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Hostile Questions: Margo Lanagan

For someone with such a fine pedigree–the Printz Honors for both Black Juice and Tender Morsels are just the beginning–Margo Lanagan sure has a way of making people squeamish. Oh, if I had but a nickle for every time I saw a literary judge hand Lanagan a plaque or statuette . . . and then edge away as if convinced that her pleasant exterior was but a hobgoblin’s cloak. Sure, each book release of hers is an event. But for whom? The discriminating literati? The lecherous degenerates? Or–good god!–might they be the same thing?

Forsooth, Lanagan has exposed us! Thus: revenge.

Lanagan being sucked into the vortex of wherever naughty authors end up.

Just who do you think you are?

Oh *nervous half-laugh*, nothing special. Just a very lucky, middle-aged, middle-class Australian writer of sometimes-uncomfortable-making stories.

Why, do I look as if I’ve got tickets on myself? Do I give off an air of thinking I’m Christmas? Well, I guess my selkie novel The Brides of Rollrock Island being on the Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2012 list could blow out a person’s ego if she let it. But of course I remain modestly level-headed about that.

*takes the feather-duster to the shelf-full of awards*

Where do you get off?

I get off the right side of the bed every morning and proceed sunnily into the day. If it’s a writing day, I get off to a good start by completing 2 hours of inspired word-putting-down before my light but nutritious breakfast. I then get off my backside, go to the pool and swim twenty laps. I get off the endorphin high with further writing, round off the day with a little socializing and a glass of wine, then wind down with a book and sleep the sleep of the just.

I know how to get off wholesomely, Daniel. None of this exhuming of dead people’s mothers and arranging them into disgusting dioramas for me, oh no.

(Oh, and sometimes I’m invited to get off a plane in other people’s countries, and swan around talking about myself.)

What’s the big idea?

Well, the big idea for me—and I know, to some it wouldn’t seem like much—is to keep on writing stories until the pen (yes, call me a fuddy-duddy, Daniel—and you do, I’ve heard you, when you think I’m not listening—but I draft longhand) drops from my cold, dead hand. Then for a phalanx of family members to close in around me and protect my body from the depredations of . . . well, you know, those characters who perform unspeakable acts upon the dear departed.

And I’d like to hold onto my marbles right up to the pen-dropping moment, so that the stories remain readable to, and enjoyable by, other people. That would be good.

What is your problem, man?

Yeah, pretty much—although I believe we’re calling ourselves “humankind” these days, Daniel, in the interests of non-sexism.

Yes, looking back, most of my life’s problems have definitely been caused by other people. Evil nuns, faithless “friends,” feckless bosses, heartless politicians, greedy corporations . . . it’s amazing that I’ve managed to maintain not only my serene temper but my excellent sense of humor, really, when I think about it. And to keep on, in spite of them all, penning my deathless prose.

Haven’t you done enough?

Darling, I’ve hardly got started. Have you seen how many more fairy- and folktales are out there, begging to be turned on their heads? Have you counted all those people who read to make their world cozier, rather than to strip away the layers of niceness that blind them to dark and dangerous reality?

There’s work to be done! Why am I wittering on to you, when I should be shredding readers’ illusions? Why are you sitting there listening with your lip curled, peppering me with snide questions? Tut-tut, back to the writing-desk with both of us!



About the Author:

Dan Kraus is Booklist's Editor of Books for Youth. He is also the producer and director of numerous feature films, most notably the documentary Work Series, and the author of several YA novels, including Rotters and Scowler, both of which won the Odyssey Award. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielDKraus.

2 Comments on "Hostile Questions: Margo Lanagan"

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  1. Margo: nicely wittered! Enjoy San Francisco (or wherever it is you are swanning today…)

  2.' Jan says:

    Can’t tell you how much your “dark and dangerous” realities mean to me. I love puzzling out your stories–it makes my own a little richer.

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