Today is a great day. "Why?" you ask. Because I get to present to you one of the best books I've read this year: The Electrical Menagerie, by Mollie E. Reeder. This book is one wild ride from beginning to end, and absolutely impossible to put down! To celebrate its release (which is today!) I've invited over the two main characters and their author for an interview. (But shhh, don't tell Carthage and Huxley about Mollie—they have no idea they're in a book. *wink wink*) After that, you can find my review of The Electrical Menagerie. Trust me, you don't want to miss out on this one!
The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt.
Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively — but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially — but none of the scruples.
To save their show, Carthage & Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, The Electrical Menagerie's bid at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians — but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there’s more at stake in this contest than the prize.
Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide… and it’s the lies Carthage & Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.
1.) Hello, Carthage and Huxley, and welcome! We're excited to have the producers of The Electrical Menagerie here today. Would you mind introducing yourselves?
Huxley: I’m A.Q. Huxley, producer and stage manager. My colleague, Mr. Sylvester Carthage.
Carthage: I’m the illusionist and the engineer — I built everything you see in the show.
Huxley: My wheelhouse is whatever you don’t see in the show. Location permits. Insurance. Credit rating. You know. The glamorous stuff. No autographs, please.
2.) What's it like, producing The Electrical Menagerie?
Carthage: Invigorating… exhausting.
Huxley: An adventure.
Carthage: Aye, the kind of adventure I dreamed about when I was a boy. Traveling the skies aboard a train. New faces and new places every day. Seeing the world.
Huxley: I’ll admit that living aboard the train has taken some adjustment. I grew up on acreage. It feels strange opening my window to nothing but stars. There are days when I miss good old terra firma. But I wouldn’t trade this life.
3.) Carthage, how do you feel about working with Huxley as a business partner? Does he make a good one?
Carthage: Mr. Huxley is… brazen. He does things differently than I would do them. But I confess his audacity is catching. He has a way of talking that I don’t have — I’m glad I don’t have to do all the talking.
4.) Well Huxley, how do you feel about working with Carthage as a business partner? (We have to make things fair and even here, even if there are rumors of contest sabotage going around.)
Huxley: He’s right, we have different ways of doing things. Mr. Carthage is an enigma; I usually have no idea what he’ll do next. Yesterday, he pulled an electrical rabbit out of his hat at the breakfast table. I almost choked on my toast. He laughed about it for half an hour.
5.) To wrap it up, how good do you think your chances are at winning the contest?
Carthage: I will stand onstage at the palace on Celestia. Some part of me has known that forever. With willpower, and ingenuity, The Electrical Menagerie will make it all the way to the end.
Huxley: And he calls me audacious? But he’s right. This contest won’t be easy — look at our competitors! But we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think we could win. And we aren’t concerned about that so-called “sabotage” you mentioned. I’m sure there’s no grand conspiracy lurking around the corner. This is a talent show. What’s the worst that could happen?
1.) Hi Mollie! Welcome to the blog. What made you start writing?
As a child I went through a phase where I had a lot of imaginary friends. Except it wasn’t a phase and I still have a lot of imaginary friends. But now I write books about them!
2.) What inspired The Electrical Menagerie?
When I was about twelve years old, I announced to my parents that I was going to work in Hollywood. My poor parents didn’t know how to respond, but somewhere along the line, I had fallen madly, deeply in love with the business of entertainment. I started working in freelance production shortly after high school, and I spent the last few years producing my first feature film, which was an amazing, exhausting, dream-come-true.
Through the years, my love for the industry has occasionally flickered in face of the challenges it presents, but nothing has ever been able to extinguish it. Entertainment is where art, economy, and politics all intersect. The stakes are high, the odds are insurmountable, and everybody has a fake name. What better backdrop for a great story?
3.) What’s your favorite thing about the book?
Absolutely the characters. My stories always start with characters, and I believe that relationships are what make characters interesting and dynamic. One character with a list of traits is just a list of traits, but throw him in with another character — ideally with opposing traits — and now you have a story! Carthage & Huxley stole my heart, and I can’t wait to tell more stories about them.
