Recently, I have been trying to broaden my podcasts. One of the podcasts I have started consuming is “Let’s Talk about Myths Baby.” It is a wonderful podcast that looks at classical mythology from a more feminist lens. Basically, to boil one of the throughlines of the podcasts down to its essential message… classical mythology is misogynist as hell. Quelle Suprise!
Anyway… here is what I now about the host, Liv… she is from Canada and loves mythology. This 20 Questions Tuesday is an effort to change that. So, let’s learn more about Liv, because what I know (she’s Canadian and like myths… stay with me folks, I just wrote that only two sentences ago. I’m not going to reset like a radio station every few lines or so the entire post) leads me to believe that she is awesome.
Onto the questions.
In a previous career path I made maps for a living. I came to cartography because I love the concept of story as place. So, my geographic story is one that I have mentioned almost every single interview. So I apologize to my loyal readers (I think there are about 7), but here is my geographic story. I was born outside of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I was moved to Montgomery, Alabama at the tender age of 3, and then moved up I-65 to a suburb of Birmingham called Center Point. That is where I grew up until I went off to college in Kent, Ohio at Kent State. I followed my fiance down to Columbus, Ohio where I have been since. Question 1: What is your geographic story?
I’ll admit this is the one question I read of previous interviews you’ve done, along with a quick skim of others, and I wondered if I would receive the same! I started out in a suburb of Montreal, Quebec, called Pointe Claire where I was born and lived until I was six. At six, my parents packed up my younger sister and I and we drove across Canada to one of the farthest points west, Victoria, British Columbia. That’s on Vancouver Island, for you non-Canadians, which is, confusingly enough, not where Vancouver is. The only land we can see from Victoria is Washington State, which is a pointless piece of information I always tell Americans. At 21 I moved back to Montreal to get my Bachelor’s in English Literature and Classical Civilizations from Concordia University, and from there I moved to Toronto to do Post-Grad school for book publishing. That’s what I did in Toronto for a few years, before missing the Pacific Northwest and moving back. I did a brief stint in Vancouver (a boring, expensive city--sorry Vancouverites), before settling back in my hometown. Wow, was that ever long!
I have a friend who lives on Bowen Island in the Vancouver area, so I am a little familiar with the BC landscape. I would love to move to the Pacific Northwest at some point. If nothing else I would like to visit there soon and often.
Knowing that you just got back from a trip to Greece… Question 2: do you get to travel much, where have you traveled, and where is the furthest you have gone from the Canadas?
The Canadas! That makes us sound so fancy.
I have traveled a fair bit, though not as much as I’d like. When I was in high school my mom took my sister and me around Europe: Paris, Venice, Rome, and Athens. It was amazing. I was already fascinated by the ancient world, but that just amplified it. So much so that when I was 19 I went on another holiday over there with a friend of mine, we did Rome, Paris, Venice, and Florence that time. My travels have been a bit repetitive… there’s a pattern. Once I graduated university I took a Mediterranean cruise with my mom, to Rome, Sicily, Athens, Crete, and Turkey. Visiting a small city in Crete, Chania, and the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey was just unreal. Ephesus is a world in itself, and would be the farthest I’ve been from Canada.
But the small tastes of Athens that I’d had were what drove me to visit this past month. I spent eight days there, all in Athens except for a day trip to Delphi. I just immersed myself in everything ancient they have, the Acropolis and its new museum, the archaeological museum, the Agora. I can’t get enough.
I’ve also been to Mexico and Cuba, but while all-inclusive resort vacations are fun, you don’t really get much of the culture.
I am not sure that resorts count as travel to a foreign land. I have England, Scotland, France, Germany, and Canada under my belt. Turkey seems super interesting. Especially if I could get some “behind the scenes” tours of Gobekli Tepe. That would be amazing.
So, here comes the dreaded Question 3: Cake or Pie, which specific kind and why?
Chocolate cake. Period. My mother says that “if it’s not brown, it’s not dessert”. That’s not something I strictly subscribe to (also, it’s a weird thing to say), but between cake and pie, it’s chocolate cake hands down. Because chocolate is the best, and pie is meh.
Interesting. Just straight up chocolate cake. Simple is sometimes the best. It is why I like vanilla ice cream so much.
Okay, let’s get more topical specifically for you. Question 4: What is the first classical myth you remember hearing?
Cupid and Psyche. Which is funny, since it’s quite a late myth. Late even in terms of the Romans, let alone the Greeks that preceded them. I remember learning it in elementary school, though I tried to revisit my memory and the book I could’ve sworn I read it in doesn’t reference that myth at all! So, honestly not sure where I found it, or if my awesome Grade 7 teacher taught it to me. Either way, it started it all, and is still my favourite myth.
