Please welcome Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Resurrectionist of Caligo was published on September 10, 2019 by Angry Robot.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?
Wendy: At some point in second grade, I made the leap from “plagiarizing” Misty of Chincoteague to creating an original popup book about a dinosaur with a time machine who befriends a petite dino-fairy…and I can’t say my stylistic tendencies have significantly changed much since then.
Alicia: Everything I wrote before a certain age is a foggy blank, so all that remains is my high fantasy novel that I started in high school. There was amnesia! There were dark family secrets! And characters introduced only to be killed a few chapters later! It goes without saying it was epic in length.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Wendy: I am an incorrigible pantser and chaos fairy. Left to my own devices, once I find a character voice that intrigues me, I will chase them around and make them increasingly miserable because their tears bring me great joy.
Alicia: I’m a pantser who aspires to be a plotter until I actually sit down and start typing and suddenly nothing goes the way I planned in my head.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing together?
Wendy: Figuring out the lines of demarcation—what’s mine, what’s yours, and in what circumstances may we cross that line? With one exception, all the characters fall into either a “Wendy” or “Alicia” bucket—this determined who had the final say on that character’s voice, motivation etc. While we (usually) drafted our respective POV character’s chapters, we also heavily edited in one another’s sections to ensure the cross-over character voices and overall tone stayed consistent throughout.
Alicia: Giving up full creative control. It’s something that’s very easy to take for granted, but it’s definitely the most challenging aspect of working together. We have different likes and dislikes, different writing habits, and different ways of attacking the work. So when we set about discovering characters and setting, we constantly need to open ourselves to what the other person wants to bring to the table regardless of whether or not it’s an aspect we naturally would have included on our own.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Wendy: I have a soft spot for dark, offbeat, obscure lit, especially if it challenges me emotionally, and I do my best to learn from eclectic reading. Writing is how I’ve dealt with past trauma in my life, and so I tend to reach for the biggest, scariest, emotions I can, then inundate my characters with everything I can throw at them. They do the work for me. I find myself writing a lot about death—it’s cathartic.
Alicia: My influences tend to be mercurial, and they’re never limited to one medium. For instance, this week, I’m absolutely in love with Isak Danielson’s song Power, TwoSetViolin YouTube videos, re-watching episodes of Justified, and reading about the history of safecracking. And all of that is getting baked into what I’m writing at the moment, whether through mood, inspiration, or as research.
TQ: Describe The Resurrectionist of Caligo using only 5 words.
Wendy: magic is fake, hail science! (don’t mind me, I’m just trolling my co-author. #TeamScience)
Alicia: (I see how it is… #RealMagic) mysterious happenings and unrequited angst
TQ: Tell us something about The Resurrectionist of Caligo that is not found in the book description.
Wendy: Books are frequently discussed according to their central romantic relationships, but what about other key relationships? One of my personal favorites is Roger’s friendship with a ferocious graveyard-haunting wild child.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Resurrectionist of Caligo?
Wendy: It all started as a “for fun” writing exercise. Alicia emailed me a letter that began “Dear Snotsniffer” (uh…it’s still in the final draft) and that set the tone for our character’s snarky exchanges around which the entire book is built on. She let me pick the setting (gothic Victorian cemeteries!) and is still regretting that decision.
Alicia: On a very basic level, I just wanted to try a fun letter exchange writing exercise and somehow managed to convince Wendy to participate as the other half. I actually didn’t go into the project with very many expectations of what it would be.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Resurrectionist of Caligo?
Wendy: I am fascinated by morbid history, and this book provided ample excuses for procrastination—err, research. I read 200-year-old (digital) copies of The Lancet medical journal to learn bloodletting techniques, collected necropolis photographs, perused poems written to commemorate hangings. In an emergency, I could probably extricate a corpse from a coffin using an old Scottish method…
Alicia: I wanted the magic to have its root in aquatic life, so I spent a good deal of time exploring different sea creatures—from jellyfish to squids to the mighty pistol shrimp—and their various underwater traits. I also read up on how to address royalty in letters and greetings and how pet names were created within royal families. And then there was the concertina… Despite very few scenes making it through the editing process with the princess actually playing the instrument, I myself watched endless videos and listened to several performances in an attempt to get a feel for how one would play the instrument. I even contemplated buying my own concertina at one point, but fortunately reason prevailed, as I’m sure I’d be even worse at learning the thing than Sibylla is in the book.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for The Resurrectionist of Caligo.
