For my final Featured Author, I could not have made a better choice than Madeleine Swann. If you follow this blog, you’ve heard my repeated praise of her collection Fortune Box. It was actually the second review I ever posted on this blog, before “Featured Authors” was a thing.
As one of the bizarros across the pond, she played a large role in the The Bumper Book of British Bizarro and posts regularly on her YouTube channel, both celebrating the weird and standing up to social injustices.
Check out my review of her latest novella The Vine That Ate the Starlet here.
ZÉ BURNS: How did you discover bizarro fiction? Why do you write in this genre?
MADELEINE SWANN: Well (the screen goes misty, and a harp plays), back in 2011 I think I did a search for weirdest books ever written. I’d loved Alice in Wonderland, the Russian absurdists,William S Burroughs and the usual weirdos and I wanted something more, and that’s when I found bizarro! I started on the anthology, then Athena, then Autumn Christian and Matthew Revert. I felt like I’d found home.
ZB: What are you reading right now?
MS: I feel really bad admitting this but I’ve gotten into reading true crime during quarantine. I’ve read about Lizzie Borden, Sylvia Likens (poor girl), a cannibal cult and, currently, I’m rereading Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann for story research.
ZB: How would you describe your writing style?
MS: Easy to read, uncomplicated, occasionally silly.
ZB: How did The Vine That Ate the Starlet come together? What inspired it?
MS: It started as a short story, which is on my YouTube channel (here https://youtu.be/CgI5BPM-ihw). I liked the characters and wanted to do more with them, and I still want to in the future.
My husband Bill (who did the front cover for this and our Bumper Book of British Bizarro charity anthology) said it’s an amalgam of everything I like: celebrity gossip, the 1920s, films, mysteries and giant man eating plants.
ZB: The Vine That Ate the Starlet is set in the 1920s New York. In the past, you’ve mentioned your affinity with that decade. What about those years captivates you?
MS: I love the fashion, the art, the films, the writing, the frothy, fun loving parties, but I’m also interested in the darkness underneath those parties. There’s an almost hysterical atmosphere of joy. Everyone was traumatised from the war and nothing was certain. In Germany Hitler was slowly rising. The parties were almost like a plaster over a much bigger wound.
ZB: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
MS: I’ll be revisiting that world again at some point. I’ve got some flash fictions scattered about this year and hopefully a story. I’m working on outlining a novel with Christoph Paul which I’ll be starting end of this year/beginning of next, and I’m going through my editor’s notes on a weird middle grade book.
Thank you, Madeleine, for your time!
Check out The Bumper Book of British Bizarro
And pre-order her latest novella The Vine That Ate the Starlet
You can find her online at: