A couple months ago, we shared the trailer for Megan Shepherd’s The Madman’s Daughter. Inspired by H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, the gothic horror centers on the 16-year-old Juliet, a maid who leaves London behind to search for her disgraced father. The book finally hit shelves today, so we gave the author a call to talk about her debut novel, her love of Lost, and the importance of music in writing. Read on for teasers about Books 2 and 3, as well as an update on the Madman’s Daughter movie!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What made you want to write a re-telling of The Island of Dr. Moreau?
MEGAN SHEPHERD: I’m a huge Lost fan and I’ve just always loved the idea of a mysterious tropical island. When it went off the air, I was just like, there’s not much out there that has that same atmosphere. And I was reading Dracula at the time, so I had classics on the brain. Those two things made me remember The Island of Dr. Moreau. There are no female characters in it, but the ideas are so brilliant and lasting, I just really felt like there was potential to tell an entirely new story.
And this is just the first in a trilogy. What are the other two books inspired by?
The second one is based off of Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and the third one is Frankenstein. It’s the same story, the same characters and everything.
Did you plan on writing three books?
I had written The Madman’s Daughter as a stand-alone title. They always tell new writers not to pitch a trilogy because it’s just much harder to sell. My agent was the one who came up with the idea — he was like, you know it’s kind of a cliffhanger ending, there’s room to expand it, would you be interested in that? I said absolutely. But I had to be creative because The Island of Dr. Moreau story was done. I didn’t want the sequel to be that. So I was thinking this organically flows into Jekyll and Hyde and then thinking of how that book ends, I was like, oh that could flow really well into Frankenstein.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’d say for the last four or five years that has been my passion. I didn’t think about it before then. I haven’t been one of those people who says since the age of 10, I know I want to be a writer. Which is strange because I grew up in a bookstore, so you think I would have had that idea. I actually think that growing up there, I had this kind of reverence for books and authors and I just didn’t think real people could ever do that.
So what made you change your mind and write this book?
Well The Madman’s Daughter was the fourth manuscript that I had written, so I had plenty of failures. [Laughs] But I had decided about five years ago. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal in West Africa and one of the projects I did there was a literacy project for school children where another volunteer and I collected local folk tales and had them illustrated by ocal artists and bound them into little books. I just really fell in love with stories and with kids reading them and it totally just got me thinking about producing literature myself.
NEXT: Megan gives us a glimpse of the Madman’s Daughter playlist.
The love triangle in Madman’s Daughter feels different than others seen in more conventional YA. I like both the romantic leads, which is weird for me.
I was lucky that there were two male characters that I could already base them off of. People have told me it reminds them of Twilight but I think that’s because one of them is named Edward. It was actually a writer friend of mine — Carrie Ryan — she told me that love triangles are really more about the main character than about the two boys. So it’s kind of more like, who does Juliet want to be? She has these divergent paths ahead of her. She can either go one direction or the other. The boys represent the two different possibilities for her own life.
But it’s strange to see two leads on such even footing.
I did want to keep it a surprise. But of course they both have their own mysteries, so in a way it was really hard to do that love triangle because I wanted her to get to know these two boys but they had so many secrets. I couldn’t show every side of their personality. That was a big challenge.
How does it feel to have gotten such a positive response from readers before the book’s even come out?
You really have no idea how it’s going to be perceived. Your critique partners, your agents, and your editors read it, and that’s great, but you know that they like it because they bought it. But then no one else reads it for like a year and a half. It’s so nerve-wracking, especially with your debut. So much of you is in the book too. You inevitably feel like they’re kind of judging you, your interests or your talent, in addition to the product you produced. But I am just absolutely thrilled with the reception that it has gotten already.
Do you have a playlist for The Madman’s Daughter?
I have some friends who are really into all kinds of music. They helped me pick some that fit the exact right tones for this book and then I’ve been using that playlist as I’m writing Book 2 and Book 3 to get back in that mood. It works so well to just get a cup of tea, close myself in my office, and listen to kind of creepy music.
What’s an example?
One of the ones I like best on it is Florence & the Machine’s “Seven Devils.” It’s just so haunting and dramatic. The lyrics are reminiscent of the ideas in the book. It’s a little bit timeless too.
Any news on the movie front?
It was optioned by Fake Empire, who did The O.C. and Gossip Girl. I know that the script is done. I haven’t seen it yet. But they hired Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who just did the script for the new Carrie movie that’s coming out. I’m real excited. He comes from a comic book background and I feel like he’s the perfect person to adapt this book. So I’m dying to read the script. I’m hoping they’ll let me see it soon.
The Madman’s Daughter is available now.
The Madman's Daughter
- The Madman's Daughter