4.) What was the most challenging part about writing it?
Carthage! He’s not an extremely forthcoming person, and in that strange way that only other writers will understand, he was not very forthcoming on the page when I started writing the book. I struggled at first with reconciling his two halves — he’s a consummate performer, always ready to entertain. But he’s also painfully shy. I have known actors with these (seemingly contradictory) traits, but it took me awhile to understand how they fit together. When I finally figured out who he was, that discovery was deep and rewarding.
5.) Finally, any tips for up-and-coming authors?
My main takeaway is that creative work is still work. I love it, but that doesn’t mean I always like it. I think it’s important to be honest about that because I think that when you expect pursuing your passions to be easy, or always fun, it’s too easy to be discouraged when it isn’t. You start wondering, “am I really cut out for this?” Writing is learning a new language. Writing is learning to walk, stumbling every two steps and smacking your face. Writing is groping along in the mud with your fingers looking for flecks of gold. It’s gritty and messy and your process won’t look exactly like anybody else’s. That’s why it’s yours!
If anyone wants specific advice about writing, or breaking into filmmaking, can contact me through my website. I’ll do my best to reply!
Mollie can also be found on:
• The Celestial Isles
I was privileged to receive an advanced review copy of this amazing book, and here's my honest-to-goodness opinion after reading it!
The Electrical Menagerie
Mollie E. Reeder
My rating: ★★★★★
This book is absolutely magical in every way. This is the kind of book that swallows you up so thoroughly, you can’t stop thinking about it, even when you’re not reading. It’s heartfelt, imaginative, and filled with characters that I connected with from the very beginning. I knew after reading Arbrook Huxley and the Star-Crossed Lovers that I was in for a treat, but The Electrical Menagerie delivered—and then some.
Sylvester Carthage: This man is one of the most complex and well-developed characters I’ve seen in a while. There were a lot of times while reading his POV that I had to sit back and think, “Wow. That’s exactly what [that] feels like.” Even feelings I’d never consciously thought about. Reeder enabled me to connect with him from page one, and my sister will be the first to tell you that I got more than a little animated while telling her about him. He was strong in an extremely understated way—without even knowing it himself—and grew tremendously throughout the course of the book.
Arbrook Huxley: Huxley provided an effective foil for Carthage, who was a very morally upright character. Although he was a "good person" over all, Huxley was not averse to using underhand means to achieve desired ends from time to time. He’s also rather foulmouthed (in a made-up way), something that drives Carthage nuts—but over the course of the story, Huxley grew a lot, and learned to appreciate his quiet business partner. They both had something to teach the other, and I love that.
As for the world itself, I was constantly blown away by how well thought-out it was. I never had to scramble for a mental image, because Reeder always painted the picture in glowing colors. (And, unlike Tolkien, did not spend five pages lecturing on the state of the hills from all four points of the compass.) The murder-mystery side of the story had me constantly guessing, but there were enough personal battles to keep me engaged in that direction as well. I believed in Carthage and Huxley from the very beginning... even if they didn’t always believe in each other. Also, can I just say that Reeder got me attached to a robot? I mean really. The poor guy deserved better!
And now we come to the part of the review where I gripe at nitpicky things—except—I have nothing to gripe about. Maybe some of the tricks could have been explained a little better, and perhaps the first show in the book could have been elaborated on just a tad bit more, but other than that, I have nothing. All of the plot points were wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end, and nothing was left hanging. As for a content warning, there is quite a bit of drinking, and one character ends up rather drunk… but that only makes him incredibly sarcastic. Huxley’s habit of cursing doesn’t even count against the book, because every oath was made up!
In closing, I feel extremely privileged to have been able to enter the realm of The Electrical Menagerie. I am looking forward to seeing more of Carthage and Huxley in the future!
Welcome to Katelyn Buxton Books! I'm a Christian author and blogger, with a passion for writing stories that are not just enjoyable, but also lead people closer to Jesus. Feel free to look around, and enjoy your stay!