Happy Monday, everyone! Today I’m excited bring Theodora Goss, author of The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, on the blog for an interview! Her book is out NOW so make sure you grab yourself a copy! Keep reading for more about the woman behind the words, as well as her new book!
All About Theodora
You wrote a book! That’s pretty awesome. Why don’t you tell us a bit about what inspired The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter?
It was inspired by a lot of different stories and characters, but probably the most important inspiration was a specific passage in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Victor Frankenstein, the biology student who’s a little too enthusiastic about his labs (as many readers know, Dr. Frankenstein exists only in the movie version), creates a male monster. And then that male monster asks him to create a female counterpart so he can have a mate. Victor doesn’t want to, but the male monster threatens him and says he will kill the rest of Victor’s family. So Victor goes up to the Orkneys, these lonely islands in northern Scotland, and starts to create a female monster. But he realizes that once he creates her, he’s going to have two monsters on his hands! Plus, the two of them could have children together, which would mean even more monsters out there to threaten mankind. So what does he do? He takes her body apart again and throws its parts into the sea. When I read that, I thought, that’s just not fair. How does he know she’s going to threaten mankind? He doesn’t, and yet he destroys her anyway. I wanted to bring her to life, to give her a voice.
Introduce us to your main character!
I actually have five! Mary Jekyll is the daughter of the respectable Dr. Jekyll. She is smart, sensible, and a little too rational–she doesn’t do emotions very well. Diana Hyde is a wild child, rebelling against anything and everything. She is the daughter of the notorious murderer Mr. Hyde. Beatrice Rappaccini was raised by her father, Dr. Rappaccini, to tend his garden of poisonous plants. In consequence, she has become poisonous herself–her touch burns, and if you spend too much time in a room with her, you will start to feel faint. Catherine Moreau was created by Dr. Moreau on his mysterious island, where he turned animals into Beast Men. She was created out of a puma, and there’s still a lot of the solitary cat in her. And Justine Frankenstein is the female monster Victor created. She is taller than most men and stronger than any man, but very gentle and wise.
Walk us through a day in the life of Theodora Goss.
I’m a university lecturer–I teach writing at a university in Boston–so my schedule can vary wildly. On teaching days, you’ll find me getting up in the morning, preparing to teach, teaching three classes, meeting with students, and then grading papers. I might not have time to write until late in the evening. But at the moment it’s summer and I’m back in my hometown, which is Budapest, Hungary. So today I woke up, had muesli and peach juice for breakfast, wrote a poem and posted it on my poetry website, then went out to the suburbs to have lunch with a childhood friend. Then I bought some things for my family’s apartment, which used to belong to my grandparents and still has their furniture in it–but at least as of today, it has new pillowcases! This afternoon, I’m working on a variety of writing projects, and then I’m going to study Hungarian. Unfortunately, I lost the language when my family moved to the United States (I was only seven). Now, I’m trying to re-learn it.
Lots of aspiring authors out there. Any advice for them?
Just do your weird thing, Figure out what your weird thing is, and do it as hard as possible. Some people will like it, some people won’t, but at least you will be happy with it. Writing is such a hard business–in addition to teaching undergraduates, I teach creative writing MFA students, and I see how long it takes them to make their first short story sales, sell their first novels . . . Writing is hard all the way up, and even the very best, most popular writers get rejected. So do it for yourself, because you love it, and do what you really want to–write the stories you want to, in the way you want to write them. Rejections and failures will happen when you’re a writer–they just will. But if you love what you’re writing, you’ll be happy even in the difficult times.
I know asking someone’s all-time favorite book is a loaded question so what’s your current favorite read?
The last book I read that I really loved was My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier. I’ve admired du Maurier as a writer for a long time, and always enjoy reading her prose. I saw that the movie version of this particular novel was coming out, and thought I would read it in preparation–but I haven’t even had a chance to see the movie yet! It doesn’t matter–the book was just so good. It was “I’m stuck in a tiny seat on a Delta flight across the country but it doesn’t matter because I’m actually in Cornwall and this story is just so twisted” good.
