The Witch Who Came in From the Cold is the fantasy-espionage thriller from Serial Box. This serial is collaboratively written and available in text and audio via SerialBox.com, their iOS app, and all major ebook retailers. Lead by foreign-affairs expert Lindsay Smith (Sekret) and Urban Fantasy-pioneer Max Gladstone (Three Parts Dead), this season’s author team is rounded out by Cassandra Rose Clark (Our Lady of the Ice), Ian Tregillis (The Milkweed Triptych), and Nebula-nominated Fran Wilde (Updraft).
We asked the authors to tell us a little about how they got into crime fiction and what really stuck out for them as their favorite aspect of the genre. Read their answers below, and then make sure to sign in and comment at the bottom for your chance to win the entire 1st season of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold!
Ian: Back when I was in the early planning stages for my novel Something More Than Night, I decided that one particular character in the story would speak like a gumshoe straight from the pulps of the 1930s. It started out as a lark but also as a way to challenge myself. In order to make it work, I had to not only read, but also actively study the works of the masters—foremost among them Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
Which is how I discovered how much I love—truly adore—the language of the hardboiled keyhole-peeper. The self-imposed homework assignment introduced me to a literature that I didn't merely tolerate or appreciate, but one which I actively devoured. Perhaps as they have for many readers, the noir greats introduced me to a slang so rich, so beautiful, so deadly sharp it could only be poetry. The use of language in the noir classics is, for me, the shining brilliance of the genre. And it makes me ache with envy.
As a reader, I'm usually not particularly forgiving of novels typified by very limited characterizations and what might be called “Lego brick” plotting (even, or perhaps particularly, when I commit those sins myself). But once Philip Marlowe gets on a roll, I could listen to him for hours.
Cassandra: The first time I watched The Big Lebowski, I had no idea what I was looking at. The movie felt like a mishmash of references to early '90s politics, bowling, cowboys, and profanity. But I was in college, so I loved it anyway. In fact, I even had a trio of friends who looked like the Dude, Donny, and Walter and who would sit around on their ratty old couch and quote entire scenes of the movie from memory.
Now, fast forward a few years. I had decided to read Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. I was perhaps halfway through the book—the first Chandler novel I’d ever read—when it hit me like a Chandlerian metaphor: The Big Lebowski is a parody of Raymond Chandler. Well, a parody and a pastiche, really.
Chandler’s Marlowe is thrown into a situation he doesn’t understand; so is the Dude. Marlowe moves episodically through his investigation and slowly learns that things are more complex than he thought; the Dude just wanted his rug back and yet winds up involved with a kidnapping, nihilists, and a feminist femme fatale.
As I read The Big Sleep, it occurred to me that The Big Lebowski wasn’t the random mishmash that I always thought it was. All those random pieces suddenly seemed to fit together, a pattern of absurdity that could only be clarified by Raymond Chandler and his hard-drinking, tough-talking, poetry-reading private eye.
Lindsay: Guy Ritchie’s British crime movies are like comfort food for me. Weird and wonderful characters getting in over their heads has a wonderful way of putting everything into perspective. While Snatch is probably his most popular film, and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is the indie darling, my favorite is Rocknrolla.
Rocknrolla’s plotline is completely incomprehensible outside of that halcyon bubble of the mid-2000s, when real estate was climbing up the cliff and Russian oligarchs hadn’t yet found the end of their leash to Putin. And yet, that’s what I love about it. Gerard Butler and Idris Elba are decent-if-not-wholly-competent criminals out to make somewhat honest livings; Tom Wilkinson is a delightfully snaky don; Thandie Newton makes architectural sport of cold-bloodedness; and Mark Strong beautifully subverts the stodgy consigliere role, all in a painfully stylish, heavily filtered, sweet and dark and hilarious snapshot of a time that quickly wasn’t.
Fran: I've been fascinated with invisible ink since we experimented with lemon juice and heat in grade school. The idea that something could both be there and not there simultaneously stuck with me, and it eventually led to invisible coded messages passed between my friends with much merriment—and detention.
Eventually, steganography (the practice of concealing a message within another message) fascinated me in fiction as it had in fact, and I used a game to transmit messages throughout my second novel, Cloudbound. Meantime, invisibility had become a plot element in my first novel, Updraft, as something that was both there and not there. Passing messages and codes using techniques invisible to most had to wait for my guest stint on The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, however!
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Lindsay Smith is the author of the YA espionage thrillers Sekret, Skandal, and Dreamstrider, all from Macmillan Children's. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and dog, where she writes on international issues in cyber security. LindsaySmith.net. @LindsaySmithDC.
Max Gladstone has been thrown from a horse in Mongolia, drank almond milk with monks on Wudang Shan, and wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat. Max is also the author of the Craft Sequence of books about undead gods and skeletal law wizards—Full Fathom Five, Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, and Last First Snow. Max fools everyone by actually writing novels in the coffee shops of Davis Square in Somerville, MA. His dreams are much nicer than you’d expect. MaxGladstone.com. @maxgladstone.
Cassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a pair of local colleges. She holds an M.A. in creative writing from The University of Texas at Austin, and in 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle. Her work has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her latest novel is Our Lady of the Ice, out now from Saga Press. CassandraRoseClark.com. @mitochondrial.
IanTregillis is the son of a bearded mountebank and a discredited tarot card reader. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych, Something More than Night, and the Alchemy Wars trilogy. His most current novel is The Rising (Alchemy Wars #2). His short fiction has appeared at numerous venues including Tor.com, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Popular Science. He lives in New Mexico, where he consorts with writers, scientists, and other disreputable types. IanTregillis.com. @ITregillis.
Fran Wilde’s work includes the Andre Norton- and Compton Crook Award-winning and Nebula-nominated novel Updraft (Tor, 2015) and its sequels, Cloudbound and Horizon, as well as the novella The Jewel and Her Lapidary (Tor.com 2016). Her short stories appear in Asimov’s, Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Nature. She writes for publications including The Washington Post, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, and iO9.com. franwilde.net. @fran_wilde.