A.G. Slatter is joining us today to talk about her novel, All the Murmuring Bones. Here’s the publisher’s description:
For fans of Naomi Novik and Katharine Arden, a dark gothic fairy tale from award-winning author Angela Slatter.
Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.
A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.
What’s A.G. Slatter’s favorite bit?
My favourite bit of writing All the Murmuring Bones?
Well, I always love working out how to thread a fairy-tale element through a story, but All the Murmuring Bones was just one big fairy tale. The really big thing for me was the chance to weave in bits of tales I’d made up for previous books. I wanted the stories I’d told in the past to form the mythology that the characters in AtMB grow up with, and refer to all their lives as a sort of guide.
I’ve been writing fairy tales for a long while now, but All the Murmuring Bones is the first novel set in the Sourdough world. There are three mosaic collections, Sourdough and Other Stories, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, as well as a novella, Of Sorrow and Such. I love them, they’re my babies, some have won awards or been finalists. But they’re still a series of shorter works even though interlinked. But AtMB is the BIG BABY, the full-length fairy tale, the labour that lasted for several years before birthing.
As a writer, there are days when you’re draped over the fainting couch for hours, eating whatever sugary comfort foods you can find, sighing wistfully, or sobbing mid-range, or shrieking in a fashion that would have Hell’s legions covering their ears and muttering “Damn, girl.” You’re the worst writer in the world, what the heck do you think you’re even trying to do? There were, of course, a lot of those days whilst writing All the Murmuring Bones.
Then there are the days when you’re just in the groove – everything is coming together, the words are flying out of you and you’re thinking “Yes! This is the s*&t I was born to do!” You look up and your word count is huge, the file saves properly, no one interrupts you. You’ve had a good day – and if you’re really lucky, when you re-read what you’ve written, it does not suck. Or at least not so much. Or at least not in such a way that cannot be fixed by a light edit.
There were quite a few of the awful days, but there were also the good days. And mostly those good days were when I was writing the stories within stories. Miren, the protagonist, comes from a family that has maintained a book of tales for hundreds of years. Different generations have written stories therein, stories that might be true, might be lies, but are probably somewhere in between. The tales are about mermaids and selkies, mari-morgans and ashrays and kelpies, mixing together fairy tale and folkore with a family’s history. Plus Maura, one of the old servants, tells other things: spells and fables. Miren says, “I think about that book of lies and truths and tales all mixed together so no one could tell them apart.” She’s able to use them to navigate her way through life – but there’s only so much faith she can put in them because they might simply be pretty lies dressed up as truth.
I love telling stories that examine that confluence of truth and lie, story and rumour, gossip and lore. I’m fascinated by how tales shift and travel – how there’s a version of Cinderella from Tang Dynsaty China (700BCE) called Ye Xian, not to mention Strabo’s Rhodopis in the 1st Century BCE, the French Finette Cendrillon, Germany’s Aschenputtel, and Italy’s Cenerentola. How they’re changed by societal pressures and shifting mores: Little Red Riding Hood in the old Italian version cunningly rescues herself from the wolf; in Perrault’s later reworking she’s a silly little girl who is blamed for her own death.
I was tweet-chatting with Alix E. Harrow (she of the truly magnificent The Once and Future Witches, Ten Thousand Doors of January, and anything she writes, really) when she’d finished reading All the Murmuring Bones. She’s currently writing a new novel (YAY!) with similar ideas about families and versions of the truth, and said of the overlapping stories in AtMB, “I was honestly taking notes!” So, that’s pretty cool.
Angela Slatter has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, an Australian Shadows Award and six Aurealis Awards for her short stories. She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006. Angela’s short stories have appeared in many Best Of anthologies, and her work has been translated into many languages.