Season Two Q&A - Part One
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Monstrous Agonies Season 2 Q&A Part One Transcript
[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It fades out as Hero starts speaking.]
Hero: Hello, friends and welcome to the Season Two Q&A. I'm Hero, the creator of Monstrous Agonies, and I'll be answering your questions with Sophie B., the voice of the Understudy. Once again, we were recording in less than perfect conditions, so please interpret this sound quality generously.
Before we get started, unfortunately we had a bit of a run-in with the gods of podcasting while making this episode, who, in their infinite and unknowable wisdom, saw fit to take the first few minutes of the recording in sacrifice to their awesome powers.
As a result, we're missing a handful of questions which I'll answer here. However, I have just moved house and my recording space isn't set up properly yet, so my apologies again for the sound quality.
First we had a question from Naomi, the writer of The Secret of St Kilda – excellent podcast, 10/10, do recommend. Naomi said, “My pronouns are she/her and my question is first of all how dare you?” The answer is, with gumption and pizazz.
Next was a question from Matty OK Smith, creator of Neighbourly – excellent podcast, 10/10, do recommend. He asked, “What's the editing process for MA like?” In a word, slapdash. [laughs]
I used to do multiple passes for different things – one to put everything in the right place and choose between different reads I'd done, one to go through and edit out mouth noises and things, another to clean up timings and make sure the jokes were all landing properly.
But I found that doing that made me absolutely sick to death of [laughing] listening to myself over and over and over. Nowadays I just sort of slap on my EQs and noise reduction things, then put on some music in the background and work through just the once, but at a pretty close level, so that by the end of that one pass it's almost ready to go.
That's usually done on Wednesday night, and then on Thursday I'll do another quick pass to tidy it up, add the music and the static, double check the transcript, and get it posted for as close to 4PM as I can manage. If that sounds rather unprofessional and lackadaisical, I don't know what to tell you – I'm a writer, not a sound engineer!
The final question we lost was from Radical Reliable Randomness who asked, “What was the difference between working on episodes that were just you versus ones with other voices?” Uh, the ones with other people got written much further in advance for one thing!
While I'm happy to be writing a script for myself the morning of the day I'm supposed to be recording – and that's usually the day before the episode goes out – uh, I try and get the parts for other people done much, much sooner.
I also had to sort of trial and error my way through editing other people's voices, which isn't something I'm very comfortable with but hopefully it sounded alright? [laughs] Otherwise it was just a matter of allowing enough time to get the extra editing work done, not least because most of the episodes with other voices are also the episodes with the most sound effects – and we all know how I feel about those.
Now, let's get back to me and Sophie, doing what we do best – farting about.
Sophie: So a quick one here. Ella wants to know, “How long did it take Hero to do the woodchuck tongue twister segment?”
Hero: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? One.
Sophie: One take.
Hero: One take.
Sophie: One take. Next, we have a question from Salem, and Salem asks, “Hello. I absolutely adore the format of the show and I was wonder--”
Hero: Thank you, Salem.
Sophie: Yeah, thanks, Salem. Yeah, just interrupt me.
Sophie: Interrupting Salem. Salem doesn't deserve that. "How do you write the answers for the questions the Narrator reads? Some of them cover really heavy topics or get very specific about genus details. Do you do research for answers or go off previous knowledge and experience?" And this question actually ties into another question asked by LeeshaJoy and she says, "Are there any real world advice columns that you feel informed the kind of advice The Presenter gives?"
Hero: Okay, so I do do research because I am quite stupid--
Hero: --and I don't know a lot of things.
Sophie: That's not true.
Sophie: You know lots of things, but lots of very specific things--
Hero: Very specific things. No, so I do do research and especially for the heavy ones because, you know, when we have the cat dad who's just straight up in an abusive relationship. I don't want to come out and say a really stupid heinous thing.
Hero: So I'll go and look at domestic violence websites and see what they say. When the problems are the closest to real world problems--
Hero: They--it's a matter of responsibility, I think, because the--I don't think you necessarily need to have always the right answer when you're doing like, really very fictional fiction.
Sophie: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like, you know, my fluffy werewolf boyfriend keeps eating my slippers.
Hero: Yes, exactly. Having said that, I think for the werewolf boyfriend one, it wasn't—There were two himbo boyfriends who are werewolves. One was eating the slippers, and the other wouldn't do any cleaning because the cleaning chemicals made his nose hurt--
Hero: --and he was scared of the Hoover.
Hero: I think they're both scared of the Hoover.
Hero: Because I'm quite scared of the Hoover. [laughs]
Sophie: Which is very convenient for you because it means you never have to do it.
Hero: I don't like it. It's too noisy and it makes funny smells.
Sophie: [sympathetically] Uh huh.
