Whiskey, Punk Rock and Werewolf Girls: An Interview With Martin Millar

During my misguided youth, I took a lot of chances, did a lot of drugs and made a lot of really poor decisions that would have and could have killed a lesser individual, but, being the love child of Emma Bunton and Hunter S Thompson, my poor life choices only made me more epic and served me up with a side of awesome sauce. I was high as tits the morning after a wild bush party, staggering around in the bad part of town waiting for a bakery to open so I could get coffee when I found it – a book. Books have always called to me, found me when I needed them and walked away from me when others needed them. I’ve hoarded books, driven miles and hours just to breathe in that heady earthy aroma of the second hand bookstore. I spent five years reading books to get a degree that features in no way as part of my career. Books take me away, when my world is made of ugliness. It’s only fitting somehow that in my tousled wild eyed state, pupils like pinpricks and my messy mescaline mascara streaked down my cheeks that I came across this book. “Dreams of Sex and Stagediving” by Martin Millar. It was a small volume in poor shape and it cost fifty cents at a thrift shop that smelled like equal parts old lady Perfume and moth balls. I was wearing tie dyed pants tucked into combat boots and I counted the five dimes out of a change purse with a picture of Jesus Christ on it. I took the book home and promptly passed out. When I became myself again I read it all and immediately read it again. I couldn’t believe that people actually wrote books like this. Martin Millar was a genius. Equal parts serious and silly, the book told the tale of an unwashed punk woman named Elfish and her quest to name her thrash metal act Queen Mab. She makes a bet that she must recite all of Mercutio’s speech from Romeo and Juliet in front of an audience in order to receive her coveted prize. Elfish has a difficult time remaining sober enough to do so and so happens her adventure. I didn’t realize that anyone but myself would ever think to combine Shakespeare and Ministry with such fervour and good taste. I didn’t think beyond Francesca Lia Block that I would ever see myself and my life reflected so clearly in the written word. Immediately I searched out Martin Millar, a Scottish punk living in London and found his other work – books about fairies, about gods and goddesses and bad choices and poets and hippies with rainbow dreadlocks. The books are funny and sad and enraging and beautiful. As I grew, so did his work and that is where we find ourselves today, my goodly readers, Martin Millar recently published his latest volume, the third in a series of werewolf books called the Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf, preceded by Lonely Werewolf Girl, and Curse of the Wolf girl. To be sure, allow me to make plain that these are not your Team Jacob werewolves of Stephanie Meyer’s botched Mormon fantasy – these are cross dressing, laudanum drinking, pink and blue haired wild animals who crack jokes, drink whiskey and listen exclusively to the Runaways.
As someone who suffers from anxiety, I related tremendously to the character of Kalix and found myself inspired to find out more from esteemed author Martin Millar. So I did. He was kind enough to speak to me and some of his answers may shock you.


