and they just they just hang out and they just banter constantly because you know Cash is the very calm, laid back, relaxed character and Dorian is completely anxiety-ridden and he’s very smarmy and they just make fun of each other constantly but it’s always very good natured bickering.

That was always sort of like the foundation that I always had in mind even like when the first short story first came out.

I stumbled into the sort of like web of you know class and power, and you know the hierarchies and and all that, like, as I was developing the world and shifting from like the short story, because I originally wrote like a ton of short stories, but I was like there’s so much more here and I can’t get to it with just some like fun short story. From there I shifted gears into creating the Southern Gothic universe, and I still wanted them to have that very fun flirty casual and complimentary dynamic.

It morphed into this other thing because they are an interspecies, like, paranormal romance you know, human and vampire it’s just like that’s not the problem you know, like vampires and humans have like kind of a – I should say vampires and hunters have a Like okay sort of relationship like mostly vampires just don’t like them very much but they understand their function and what they’re like whatever you know they’re ambivalent.

The relationship between vampires and humans is that they do hate and fear them. So much so that vampire religion is basically like an apocalyptic cult. They’ve created this mythos where the first day Empire was like murdered by by humanity and he was like return to the great goddess’s womb to be reborn again and then smite the humans and, once he comes back and destroys all the humans, they will take their place as like the rightful heirs of this planet, so they like they see themselves as like stewards of the earth, the rightful life forms, you know and humans are just as these nasty things and have got the upper hand on them and will someday – someday! – be destroyed, so you know they are fearful of them.

[The] vampires are living in these slums and are far away from humans, under the rule of either like the vampire mob, which is in Dorian’s case, that’s the power structure that controls where he lives, or other parts of the world where it’s like a vampire monarchy. they’re taught to just if they see human to just like close up shop lock your doors close the windows don’t talk to them. They wear sunglasses and hats and they cover their eyes and they cover their ears, because they have like long pointed ears are very like Nosferatu-like. They cover themselves and they don’t talk to humans and they tend to decorate their shops in like like their regional like vampire languages that humans don’t don’t even know.

So the relationship is kind of ambivalent, it’s not like you know it’s not a tortured, I can’t possibly love a human or I can’t possibly love a vampire it’s just like these are there sort of just tossed into this soup that they don’t understand but that’s just the world that they live in, so you know the the the tension between them as a human and vampire is more of like the emotional and internal struggles that they have together and separately than some sort of like animosity between humans are vampires.

In Dorian’s case the thing that drives him is his fear of abandonment, because you know vampire families are subject to intense poverty and in his case you know he had a single mother who raised him and his older sister – he doesn’t really know who his dad was. His dad kind of came and went until he was six years old and his dad disappeared his mom just said that his dad had gambling debts and dipped out. His sister who is kind of resentful of their mother for never really being there for them, doesn’t want to grow up and become or do that to her own children, leaves when she’s like 17 and leaves Dorian alone with his mother and then you know one day he comes home to find all the doors locked and the locks changed and his mother’s is gone and he’s like on his own, so his whole life has just been people slowly leaving him and him never knowing why.

Which is unfortunately … yeah which is sort of like the unfortunate reality of you know, again like as someone who’s kind of lived in or around some very crushing conditions, you know that that people do kind of come and go, because poverty – it kind of breeds a very transitory kind of life … people come and go because of jobs, they come and go because of divorces, they come and go because of prison and jail. I’ve had people kind of come and go out of my own life be for similar reasons, and sometimes I know why, sometimes I don’t and and even if it wasn’t that happened to me personally it’s a story that I heard enough.

Yeah you know and it’s like addiction and all that stuff which I glossed over, but you know there’s a lot of reasons why people do abandon you and it’s not always malicious but sometimes it is and he’s kind of gone through his like whole life now he’s like at 26 you know, having spent the last decade, trying to stay off the streets doing whatever he needs to to survive to his own detriment sometimes.

And now he has this friendship, you know yeah you know he is his previous best friend, you know Marcie who is in this book and appears in some other books as well, like took him in when he was like 16 so like it’s fine he does have friends and people who love him like he’s not totally alone, but in terms of like any sort of like stable, honest, open relationship that could be like more than friendship like it’s like slim pickings so he’s used to kind of being alone and his biggest fears being abandoned.

And so, with Cash kind of just showing up, kind of ruining his life, whatever, but then taking him under his wing and pulling him out of that pit into this economically shaky, socially reclusive job… It does mean like a lot, it does help him out of that situation and you know, it is very clear that it’s something that Cash has to deal with in this book and then like later books. His [Cash’s] role in the world is pretty far down the ladder like he’s not doing great in the scheme of things, but he still has way more mobility then Dorian does and Dorian is always going to be relying on him to move through the human world, no matter what.

