My Favorite Bit: CJ Leede Talks About MAEVE FLY

CJ Leede is joining us today to talk about her novel, Maeve Fly. Here’s the publisher’s description:

By day, Maeve Fly works at the happiest place in the world as every child’s favorite ice princess.

By the neon night glow of the Sunset Strip, Maeve haunts the dive bars with a drink in one hand and a book in the other, imitating her misanthropic literary heroes.

But when Gideon Green – her best friend’s brother – moves to town, he awakens something dangerous within her, and the world she knows suddenly shifts beneath her feet.

Untethered, Maeve ditches her discontented act and tries on a new persona. A bolder, bloodier one, inspired by the pages of American Psycho. Step aside Patrick Bateman, it’s Maeve’s turn with the knife.

What’s CJ’s favorite bit?

CJ Leede

In my darkest pandemic moments, closed up inside the house and reckoning with all the vitriol and fear of the time, I dreamt of a tiki bar. 

I’d gotten nowhere with novels I’d written and sent out for years, life had thrown some heavy curveballs in the loss and grief department, and the world was… well, we all know what it was. So I sat down, and I wrote myself into the place I needed. I didn’t censor or plan or think too deeply, I only let myself find it. And what I needed, apparently, was the Tata Tiki Lounge.

The Tata Tiki Lounge is a hidden, dark, dirty tiki bar sitting unassuming and unknown by most in a squat square stucco building on the Sunset Strip. The regulars are The Bartender, a perpetually-angry and silent figure who explodes in occasional bouts of rage, shredding half-nude Polaroids of women from behind the bar and swallowing them down with whiskey. There is Maeve Fly, solitary, misanthropic, we might say passionate about her various interests. And then there is either Johnny Depp or an extremely convincing Johnny Depp impersonator. For our purposes, it really doesn’t matter either way.

Maeve pays The Bartender to play Halloween songs exclusively at her regular intervals of patronage. Johnny only drinks an imported French red, and The Bartender blends Maeve a steady stream of pina coladas in a blender that mostly works, if haltingly, and very loudly.  

The regular Tiki trappings abound, the whole of the place dimly lit in red, purple, orange, green. Decorative figures of fish, masks, coconut sculptures hanging from the ceiling and lurking in backlit alcoves. The whole place vaguely smoky, though we’re not even sure why. The bathroom, graffitied, tikied, just large enough for two to squeeze in together, should the need arise. And a jar of teeth that lives on the end of the bar. Always.

Maeve sits in her usual spot, pina colada in hand, and sways to the music. Her various pastimes consume most of her thoughts. Most recently, trying to figure out how to attain the perfect crack of an egg inside a certain bodily orifice to achieve the exquisite, glistening, slow drip of the yolk down the backs of the legs such as she’s read in a certain debauched pornographic novella by one of her misanthropic literary heroes. She’s been masturbating to youtube videos of predators hunting prey, is always trolling someone online, and has been finding the usual transcendent joy twirling before children in her ice princess dress at the Anaheim theme park where she works. But despite her best efforts, despite the hobbies and diversions and rabbit holes, deep down, she knows she can’t outrun it. The thing that is hunting her, that comes nipping at a person’s heels if and when they are unlucky enough.  

The total isolation and despair that is losing everything and everyone you love.

October in LA is hot, often unbearable. Angelenos love Halloween, but no amount of decorations and costumes and parties can temper the unrelenting sun. The fires that often rage all around us as soon as the winds pick up. Ash raining down on cars. Heat that radiates up from the pavement, down from the sky, off every reflective surface, windows, billboards, broken bottle glass. This city disgusting and a mess, it can beat down and break down any sense of hope you carry. And yet… there are crows circling overhead. There is jasmine on the air, history and glamor, the mismatched architecture, the shine and the grit comingled, intermingling every day, filling our senses, reminding us of the dream and of how few achieve it. Reminding us that we live in an artificial paradise built into a desert that thrived long before we got here, long before we populated it with bougainvillea and palm trees and collector cars, all the hundreds of imported fruits, flowers, vines, towers, strip malls, studio lots. Tar bubbling up from grass, palm fronds falling violently and suddenly, crash landing at our feet.  

So we duck beneath an awning. Through a nondescript door, away from the light. The air conditioning hits immediately. Our eyes struggle to adjust, thrown from losing the searing brightness, from entering a sunken dark place. We step forward, on wood or concrete or thin packed-down carpet. It smells of old beer and mold and liquor and maraschino cherries and the faintest whiff of cigarette smoke and piss. We’re handed something cold and icy and sweating, and we find a wooden or metal chair to sit. 

And suddenly, we realize. It’s fallen away, all of it. Time doesn’t matter. The world outside doesn’t matter. It is irrelevant here. Because we’ve entered an in-between space, a suspended world, another collective shared fantasy. Here, the sun belongs to some other galaxy. Our worries, the expectations of the world, all of it might pound at the glass of the door, but there’s a tint on that glass, and we have not invited them in. They’re not welcome here. 

This is the beauty of a cool dark dive. A space that affords us the ability to be anything we want to be, that takes the pressures of the outside world from our shoulders, leaves them on the burning pavement outside. It is in the Tata Tiki Lounge that Maeve can take a breath, can release the burdens and fears of her daily life, if only for a time. It is here where she can truly be herself, in all her messy chaotic glory. A dive bar can be everything. Even an imagined one. 

Getting to live in the Tata Tiki Lounge while writing the book was the balm I needed in a fraught and uncertain time. 

And I hope as you read, as the Tata Tiki opens her creaky, unwashed doors to you, as you step into the red smoky light, duck beneath the fishnet hanging too low from the ceiling, and the door swings shut behind you, that she offers you the same grimy, delicious respite. 


Cheers, and happy haunting.  


Maeve Fly Amazon book link

Maeve Fly Bookshop link



Book Trailer


CJ LEEDE is a horror writer, hiker, and Trekkie. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, and a BA from NYU’s Gallatin School, where she studied Mythology and the Middle Ages. When she is not driving around the country, she can be found in LA with her boyfriend and four rescue dogs. Alongside Maeve Fly, CJ has two more horror novels coming from Nightfire.

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