Interview: Seanan McGuire, author of “Animal Husbandry”

Seanan McGuire was born and raised in Northern California, resulting in a love of rattlesnakes and an absolute terror of weather. She shares a crumbling old farmhouse with a variety of cats, far too many books, and enough horror movies to be considered a problem. Seanan publishes about three books a year, and is widely rumored not to actually sleep. When bored, Seanan tends to wander into swamps and cornfields, which has not yet managed to get her killed (although not for lack of trying). She also writes as Mira Grant, filling the role of her own evil twin, and tends to talk about horrible diseases at the dinner table.

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

The bubonic plague and veterinary medicine.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

It was originally written for an anthology called Grants Pass, wherein all the stories had to be set after a specific set of horrible disasters, and had to feature a trip to (or at least toward) the city of Grants Pass. I was prompted to write it when I was invited to the anthology. As one does.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

Yes, because at the time, it was for my first anthology sale–I really didn’t want to mess anything up! I love anthologies, so it was very important to me that I represent well.

Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I am personally invested in the bubonic plague.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

My previous answer … wasn’t a joke. I am hugely personally invested in the bubonic plague and the fact that it’s endemic in California’s small ground mammals. So I have a lot of books on the subject, which I referenced while killing everyone.

What is the appeal of apocalypse fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?

It’s sort of a clean slate, in a sense. Sure, everybody’s dead, but at least you can have fun getting there.

What are some of your favorite examples of apocalypse fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

The Stand, by Stephen King, for sheer scope; The Fungus, by Harry Knight, for ickiness and glorious lack of give-a-shit; The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham, for the subtle nature of the end of everything.