New Interview with William Latham on Mary’s Monster
Conducted by Simon Morris
Q: For the uninitiated, what is Mary’s Monster about?
A: It’s a sequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in some ways but not in others. It doesn’t pick up where Frankenstein left off. It takes place in the present. It turns out Mary Shelley’s novel was inspired by true events. This tells the story of the Monster that inspired her story. So it’s not a gothic romance like the original. I suppose if I
were going to compare it to anything, it would be some fairly modern films, although I guess they’re not so modern anymore. If you mixed Single White Female and The Fly and I guess any story about a roommate who’s not playing with a full deck, you end up with some of the tone of Mary’s Monster.
Q: Is it a horror book?
A: It ends up going in some dark places, but I think we always referred to it as a novel of suspense. It’s got a couple of scary parts, perhaps. But it’s mostly about a character you really want to like who ends up just having too many deep psychological issues to really function very well in the modern world.
Q: The edition currently on the Powys site is the original edition, not the new edition.
A: Yeah, it’s the old one. It was the very first Powys book and we had some production problems with it and I don’t think any of us were really satisfied with it all that much. But it got the ball rolling for other projects. And we’re not planning on ever reprinting this version of the book again, so if there’s ever gonna be a collector’s item with my name on it, this’ll be it.
Q: Why not a reprint?
A: The new version of the book is going to be a totally new version of the book, rewritten from scratch. There are cool things about the original book. It was my third official novel that I’d written, so I was still learning the ropes. But my fourth novel, that’s where I think I learned plotting. The new version will be written by somebody who’s learned a thing or two about writing a novel. I started Mary’s Monster when I was nineteen. I finished it when I was pushing thirty. So there was a big long gap of time, where I think I was waiting to find the voice of the character. It’s a good character, and I think a good story, it just needed to be written by somebody who knew more about writing novels. That being said, I’ve come in contact with total strangers over the years who’ve read the book and loved it. One guy even had it on his MySpace page as one of his favorite books, which was a shocker. But I think most writers will tend to trash their early stuff. That’s just me talking. Mateo’s always loved the book.
Q: Is the new version finished?
A: The new version has been started. I don’t know when we’ll see it. I keep getting pulled back onto Moonbase Alpha. I think some of the structure will be the same as the original, but the characterization of the monster will be different, as will the primary character he deals with. So I think they’ll be interesting companion pieces. I don’t mean to trash the original version as much as I probably sound like I’m doing. It’s a solid novel. There’s good character stuff in there. I just think it’s worth revisiting. I think I was much more experimental as a writer when I wrote the original. When you’re just starting out, you’ll try anything! If anything, the old one’s got that full of piss and vinegar sense of a young writer who isn’t afraid of anything. That enthusiasm that’s so great to see in somebody who’s getting their feet wet with longer narratives. I have to be careful in the new version not to totally lose everything that was good in the original. I’m sure I’ll mine the original for some parts of the new one.
Q: Do you have to be a Frankenstein fan to enjoy it?
A: It never hurts, but I wrote it for people who hadn’t read Mary Shelley’s original. The original is not everybody’s cup of tea. I tried reading it as a kid and couldn’t get past the opening. If you want a shortcut, see Kenneth Branaugh’s film, the one with Robert DeNiro as the Monster. That’s relatively faithful to the novel, with a few minor exceptions. People don’t realize the character from the original
novel, the Monster, it ain’t your Boris Karloff monster. He’s a very smart, very sensitive, very eloquent character. Very tragic, too. I think that carries over into my book.
Q: But would a Space:1999 fan enjoy it?
A: One never knows. There are science fiction elements to the story. You do get to hear how the Monster was created using Eighteenth Century technology. But I think it’s one of those books that doesn’t easily fall into a genre. I’ve read other sequels to Frankenstein over the years and they never really did much for me. Making the Monster a brand new character was the only way I could envision him. He’s in some ways a mixture of Balor and the Good MUF from Omega and Alpha, I suppose, if that combination is even possible. But I think it was the Monster’s characterization that first got Mateo talking to me about Balor in the first place. Some of the flavors of both characters overlap.