Wendy: Our amazing cover artist John Coulthart (JohnCoulthart.com) couldn’t have designed a more fitting cover. It features our leads, Sibylla and Roger, who are aptly facing away from each other (they’ve had a falling out from the start). Sibylla has a hand raised, and her ink-magic flows in ribbons around the border. Meanwhile, “Man of Science” Roger holds a skull and stares down his biggest fear. My favorite detail is the central anatomical heart, which I think sums up their strained relationship perfectly.
TQ: In The Resurrectionist of Caligo who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Wendy: Ada the ferocious waif was pretty easy—I subverted the sweet Cosette type and channeled Maddie Ziegler from the Sia music videos. Roger was more challenging in his complexity. Male protagonists in SFF often exude power, logic, and/or sexual appeal. Roger gets the short end of the stick in every department except the soft heart he shields behind a defensive, snarky voice. Since he’s more flawed cinnamon bun than action hero, I couldn’t let him bust heads to solve his problems (and he has many).
Alicia: For me, the easiest was Harrod, Roger’s naval captain older brother. He’s a straightforward individual and has very defined ways of behaving with the other characters in the book. I didn’t really feel like any character was hard to write so much as almost every character had a challenging rewrite moment/scene. Rewrites tend to require the extras: extra explanations, extra understanding, extra delivery of head canon, which makes them trickier.
TQ: Does The Resurrectionist of Caligo touch on any social issues?
Wendy: Class differences play a big role in the book. Near the bottom of the social hierarchy, Roger has pride but virtually no power, so he rages ineffectually against the system while trying (and failing) to live his life outside it.
Alicia: There’s a lot of exploration of position and how that position can vary in different contexts. Sibylla, as a princess, has a great deal of power over the vast majority of society in the book, however, within her own family, she has very little freedom or ability to exercise her own will.
TQ: Which question about The Resurrectionist of Caligo do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Alicia: What’s up with Sibylla’s parents? So glad you asked… It was very important to me when writing Sibylla that she not be the orphaned princess who tragically lost her parents or the horribly mistreated princess suffering under the weight of her nefarious, overbearing parent(s) who wants to take over the world. In many ways, Sibylla’s parents are lovingly absentee, and Sibylla absolutely adores them. Her mother in particular is pragmatic and warm. She genuinely wants her daughter to find happiness but also understands the confines of her royal position. Her advice in the book is easily one of my favorite aspects of a character.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Resurrectionist of Caligo.
“‘Those class differences you harp upon ain’t real!’ Roger shouted. ‘No human is better than another. I’ve cut up enough of ‘em, and we all look more or less the same on the inside. We all rot when we’re dead. A smart man may have a small brain or the other way ‘round. Royals claim their faerie magic, but it’s all smoke and mirrors.’”
“Whether she liked it or not, Roger had turned into one of the most ostentatious writers she’d ever had the displeasure to come across, as in love with his own words as he was with his transgressions.”
TQ: What's next?
Wendy: Right now I’m working on an odd little story about a put-upon astronaut being stalked by an otherworldly cat, and hopefully I can stick the landing. It’s hard for me to talk about works in progress because they often turn into completely different things by the time—or if—they make it out into the world.
Alicia: All the things, no seriously… all the things. I keep bouncing around between several projects I equally love. Who will win in the end? Only time will decide.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
The Resurrectionist of Caligo
Angry Robot, September 10, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 360 pages
With a murderer on the loose, it’s up to an enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess to save the city, in this wonderfully inventive Victorian-tinged fantasy noir.
“Man of Science” Roger Weathersby scrapes out a risky living digging up corpses for medical schools. When he’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers, he’s forced to trust in the superstitions he’s always rejected: his former friend, princess Sibylla, offers to commute Roger’s execution in a blood magic ritual which will bind him to her forever. With little choice, he finds himself indentured to Sibylla and propelled into an investigation. There’s a murderer loose in the city of Caligo, and the duo must navigate science and sorcery, palace intrigue and dank boneyards to catch the butcher before the killings tear their whole country apart.
File Under: Fantasy [ Straybound | Royal Magic | A Good Hanging | Secret Sister ]
Wendy Trimboli grew up in England, Germany and the United States, and learned to speak two languages well enough that most people can understand her. Determined to ignore her preference for liberal arts, she attended the US Air Force Academy then worked as an intelligence officer, which was less exciting than it sounds. These days she has a creative writing MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and lives in Colorado with her family, border collie, and far too many books.
Alicia Zaloga grew up in Virginia Beach not liking the beach, and now moves every few years, sometimes to places near beaches. She has a writing degree from Columbia College Chicago, and when she’s not dealing with life’s chores, she collects hobbies: plucking the E string on the bass, producing an alarming number of artistic doodles, and French beading floral bouquets.