Last year at Realm Makers, I met Mollie Reeder, and we chatted about everything from steampunk to dinosaurs. I found out about her debut novel The Electrical Menagerie and read a couple of short stories related to it. I kind of fell in love with Sylvester and Huxley and the story world. I read an ARC and when the blog tour sign ups came around, I raised my hand. And reread the book. I’m not one for rereading books but The Electrical Menagerie is one of the ones I will reread. I was so excited to get to interview Mollie. I had a few questions I was dying to ask, especially about Sylvester, his childhood illness, and the mysterious Huxley.
How does your experience in the film industry translate to writing?
In a screenplay, the story itself has to be really solid — there have to be clear goals, strong conflicts and interesting characters — because you don’t have very much prose to rely on. Writing screenplays definitely taught me to focus my story, write with clarity, and make the most dramatic choices.
Filmmaking has also given me a better sense of pacing and visual thinking. I’ve had several people remark that my writing is very “cinematic” and I love that. I want my books to imitate the feeling you get when the lights go low and the orchestra swells.
Do you have certain themes that you gravitate to in your writing?
Definitely redemption and friendship. I tend to write stories about people who don’t feel very heroic — but turn out to be heroes after all. I also tend to write about why people need other people — even if they don’t realize it.
During Realm Makers, we bonded (way too late at night) over steampunk things and our love for “invalids and orphans”. Is there a personal reason why you gravitate to those themes?
My protagonists are almost always “disempowered” in some way — either physically, or socially, or both — but turn out to be the only person who can save the day. I’m really not sure why I gravitate to that, but I do believe it’s the story Jesus put on my heart to tell. I want people to feel empowered by my stories. I want to impart courage and strength. No matter what you have been through, you can be the hero of your own story.
Sylvester had sweeps as a child. Is this illness based on a real-world analog?
I am really fascinated by polio epidemics. I learned about polio when I was a kid and it seemed totally foreign. I think the first time I saw a picture of a child laid up inside an iron lung, the image sort of seared into my memory.
Sweeps isn’t just a fantasy name for polio; it’s a fictional disease. But the idea of children becoming spontaneously crippled by something that doctors were essentially powerless to treat is so haunting to me, I had to write about it.
Another thing I love about Sylvester is that he’s in his 40s. What is your inspiration for having an older protagonist?
We have a lot of stories about young adults, which is great! But being a teen, or a twentysomething, is just one brief season in the human experience. In the media, youth is often treated like a be-all, end-all. In reality, your life isn’t somehow over at thirty. Your life is barely beginning.
I’ve had many deep friendships with people who were much older than me, and I think that has widened my perspective. Even when I was a middle-grade reader, I was writing stories with adult protagonists.
Arbrook Huxley is a great foil for Sylvester Carthage, much younger and with what seems like more to lose. What is your inspiration for his character?
I’m afraid to say it, but I think Huxley is vaguely myself. I do relate to both characters, but if you asked which one is more me — definitely Huxley. I’m not sneaky and deceptive like Huxley, but we are both outgoing, hyper-organized, exacting towards ourselves, and producers through-and-through.
With relevance to your last question, my experience as a film producer mirrored Huxley’s journey in that I went in with co-producers who are twice my age and were, at the time, total strangers. I realized much later that I unintentionally imitated that dynamic in the book.
The Electrical Menagerie is the first book in the Celestial Isles series. Will future novels follow Sylvester and Arbrook or feature other protagonists?
I’m actually already working on the second book, Circus of Disasters, and I have a couple potential future books loosely planned. All cool technology and worldbuilding aside, the boys are the heart of the story, and so far all of my ideas revolve around them… that said, they are going to cross paths with a lot of other cool character along the way. One character in Circus of Disasters is loosely inspired by the life of Walt Disney… and I’m so excited about that.
What is some bad writing advice you’ve received?
“Write what you know”. I understand what this is supposed to mean, I guess, but I’ve definitely seen it misapplied. I think writing (and reading) is a way of expanding our empathy and experience. Don’t just write what you already know. Write what you want to know.
About The Electrical Menagerie
The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt.
Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively — but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially — but none of the scruples.
To save their show, Carthage & Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, a shot at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians —but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there’s more at stake in this contest than the prize.
Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide… and it’s the lies Carthage & Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.
“Dazzles from start to finish. In Carthage & Huxley, Sherlock & Watson fans will find another dynamic duo whose ready wit and sizzling banter (and inevitable personality clashes) never fail to delight. You’ll be calling for an encore performance.” Gillian Bronte Adams, author of The Songkeeper Chronicles
“The stuff that fandoms are built on.” Kyle Robert Shultz, author of Beaumont & Beasley
About the Author
Mollie’s first job was with a major theme park, where she operated a roller coaster, fixed parade floats, and helped Scooby-Doo put on his head. Now, Mollie is a movie producer and the author of character-driven science fiction/fantasy novels for adults who never outgrew imagination. Her favorite things include Jesus, dinosaurs, and telling cinematic stories that blend glitter and grit.
Social Media Links
Giveaway Link & HTML
Explore the world of The Electrical Menagerie by entering to win this Celestial Isles prize pack, which includes: “High Victorian” playing cards by luxury playing card company Theory11, handmade galaxy mug by DeVita Designs, Science & Engineering Themed Pocket Notebook Set by CognitiveSurplus, and a tin of Electrical Menagerie themed tea (over a $50 value)! (US only.)
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, June 4th
- Book Spotlight – Sarah Ashwood’s Newsletter
- Author Interview – New Authors Fellowship
- Review – Finding Kat Heckenbach
Tuesday, June 5th
Wednesday, June 6th
Thursday, June 7th
- Review – Inspired Chaos
- Guest Post – L. Mbewe
- Review – Scriblerians
- Review – The Bibliophile of Beaverton
Friday, June 8th
- Author Interview – Bethany A. Jennings
- Guest Post & Review – The Elven Padawan
- Author Interview – Shannon A. Hiner
Saturday, June 9th
- Author Interview, Character Interview & Review – Katelyn Buxton Books
- Review – M. Carroll, Author – fun, fantastical escapes
- Character Interview – The Book Sprite
Monday, June 11th
- Blog Tour Wrap-Up – Unicorn Quester