Exiled for a murder her father committed, Brigid Cleary has until midsummer to gather what she needs for readmission to her home in the fair...

Author Spotlight || Mathilda Zeller, Author of The Revenge of Bridget Cleary

Exiled for a murder her father committed, Brigid Cleary has until midsummer to gather what she needs for readmission to her home in the fairy mound: a chest of stolen gold and a chest full of her father’s blood. With nothing but her own wits and an ability to be mostly unseen, she takes a position as a scullery maid in a country manor house, where stealing gold is easy as dusting the candlesticks.

When discovery of her thieving becomes likely, she scarpers, embarking on a madcap season in London. With midsummer fast approaching, Brigid must recoup her stolen gold in any way she can, even if it means modeling for a lecherous pre Raphaelite artist, posing as a young debutante to spy on other debutantes, and forming a clandestine Pugilism Club for Young Ladies.

With gold filling her pockets and her father newly released from prison, the path back to the fairies should be clear. Or would be, were it not for her growing feelings for Edmund, the gentle young lord who hired her to spy on his sister; her burgeoning sense of loyalty and friendship to Adelaide, the sister upon whom she was meant to spy; and the unsettling question of whether she should--or even could--bloodily avenge her mother’s death.

Inspired by the actual 1895 murder of Bridget Cleary by her husband Michael, the struggle for Irish Home Rule, and events surrounding the late pre Raphaelite artistic movement, The Revenge of Bridget Cleary has been heralded by author Joanna Ruth Meyer as "equal parts haunting, compelling, and thoughtful."

What attracted you to the genre(s) you write in?

I love fantasy and horror because they allow you to explore the meaningful by way of the impossible. 

What part of writing do you consider a chore?

It really depends on my mood. Sometimes I like editing better, sometimes I like drafting better, and sometimes they're both a total slog. Getting shiny new ideas and throwing them all onto paper, however, is always fun.

Did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Yes. I learned so much about editing and different ways of looking at narrative. I'm really grateful to my writing friends and beta readers for making this story so much better. 

What's your favorite "bad review" that you've gotten?  

*knock on wood* I haven't gotten one yet! I've only had one three star review, and I couldn't even call that bad, as it was thoughtful and generous, and the reviewer also went on to recommend my book to forums on reddit that he thought would enjoy it more than him!

I'm still waiting for a truly scathing review. I feel like it is a rite of passage for authors. 

What comes first for you - the plot or the characters?

It really depends on the story. For The Revenge of Bridget Cleary, it was the plot. For the book I'm currently writing, it was the characters. For a book I'm hoping to write in the near future, it was actually the world building. 

Do you have any writing superstitions?

I don't know if it's so much a superstition as it is Pavlovian training, but I have the hardest time writing if I am anticipating getting interrupted by my children. I like to write a coffee shops while they're at school, or evenings in the library while husband is with them at home, because when I'm with them, even if they promise to give me 20 minutes, I'm constantly anticipating interruptions.

Is there a word you find yourself using too often when writing?

Modifiers. All the modifiers. 

A lot of authors have a soundtrack while writing. Are there any songs you had on repeat? 

For The Revenge of Bridget Cleary, I really got into "Tell Me Ma," especially the cover by Gaelic Storm.

Do you have a favorite line that you've written? What is it and why do you like it?

"I love this. I love it all. The messiness, the uncertainty, the failure and the hunger. When you can live forever, time matters less. Triumph and failure all runs together like sunrises and sunsets—there are an endless supply of them. It doesn't work that way in the mortal world. You've only got so much time, and the press of what to do with that time. And then you die." 

Mortality is hard, and it's simultaneously comforting and terrifying that it's so temporary. 

What is something about the genre that annoys you?

In historical fiction, or historical fantasy, the assumption that "historical" must equate to "women in supporting roles only." Women have been shaping the course of history since the beginning of time, and I think it's important that we start challenging that assumption, centering their stories, and highlighting their remarkable achievements.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Please stop revising that one book over and over. Write new books, try new things. You can always come back to that project.

What advice would you like to pass on to aspiring writers that is unconventional but true?

When you hear people talking about writing "rules" or writing advice, stick to the pirates' code. They're all just suggestions. One of your jobs as a writer is to weigh, measure, and experiment with other writer's input and figure out your own process. What helps you be more productive, what helps you love the process? Just because it works for Stephen King doesn't mean it's for everyone.

Do you have a WIP? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I do! I am nearly done drafting The Bee King, a 1920's Gothic Horror about a girl who accepts a marriage proposal from a mysterious beekeeper/ honey baron to save her family. 

Of course, things are not what they seem, and the strange Beekeeper's plans for her are not what she was expecting.

Which of your characters was your favorite to write and why?

I like to write duos that are foils to each other--the serious and careful character thrown in with the chaotic, disorganized anarchist. 

Characters are the most fun when they play off each other.

Would you and your main character get along?


Killing off characters your readers love - Risky or necessary?


Did any of your characters surprise you while you were writing?

Yes. All the time.

You've watched a movie 50 times and you still aren't tired of it. What movie is it?

Knives Out

Which animal (real or fictional) would you say is your spirit animal and why?

Platypus. Nonsensical, harder to categorize, but totally here and  living my best life. 

Would you rather live in a haunted mansion or a cottage surrounded by fairytale creatures?

Cottage. I love mansions but don't want the upkeep.

What would you say is your weirdest writing quirk?

I mutter dialogue when I'm planning it. 

Using only emojis, sum up your book.


You've just gone Trick or Treating. 

What do you hope is in your bag? 

What do you pawn off on your kids/SO/random stranger?

I want: Almond Joys I pawn off: Jolly Ranchers

What is in your internet search history (researching for your book) that you would want someone to wipe if you were under suspicion from the police?

How much blood do you have to lose before dying?

You wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare. What was it?

I'm back in contact with some people that, in real life, I've gone no contact with. If ever there was a sign that no contact is good, maybe it's that one!

What cliched tattoo would your main character have?

Her mother's name on her arm.

What movie completely scarred you as a child?

Silence of the Lambs. I saw it when I was 12, and it was...a lot

What's the strangest thing a fan (or other author)  has said to you?

Someone on Goodreads called The Revenge of Bridget Cleary a masterpiece. I mean, I worked very hard on that book and I am proud of it, but that one still definitely took me by surprise!

If animals could talk, which one would be the rudest?


Your main character is at the hardware store. What do they buy?

A shovel.

Which of the Golden Girls is your personality most like?

I've actually never seen the show!

If you were bitten and changed, would you want it to be by a vampire or a werewolf?


You're riding through the desert on a horse with no name. What are you going to call it?

Fletcher. He's a chubby palomino and I love him.

What are your SM links? Can we follow you and pretend we're besties? 


Mathilda Zeller has inhabited 2 continents, 3 countries, 11 of the United States, and 18 towns. Don't ask her where she's from; it's complicated.

She endeavors to make you lose sleep with fantasy and horror stories and currently makes her home in the Midwest with her husband, six children, and two cats.