Today I am interviewing Margaret Killjoy, author of the new fantasy novella, The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion.
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DJ: Hey Margaret! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Margaret Killjoy: Sure! I’m a writer, which I guess is obvious. I’m also a weirdo punk anarchist transwoman and all sorts of other descriptors. I used to self-publish everything I did out of DIY ethos, but more recently I’ve moved into traditional publishing.
DJ: What is The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion about?
Margaret: It’s about Danielle Cain, a punk wanderer in search of a home and in search of answers about her best friend’s suicide. She goes to visit Freedom, Iowa, a squatted town run by anarchists, and discovers they’ve summoned a three-antlered, blood red deer to protect the town. And that hasn’t gone so well.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion?
Margaret: Most immediately, I’d probably point to the personal zines put out by people with lives like my protagonists and my own. I can think of the book I Wish There Was Something I Could Quit by Aaron Cometbus and the zine series No Gods, No Mattress by Enola Dismay off the top of my head. And there’s nothing I can write about squatters and punks that doesn’t, on some level, hearken back to reading the books Elsewhere and Never Never by Will Shetterly when I was a kid. They’re about punk rock magic in a way I’d never seen before, a way that really opened my eyes to the beauty one can find in desolate spaces.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Margaret: Well, I hope they’re compelling! The book centers on a team of five witches and demonhunters—none of who set out to be such. There’s Danielle Cain. She’s scene famous in the tiny, tiny world of traveling punks, and she’s got an anxiety disorder that fights with her deep sense of awe and wonder in the world. All her decisionmaking comes down to anxiety versus fear of missing out, essentially. Which totally doesn’t make her a stand-in character for myself. Definitely not. I would never do such a thing.
Then there’s Brynn, the face-tattooed fighter of a woman who loves trashy romance books. And Vulture, a transman hacker with a goat’s head tattooed on his chest who spends his nights watching over the town like a superhero. The power couple Doomsday and Thursday, who see themselves as the responsible ones but keep dragging everyone into trouble and have an unhealthy habit of pulling guns at the slightest provocation. Those two are most decidedly goth and fancy despite being surrounded by crust punks.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion like?
Margaret: Freedom, Iowa, in the very near future. The town was abandoned by a dead economy and resurrected by the determination and stubbornness of those with nowhere else to go. There’s also magic in the world, but almost no one knows that. The town is run on anarchist/communist lines, in which all things are distributed from each according to ability and to each according to need, but without coercion to participate in that economy. No one is making you give your neighbor anything. Decisions and discussions happen in a general assembly that might be both familiar and unfamiliar to anyone who was involved in the Occupy movement. For the most part, it works well, but it’s not quite a utopia.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion?
Margaret: I always love describing strange creatures, so the zombie birds were always a delight. Especially the geese. But I probably got the most out of writing the love story, which is low-key and was cathartic to put to paper.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Margaret: I was afraid people would want to argue with me about this or that aspect of a stateless, non-capitalist society, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised that so far, people are mostly talking about the creepy murder deer. Which is important to me, because this story is first and foremost a story and not an attempt to persuade anyone to a specific political or ideological view. I set my stories in the worlds that I inhabit and with people I would know, because it allows me to write as compellingly as possible.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing the The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Margaret: It’s a book about the lure of authority. Whether that authority is codified in power structures like finance or state authority, or simply social authority created by a group of people, it’s dangerous when we think we can wield power over one another. It’s a book about that danger personified, about all the advantages and disadvantages of that. At the risk of pushing my non-existent glasses up my nose, it’s also meant to reference and reflect on the Bolshevik betrayal of the Russian revolution.
DJ: This may have skipped some reader’s attentions, but The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion is actually a novella. It seems to me that novella is gaining a rise is popularity again: what is it about the novella format that you like? Do you feel there is a particular advantage to telling your story that way over the novel?
Margaret: Oh, novellas are wonderful. I’m incredibly happy about the resurgence of the novella. There’s a reason why TV is eclipsing movies at the moment… serialized stories are a wonderful medium. With a novella series (and this book is the first in a series), I’m able to tell short, self-contained stories that build on one another, allowing me to explore every nook and cranny of a world as entertainingly as possible. Sometimes I want to sit down with an epic fantasy novel, to be sure, but sometimes I just want a story. Something not to lose myself into, but something to dip into and then reflect on. Novellas are great for that.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion that you can share with us?
Margaret: I was particularly excited to write a story in which I could earnestly have a villain say “You’re a f*cking poser,” but if I were to pick a quote that encapsulates the story and its themes, I’d actually go for the first line of the book: “Sometimes you have a pull a knife.”
DJ: Now that The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion is released, what is next for you?
Margaret: The sequel, The Barrow Will Send What It May, will be out sometime next spring, and I’m at work on what I hope will be my debut novel, which I’m shy to say much about until it’s further along. I also run a zine-a-month club through Patreon, in which I send a story, essay, or bit of memoir in zine form out once a month. I do audio and digital versions of that too, so that takes quite a bit of my time
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Author Newsletter: http://birdsbeforethestorm.net/mailing-list/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002QWIH5U
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion that we haven’t talked about yet?
Margaret: Well, Alan Moore likes it, so you know if nothing else that it’s weird.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Margaret: Of course! Thanks for having me!
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*** The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion is published by Tor.com and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Kobo
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The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy pits utopian anarchists against rogue demon deer in this dropkick-in-the-mouth punk fantasy that Alan Moore calls “scary and energetic.”
Danielle Cain is a queer punk rock traveller, jaded from a decade on the road. Searching for clues about her best friend’s mysterious and sudden suicide, she ventures to the squatter, utopian town of Freedom, Iowa. All is not well in Freedom, however: things went awry after the town’s residents summoned a protector spirit to serve as their judge and executioner.
Danielle shows up in time to witness the spirit—a blood-red, three-antlered deer—begin to turn on its summoners. Danielle and her new friends have to act fast if they’re going to save the town—or get out alive.
“Intelligent and fiercely imagined.” ―Alan Moore
“A dark story of the human need for power.” ―Eileen Gunn
“Daring anti-fantasy.”― Nick Mamatas
“A unique bite of punk culture.” ― Delilah S. Dawson
“Important, thought-provoking…thrilling ride.” ―Lewis Shiner
“Always vivid.”―Tobias Buckell
“As relatable as it is harrowing.” ―Leanna Renee Hieber
“Utterly engrossing…it refuses to let you go.” ―Mur Lafferty
Margaret Killjoy is an author and anarchist with a long history of itinerancy who currently calls Appalachia home. When she’s not writing, she can be found organizing to end hierarchy, crafting, or complaining about being old despite not being old at all. Her books include A Country of Ghosts (Combustion Books, 2014) and the Danielle Cain series (Tor.com, 2017-). She blogs at www.birdsbeforethestorm.net and says things @magpiekilljoy on twitter.