Interview with Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga, authors of The Resurrectionist of Caligo


Today i’m really pleased to welcome to my blog the two authors who wrote The Resurrectionist of Caligo (my review here).  I really enjoyed the first book in the series which was a great combination of gothic goodness, grave robbing and Victorian-esque horror.  I can’t wait to see what these two lovely authors come up with next in the series.

Firstly, Alicia and Wendy, welcome to my blog and secondly, apologies for the delay in posting this interview which was originally intended much sooner – but technical problems upset the apple cart.

So, off we go:

Can you give readers a very quick description of what they can expect.

Alicia: Twisty character relationships, sea-inspired magic and old-timey medicine, dinner parties and funerals.

Wendy: An enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess must set aside their differences, navigating both science and sorcery to catch a killer who could tear their country apart. It’s a fantasy noir with a gothic Victorian-ish setting, gallows humor, and a particularly ferocious waif.

I’m curious about how you came up with the notion of writing a book together?  Are you life long friends/reading buddies or did you just get stuck in an elevator for two hours?? Or something else entirely?

Alicia: It’s much closer to the stuck in an elevator. We’d only recently made our acquaintance in Japan when I found out Wendy was a writer. We both had abandoned novels, lots of ideas, but weren’t necessarily committed to one new project over another. I tricked her into having coffee with me and pitched her the idea of a fun in-character writing letters exercise. From there, we got sucked into creating this world of gothic historical medicine and fantasy magic.

Wendy: Basically this. I had just trunked a novel and was dabbling in some Victorian-era vignettes that I didn’t know what to do with. Alicia suggested the letter exchange—completely open-ended, just that we each had to choose a “voice”—and then sent me her angry, insulting letter! Of course my character immediately went on the defensive, and that’s how the core Sibylla/Roger dynamic came about. I had just read a book about body-snatching and wanted to veer historical, while Alicia insisted on fantasy. She had all these magical abilities for Sibylla picked out, and asked about my character–I decided that not only did he not have any magic, he didn’t even believe in it!

Did you decide beforehand to each tackle a particular character? And did you stick to your guns or were the lines blurred?

Alicia: Since the initial letter-writing exercise involved one character writing to another, there was always a defined separation between Sibylla and Roger. However, one of the best parts of the process was jointly writing the characters who crossed between. There are several chapters where the first draft for a character was written by the other person when we were struggling to work something out. Once we got to editing, things blurred together a little, but Wendy always had final say on Roger’s tone, voice, and choices, while I had final say on Sibylla.

Wendy: We were always tweaking each other’s dialogue. I’d write some emperor banter, and Alicia would usually change it. Then she’d write GhostofMary and I’d go muck about with that. All the characters fell into either an “Alicia” bucket or a “Wendy” bucket of responsibility for their voice…except Harrod. He’s the one truly joint character of the book.

I’m curious about the logistics of it all?  Did you physically meet up to talk and write or were all your conversations online?

Alicia: During the drafting of the first half of book, we were fortunate to be living near one another. We’d have bi-to-tri weekly coffee “meetings” where we’d discuss everything from our houses to the coffee shop and back, and practically everywhere we went together turned into a brainstorming session. However, before we got into editing the book, I’d moved away and that’s when we switched to intensive Skype chats/calls and trolling the other person in manuscript notes and tracked changes.

Wendy: We got through most of the first draft simply by trading chapters back and forth over email, then having intensive planning-chats going into the next sections. It was nice to write a chapter intensively for a week or two, then have a little break while Alicia drafted hers (though she tends to draft a lot faster; I’d constantly toss stuff away, restart, and second-guess every other sentence as I wrote it). It was fun to try and catch each other off guard occasionally. In an early chapter Alicia had a random guard deliver a letter to Roger, so I surprised her by writing him as Roger’s brother in my chapter. She had a few surprises up her sleeve for me later, of course.

What advice can you give to other aspiring writer duos?

Alicia: I think the biggest advice I’d give is don’t text too much about the project. Maybe it works for someone out there, but it’s way too easy for texting to become a quick, toneless conversation, often one-sided.

Wendy: Make sure each person has a realm to rule, as it were. Alicia was queen of the palace and political intrigue, creating the setting and characters around Sibylla as she saw fit. Meanwhile I read far too many macabre history books, which flowed out in to Roger’s Caligo underworld. We did a lot of toe-stepping during the edit phase, but during initial drafting we each got to feel like we were (sort of) masters of our little universes.

I love all the little nods to the Victorian era and I’m thinking this must have took a lot of research. Did you find any particularly funny or creepy facts or stories whilst researching that you’d like to share?

Alicia: I cannot in good conscience answer this question knowing that Wendy will require all the space to do so. (Love you Wendy, tell them all things.)

