“Victoria Marmot is just an average teenage girl… if by “average” you mean an orphaned, multi-lingual, martial arts expert who owns her own home and may or may not have magical abilities.
When Vic discovers her parents didn’t die the way she thinks they did, what little remains of her world is turned upside down and she’s left with the task of finding out what really happened to them. But when her quest to uncover the truth reveals a massive conspiracy by a corrupt magical government, will her efforts to find the truth save the world or take the whole universe down with her?” —Victoria Marmot and the Meddling Goddess.
I reached author Virginia McClain on the phone from Seattle where she was preparing for GeekGirlCon, a convention celebrating women in science, tech, gaming and more.
Virginia just released the first three books in the Victoria Marmot series, an young adult urban fantasy saga. We chatted about tropes in young adult fantasy, both silly and dangerous, and how she is flipping them on their head in this entertaining series.
You’ve got a picture of your very first book on your site. It’s from when you were pretty young, probably first grade, and it’s a fantasy story with dragons and knights. Have you always been into fantasy?
Yes, I would say I have always been into fantasy. When I actually wrote that story I was living in Germany at the time, and there was sort of a nook under our staircase leading into the basement. I don’t know if it was supposed to be a wine cellar or what, but it had a little metal gate on it, and I pretended that a dragon lived there pretty much right from the start.
I think that that book is actually of knights, dragons and hedgehogs. There are hedgehogs in there for sure. The knights are hedgehogs, of course.
That has always been the way my brain is wired. I love the idea of magic and mythical creatures—fantasy creatures, creatures that people have thought up for centuries or have never thought of before. Those all appeal to me.
You’ve just released three books in a series of urban fantasy novels, the Victoria Marmot series. Who is Victoria Marmot?
That is a great question, and I think part of the series is that she’s figuring that out. Because there’s a lot that Victoria Marmot, it turns out, doesn’t know about herself. But at the start of the series, at any rate, she considers herself a pretty normal high school student.
Right before the series starts, her parents die in a freak boating accident and she is left. She inherits a house, and has to start at a new school, and her life is somewhat complicated by that matter. But aside from that she speaks a few languages and practices martial arts, she still considers herself a normal high school student.
The Victoria Marmot series is a loving parody of [young adult] fantasy and pokes fun at a lot of those tropes, including the ‘perfectly normal teenager gets thrown into crazy adventures.’ But of course, those perfectly normal teenagers often aren’t. They tend to have rather extraordinary abilities that we either don’t know about, or they don’t know about, or they know about but just consider normal for whatever reason.
Vic really highlights that because that’s one of the things that the series is trying to poke fun at—but in a loving way.
Why did you decide to make fun of those tropes?
I read the Twilight series and I enjoyed the books while I was reading them. I read them, and read them quickly and got to the end of the series. And as soon as I was done, I was like ‘I enjoyed that but I kind of feel icky now.’ I decided to think about why that was.
It occasionally occurs to me to want to take some of the things that are really popular about Twilight and flip them. The whole idea for this series came to me because a scene came to mind in which a young woman finds a vampire in her bedroom watching her sleep. And rather than that somehow endearing, she freaks out on him, calls the cops, and when he gets too close she kicks the crap out of him.
That was really the impetus for this entire series and once I had the idea for that one scenes, I was like ‘oh man, there are so many things like that that I want to do. Can I actually roll them into one series? Is that too much?’ I decided that you know what? Why not. I would try it. So, Vic came to me as the character that would do that.
There are some harmless tropes in YA fantasy, and I then think there are some more harmful tropes in YA fantasy in terms of the way that we handle relationships and our own self-worth… I wanted to address some of those more important ones, and also some of the frivolous ones. Like who cares if your character isn’t actually an average teenager at the start of their story even if though think they are? That’s less important than what she considers to a healthy relationship with another human being.
There are a lot of harmful stereotypes that are perpetuated too, and there is a lot of stuff that I didn’t even realize until much later in life. I’m in my mid-thirties now, and It wasn’t probably even until my mid-twenties that I actually started to question this stuff. Just thinking about those things in a different light, and deciding to that I wanted to write a series that hopefully throws light on those in a way that is funny, and also makes people question the original trope.
You posted on your blog a fairly lengthy post about Black Lives Matter. Victoria Marmot is a young woman of colour. Was representation important to you in this series?
Yes and no. What’s important to me is to have a character that is relatable and human. I think that representation is hugely important and I think it’s important that there be main characters of colour in fiction more often—who are the good guys. I think that’s hugely important and I think that they are currently underrepresented in the genre, so I wanted to contribute what little I could to that.
But more importantly, I think honestly it matters as little as a character’s hair colour or eye colour. It should matter that little. It should just be a feature that is there, and is neither here nor there. It’s just part of what they look like. And unfortunately, that’s not the world we currently live in, but that’s the world I would like us to live in.
Vic is a young woman of colour because that’s who she is. I’m not out to tell a story that I’m not familiar with, a story of about struggles that come with that that I don’t know. They of course come up because those come up, but the story is not about race. The story is about Vic.
Read more about the Victoria Marmot series on Virginia McClain’s site. The Victoria Marmot series is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook retailers. The fourth book in the series will release in January.