Interview With an Author: C.L. Polk

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
C.L. Polk and their book Even Though I Knew the End
C.L. Polk and their latest book, Even Though I Knew the End. Author photo by Mike Tan

C.L. Polk (they/them) wrote the Hugo-nominated series The Kingston Cycle, including the WFA winning Witchmark. The Midnight Bargain was a Canada Reads, Nebula, Locus, Ignyte, and WFA finalist. They have worked as a film extra, sold vegetables on the street, and identified exotic insect species for a vast collection of lepidoptera before settling down to right fantasy novels. Polk lives in Calgary, which is on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Tsuut’ina, the Iyäxe Nakoda Nations, and the Métis Nation (Region 3). Their latest book is Even Though I Knew the End and they recently talked to Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was the inspiration for Even Though I Knew the End?

I think the story wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but I saw a photograph that was obviously modern but dressed up to reflect that era, and I started thinking about what a story like that would be, if i was the one who wrote it. and so the usual influences. Silver screen noir films, Raymond Chandler's prose, old urban fantasy novels which often grabbed resonance from hardboiled detective stories. but mixed in there too? Hellblazer comics. Supernatural. A 1995 movie called The Prophecy. old RPGs, like Mage the Ascension and In Nomine. and i put all that in the story crockpot, let it simmer, and when a question bubbled up, i'd research the answer and simmer some more.

Are Helen, Edith, Marlowe, Ted, or any of the other characters in the novella inspired by or based on specific individuals?

Marlowe is named for Christopher Marlowe, who wrote (a) Faust story as a play. Marlowe even quotes Mephistopheles. I know some people think she's named for Philip Marlowe but no, I meant Christopher.

Helen and Edith borrow a lot from movie stars of the mid 20th century. In an alternate reality, Katherine Hepburn or Rita Hayworth would have played Helen, and Carole Lombard wouldn't have died in a plane crash so she could have brought her comedic timing to play Edith. Carole Lombard would have been one of the greats, I think.) Ted? This might surprise people, but Fred MacMurray. He was in Double Indemnity! He would have understood the assignment. and Marlowe, since I've turned this into an AU fancast, would have been counter-surveillance radio technology inventor Hedy Lamarr.

How did the novella evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

Actually, this story is unique among all my work because I came up with a rigorous scene by scene outline, followed it to the letter, and didn't change that original structure even once. That never happens! But this time, it did.

Are you a fan of noir fiction or films? Do you have a favorite writer, novel or movie?

I never made noir or hard boiled detective stories a particular interest, but I found myself in this position where I appreciated the aesthetic and was disappointed in the content. so everything I like has a but. I love Chandler's prose, but the stories are sloppy and the women are—well, you know. and that meant that I could get in there with all the moody lighting and the cool slang and then indulge *myself,* with women in charge of the story and a protagonist driven by her love instead of a tired and unshaven cynic trying to cup a tiny flame of hope in his callused hands, and all that. But hat tip to John Constantine, just because he was damn clever to swim in a pond with those big big fish and their big big teeth.

While Even Though I Knew the End is an enjoyable and self-contained story, at the end of the novella, Helen seems to be entering a new chapter in her life. Will readers be able to follow her on her journey? Is Even Though I Knew the End the beginning of a new series?

I only had the one story. I think sometimes about what it's like for them now that their story is done. I think about their house in San Francisco. I think about Helen's job as an insurance investigator. I think about how Edith can slug a ball out past the fence in one of the Lipstick league's afternoon games. I think about Ted, who is supposed to be laying low as a librarian, and about how everything from here on out is going to be normal.


What’s currently on your nightstand?

We are reading the stories in Tevinter Nights, an anthology of Dragon Age stories. I love Dragon Age; please don't let me get started on how much. That's the nightstand book. In my pocket, I'm listening to Against The Grain: A History of the Earliest States by James C. Scott. I listen to non fiction audiobooks, and I really wish more of the kind of nonfiction I want was available to me in audio. I really want to learn about Sir Francis Walsingham, but Her Majesty's Spymaster isn't available on audio here.

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional artforms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

I went to Nightrise atop Sulfur Mountain a few weeks ago. It's a series of four light installations about winter created by the Stoney Nakoda. It was incredibly cold but it was beautiful.

What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?

Um, relating to my life as a writer? This is really hard, I don't think I've ever said, "why doesn't anyone ask me about this specific thing?" and when I'm asked this question, it always freezes me because I have no idea.

What are you working on now?

I'm writing an epic fantasy about being able to use magical energy as a technology, and the hijinks that ensue. That's a bit vague and a bit flippant but i'm feeling pretty secretive about this one. I feel like I need to play it close to my chest.

Book cover for Even Though I Knew the End
Even Though I Knew the End
Polk, C. L.