[Interviewer’s Note: This is a series of interviews featuring the contributors of The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.]
Richard Bowes lives and writes in Manhattan. He has written five novels and two short story collections. Bowes has won two World Fantasy, a Lambda, International Horror Guild, and Million Writers Awards. Forthcoming appearances are in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and the Haunted Legends, Digital Domains, Wilde Stories and Naked City anthologies.
Most of these stories will be chapters in a novel in progress, Dust Devil: My Life In Speculative Fiction.
Charles Tan: Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, what made you decide to use the Margay in your story?
Richard Bowes: The story really began with three cats in three shops across the street from me when I lived on Second Avenue twenty years ago. I made up stories about them to entertain a small godchild. When I got the invitation to appear in the Beastly Bride anthology, I began to think about cats and godchildren. I decided to make my story about the women affected by a Beastly Groom (in this case) that is part feline and to have him offstage. For reasons explained below I made him Latin American. The jaguar is the major predator of that region and I wanted something smaller, more reclusive. I considered the ocelot and then discovered the ocelot’s cousin the nocturnal, tree dwelling margay.
CT: It’s my understanding that “The Margay’s Children” is part of your Dust Devil: A Life in Speculative Fiction novel. How do you decide whether a story fits the book?
Richard Bowes: The interconnected stories for Dust Devil: A Life in Speculative Fiction all have a first person narrator and some personal/autobiographical aspects. This one I set in various places and times from my past – New York’s East Village in the 1960’s, Long Island’s Hamptons forty years ago and now. I lived in the East Village in the mid and late’60’s and before that spent my late teens and early twenties on Long Island when the Hamptons was still potato fields and artists’ studios. One of the themes of these stories is artists (painters, writers, performers) and the children of artists. And, like me, the narrator has lots of godchildren.
CT: What were the challenges in writing “The Margay’s Children”, in addition to getting sick while writing it?
Richard Bowes: My current Nebula Nominee “I Needs Must Part the Policeman Said,” describes my illness and my time in recovery. Compared to being sick, writing this story was a walk in the park. I’ve published something like forty-five stories and “The Margay’s Children” is one of my favorites. I’d written the first few pages before I got sick and the thought of being able to finish it was one of the things that got me through that time.
Richard Bowes: Selesta was a character in my story, “Dust Devil on a Quiet Street” in the wonderful Datlow/Windling anthology Salon Fantastique from 2006, She’s the young, recently married god-child of the narrator. The character stuck with me and when it came time to writer a story for Beastly Bride I used her first as a small child then as a young adult and finally as young woman intent on having her own child. Selesta’s mother Joan appears in several Dust Devil stories including “Pining to be Human which will be in the July/Aug issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
Godchildren, by the way, are one of the themes of the “Dust Devil” They show up in various stories. My first godchild was my youngest brother David when I was fourteen years old. Siblings as godparents to their younger siblings is an Irish custom. Ted Kennedy’s godfather was Jack, for what that’s worth.
CT: What is it about the Beastly Bride concept that appeals to you?
Richard Bowes: I think the beastly spouse/lover is a continuing archetype. It personifies the romance, the fear, the mystery of the Other. One of the great things about this anthology is the way that motif turns up in story after story.
I’d been thinking about the artist, the foreign artist as the exotic outsider – artists from Dylan Thomas to Nijinsky. I wanted Joan’s father, Selesta’s grandfather to be a painter. I’d seen great Mexican artists Rivera, Kahlo, Siqueiros who were so popular and controversial a couple of generations ago and who continue to fascinate us. So I invented Antonio Mata.