Hero: But I did actually like, research like, neutral smelling cleaning products.
Hero: Didn't name any of them in the thing, but just to kind of--for me, research is--it's kind of like, like I need to have a bit of structure and a bit of framework in my head before I can find my way to the answer, and so the um, the letter from a person who's from a genus that doesn't have eyes I think, or possibly is--they don't have functioning eyes or something like that. So I ended up researching a lot of like, blind creatures and cave animals and things like that. And it's not actually going to come up, but it's helpful for me to know the space that I'm kind of working in. And I spend a lot of time on Citizens Advice. [laughs]
Sophie: [laughs] Which everyone should do.
Hero: Yeah. Look, I mean, no harm to the Americans but how do you live without Citizens Advice? Um, and then for LeeshaJoy's question. There aren't like--weirdly, I do all this research, there aren't--I don't really look at agony aunts? Because they're really depressing. They're really depressing because they're all either--almost all of the ones that I see--you just read them, and you're like, "Are the straights okay?"
Hero: Because it's always like, "My boyfriend actively and openly hates me and makes my life really difficult. How do I come to terms with this and stay with him for as long as possible?" [laughs] Or like, "I don't want to do this sex thing, but my boyfriend does," and then the answer is like, "Well, I guess you just suck it up." [laughs]
Hero: It's like--it's like, they're really horrible. But I did--my mum cut out and posted to me a huge pile of the agony aunt section of the Spectator magazine?
Sophie: Of course she did.
Hero: Which was extremely cute.
Sophie: Of course she did.
Hero: And I do--like, the sexy woodcuts letter--
Hero: --was directly inspired by, there was a couple who was like, "We took some very naughty photos of each other back in the 70s and my wife looks extremely sexy in them. I don't want to throw them out--"
Hero: "But I don't want my children to see them." So yeah, it's hard finding agony aunt columns that aren't...
Sophie: Just mortifying.
Hero: Eye-wateringly awful. [laughs]
Sophie: Yes. Yeah. No. That can be a challenge.
Hero: It can be a challenge.
Sophie: Um, so leading off from that in terms of research that you do or what framework you give yourself for the answers that you write, Jan Caltrop asks "What type of words did you think would be used as slurs in the Monstrous Agonies universe, and what type of words did you think would just be normal accepted every day terms?"
Hero: Yeah, yeah.
Sophie: Um, and it's--they've sort of said they can see why you want that distinction within monstrous terms, but sort of, is there a process behind that--what makes you think, this will be a slur for a monster whereas this is something that they'll happily just say every day.
Hero: Right. This is one of the questions--I was joking earlier this week that people have sent in really, really, really interesting questions with really boring answers.
Hero: 'Cause this is one where it's like, "Wow, that's a really--oh, yeah, you'd want to get your teeth into that, wouldn't you?"
Hero: "Wouldn't it be really disappointing if the answer was 'vibes.'"
Sophie: You just feel it out.
Hero: You just kind of--it's--that's it. It's just vibes. I think there--like, I did have a worry at the very start of the show that people weren't going to get that a lot of the tongue-in-cheek, you know, like [affects radio announcer voice] "Life insurance for the vitally challenged!" [regular voice] Like that people wouldn't get that that was coming from somebody who actually does care about using the right language and is taking the [bleep] from inside the house.
Sophie: Yes, exactly. It's sort of taking the [bleep] of the corporate version of that sort of--
Hero: Yes. Yeah, yeah.
Sophie: Yeah. But yeah. Because I remember quite early on, um, it was the one where it was talking about the sort of, ironically, sort of the hierarchy at Apocacorp, and the person who was worried about working there, and um, it was talking about sapio-centric working practices--
Sophie: And you were really struggling with kind of thinking about "Well, hang on a second, is this what I mean, and is this terminology right?"
Sophie: And eventually you kind of had to say, "I'm just going to write it. I've just got to do it." And that's the vibe.
Hero: I've just got to make it up.
Hero: Yeahhh. Yeah, 'cause like, I mean when you start picking apart some of the language, like. Do you--we talk about genus. Genus is the accepted term that we use. We don't talk about people being a different species, but like, is a vampire actually a different genus than a human being or what? Is a witch another genus? Like, that doesn't really work, does it? Like somatically unstable... you know, that's--most of the long ones are ones that I find funny.
Hero: Like the idea of saying, like, you know, "for the differently vital" is like, really funny to me. [laughs]
Sophie: Yes. And especially if you can make the phrasing so complex, and just like jarring in the mouth, that makes it funny--
Sophie: Which is the way that certain terminology we now have can happen like this.
Sophie: And even though you can respect it entirely, you can still think, isn't this a funny thing to say?
Hero: It's a funny thing to go all around the house, is to try and say something that there is actually a perfectly good word for.
Sophie: Like, or like when the acronym was QUILTBAG for a bit.
Sophie: Which is inherently funny because--
Hero: It's very funny sound--
Sophie: It's--it's the word QUILTBAG.
Sophie: And all of that is deserved to be there... but it's QUILTBAG.
Hero: Exactly. So yeah, I'm sorry that that's not--that there isn't a more interesting or thoughtful answer, but it really is just--
Hero: Just vibes. And in terms of what becomes slurs, I think it's just because like... I mean say like the word "monster," I think it's really cool that like, some people will call themselves monsters like one hundred percent, but it's like, it's clearly a reclaimed slur.
Hero: It's--it's clearly something that some people really shy away from. Some people embrace it. Some people, you know, you kind of gotta be a bit careful with it, and I don't know what that could be a metaphor for.
Sophie: [laughs] What could it possibly be?
Hero: What does it mean?
Sophie: We'll never know.
Hero: What does it all mean?!
Sophie: It's not like we're talking to the person in charge.
Hero: It's a mystery.
Sophie: Anonymous, as well as Art--
Hero: I love how you say that like anonymous is their name.
Sophie: It might be. You don't know.
Sophie: They could be choosing to go by Anonymous.
Hero: ... Okay.
Sophie: Anonymous and Art--
Sophie: --both ask, "What was the best part of making Season Two, and also what was the hardest part of making Season Two?"
Hero: Hmm. Well, okay, so hardest--there were two... two kinds of difficult. So there was a while where I was super sad and actually just not very well.
Hero: And uh, that was sort of late last year. And then--
Sophie: Yes, when we all sort of kept saying, "Why don't you take a little break from--"
Sophie: "--doing the podcast that you do for fun and that everybody's--"
Hero: Yeah, yeah, that everybody's extraordinarily supportive of me taking time when I need it--
Sophie: Yeah, and you were like, [dramatic voice] "I can't do THAT!"
Sophie: [continuing dramatic voice] "My entire world will shatter to pieces!"
Hero: Yeah, so there was that, and that was a little difficult. Uh, the end of Season Two managed to coincide with the most stressful house-hunting I have ever experienced. Which is like, it's too stressful and complicated to even go into now. Like, it was so much, there were so many things, and it was just... doing all of that while trying to do the Season Two finale was like. [deep groan] Um, so there was that kind of difficult where it was just--totally just external pressures just making it just really hard.
Hero: Um, but there was also like... hey, there's so many voices in this season. Like.
Sophie: Yeah, you love getting to edit lots of voices together, don't you?
Hero: [laughs] Yeah. Um, so weirdly actually the call-in was kind of fine because only Mab is also in the studio.
Sophie: Yeah, it's fine--yeah, the call-in episode which was amazing and featured so many different talents--
Hero: So many talents.
Sophie: --and was very well coordinated, well done Hero.
Hero: Oh, thank you!
Sophie: The crossover event of the century, one might say.
Sophie: Yeah, it was easy enough for you because that was a call-in so if the audio was a bit distorted or different, that's what happens on call-ins on radio shows.
Sophie: But you now have two characters who are quite often in the same place at the same time--
Sophie: --when their voice actors never are.
Hero: Aren't. Never are.
Hero: Yeah, so that's--that's quite difficult. I've had quite a big learning curve just in--in purely editing audio. You know, I think the sound quality is much better this season than it was last season. Um, like if I listen back to like Episode One--Episode One, also, really annoyed about this is, is worse than Two?
Hero: So it's like, [loud, excited voice] "Hello! Welcome to my podcast!"
Hero: [continuing voice] "It sounds like garbage!"
Sophie: Here's the thing though - I do think it is a sort of podcasting rite of passage--
Sophie: --that the first episode, or maybe the first block of episodes--
Sophie: --you then have to tell people, "Please, just--"
Hero: Just trust me it gets better.
Sophie: "Just trust me it gets better. Forgive this." Or, quite a lot of podcasts are like, "Just skip entirely. Just get to this bit--"
Hero: [sighing] Yeah.
Sophie: "--don't worry about the start."
Hero: Yeah. I mean, I think it's--it's so common and so normal that I think most podcast listeners expect it as well.
Sophie: Yeah. And you've got time on your side because yours is a much shorter podcast than most other podcasts.
Hero: Yes, it doesn't take long to get to the better sounding part.
Sophie: Yes, exactly.
Hero: But yes, so, so in terms of difficult, it was definitely just the learning curve of somebody who is actually fundamentally first and foremost a writer suddenly, you know, through no control of their own... Who makes these decisions? Honestly.
Sophie: I have no idea.
Hero: Suddenly I had to deal with other people's voices and sound effects. So many sound effects. Um, and all that kind of stuff. That was like fun difficult. That was like a good crossword--
Sophie: Yeah, I would almost say that that was kind of like, a combo of like, the best bit and the worst bit.
