During NYCC 2019 I had the ultimate pleasure of sitting down with Mackenzi Lee, author of the recently released Loki: Where Mischief Lies. We discussed her partnership with Disney and Marvel as well as how to worked to create this mesmerizing story. This is the first book from a three year book deal she signed, and we are going to see two other characters stories over the next two books. She has a beautiful knack for bringing to us the familiarity of the Marvel universe and dropping right down into a historical setting. You can purchase Loki: Where Mischief Lies online here. The book is a great read for any fan of the Marvel universe.
Julia Roth: Let’s start with a little short synopsis of the book.
Mackenzi Lee: Oh boy, that is always the hardest question. This is legitimately a hard question for authors because when you are asked for a short synopsis you are like but everything in the book is so important I have to tell you about everything. So, Loki: Where Mischief Lies is set earlier in the canon than we have seen Loki before. He is still a “teenager” in air quotes because Asgardians have a whole different time system then we do. But he is a young person living in Asgard still sort of competing with Thor for the throne. Odin hasn’t quite picked his heir yet, and trying to decide if whether his fate as sort of a villain is inevitable or something he wants to fight against or something he wants to lean into. At the same time he ends up going down to Earth and solving a series of Jack the Ripper-esque murders in Victorian London. So, yeah that’s my short synopsis.
JR: It is a perfect one actually! So how is it working with Disney?
ML: It is legitimately a very cool thing to get to do. When I was a kid I was not a reader so much as I was a very specific reader of franchise novels. Like I loved the Star Wars book clubs and I loved reading like novelizations of movies. I was not a great reader as you can tell. So my very specific dream as a kid was not to write books so much but to write specifically within the certain fandom universes and fandom has been such a large part of my life for so long that working for Disney and writing for Marvel and getting to add to the canon of this incredible fictional universe that I love so much is just like, I am still pinching myself about it. When I first started working on this project there would be times were I would be drafting it and be typing Thor and Loki and my brain is like no you have to do real work. You can’t be writing fan fiction and I’m like, it’s not fan fiction! It’s real work! So it is incredibly surreal and incredibly cool and my ten year old self would be very proud of me.
JR: I really think it is every kid’s dream to work for Disney in some capacity. So, you have a three book deal, were you given specific plot points you had to hit or just like, ‘here write a story about Loki as a kid.’?
ML: I think it’s both. When I was first approached about it, the pitch was we want you to do a series on antiheroes in the Marvel universe. So the other two books won’t be about Loki, they will be about different characters in the Marvel universe. The first one was going to be about Loki, that was always set in stone and my editor at the time approached me specifically because she wanted it to have a historical component and with Loki you can do that because he exists outside of time and space. She had just read my book, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and she was like this is great, I like this person I like her voice and I think she can write Loki very well and she can also do the historical component. That was the pitch she came to me with and we came up and did some brainstorming together and we came up with planning on Victorian London as sort of being the historical setting we wanted to drop Loki into and then other than that I was given quite a lot of freedom to do with the plot that I wanted which was both like really cool and really terrifying because what I am creating is now part of this canon of the universe.
JR: Now when you came up with ideas did you have to get them approved or were they just like we will read the book at the end?
ML: There are definitely a lot of people that have to check it off before it gets that far.
JR: Okay, so why Victorian London? I absolutely love books that are set in that era and place because it reminds me and when I went and I absolutely loved it. But what drew you to it?