Robin Goodfellow:  What were some of the inspirations you used in writing The Kalix series?
Martin Millar: I don’t know why I decided to write about werewolves. I wasn’t inspired by any other werewolf book. The central werewolf character, Kalix, just appeared, with no particular inspiration. After giving her a family I decided to give her a whole clan, which I suppose was inspired by me being Scottish, as Scotland has a long history of clans.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an inspiration, because I’d enjoyed it so much and wanted to write something with the same sort of tone. I’d previously been thinking about this tone for some time, because of how much I liked the film Clueless.
Both Buffy and Clueless could be thought of as ‘Young Adult’ genre. However, when writing Lonely Werewolf Girl it wasn’t my intention to write something that could be classed as ‘young adult.’ If it turned out that way, it was really because of the tone I was looking for, rather than the content of the books. If i’d deliberately been writing something for teenagers I might not have included so much alcohol, drugs and sex. The Werewolf clan are not very abstemious.
A bad and very prolonged bout of anxiety was also something of an inspiration, though one I could have done without. It did give me a lot of first-hand knowledge of anxiety, which Kalix does suffer badly from.
I am also generally inspired by the Sex Pistols, but I’ll say more about that in your question about music. I’m also inspired by an odd desire to tell stories. I don’t know why that is.
RG: Which character in the series is your favourite to write and why?
MM: The Fire Elementals, Queen Malveria and her niece Agrivex, are the most fun to write because they’re the funniest. I like them both a great deal. However my favourite character is Kalix, because I sympathise with her many problems.
RG: You’ve mentioned previously about having social anxiety/agoraphobia and Kalix suffers from anxiety – does writing about this issue help you cope and do you have any tips for anxiety sufferers?
MM: I have suffered badly at time from anxiety and agoraphobia (not particularly social anxiety) It did give me good inside knowledge for writing about Kalix’s anxiety problems. But no, I wouldn’t say it was that much help in coping with the problem. For serious and prolonged bouts of anxiety, I’ve never found anything that was greatly helpful. Relaxation techniques help to an extent, but don’t cure the problem.
At first I was surprised how unhelpful therapists were, then I got used to it. Maybe I’ve been unlucky with therapists. I have found that the only thing that really helps is time. Both in the short term, if you are having a panic attack or serious bout of anxiety, it will fade away eventually. And in the longer term, the period of anxiety you’re going through will also diminish. My anxiety problems are much better these days, though i still have problems with agoraphobia.
RG: Will there be more Kalix books?  Can you tell us about anything you are currently working on?
MM: I’d like to write another book about Kalix. However I have to write something else first or my writing will go stale.
At the moment I’m writing a book set in ancient Athens. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time but nothing has worked before. This time I have a good first draft I’m pleased with, and I’ve been busy working on it. It features Luxos the Poet, another incarnation of a character I’ve written about before.
RG: Any music in particular that inspires you or helps in your writing process?
MM: Not exactly. I am a music fan but there is nothing in particular that helps me with writing. If it’s not going well, no music will help. Around the house I either listen to classical music on the radio, or 70s rock and glam.
However, the Sex Pistols have always helped me in a more general way. They were my original inspiration to be a writer. My school, and upbringing, in Glasgow, left me with no confidence whatsoever in my own abilities, and definitely no hope or prospect of doing anything creative. Fortunately, the Sex Pistols came along. They taught me to believe in my own talent, trust my own judgement, write exactly what I wanted to write, and do things for myself.
RG: Tell us some of your current favourites. Could be anything – food television film toys obsessions. Anything.
MM: I like manga and anime. Claymore, Fairy Tale, K-On, Cowboy Bebop, Lucky Star, Bleach, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, various others. I like Kawaii, the Japanese cult of the cute. I wish I had lots of cute Kawaii items but I don’t.
I am always interested in Ancient Greece, and take a lot of inspiration from that. Also, Somerset Maugham and P. G. Wodehouse are two writers who are permanent favourites.
I have a poor relationship with food, so have no obsession with it. Well, negative obsession, perhaps. There are a lot of things I don’t like to eat.
I don’t mind being obsessed with TV shows but it doesn’t happen very often. I wish there were more programmes I liked. At the moment I’m keen on Parks and Recreation, that’s a very funny show. I tried watching The Walking Dead but I didn’t like it much.
RG: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?
MM: This question has flummoxed me. I don’t live in any sort of literary world. I don’t know any other writers. I’ve never had any thoughts about collaborating with anyone.
RG:  Any tips for aspiring writers?
MM: 1) – Write every day. The main problem with writing is getting some words down in the first place. Once you’ve actually got something on the page, no matter how poor, things become much easier. You can revise it to your heart’s content. So to get that done, write every day, regardless of whether you feel like it or not. Even if you don’t feel like doing it, what you come up with will often be better than you expect.
2) – Don’t email me your novel for comments.
RG: Since we are called Drunk in a Graveyard can you name your favourite intoxicant and tell us a story about it?
MM: I like whisky, though I am not a very big drinker. I would like to be the sort of author who could drink a huge amount of alcohol. Unfortunately I can’t.
I just learned how to make a ‘Rusty Nail,’ which is a cocktail featuring only whisky and Drambuie. Drambuie is a whisky liqueur. Previously I have never known liqueurs to be good for anything, but the Rusty Nail is a good drink. Either two or three parts whisky to one part Drambuie. Ice if required. Use blended whisky for this.
I like single malts for drinking on their own, but I regret the ruinous cost of these.
RG: Favourite horror films!
MM: I have none. Although, for something set in the world of horror, I recommend High School of the Dead, both manga and anime. A good series, unless you have something against large-breasted Japanese teenage girls fighting zombie

So until next time my spooky drunken children, make sure to always listen to the Runaways, wear tie dyed pants in all seriousness at least once, and always stay spooky.

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