John Tannen interviews L.M. Warren
-John Paul Richter
L.M. Warren’s “The End of the Magical Kingdom” trilogy was always devised as the strange mutant baby of internet cartoons and social media trolling. Subversify caught up with Mitchell and piqued his mind regarding his unique writing style, which is often described as “emotionally violent” and “hostile to the audience.”
Q: Many of your glowing reviews liken your writing to “trainwreck poetry”. It’s beautiful, it’s poetic and yet it’s a traumatic experience. Why?
A: I believe it’s the voice of the Now, as opposed to ten or twenty years ago. This is a new generation. Modern writing is emotive. It’s harsh. It’s more clever than soothing. Many of us in the Y-Generation used to read for education but we relaxed by watching cartoons and flame-warring on message boards. The language of script writing has always been, historically speaking, punchy and aggressive. That’s probably why people who love movies enjoy my writing. It feels like a cartoon or a live-action play, rather than a traditional novel.
Q: You cite Susan Harris and the sitcom Soap as one of your main influences. Why go for laughs when most novels are about deep introspection and high drama?
A: I think a lot of writers are so keen on following rules of serious literature, they forget the essence of human storytelling. It’s about conflict. It’s about keeping your sense of humor, even in the darkest of times. It’s holding the audience’s imagination hostage with a glimpse into another world. Maybe that world is Hell, but it’s always interesting. I really don’t think any show has ever matched Soap’s tone either, at least as far as telling a dramatic story in an exaggerated and funny way. All in the Family was realistic comedy. Soap was surreal and yet emotionally brutal. I was inspired a lot by that. The Maxx was another influence. It was tragedy written in quirky comic book speak language. Fusion literature.
Q: With your trilogy of books you do just that, fuse together “serious literature” with juvenile profanity and sarcasm. You’ve described it as social commentary that the South Park generation can appreciate. Yet, whereas cartoon shows have a “nothing sacred” collection of barbs, you insist on adding scenes of such unrelenting depression and tragedy in between sitcom-like scenes. You tell the audience it’s time to laugh, only to leave them in tears.
A: Yes, it may come from the fact that I’m a depressive. Or it could be that I simply have a great desire to write literature but in a brand new comedic voice. Some of my darkest creative influences come from the distant past. Our Town, Death of a Salesman, Animal Farm and the original Brothers Grimm. This is what’s shaping my world. And I don’t believe in going all Stephen King on you and describing the grass for 50 pages. It’s happening in real time, at least in my mind it is.
Q: Is the book for younger readers? Or does it target more sophisticated readers over the age of 40?
A: Older readers immediately catch onto the social satire. But younger readers will like it regardless of whether they understand what every allegorical character represents. We’re not giving the younger generation enough credit. Sure, there are many that don’t read. But the ones that do are eager to read something new. The millennial generation doesn’t want clichés, formulaic plots and predictable Harlequin romance. If you actually read modern fanfiction on the Internet, some of it is very bleak and bizarre stuff. This is what younger crowds enjoy. Something they’ve never seen before, something their parents have never seen before.
Q: You’ve written a War and Peace-sized trilogy of books written for short-attention span audiences of today. If the objective is to appeal to short attention spans, why make the series so long?
A: Everybody loves an ongoing story. It just takes some planning to make it accessible. If our goal as modern and influential storytellers is to build franchises, then we’re actually writing books to read for people who hate reading. The challenge is in hooking them with strong imagery, with comedy, and with easy flowing contemporary language.
Q: You made these books as ADHD-friendly as modern writing can get, with scenes of intense emotional brutality, obscene limericks posing as faux Disney-songs, over the top descriptions of sex and violence, and as many references to illegal drugs as you could fit into a PG-13 rated book.
A: Yes the mock of Disney is intentional. It’s a mask of a family friendly G-rated book, a tongue in cheek sort of thing. In actuality it’s a horrific satire of man’s violent nature. It does feel as if “you’re there”, because the prose relies on hypnotic suggestion, which I’ve also studied for quite some time. And in scenes of brutality, yes, that’s harrowing to read. But we imagine ourselves in this hypothetical world, experiencing a new life. And yes, if your imagination is vivid, sometimes that world is uncomfortable. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Q: You’re having far too much fun trolling the literary world.
A: I think we as new age authors have a responsibility to save writing, to keep the art of it alive. I have no interest in making movies. My heart is in writing and always will be. But that doesn’t mean I will deny my readers of the full cinematic experience that the movies give them. If the worst they say about my book is that it’s a series of books for people that hate reading, then I’ll take that as a compliment. If the second worst thing they can say about me is that I troll the literary world, that’s a fascinating compliment and I’ll take that too.
The End of the Magical Kingdom 1: The Evil Princess is on sale now. Read an interactive preview of all three episodes at TheMagicalKingdom.com.