The Crossover That Made Menagerie
by Rachel Vincent, author of Menagerie
I’m in the airport as I write this, on my way to New Orleans where Nola StoryCon happens to coincide with the paperback release of Menagerie, a story that has had a longer, more complicated road to publication than any book I’ve ever written.
This story and its main character, Delilah Marlow, were first born back in 2010 or 2011. (It’s been so long ago now that I can’t quite remember.) Back then, I’d been watching DVDs of an old cable network show called Carnivale, and I fell in love with the darkly magical show and its twist on the stereotypical concepts of good and evil. (The preacher was evil; the carnies were good, though neither actually set out to be either, and neither is quite so neatly defined.)
At the time, I’d recently ended my first series, Shifters, an adult series about a female werecat carving out her own future in a chafing, often violently restrictive patriarchal society. So when I watched Carnivale, I wondered what a carnival might be like if its animal acts were actually sentient. Like…shifters.
That’s right. Menagerie was originally born of a mental cross between Shifters and the old show Carnivale. But the result bears only a passing resemblance to either one.
As I began to develop the idea, before I even pitched it to my editor, my research quickly showed me that a story about sentient creatures, people—human or not—kept in cages might have something important to say.
Throughout history, people of all ethnicities, religions and nationalities have been kept in captivity. I knew that the story of Delilah and the captives she would meet in the carnival would have something important to say. And that I might not be quite up to that challenge.
And in fact, on my own, I was not.
This is the kind of book that could never have been written without the input (and often hard work) of many people. I spent more than three years writing and editing the manuscript. Well before production editors, cover designers, publicists and the sales team got their hands on this book, back in the early stages, I got pivotal input and suggestions from several other writers. Somewhere in the editorial process (during three or four complete rewrites), I lost the editor I’d worked with for seventeen novels and with whom I’d developed the concept. I landed in the hands of another extraordinary editor, without whose vision Menagerie would never have taken its final form. She challenged me to dig deeper. To look further. To do right by Delilah and her new friends, and their story. Alas, I lost her to a year-long maternity leave around the time the hardcover edition of Menagerie was released to some of the best critical reviews of my entire career, including my first starred review, from Library Journal.
I’m more proud of this book than of any I’ve ever written. And I love the new cover MIRA Books has given this paperback edition, and the coordinating cover for Spectacle, which comes out in the spring of 2017. I hope this beautiful new paperback edition finds many fresh hands and eyes. And I hope you all love this book as much as I loved working on it.
When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quiteordinary world. But under the macabre circus big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.
But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, griffins and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.
Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale