INTERVIEW: T. A. Pratt, author of “Mommy Issues of the Dead”

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

My main character Marla is a magical mercenary hired to assassinate someone… who’s already dead. Sounds like it should be a pretty easy job, but of course, it’s not. The story is also — as the title suggests — about mothers, sons, daughters, and all the issues that come along with being any of those. (Even monstrous undead creatures have mothers, after all.)

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

I’ve written several novels and stories about the main character, Marla Mason, but most are set later in her life, after she’s amassed some power and influence. I thought it would be fun to write about one of her earlier adventures… which also enabled me to write a story that wasn’t loaded down with the burden of several books’ worth of backstory!

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

Only in terms of structure. I initially wrote it in a non-linear fashion (beginning with Marla dangling on the muddy slope), and jumped around through time with various flashbacks and flashforwards. I thought I was quite clever, really, until I showed it to a few of my usual readers, who all independently said it was unnecessarily convoluted and would be better as a more linear tale. I took another look and had to agree. Just because you’re capable of crossover dribbles and behind-the-back passes doesn’t mean you have to use them all the time; sometimes a simple chest pass will do.

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

It’s mostly a fun adventure story, but the family dynamic issues makes it a bit deeper. I have a good relationship with my own parents, but they’ve undeniably shaped who I am today… and I know plenty of people who’ve been shaped in less positive ways by their parents.

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

I had to research tin toys — I wanted a robot toy instead of a monkey, but the earliest robot toy I could find was made too late to fit my timeline. I had to research historical blizzards (based on some vague memories of hearing about one in the south), and how to make homemade snowglobes… nothing too esoteric. The internet took care of me.

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

I just like magic! Being a bit more analytical, it’s a fun way to examine the uses of power, and the ways power can corrupt and transform, in a very dramatic fashion. Wizards are people who impose their will in order to change the world… which is something most of us try to do, really.

They just get to wear cooler robes.

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

There are three anthologies I have on my shelves, two that meant a lot to me as a young reader, and one that impressed me more recently: Witches and Wizards are both from the Isaac Asimov’s Magical Worlds of Fantasy series, and they have great classic and newer (circa mid-’80s anyway) stories, and the Mammoth Book of Sorcerers’ Tales has a great bunch of wizardly stories (including one of mine). From those books I like Robert Bloch’s “Sweets to the Sweet”, William M. Lee’s “A Message from Charity,” and “Ten Things I Know About the Wizard” by Steve Rasnic Tem, because they are gloriously nasty; rather sweet and sad; and wonderfully weird, respectively.