Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing David Thomas Moore who has edited Monstrous Little Voices (Abaddon Books, 2016), which is an anthology of five novellas that take place in Shakespeare's fantasy world.
David Thomas Moore is the commissioning editor for Abaddon Books.
Born in Australia, David Thomas Moore has lived and worked in the UK for the past twenty years, and has been writing for roleplaying magazines, fiction websites and short story anthologies for eight years. The Ultimate Secret is his first long work. He lives in Reading with his wife Tamsin and daughter Beatrix. You're glad you met him.
Click here to visit the Abaddon Books website.
AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID THOMAS MOORE ABOUT MONSTROUS LITTLE VOICES
- Monstrous Little Voices is an interesting and original anthology of five novellas that take place in Shakespeare's fantasy world. The novellas have been written by Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield. What inspired you to edit this anthology?
Shakespeare’s always been there. As an actor and stage hand in my Dad’s amateur theatre company in my teens, and as a student and academic through to university, he’s always been there. I played Siward’s son and Donalbain in Macbeth, and wrote an essay on Luhrmann’s use of race in Romeo & Juliet. I encountered him in Pratchett’s books and Gaiman’s comics, I’ve adapted his plots for roleplaying games, I dressed up as him for my brother-in-law’s fancy dress party. It’s not even like he’s my favourite writer or playwright; it’s deeper than that. He’s built right in to my mental make up and my cultural DNA. So when I realised the 400th anniversary of his death was coming, I said to my colleagues, “I’m going to do something for Shakespeare.” No ifs, no buts. I had to do it.
- Could you tell us something about the novellas? Are they traditional or modern fantasy novellas?
I’m not sure I know what that means! First and foremost, they’re all Shakespearean. All five of my writers had a great love for Shakespeare’s work, and were keen to capture the feel of his plays. All the stories delve into the sort of mythic themes the Bard loved: shapeshifting, assassination, bargains, prophecies, magic, love, death and the afterlife. Three of them revolve around marriages and what comes of them. Is that traditional? But they also touch on modern concerns. Foz’s Coral Bones is about gender identity; four of the stories are about women seizing control of their own destinies. Two of them touch on alternate universes. But then, Shakespeare himself was interested in how the world was changing even in his time. The stories are both traditional and modern, just as he was both traditional and modern.
Ultimately, they’re five stand-alone stories about fairies and witches and kings and a great war that spans the world. One’s a coming-of-age, one’s a love story, one’s a redemption tale, one’s an ensemble comedy and one’s a eulogy. There’s also a story that runs through all five, which begins as a distant concern but gradually becomes central to events. It involves a knife.
- How were these novellas selected? Did you organise an open submission period?
I sought them out! It’s how I do most of my commissioning, at Abaddon Books, and how most anthologies are done anywhere: you find your writers and ask them to be a part. Adrian and Emma I’d worked with before; we chatted about the idea at conventions and they both bit my hands off to be included. Foz and Kate I found through an agent, the wonderful Jennie Goloboy. Jonathan had worked for Solaris, Abaddon’s sister imprint, and shown such a love for – and a playfulness with – England’s literary heritage I knew I had to ask him.
- Did you give any guidelines to the authors on what to write about?
We formed a Facebook group, of all things! I knew I wanted the stories to all be set in the same world, and if possible to overlap in some ways. I had a basic framework for the world: how magic worked, and what fairies were, and what the political landscape looked like. I invited them all to a shared group, posted my framework, and we began spitballing. It was a hugely collaborative effort to begin with; the writers’ ideas came back and changed the framework, and each other’s pitches, as we went. Once we’d hammered out our rough ideas, they went to work, dropping in from time to time to ask questions or compare notes.
- How did the authors feel about writing fantasy stories that take place in Shakespeare's fantasy world?
They loved it! It was an opportunity to play in the sandpit of probably the single most important authority in English literature; to take on those ancient heroes and give them new stories and motivations. More than anything, it was fun, exploring a world Shakespeare himself had seen so little of, and yet wrote about with such certainty; toying with his assumptions and distortions and adding some of their own. And most of them played at least a little with Elizabethan English, which was delightful.
- Will you edit more similar kind of anthologies related to Shakespeare's works in the near future?
Maybe! I generally move on more than I look back, but if it does well and there’s interest, who knows? I already have an idea of what I’ll do if I do anything (I’m not telling; it would involve a great, big, hairy spoiler).
- Because most readers have their own favourites among Shakespeare's works, it would be interesting to know which of them are your own favourites?
Oof. What a choice! Hamlet’s the best-written, but the Dream’s the most fun. Lear’s Edgar is the best madman, but Twelfth Night’s Feste is the best clown. The best stage production I’ve seen was A Comedy of Errors at the Adelaide Festival Theatre in 1992, but the best film adaptation was Richard III (1995) with Sir Ian McKellen. But if you held a gun to my head and demanded my straight-up absolute fave, it’d be Romeo and Juliet, for the banter alone. “Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?”
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
I feel like you’ve covered all the bases, but if I have the pulpit for the moment...
In honour of the four hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (on April 23rd of this year), King’s College London and the London Shakespeare Centre are coordinating a year-long celebration of his life and career – Shakespeare400 – all over the country. There are similar celebrations all across the world. Readers who enjoyed (or are planning to enjoy) Monstrous Little Voices should check out what’s happening on www.shakespeare400.org (or Google for events happening in your own country), because there’s some absolutely brilliant stuff going on, from performances to festivals to readings to academic talks to new adaptations of the playwright’s work. Go; take advantage of the opportunities out there, and please support the arts.