So that’s where the tension is, and that does kind of come and go throughout the series, because it is an elephant in the room, you know, you can’t not address that sort of thing, but on the other hand, like Cash’s whole thing is that you know he lives a very empty life as a hunter, you know they have this very cloistered conservative, you know family comes before everything. Like life and everything you do is for the betterment of the group, and you know your job is to kill monsters and make more make more baby hunters to pass on the mantle to, and then it doesn’t really afford him a lot of opportunity for relationships, because they can’t they don’t do with outsiders, they only deal with, like other hunting families so marriages are kind of like arranged essentially like do you don’t get a lot of options and whatever like whatever hunting family that your family is allied with you will most likely end up with one of those 12 kids, so…!

He comes from a pretty big hunting family which we get way more into in the second and third books. And you know he can’t really talk to outsiders he can’t really have conversations he’s he was homeschooled and his job is hunting and killing things that’s all he was ever taught to do you know as a kid and so he doesn’t really have hobbies that he can talk to people about he can’t really talk to people about his work, because that involves getting into like Okay, so you know how werewolves are real… Anyway, that’s how that’s why my face is all messed up because I kind of got hit …. it’s like there’s no way you can talk about your job, you know.

Yeah so when he does try to have – because you know in this book he is sort of like in this on-again off-again situation with an ex-boyfriend named Max. It’s like he has to lie, and it’s very like empty kind of lying where he just kind of pretends that he has his normal life with a normal family, And he has like he works in like blue collar job or whatever, but it’s just like he can never be honest about himself. And it’s an intensely lonely life, you know, because you know, there is there just isn’t much there, and you can’t really have friends outside of hunting and those like weird little political tensions, you know within the hunting world and hunting culture.

He wants more for himself and what he wants is ultimately like a very normal like he just wants like to get married have kids that’s what he wants but that’s really not possible, where he is and Dorian is the only like real friend that has ever made outside of like the hunting world and old people that he knew growing up that like just kind of you end up becoming friends with the family, friends and then that’s it, you know so it’s like his first real adult relationship and a lot of ways. You know, he does put Dorian on a pedestal and they they work on that, you know they kind of put each other on pedestals, because Cash is like Dorian pass to freedom, but then like Dorian is Cash’s only like real human companion and friend and everything.

So yeah it is a little shaky in the beginning, because, like they do represent so much for each other, but they also that’s why it’s so hard for them to commit to an actual relationship, because they have so little going in. Each one of them represents so much.

It is kind of slow burn because it’s them like trying to figure out like “I have so many intense feelings for this person, but we can’t do this”, you know Dorian’s whole thing in the whole book, the whole like first two-thirds I think, is just like we can’t do this, I have the sentence for you, but we can’t do it will never do it it’s not gonna work.

And Cash not really understanding why it’s not going to work because Dorian has never explained why it’s not going to work. So it’s kind of like you know one is intensely into pursuing this one just keeps pulling back, but and the fear is that if they commit to a romantic relationship, then they sacrifice the friendship. And the friendship means so much that they’re kind of willing to be unhappy in a friendship if it means never pursuing that that romance.

It’s a very weird tug of war between like Yes, it is absolutely a friendship built on trust and respect and love for one another understanding how important the other one is in wanting to keep them happy and not wanting to threaten that happiness with your own feelings, but then also shutting yourself off from any potential happiness in the process.

No, it does have a sketchy foundation, they do work through it and the rest of the series is them working you know working through things and that relationship maturing and developing from you know, I’m in love with my best friend and I have to act on it right now versus like a mature adult relationship and companionship between people who you know make reasonable choices for the benefit of each other.

CMR: Oh the pining… the pining!

MC: The pining, yes. Delicious pining.

[they laugh]

MC: It was important to me to make sure that that that yeah, it is a flawed relationship and they’re working on it, but yeah it was really important to me to like start off with that foundation that that it is love trust and respect, that is where we’re starting from, and it is built under friendship.

I did want to give them stuff to work on through the series, and they have a lot of problems. But it’s all internal stuff that they work on together and they talk through it together and it is romance of the end of the day, and you know, to your point about it being like a very healthy and like positive relationship, like kind of like my working ethos for the series, is that this is a very dark bleak world. They have their stupid jobs and there’s no way out, it’s bad, it’s bad times, but I want – I always really wanted them to be this very like bright warm place in that universe.

Even if the world itself is not hopeful and mostly just them like navigating that dealing with that making the best decisions that they can with the information that they have like they will always have each other and it’s you know it will be a happy ending for them, even if the world carries on being crap.

CMR: That’s like the Hopeful Gothic kind of thing which I love like it’s it doesn’t have to have that tragic ending, it doesn’t have to be a tragic, you know you don’t have to sort of rip people’s hearts out by going, “and one of them’s now died!” [laughs] You know, or they can no longer be together because of angst, and you know, like, I quite like that, that you’ve got this sort of core developing hopeful centre to the novels that’s just it’s like that the heart of them, and I think that’s really lovely, especially as you’ve got like this the sort of the decaying settings and social deprivation and you know a lot of people getting their hearts ripped out and blood all over the walls.