I think the first myth I remember was Theseus and the Minotaur. Oh, those silly Cretes and their bullcrap. I find it interesting that your favorite is also your first.
So, one of your throughlines in your podcast, Let’s Talk about Myths, Baby, is that Hellenistic and Roman mythology (as well as most other mythologies… I’m looking at you Norse Mythos) are rampantly misogynistic and that women in the myths very rarely have much agency beyond being property. Question 5: Is there a myth that is really super positive to women?
Great question! Now, “super positive” is relative, because I would say no when it comes to a straight interpretation of the word “positive”, but comparatively there are myths that are better for women. There are myths where the women have agency and are powerful, though they usually result in those women killing men in their lives. Personally I find those stories righteous and entertaining, but they aren’t exactly “positive”. For instance, in the podcast I’ll soon be covering a series of stories that are collectively referred to as “The Oresteia”, primarily because they were written about by the three great remaining Greek Tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. But they are myths in themselves. Clytemnestra is the wife of Agamemnon, who did some truly awful stuff before going off to fight the Trojan War, and when he returns she is over it. She and her new lover kill him, but for it are killed by her son, Orestes.
There’s a whole lot more to it and it’s wonderful, but there’s the gist. There’s also stories of the women after the Trojan War who are powerful and righteous, but those mostly reside in Greek tragedies and so it’s less clear whether they were actually accepted myths before the tragedians took them on. Otherwise there are female characters who have good aspects, and do some good things in the myths, but outside of some amazing plays written in antiquity, there aren’t really any that are just straight positive to women.
So there is not really a myth out there that you are aware of where the woman wins and walks away unscathed? Well… sadly that sounds about right.
I don’t want to say there isn’t one at all, but, I certainly can’t think of one off hand!
Question 6: Is there another mythos that you are interested in? What is your second tier mythology?
I’m going to take that question a bit more generally than you’ve probably intended and say: Harry Potter. It’s certainly become its own mythology, and as the peak Harry Potter generation, I absolutely drank the kool-aid.
I love it when people answer questions in an unintended way. It makes the conversation so much richer. I think it would be boring had you answered with Celtic or . I think there is something to the idea of modern mythologies. Harry Potter, JRR Tolkien, Star Wars, and Comic Books are all viable modern mythologies.
Question 7: So, who is your favorite secondary character from the Harry Potterverse? And what is your favorite myth from that mythos?
Great question, because they happen to be linked! My favourite character is Remus Lupin, Harry’s third year Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher. He is, of course, a werewolf. And so, the related mythology is my favourite because, surprise surprise, it links to classical mythology. The name Remus comes from one of the two origin stories of the city/empire of Rome. Remus and Romulus were two brothers who were raised by a “she-wolf”, just a female wolf, they were raised as her pups and there is a very famous bronze statue of them together. The brothers went on to found Rome, before Romulus got greedy and killed his brother Remus.
So, Remus was raised by wolves but ultimately became a tragic figure, much like the character. Plus, the name Lupin is a derivative of the Latin for wolf. JK Rowling thought very hard about almost every character’s name and traits and I find that so brilliant, it’s my favourite part about reading and rereading those books, finding new minor details that were obviously so deeply thought out. Of course, Lupin was also just a wonderful character in the books. It’s even my cat’s ironic name.
I loved Remus Lupin. He was a very tragic and lovely character. I think my favorite secondary character is Trelawney. She is such a well fleshed out character by both being a cliche and well developed.
Fun fact about Trelawney! There’s reference to her being a descendent of Cassandra, the implication being that it was Cassandra of Troy and the Trojan War, the prophetess who could see the future but was destined to not be believed when she did. Just another instance of Rowling being an incredible storyteller.
I think I defer to the Star Wars or Comic Book mythoses. I grew up on those as a kid, I am clearly older than you.
Question 8: Are you currently reading anything that you are enjoying immensely?
I also grew up on Star Wars, I was a huge fan of the original trilogy as a kid, though I am also unfortunately of the generation that was cursed with the later trilogy, and of an age to, for a brief time, believe that The Phantom Menace was not an awful movie full of horrific racial stereotypes!
I’m currently reading Circe, by Madeline Miller, which my listeners will be THRILLED to hear. It’s a follow up to The Song of Achilles which is one of the most beautiful and moving books I’ve ever read. Still getting into Circe, but I’m really hoping I feel the same after I’ve finished it. I also have about 20 other books on the go because that’s just how I live all the time. A product of a former life and the collection of books it resulted in.
Other than the book I am working with some editors on right now (still working on it peeps!), I do not have any in my docket. Writing a book tends to be completely all consuming when you are in the thick of it. It is amazing how all your downtime is taken up by thinking about the editing and how to tell story. There is not much waking moments wherein I am not thinking about the book structure and plot holes that need to be plugged.
