V.S. McGrath (pseudonym) is the author of the four-book Weird West series The Devil’s Revolver. Vicki has also published six contemporary romances with Harlequin Enterprises under the pen name Vicki Essex.
Vicki was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and has a Bachelor of Journalism from Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). She’s a fan of fantasy and science fiction, a Friend of DeSoto and lives with her husband, Biped, and has too many ideas in her head.
Learn more about V.S. at her website: www.vsmcgrath.com or www.devilsrevolver.com.
About The Devil’s Revolver
The first book in an epic, magic-clad series, The Devil’s Revolver, opens with a shooting competition and takes off across the landscape after a brutal double murder and kidnapping—to which revenge is the only answer. Hettie Alabama, 17, leads her crew of underdogs with her father’s cursed revolver, magicked to take a year off her life each time she kills someone with it. It’s no way for a ranch girl to grow up, but grow up she does, her scars and determination to rescue her vulnerable younger sister deepening with every year of life she loses.
Interview with VS McGrath
Tell us about yourself – what is something readers would be surprised to find out?
I started my writing career in contemporary romance. Under the pen name Vicki Essex, I penned six novels for Harlequin Superromance. You can find those titles at vickiessex.com.
A lot of people think that writing romance isn’t “real” writing and have a lot of prejudiced ideas about the romance genre that mainly stem from a long history of misogyny. I would challenge anyone who has those notions to go ahead and try to write one. It isn’t easy! Writing in any genre teaches you a lot about the tropes and boundaries of that genre, and how to manage audience expectations. Romance also taught me a lot about how to maintain interpersonal tension among my characters and balance external conflict and plot. Is there romance in The Devil’s Revolver? You’ll have to read to find out!
What is it about the Weird West genre that draws you to it? What are your favorite aspects or examples of this Under-appreciated genre?
There are so many themes and tropes I can explore and subvert in a blended genre like the Weird West. A lot of the problematic aspects of classic Westerns are great starting points for discussion and exploration in contemporary Westerns and blended Westerns.
When it came to worldbuilding for The Devil’s Revolver, I started with the premise “History happened as it happened as it happened, but with magic.” That meant I could work within the bounds of American history with understanding that the existence of magic might have nudged the outcome of certain events one way or another, but not so dramatically that I’d have to totally rewrite history. The second rule I wrote for myself was “magic can’t affect metal,” or more accurately, “magic can’t stop a bullet.” Gun violence is a key part of the foundation of this world and of the story and was obviously a major factor that contributed to Indigenous genocide and colonization.
Building the world of The Devil’s Revolver was a lot of fun, and I found room to include werewolves, vampires, Chupacabras, Frankenstein monsters and zombies into my series in an organic way that made sense for this magic-steeped Wild West. When you get to layer the metaphors of those known monsters with Western tropes, you get something new and different.
What inspired you to write this story?
I’d always wanted to write fantasy, but I was tired of analogs for feudal European worlds. Since I was playing the 2010 video game Red Dead Redemption at the time, I thought why not set a fantasy in the Wild West? That’s how I started exploring the Weird West genre and Westerns in general.
The three key things that I wanted The Devil’s Revolver to include were a female protagonist because so many Western stories are about men; a more diverse cast because the American West was not monochromatic; and lastly, a fun adventure. My tendencies toward dark, moody settings and horror just kind of snuck up on me. I don’t mean to be this spooky and weird, it just comes naturally, I swear!
If you were living in the Weird West, what kind of character would you be?
I’m not much of an adventurer myself, but my imagination runs away with me constantly. I’d probably be doing exactly what I’m doing now, penning dime novels about bold outlaw women, mysterious creatures and magic spells gone awry.
Are there any other writing projects you’re working on?
I’ve completed a novel about a woman who can see ghosts who secretly moves into a derelict mall and tries to solve a century-old murder. My current WIP is a historical romance/contemporary heist book about two immortal thieves chasing after the magic gemstone that cursed them. As you can see, I like genre-smashing. One day, I’d love to go back to the world of The Devil’s Revolver—there are so many more tales I could tell!
What are you reading right now?
We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu. My life as a first-generation Chinese Canadian is often reflected in my stories in the way that my characters straddle cultures in order to navigate and interpret the worlds I live in. Marvel star Simu Liu’s autobiography is one of those stories I’ve been nodding along to. So much of his experiences growing up reflect my own, or the lives of people in my community.
Favorite weird west movie/book/comic/etc. and why?
I don’t think I can pick just one! The franchise that had the most influence on me is the Red Dead Redemption video game series. It’s not technically a Weird West, but there are lots of aspects of the storyline that lean toward it. They also made a zombie version of the first game, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare. The stories are nuanced, the world rich with detail, and the twists are dark and unexpected and truly heartbreaking at times.
I’m also loving Star Wars: The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian. I just love when you can take a story and genre tropes and put it in a world as strange and wonderful as the universe of Star Wars.
Anything else you’d like to add about writing or the Weird West?
The Weird West is absolutely an underappreciated genre, and I think that a lot of people dismiss the Western genre in general, too, for many different reasons. Just as with romance, I’d urge all readers and viewers to give Westerns and the Weird West a second look. There are tons of great stories out there that are modern and relevant and fun!
My main advice for writers: you gotta write! No matter how bad or incoherent your work is, you have to just sit down, butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and put those words down. You can edit bad; you can’t edit nothing.
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