To  celebrate the release of Montrous Little Voices, we asked Dr John Lavagnino from King’s College –  who has written an excellent afterword for our fantastical Shakespearean anthology – for a few questions for the authors.

Here’s Foz Meadows talkingher contribution, Coral Bones

JL: It looks hard to fit things from a lot of different plays together this way! Was it?

FM: Not really! Before we all started writing, we had a group discussion about which stories we wanted to tell using which characters, and as it turned out, mine was chronologically first, so even though I had to keep some future developments in mind, I didn’t have that much to alter. But it was great fun to try and fit my own ideas to the worldbuilding parameters we’d been given! 

JL: What did you discover or notice about Shakespeare’s works in the course of doing this? And about your own?

FM: I’ve always felt that Miranda gets a short shrift in The Tempest, but before doing my research for the anthology, it had been years since I read the actual play, and I was blown away by the creepiness of Prospero. Historically, he tends to be viewed as a wise man, a good guy, but he literally puts his daughter to sleep when he gets tired of talking to her in the opening scenes, and when she wakes up again, she has no idea that he’s the one responsible for it; she thinks she just nodded off. Which is where I got my opener for Coral Bones – what if it’s something he’s done before? What if Ariel objects? What kind of relationship do the three of them have on the island, and how is that going to influence Miranda’s life with Ferdinand, once they’re back in Italy?

JL: Which character was most rewarding to write about?

FM: As much fun as I had writing the faeries, Miranda is the most important to me. In 2015, I realised I was genderqueer and finally started to recover from my post-natal depression: I’m still navigating the former – will likely be navigating it for the rest of my life – and I put a lot of those feelings into writing her. I think it’s fair to say her story is, in some respects, the most personal fiction I’ve ever written. Which makes it kind of terrifying, wondering how people are going to react to it, but also deeply satisfying, given that the act of creating it helped me. 

JL: What characters or places were you going to include but had to leave out?

FM: I was originally going to have Puck and Miranda getting up to some trickster-style shenanigans on their way to Titania’s court, but in the end, the story went in a different direction – hopefully for the better!

JL: Do you think you’ll do more writing of this kind? Building on Shakespeare or perhaps on other writing?

FM: I don’t know; it depends on the opportunity and context. Coral Bones was hard to write, but also very rewarding. I’ll just have to wait and see!

Monstrous Little Voices is out now!