Able to write amazing stories in three languages, Edgar Cantero is an incredible author who is able to merge his loves of American entertainment, genre fiction, and other passions into fantastic tales. His book Dormir amb Winona Ryder earned him a Joan Crexells Award and his 2017 novel Meddling Kids was a New York Times best-seller. Wanting to learn more about his background as well as Meddling Kids, I was able to interview Cantero for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some stories you love experiencing? Are there any you enjoy revisiting?
Edgar Cantero: I used to watch a lot of TV growing up—much more than a Catalan man of letters is supposed to watch. I loved comics and video games too. I didn’t read a lot of books; much of what I’m pouring out in book form now I absorbed through other media. I like genre stuff. I kinda liked horror as a theme, but I’ve never been a true horror fan. I like tropes, and self-aware art. I like stories that don’t take themselves too seriously.
Yanes: When did you know you wanted to be a professional writer? Was there a moment in which this goal crystalized for you?
Cantero: I wanted to tell stories from very early on. I used to come up with my own shows, my own comics; I had stuff in my head and I wanted to share it. The decision that writing was the easiest way to do it came later, maybe at 17 or so.
Yanes: You are from Barcelona. Are there any stories or myths from that area you think more people should know about?
Cantero: Before writing Meddling Kids, I had an idea about a book connecting the Cthulhu Mythos with La Patum, an ancient festival held during the week of Corpus in the city of Berga, in central Catalonia, famous for its display of pagan monsters and hell-evoking fireworks. My idea was to depict Berga as a sort of demon-worshipping Innsmouth in the mountains. However, the joke seemed too local to write it in English, and I doubt Catalan publishers would have cared for the Lovecraft refs at all, so I think the Cthulhu card was better used in Meddling Kids. I don’t know how much of Catalan mythology is worth international attention, but the novel I said I’m working on is in English, and set in Catalonia. Hopefully some of my native culture will catch your eye.
Yanes: I’ve finally had the chance to purchase and read Meddling Kids – which is a fantastic experience. What was the inspiration behind this story?
Cantero: As usual, it was the conjunction of two ideas. I wanted to do something about a troupe of teen detectives revisiting and old case. And I’d also thought about doing a Cthulhu mythos story some time. Eventually, the two ideas collided.
Yanes: The legacies of Scooby-Doo and H.P. Lovecraft are clearly present in Meddling Kids. What were some other stories that influenced you as you wrote the novel?
Cantero: Despite the title, when I first thought about teen detectives I wasn’t thinking of the Scooby Gang; I was thinking of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. But when I was pitching that idea to Doubleday I found out that Enid Blyton wasn’t as famous in the US as she was in Europe, so I replaced the Famous Five with the Scooby gang. It didn’t make much of a difference: the 2 boys + 2 girls + 1 dog formula applies to both, and the teen sleuths literary tradition is something quite universal; it existed in many countries in the mid-20th century. In the US, you had the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden, for instance. Both are referenced in passing in Meddling Kids.
Yanes: I was blown away by how much time you invested in the landscape of Blyton Hills and other locations. How much time did you spend detailing these spaces? Was there a location that proved harder than others to depict?
Cantero: I live in the US now, but back when I wrote MK I was still living in Barcelona, and I had only been stateside for a few weeks, all trips combined. Most of the American aesthetics I knew came from movies and TV. Whenever I visited, I would always be surprised at how “fictional” everything looked to me. Details like mailboxes or diner booths would have me staring, thinking, “wow, this is just like in the movies.” Perhaps this distance has served me well.
I avoid long descriptions when I set a scene, but I do insert a lot of close-ups throughout, and maybe because I’m fascinated by those little things that locals take for granted, I end up drawing these pictures of Americana in a different way that American authors draw them. I don’t know. I can tell you, I’ve never been to Oregon, where Blyton Hills is. But I’ve seen Gravity Falls and The Goonies was one of my favorite films as a kid; how different could it be? My previous book was set in Virginia, and I’ve never been to Virginia either.
Yanes: You did an amazing job fleshing out the characters that populated Meddling Kids. Was there a specific character that took on a life of their own as novel developed?
Cantero: Definitely Andy. Pretty much all my characters are very organic, because I rarely plan them ahead; I let the writing shape them. But Andy was shaped up really fast. In the Famous Five, there was only one team member with some distinct personality, and that was George, the girl who wanted to be a boy. In the 1940s this was a fairly groundbreaking character, and I know she meant a lot to many readers who related to her, so I absolutely wanted my own George (Andy) to be the lead in MK. In her tweens, just like George, Andy would have been a little girl who wanted to be a little boy. But would she still want that as grown-up? I thought that once she moved on from school, and this being the 1990s, not the 1940s, perhaps she would find out that there are more than two gender roles. She might still wish to switch genders, sure, but maybe she would just want to redefine her own. I thought of non-cis women I know who don’t want to be men; they just want to be women in their own fashion, without others telling them what is or isn’t feminine. I made grown-up Andy to be like them.
After that, it was just a matter of giving her a face and a voice; even if I don’t describe them, I like characters I can picture clearly in my head, no blurry faces. So, I asked myself, who would play the role of a twenty-five-year-old George from the Famous Five with military training, suffering PTSD and being gay af? And of course, the answer was Michelle Rodriguez, and that’s the rest of the character decided.
Yanes: Other than The Meddler, are there any plans to revisit Meddling Kids? For instance, do you plan on writing a full sequel? Are there plans to adapt this into live-action?
Cantero: A new novel, no. Plans to adapt them into live-action, yes, they exist, but I’m not sure it’ll happen yet, and so far I’ve had near-zero involvement in it.
Yanes: When people finish reading Meddling Kids, what do you hope they take away from the experience?
Cantero: I just hope they had a fun ride. I take my job very seriously, and the writing especially, the style, is something I obsess about, but at the end of the day, I know that what I do is just entertainment. Not even mainstream entertainment, but I have my audience. If the book amuses them, I’m satisfied. Then again, I’m amazed at how some readers are not just amused, but touched much more deeply than I expected. Especially by Andy, who’s won a few hearts. Fan mail about her always gets me. I love non-conforming characters like her and I expect to write many more. And better.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Cantero: Well, there’s the MK show, which is something that may happen. And there’s another show, also in the realm of what may happen. And in the meantime, I’m struggling with a new novel in English that is like none of the others. At all.