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An Interview with Theo J Malloy, author of The Heretic Prince

malloy

Theo J Malloy (he/they) is a transmasculine author from Cleveland, Ohio. They attended Cleveland State University and New York University and teach theater in addition to writing. Theo and his husband Oliver live in Cleveland with two cats, a corgi, and far too many books.


Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I’ve loved fantasy worlds and stories for as long as I can remember. I learned to read at an early age because my parents would sit with me every night and read with me from classic fantasy books like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. I started writing stories about these worlds as soon as I could, and once I realized I was trans it became my dream to write fantasy novels that I and others like me could see ourselves in.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

I started writing this book in 2016 to submit a short story to an LGBT fairytale contest, and it has grown so much over the past eight years! A lot about the characters and the plot in general has changed, but my protagonist and the world he lives in have remained basically the same. My dream to write a queer and trans fantasy novel inspired me, as well as growing up attending Catholic school, as the book also explores the good and bad sides of religion.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The title, The Heretic Prince, came to me fairly early on. In the story, the main character Mychal’s brother was accused of heresy and executed by the Priesthood the characters eventually fight back against, and this was the inciting incident for his journey throughout the books. When he grows up and runs away to become his true self, he takes on his brother’s name, and starts to style himself as the Heretic Prince in honor of him. I wanted the title of the book to reflect Mychal’s character, and I think the word ‘heretic’ is evocative of the other elements and themes of the book as well!

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

This book does have a soundtrack! I made an official Spotify playlist as part of the rewards for my amazing Kickstarter backers, and you can find it here.

There are also some songs in the book from the world it’s set in, which have a very fantasy-sounding tone and lyrics. I was inspired by the amazing way that books like A Song of Ice and Fire, The Lord of the Rings, and The Name of the Wind include lyrics to songs the characters hear, even though the music can’t translate to the page. I think it really makes the world of the book feel more real.

Describe your dream book cover.

My dream book cover is exactly the one I am working on right now with the amazing artist I was connected with! I love more simplistic covers that still convey important elements from the book, and I think this one has done that beautifully. I can’t wait for everyone to see it!

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I am a theater educator and dramaturg as well as a writer! I have an MA in Performance Studies and a BA in Theater Directing. I think this has actually contributed a lot to my writing, because getting into theater research helped me learn so much more about the history that helped me build my world, and understanding how story structure works in drama absolutely translates to writing story structure better in a novel. I love storytelling in all forms, and getting to be creative both in my day job and while I write is such a privilege.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

I read lots! I’ve mentioned some of the classic fantasy books I grew up with that have influenced my writing, but I’m a big fan of newer sci-fi and fantasy that’s also LGBT-inclusive, like Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir or Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I also read lots of accounts of lesbian and transmasculine people that passed as male in history for a variety of reasons, such as Dr. James Barry or Hannah Snell, to ground Mychal’s story in the life experiences of people from our world who’ve done similar things.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I hope that readers can take away a better understanding of people who are different from them. I wrote this book for other trans people to find a mirror for their own experiences in fantasy, but it would be so great for others to also really connect with and come to love Mychal. The other main characters, Samira and Edris, are also queer and there are all kinds of characters in this book that I hope will help everyone see things with a little more of an open mind, no matter who the reader is when they pick up the book!

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