Alright, the ultimate question: why should we read your book?
I’m so bad at answering this question, because I know not every book is for every reader. If you like monsters, you might like my book too. If you like female monsters in late nineteenth-century London, it might be your sort of thing. If you don’t mind some metafictional experimentation, it might work for you. If you think books should be realistic, or about contemporary social problems, or provide a completely immersive reading experience, there are lots of other books for you to read. No book is for everyone. I would say, if you like the description on the cover, if it makes you go “girl monsters yes!”, then give it a try . . .
Now for the Fun…
Describe yourself in 3 words.
What is your most embarrassing memory?
Every time I forget someone’s name. I’m good with faces but not very good with names, and I always feel terrible when I forget someone’s name. (I regularly call my daughter by my cat’s name, and vice versa. Really, it’s beyond embarrassing.)
What is your Hogwarts house?
Ravenclaw all the way.
Your characters are sent into the Hunger Games. Who wins?
All of them, because they work together to defeat the oppressive political system that sponsors the Hunger Games! My girl monsters can bring down the government . . .
A famous movie producer wants to make your books into movies and they want you to cast your characters. Which actors/actresses make the cut?
David Tennant as Sherlock Holmes, for sure! But that’s partly because Holmes is himself a star–people want his autograph. As for the others, I think you’d actually want actresses who aren’t particularly well known, like the young actors and actresses who appeared in Game of Thrones when it first came on (now they’re famous, of course). The one challenge would be Justine–she’s over fix feet tall, so she would need to be played by a Swiss model who was willing to look like an ordinary (but very tall) girl.
You just won America’s Got Talent. What’s your talent?
Packing! I can pack a lot of clothes into a very small space. I’ve had a lot of practice . . .
Radioactive space rock fell from the sky and turned you into a superhero/villain. Tell us your new name, describe your powers, and what does your costume look like?
I am Writer Girl! I can leap tall buildings in a single paragraph! With my trusty pen, which is mightier than the sword, I can rewrite any narrative. If villains menace this fair city, I will erase them, or at least cross them out. I am disguised as mild-mannered university lecturer Dr. Theodora Goss, but underneath my sensible plaid skirt is an outfit black as ink, with a Wite-Out gun in a holster and a lasso that will make you suspend disbelief.
This morning you woke up with the ability to time travel to only one time period. Where (or more accurately “when”) would you go?
Sometime after the invention of antibiotics! If you study history, you realize just how dangerous life was before modern medicine. I’m actually grateful that I live now, in the era of vaccines and all sorts of medical interventions. But if I could go just for a little while, I would love to see the late nineteenth century, the era of Oscar Wilde and aesthetic art. After all, I’ve spent so much time studying it–I’d love to see it first-hand.
Coffee or tea?
Tea in Boston, coffee in Budapest (where the coffee is really, really good).
Best ice cream flavor ever?
There’s an ice cream shop in Budapest called Levendula that has the most amazing ice cream flavors, like chili chocolate and caramelized fig. Basically, anything from Lavendula!
Your theme song/personal anthem?
“Wicked Girls” by Seanan Maguire.
I have a lot of them, and since I’m in Budapest, I can’t look up at the cork board over my desk where my favorites are pinned up. But here’s one that I love and that is important to me:
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life–and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” –Georgia O’Keeffe
What is one piece of advice you would tell everyone?
Find joy. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, try to find the joy in it, and in your life. I don’t know anything else that makes life as worthwhile as a simple sense of joyfulness.
A huge thank you to Theordora Goss for answering our questions! Don’t forget to check out her book, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, a delightful merging of the classics with plenty of humor and mystery!
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughterby Theodora Goss
Published on June 20, 2017 by Saga Press
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Publisher (via NetGalley)
Book Depository / Amazon / Barnes & Noble
Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins.
Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.
But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.
When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.