The Big Idea: Scott James Taylor & Sarah Thérèse Pelletier

Some of the best stories are retellings of old ones. If something has been done before, that doesn’t mean you can’t also do it, you just have to put your own spin on it. This is exactly what authors Sarah Thérèse Pelletier and Scott James Taylor set out to do when writing Ladyhoppers. Explore their Big Idea with them as they tell you of their fresh take on multiverses in their new collaborative novel.


Multiverses are pretty hot right now, huh?

We swear, that’s not why Ladyhoppers is a multiverse story. It was, maybe, inevitable, given that the initial idea for Ladyhoppers, in a series of emails some seven years ago, sprang out of a shared love for the comic book style multiverse: the fun of getting to build our characters and then meet different versions of them, our own personal What If? Now that the movies based on those comic books have started making “multiverse” a household word, it maybe looks like trend-following.

Which can feel a little concerning.

But it also plays right into the Big Idea of Ladyhoppers

So forget concerning. It’s kismet. 

Multiverses, after all, are about variation. They’re self-reflexive stories that change and compare and contrast within themselves, and that’s explicitly what we set out to do with the book. 

Or that’s where it ended up, at least. In all fairness it started out with that idea: “let’s riff on the genres we like.” A multiverse story lets you put a bunch of genres all in one book, along with a built-in framework of an outside observer to comment on said genres, which is great if you’re not doing the lazy version of metacommentary, where a character just says, “This is how your world works? Weird, lol.” 

Like a parody—Ladyhoppers isn’t a parody, but it’s not not a parody—you have to come from a place of love. But you also have to do more than press the recognition switch in people’s brains. Every genre the protagonists visit is one we’re into; the trick is shining a light onto it. What can that specific genre do for the story? How can it explore or deepen the theme? Which then begs that old English class staple: what is the theme?

Initially, the theme of Ladyhoppers was that the people who aren’t written into history (or, in our case, story) are as important as those who are.

(There’s that old, misinterpreted saying: “well behaved women seldom make history.” People bring it up to say, “misbehave,” when it was originally about the fact that even though well-behaved women make plenty of extremely valuable and vital contributions, people don’t put them in the history books because there’s less story there.)

(Please note that we are not saying do not misbehave. Ladyhoppers is about both, and probably mostly the latter, honestly.)

That initial theme is still in the DNA of our protagonist Charlie’s story, but as we wrote and rewrote, something broader developed. Telling new versions of old stories is how stories live. There are no new ideas under the sun, but personal context, how an idea lives in your head, can make even the oldest, most worn ideas worth re-exploring. 

But how to decide which contexts to explore first? Putting a bunch of ideas down is easy. Working out structure is harder, particularly when creating a multiverse that’s not adapting preexisting billion-dollar IP and was conceived in a pre-Everything Everywhere All At Once world. No one’s heard of Charlie Chase or Vera Baum yet, and the problem becomes how to make a reader care about variations of characters and worlds they don’t know. Which is why the story starts in a world that’s not unlike our own, albeit in an eighties throwback kind of way, before we toss the characters into an apocalyptic wasteland to establish the stakes. Next comes a fantasy universe to drive home how strange and outside of the characters’ understanding of what the world is and how it works they are. And then… well, the rest would be telling. The genres we ended up with pull double-duty, working as vehicles for both theme and plot.

Speaking of plot, an unexpected issue of writing a 300-plus-page genre-hopping multiverse novel is that it doesn’t have the benefit of being episodic television. In early drafts, there was a swathe of the book where they just moved from universe to universe because that was the thing that was happening. The villain shows up fairly late. Figuring out how to keep the pressure up while still having time to play with and investigate the genres was challenging. Sometimes solving one problem introduced another: to establish one of the foes as a persistent threat, it needed to follow them into another universe, so a whole chapter and a Fast and the Furious pastiche got added in which to do that. As a result, that chapter has less room to investigate itself. It’s a fun chapter! It works for the story! But you can’t help but think about how to edit yourself, even as you’re writing a blog post about the book set to go live around its publication day.

(Maybe the fact that the Fast and the Furious inspired universe is the one that does not reflect on itself is itself a reflection on the Fast and the Furious? Let’s say that.)

But what we didn’t remove is as important as what we added. In the fantasy universe, there’s what could have been a classic Kill Your Darlings moment: we meet a girl who has magically turned her friend into a horse. The scene doesn’t actually connect to the broader plot. It could come out, and the characters would still learn everything they need to learn and grow in the ways they need to grow. But it’s there to establish that these stories and worlds exist beyond our heroes. It’s great that it never ended up on the chopping block despite being flagged for it as early as the first draft.

Because that’s the Big Idea of Ladyhoppers. Every version of a story should get its chance to be told; telling new versions of stories is how stories not only survive but grow, adapt. You don’t kill the old ones, but you don’t kill the new ones, either, the ones with new protagonists or modern takes, or that take new protagonists and put them in older contexts, or vice versa. 

Multiverses are hot right now because everyone loves a new version of an old thing. Sometimes that’s bad, especially when the new version is mandated to be exactly like the old thing, in which case… why do it at all? But hopefully this one’s good. We like it.

Ladyhoppers: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Sarah’s socials: Twitter|Instagram

Scott’s socials: Twitter|Instagram

1 Comments on “The Big Idea: Scott James Taylor & Sarah Thérèse Pelletier”

  1. Oh, my goodness, this sounds like so much fun! As somebody who has been writing fiction about the multiverse for over 15 years (and is currently editing an anthology of multiverse stories), I can tell you that it is an endless well of possibilities. I look forward to reading Ladyhoppers.

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