Contributed by Samantha Randolph
Our extraordinary staff reviewer Samantha Randolph says: “Hi YABCers! Today, we are absolutely thrilled to welcome Rachel Vincent, author of the popular Soul Screamers series, The Stars Never Rise, and more. Her new book, Menagerie, is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s deep, dark, complex, and twisty, and even days after finishing the story, I still find myself thinking about it. Rachel was wonderful to answer some questions for us about Menagerie!”
But first we’d like to introduce you to this literary duo.
A native of the dust bowl, Rachel Vincent is the oldest of five siblings, and arguably the most outspoken of the bunch. She loves cats, devours chocolate and lives on flavored coffee. Rachel’s older than she looks—seriously—and younger than she feels, but remains convinced that for every day she spends writing, one more day will be added to her lifespan.
Now meet Rachel’s book, Menagerie.
When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.
But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons, and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.
With introductions in order, it’s time to CHAT!
Samantha Randolph: Delilah’s treatment, from the police station to the Menagerie, is so brutal and horrifying. While reading, I was absolutely amazed at how strongly you captured her emotions and her general state of being. How did it feel writing those crucial scenes?
Rachel Vincent: Frustrating. Challenging. Your question has actually hit upon part of what makes this book different from what I’ve written in the past. Unlike most of my previous books, MENAGERIE is not urban fantasy, which means that it isn’t driven by action and a quick-witted, spunky, butt-kicking character. Not that Delilah isn’t all of those things. In her own way, she is. But because the point of the book wasn’t “look how awesome/strong my heroine is,” I had to dig deeper than my initial writing of her reactions, which tended to be all spitfire and much less fear and shock, until I was able to capture a more realistic reaction. More of the devastation and brutal dehumanization that would truly accompany the realization that you’re no longer considered human, or worthy of any civil rights. It would have been much easier to have her smart off and kick ass from the very beginning, but that wasn’t realistic for the pretty normal woman she actually is, in the beginning.
SR: Delilah and Gallagher have such a complex and unique relationship. It isn’t particularly a romance, or even a friendship, but something a bit older, maybe even with a bit more bite to it. Did you have any inspiration for their relationship or any concepts you hoped to highlight with them?
RV: (At the risk of spoiling anything…) Chivalry. Like, old-world chivalry, wherein the knight served a lady who was not his romantic interest. Who was, in fact, married to his lord. Only without the whole married-to-the-lord aspect. He sees their relationship as being noble and above the physical trappings of most human relationships.
SR: Your knowledge of mythological creatures is incredibly impressive. Did you have a favorite kind to write about?
RV: The oracles were fun, but complicated. But I’ve always been fascinated by the minotaur, because unlike most of the hybrids, his head is not human, which completely cuts him off from most verbal communication, trapping him inside his own mind. And he’s smart, which makes that fact both a blessing and a curse.
SR: The detail in Menagerie is exceptional, from the lifestyle of the carnival workers to various legal proceedings in civil rights law and in animal treatment. What was the strangest and/or most exciting element you researched?
RV: Thank you! Researching carnivals was my favorite part. I took some liberties to adapt the lifestyle–and equipment–to sentient captives, but I stayed as true as I could in the other aspects.
SR: There are a wide variety of families in this novel. We see sisters who are oracles, a werewolf father and daughter, shifters of all kinds who have been separated from their parents or siblings, and, of course, Delilah and her mother. Do you see the family bonds as being the most powerful, or perhaps the strongest, driving force for many of the characters?
RV: Yes, I hope so. And that’s something that Delilah failed to realize, at first. Her original attempt to free her fellow captives is shortsighted in that respect. Also, it was important for me to show that even when the world took away everything Delilah had, she found a new family in her fellow captives and that bond, too, becomes very strong.
SR: Delilah tells Genni stories a few times to help sooth her or help her sleep. Did you have a favorite bedtime story that inspired this?
RV: I actually don’t. I can’t remember being told stories as a kid, but my mother used to sing to us at bedtime, when my sisters and I were very small.
SR: Can you give us a hint at what we might expect in the sequel?
RV: Unless the revisions are…complicated, you’ll see a new bad guy, a new setting–an aspect of the world building that has been mentioned, but not yet shown–and a plot that will both challenge and strengthen the characters’ relationships.
A big thanks to both Rachel Vincent and Samantha Randolph for this enlightening interview! Now read on for the latest giveaway below!
By: Rachel Vincent
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Two winners will receive a copy of Menagerie, open to US and Canada.
Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. During this giveaway, Rachel has a question for readers. Here is the question they’ll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What cryptid would you most want to be?
*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*
Samantha Randolph is a Staff Reviewer for YABC. She absolutely loves children’s, middle grade, and young adult literature. She currently attends a small university where she will soon graduate with a degree in English Literature. Samantha can also be found at The Forest of Words and Pages, Fresh Fiction, and most coffee shops that serve cinnamon roll lattes.