MC: Quite literally, yeah.

CMR: I quite like that, I quite like they’re being the central domestic relationship that and I think like it would with the backgrounds that both of those characters have which are very kind of dark and explore very typically kind of Gothic themes, particularly in Dorian’s case and the abandonment issues that he has, like I find that very relatable, and I think it wouldn’t work as well you know if it was just a very quick romance and it was a happy ever after kind of thing. I think I think you’re right, I think it wouldn’t work in a different genre.

You know, because you need the space to explore all that darkness and that difficulty and the grappling otherwise it doesn’t actually work as a character dynamic right? It’s not a believable development.

MC: I waffled a lot about how dark I want the world itself to be in in the exact kinds of things in their backstories that they have to deal with, and yeah I definitely agree that, like I don’t think that this would work if it was just a light happy romance that just happens to be in a dark space, like they really have to you know, like sometimes those stories are fun if it’s like a brisk little like horror subversion, or whatever you know, like a little dark Rom-Com, like those things are fun.

CMR: Yeah, definitely.

MC: Yeah but I definitely wanted to like sit with this and not because… yeah I mean theoretically, we could end it I could have ended it with it with Book One and, like yeah they live happily ever after, but like there’s just so many unanswered questions you know.

And those are the questions that like really, really drive the rest of the story, and how they engage with the world because as we go through the rest of the novels like we get to see more of like how the empire culture works and like from like the the weird intricacies of like the vampire mob like the vamp some of like the simple like the vampire like monarchy and how those two power structures fight for domination and where that’s left vampires and like can how those power structures have affected the lives of hunters who are compatible, their whole business model and culture hinges on what monsters are doing and what monsters are doing to each other. You have these like driving like socio-political factors, basically, you know that that shape how the characters got to where they were in when the story first you know begins with this with this novel and everything and then how those factors play out and as Dorian goes back and learns more about his place in the world and his family and how that family dissolved and everything, you know… Those are the things that really drive the plot, but their relationship is still the main focus.

And yes, it will end happily ever after… but it’s gonna be a trip to get there!

CMR: I’m really looking forward to it now! On that note, and is there anything that you’d like to promote that’s coming up and any projects that you’re currently got going on that you want to promote right now, or any upcoming releases?

MC: I just put out some a novella in September, which is a sort of sapphic Medusa reimagining.

CMR: That’s on my TBR [To Be Read] actually. Got that lined up!

MC: Excellent yes. In the Bedroom of Medusa sort of like my weird, again very class oriented, exploration of the gorgon story, and the idea of Medusa as a character in history and how her story has been told how people see her and how she sees herself. And, basically, just like the terror of being seen you know by by your lover and all that stuff so that’s that’s just came out ahead of another short story that came out in October which is a gay polyamorous werewolf pack short story called Found Among Wolves, which is about a man who has this relationship with a wolf pack essentially.

It’s sort of like, monstrous desires put him at odds with with the men that he tries to date and he stumbles into this relationship with a bunch of wolves and has to navigate that.

The rest of 2021 to 2022 I will be working diligently on the Leather and Lace sequel which is called Black Diamond. I am hoping against hope to have that out late 2022 or early 2023. That’s going to be the direct sequel to Leather and Lace, it picks up just a couple months after that. It involves murderous vampire cults, angry monster hunting in laws, the occasional killer mermaid, and Dorian feeling his feelings and slowly adjusting to this like domestic life that he’s now in… And all of the things that that entails for someone who tends to run from their problems rather than dealing with it, so.

That’s going to be really interesting and then at some point next year, I want to put out a anthology of a monster romance short stories dealing with like ghosts, demons, some more Greek myth stuff like the minotaur… vampires, werewolves, potentially ghouls… sort of like a big grab bag of archetypes and ideas and monsters, and the people who love them, so that’s pretty much everything that I have out or coming out soon.

To keep up with me, you can always subscribe to my newsletter which is at which may move to ButtonDown, but for now is, and my website is

I try to have you know all the new releases lined up there, or you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter as /magencubed, as I always always always obsessively promote my work and so you will never be left out of the loop, I promise, for all the stuff that I have coming coming out next year.

CMR: Yay I’m really excited! I love Medusa as well, so I’m really looking forward to reading that one.

Yeah so that’s all we’ve got time for, and thank you again for coming on the show it’s been really lovely to have you.

MC: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been a blast.

CMR: I love it, I just love it when I can just ask a question and people will just talk about their stuff and I don’t have to do anything, it’s great and it’s such an interesting thing to listen to, so thank you very much.

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