ML: So we talked about about it, and because people coming to Marvel novels are coming for historical fiction. Before a lot of my books have been set in obscure time periods and places so, for some reason they didn’t want me to write Loki in the Dutch Tulip Mania of 1630 and I can’t figure out why. So we wanted to come up with a time period that Marvel readers would have some sort of familiarity with and some sort of associations with. And I think the three we ended up talking about were doing a medieval kind of setting, we talked about doing a 1920s and we talked about doing Victoria London and Victorian London for me felt like the best fit because a lot of the more larger themes of the Marvel universe in general are also personified in this time period. Where you have Thanos who talks about chaos and life and order and death which we sort of see reflected in Victorian London. Death is very present it is very rampant it is still a very much unknown thing to people but it is very much part of their daily life. It is that time of change and chaos and the world is evolving and people are trying to figure out how to evolve with it. So that all felt like Marvel fit well in their but also Loki specifically felt like he fit very well in that time period. And also it was fun to play around with a lot of the superstitions of the time, because Loki is a literal magical character and then put him into a world that has a lot of ideas on magic and superstitions and spiritualism and things like that and have him sort of interact with the Earthly ideas of what magic is was really fun and a great opportunity. It was also fun to put him in direct interaction with Norse mythology and the sort of Earth version of Norse mythology as he is sort of questioning his fate in his role in the universe to find that he already has a strain of him exists on Midgar and were they already decided what kind of person he is. There were a lot of things, it was a very organic fit. It worked out really well.
JR: So there is Marvel’s Loki and then there is the Loki from Norse mythology. So how did you breakthrough and make him your own character even though he already has these predetermined things through the movie and mythology?
ML: I initially did a ton of reading. When you say there is Marvel’s Loki. Well there is but there is more specifically Jack Kirby’s Loki and Agents of Asgards Loki and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and there are so many different Lokis within the Marvel canon. And then yeah, there is Norse mythology Loki but that is different if you are reading the ancient text or reading Stephen Fry’s mythology or Neil Gaimain’s mythology books which just came out. So there are zillions of versions of this character that exist and my initial approach was that I had to absorb everything I possibly can. So I have to read every comic and every myth and read ever incarnation of Loki that has ever existed. I ended up having all of this conflicting voices in my head but also voices that were not mine so just the first couple of drafts I felt like I could not get a handle on his character because I was so intent on trying to make his character everything to everyone and sort of shades of every version of him that ever existed. When I really sort of let go of that and stopped doing research and reading other people’s version. I am just going to embrace that I was hired to not just write this book but bring my specific vision to this character. So when I sort of let go of other people’s ideas about him and looked at him as not a character that has existed in this franchise but looked at him as a character that was in this book and in my story in this present moment, that was what really made all the difference. I really over researched it, I read way to much I freaked myself out.
JR: We all do that don’t worry. So about a year ago someone tweeted you asking if this would be a Queer book and your response was well he is pansexual. Why was it so important to for you to bring that part of Loki out and his sexuality?
ML: Because that is who the character is. It has been confirmed by Marvel that it is canon and even if you go back into the Norse myths, they have all sorts of playing with gender and sexuality and I think it is kind of a silly idea that whenever we have a fantasy society like Asgard that they are arbitrarily going to have the same ideas about gender and sexuality and things like that. It made sense to me that if we have this sort of Utopian Asgard society that they would have more equality than we would. I feel it would have felt untrue to the character to do anything else with it.
JR: Doesn’t he have a dog for a kid in Norse mythology?
ML: He has a horse!
JR: A horse right!
ML: Which like, I have mentioned though and people have gotten very upset with me because that has nothing to do with sexuality that’s beastiality. I’m always like, no I know the difference.
JR: It’s a great example of just how open they are!
ML: Right, I am just trying to prove a point here.
JR: So the other two books in the deal are going to be different characters.
ML: Yup, completely different characters.
JR: Do you know who they are going to be?
ML: I do.
JR: Are you allowed to talk about it?
ML: I’m not.
JR: Aw okay, do you know when we are going to see the next book?
ML: 2021! Just hang in there.
JR: Do you have any more future plans with Disney after these three?
ML: I really want to write Star Wars novels, like Star Wars is the fandom of my heart since I was a very small child. I am hoping I can weasel my way into a Star Wars book at some point. Or maybe they will just let me play Rey in Galaxy’s Edge that’s the other hope.
JR: Can I just live here?
ML: Just for one day, just put on the thing, do my hair and stand around with a lightsaber in front of the Millenium Falcon.
JR: You would be perfect! Thank you so much!
ML: You’re welcome it was really nice to talk to you!
Make sure to keep a look out over the next few years for more books from Mackenzi Lee and hopefully she will get her wish and we see some awesome Star Wars novels from here too!