Wendy: I had to laugh looking back at some of our earliest project-related emails. In my third message, I sent Alicia about fifteen links to different gothic-adjacent topics (Bloodletting! Bodysnatching! Weird old funeral traditions! Victorian slang!) which I have a sneaking suspicion she disregarded, which is perfectly fair. My enthusiasm-tidal-wave for this topic is probably quite horrifying when viewed from a head-on-collision perspective. I got on a reading kick, to include Diary of a Resurrectionist by James Blake Bailey, The Knife Man by Wendy Moore, Blood Work by Holly Tucker, heaps of 19th century lit, and much more (seriously, I’m happy to ramble on for hours). Even though our novel is technically a second-world fantasy, I wanted the setting to feel lived-in, and the character’s mindsets to stay true to the era. At several points I did some deep-diving into digitized centuries-old editions of The Lancet, a British medical journal, just to figure out what physicians believed about the nature of blood in the 1820s. Roger’s willingness to bleed patients of their “bad humors” is in line with any “good” surgeon of the time, as horrifying as that sounds to modern readers. Physicians also had a very difficult time telling when a body was dead or not—decay was the only sure way to know. There are plenty of gruesome stories about this, fact and fiction: skeletal remains falling through a vault door onto grave robbers, an exhumed corpse discovered with rent clothing and broken fingernails, even a woman who was supposedly rescued by the resurrectionist come to sell her corpse. Not to give Alicia short shrift, either: she was the mistress of etiquette, legalese, titles, addressing nobility correctly. Neither I nor Roger will every get any of that right.

I’m hopeful that this is the first in a series?  What plans do you have next for Roger and Sibylla?  And how many books do you think we can look forward to?

Alicia: We definitely have ideas and a plan for a sequel, but it’ll depend on sales of the first book. We have started writing it, and it would follow Roger and Sibylla as they navigate living in a foreign country and their complicated, new dynamic. We’ve always liked the idea of a duology: The Resurrectionist and The Empress, as it were. You can never really say though.

Wendy: *mumble* I may have written Timur-trolling-Roger scenes already. So.

Are there any particular works of fiction that gave you inspiration?

Alicia: I really do enjoy and find value in most everything I read, so for Resurrectionist it was fairly broad. Whether it’s the side character in a cozy mystery that inevitably ends up stealing the show, and thus demonstrates how a little characterization can make a big impact, or that dense historical nonfiction that reminds me that whoever’s telling the story will inevitably change the story.

Wendy: I could list so many books! Let’s see, I read The Pickwick Papers a few months before we started working together, and a particular scene stuck with me. Mr. Pickwick is at a lodging house and overhears two medical students discussing their dissections, but the conversation is out of context, so it sounds like they are talking about cannibalism. I just filed that away, as one does. Around the same time, I read Titus Groan—I completely fell for the elaborate atmosphere and the evolving characterization of Steerpike.

How long have you both been writing and what has that journey been like for you both so far?

Alicia: Unsurprisingly, I’ve always enjoyed writing. However, it wasn’t until the end of high school when I really thought I wanted to pursue it, so I went to an arts school for fiction writing. Afterward, I was always working on something, but it never felt right or good enough to query. In fact, I hadn’t queried any agents before I met Wendy. Wendy drove us forward, believing that our book was good enough to enter into Pitch Wars. On my own, I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to get up the courage to submit.

Wendy: I actually hated writing as a child. I read a lot, and I would constantly compare my own efforts to the books I was reading, so of course I never measured up. But in high school I started writing fan fiction, and that turned into a historical teen novel, which turned into a historical war novel, which I worked on evenings while I was in the Air Force. Eventually I got an MFA, completely rewrote that novel as my literary thesis, tried to sell it, trunked it, and eventually fell into fantastical Victoriana alongside Alicia … It’s been a strange and convoluted journey.

Other than next books in this series what other plans do you both have either individually or jointly?

Alicia: I have two solo side projects, one is a space adventure and the other a mysterious something that I’m privately obsessed with but refuse to discuss, lest the idea fizzle before it gets a chance to find its feet.

Wendy: I’m still flailing about for my next massive research obsession. It hasn’t hit me square in the forehead yet, but I have some intriguing leads.

Finally, can you tell us a couple of things (or fun facts) about yourselves that are not already available on the internet?

Alicia: I love tap dancing. I’m not brilliant at it, but I grew up taking dance classes. I have these beautiful, soft tap shoes that are better than any I ever had as a kid and this sad makeshift particular board for when the mood to cramp roll strikes me.

Wendy: My obscure claim to fame is being (afaik) the first American woman to complete the German Luftwaffe winter survival training. It was so cold and snowy we didn’t sleep for fear of freezing. I stayed awake from Monday straight through until Thursday, by which time I was hallucinating Lovecraftian tentacled monsters (not a joke).

Alicia and Wendy, thank you so much for taking part, I absolutely loved your answers and can’t wait to read your sequel.

Further info:


Paperback, 360 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Angry Robot