Question 9: Is there a take on mythology of which you would feel compelled to write a novel? If so, what story would you focus on?
Funny you should ask, because I’ve actually been in the midst of writing a novel about Greek mythology for a good decade. My recent trip to Athens was made pretty explicitly to get some inspiration to finally finish the book, and I’m hoping to soon. Of course, most of my downtime is taken up by the podcast, so finding the time to write the book is getting more and more tricky as the success of the podcast builds.
In terms of the mythology, it centres around a kind of retelling of the myth of Cadmus and Harmonia, focusing, unsurprisingly, on Harmonia as the main character. It’s not a particularly well known myth which is why I chose it. There’s a lot there to build on, without being constantly worried about messing with a myth that’s more well known and therefore more likely to be nitpicked in terms of accuracy. Also, she’s one of the rare females in Greek mythology where, by and large, nothing tragic happens to her. Her family line is another story, but her character remains unscathed.
I want to read this book. So… when it is ready, lemme know and I will get myself a copy and tell others to do so as well. I have found that most people that I have met who either studied classics or majored in English or in History have a book in them that is waiting to get out. A researched book takes so much more time and effort than the clap trap that I have thrown/am throwing together. I wish you much success.
Question 10: Fill in the blanks. I find that I am mostly _____. Others find that I am mostly _____.
What a question… I think the English/grammar nerd in me is having the most trouble with this one. Do I choose an adjective to simply insert? Do I turn it into a full sentence? A paragraph?
Let’s go with…
I find that I am mostly… holding it together.
Sometimes I feel like I’m doing this better than other times. Right now, I’m teetering on the edge. So many projects, so much work, so little time.
Others find that I am mostly… succeeding.
I say that based on what I hear most often when I catch up with people. I’m so busy these days that most of my interactions outside of work are catching up. They come so infrequently, that they always involve major catch-up for what either person has been up to. From the outside, it sounds like I’m really succeeding. Like things are working out really well.
On the inside, it feeds like that… But it also feels like this is a bubble that will burst. I’m hesitant to talk about how things are going, hesitant to point out exciting new opportunities or developments. I feel like this all can’t last. I’ve had a real tough time finding anything resembling success in past years, and suddenly it all seems like it’s coming at me at once and so, I feel, it can’t possibly last or continue on this way.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m just being hard on myself.
Anyway, I went from not being able to answer this question at all to turning it into a moment of catharsis for myself.
This question often ends up being super cathartic. Often people do not take the time out of their busy days to think about themselves and how others contemplate them. We typically focus on one or the other. It is an exercise to think about both at the same time. It invariably makes someone think about how the answers are the same, but most likely how they are different.
I would assume that you are being hard on yourself. Most people who create things are. I would imagine there is a bit of Imposter’s Syndrome creeping in on your psyche (not the Cupid/Psyche Psyche, I would not imagine your Imposter’s Syndrome would be creeping in on her) as well, but I might be projecting a bit there. I have the Imposter’s Syndrome in spades.. It seems that a podcast being successful is a difficult one to not feel like you are out of your element. Suffice it to say, you are successful enough to have some rando guy in Ohio listen to your podcast and enjoy it enough to reach out digitally to interview you. That is at least some level of success, right? right?
I might as well get the next deceptively simple, yet very deep question out of the way.. Question 11: Are you happy?
I am mostly happy. I’m happier than I was this time last year, and I’m happy in a different way than I was the year before that. The past few years have included a number of big transitions. A few years ago I left Toronto where I have the most incredible friend group, and I now live in my hometown where, coincidentally, most of my old friends no longer live because they now live in Toronto. I’m happy because of the podcast and what it’s brought me, and I like my day job, but I don’t have the social life I had in Toronto. So, happy, but different. Wishing I could combine the two lives.
I wish you to combine those 2 as well. I honestly think “mostly happy” is all we can really strive for as people. I am happy that you are mostly happy.
Question 12: What made you decide on podcasting as your creative outlet?
I’m an obsessive podcast listener and when I first moved to Vancouver a couple years ago, I didn’t know anyone and didn’t like my job. I was super bored and just listened to podcasts non-stop before finally thinking to myself, hey, I should try that!
I completely understand that. I (at one time) was listening to over 80 hrs of podcasts per week. I was in a dead end job that was wholly unfulfilling. I was depressed and living vicariously through podcasters. Their successes were my successes, and I felt their failures… I ended up going back to school to get a degree in a different career path so I could jump careers. Now I consume a measly 40 hours of podcast content per week. Cutting back on the listening was both difficult and easy.