Sophie: The best bit is having so many cool people--
Sophie: --who want - and obviously the podcast community is wonderful--
Sophie: --and you say to someone, [high voice] "Would you like to do this thing with me?" They're like, "Yes! Absolutely, let's go!"
Sophie: So kind of like that community aspect of it is both great and difficult because then you have to do your least favourite thing which is, editing the sound of the podcast that you chose to make.
Hero: Yes. Thanks for that.
Hero: But yeah, yeah, like, I mean. Yes. 'Cause there was--one of those questions was which is the best bit, and absolutely it is hearing other people like, playing the things that either I wrote or actually a lot of people wrote their own letters for the call-in episode--
Sophie: Episode Fifty Seven, yeah.
Hero: Yeah, so they had written it themselves, um, but obviously I had read it and done a couple of tweaks where like, the language didn't quite match up with the world-building and that kind of stuff. So I knew what they were going to say, but then actually hearing them perform it was amazing, and it's absolutely wild. And because I had had a bit of that with you last season doing the Understudy, but you ad-libbed so much of that.
Sophie: [laughs] Yeah, I'm not very good at just straight up reading the script, and once I get into it, I'm like, well this character would [lilting] pom-pom-pom-pom-pom-pom-pom-pom, you know, do little bits.
Hero: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Which is dope, like, absolutely no... no criticism for that at all.
Hero: But it did mean that it was a different experience when I get um--so Liz, who plays Mab, usually does about three reads of each line, and they're all a bit different?
Hero: Um, and that's wild, and I'm like, you're a real actor! [laughs]
Sophie: [laughs] Yes, this is the secret as well. You've encountered proper professionals who do this for a living now.
Hero: Yeah, yeah.
Sophie: Whereas um, yeah. Not that you aren't a proper professional, of course. You are.
Hero: I am a proper profesh--profesh-- [stumbles over word repeatedly]
Hero: [silly voice] I'm not a proper professional!
Sophie: [mimics silly voice] I'm not a proper professional!
Sophie: There we go, proving the point. So lots of things to love.
Hero: Lots of things to love, and the things that are absolutely the most difficult are actually nothing to do with podcasts, it's just to do with having a life and dealing with that and existing on the mortal plane.
Sophie: Well yes, because one of the other questions you did get from Anonymous, and I'm now choosing to believe this is a being--
Sophie: --known as Anonymous--
Hero: Mm. All hail.
Sophie: And Anonymous - all hail Anonymous, who asked, "How do you find balance between Monstrous Agonies and the rest of your life?" And I'm going to answer this one for you--
Sophie: --which is that quite often you don't.
Sophie: Um, and you get very in your head about needing to do the podcast, and that's because you also like to have structure and you like knowing that on this day, this thing happens. On this day I do this, and on this day I do this. It does mean that sometimes when you're not very well--
Sophie: --and you need to take care of yourself, you have a lot of people who love you--
Sophie: --telling you, for the love of God, take a break.
Hero: And do you know what's really, really extra stupid about that?
Sophie: Is that that's the advice you would give someone on this podcast?
Hero: Well, that's quite stupid, but it's not the one I was thinking of.
Hero: The other incredibly stupid thing about that is that every single listener is completely fine with it. Nobody--
Sophie: Yeah, no one's going to turn around and go "Um, Hero? Where was my episode?"
Hero: No! Every single time that I've had to cancel an episode or move an episode or it's just all gone a bit wrong, everybody has been like "Oh my God, rest up! I hope you're okay!" Like, "Oh, no worries! See when you're better!"
Hero: Like, of course they are. Because they're listening to a podcast which, as you say, is overwhelmingly like--
Sophie: "Please take a break, and take a break and--" [simultaneously]
Hero: [simultaneously] "You need to look after yourself."
Sophie: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Hero: And I just, I get--you're right, I get in my head, and I get fried. And I think--Yeah, ugh, I'll do better next season. Next season we're going to have one episode a month. [laughs] We're not.
Hero: We're not, because I need structure, and I need enough structure, and I also need the time pressure element--
Hero: --in order to get it done, but it does...
Sophie: Yeah. And don't worry, dear listeners. Uh, we who are physically present in Hero's life will make sure they take care of themselves.
Sophie: At least until the end of Season Three, and then all bets are off.
Sophie: [laughs] Okay, so Elena asks, "How do you stay motivated to keep writing when you hit that wall of writer's block” or if you ever get worried the writing isn't very good?
Hero: Hmm. I wouldn't say that I get worried that the writing isn't very good. 'Cause I--I don't know how to say it without sounding like a dick.
Sophie: I will say it. Hero's a very good writer. Even on a bad day, Hero's a very good writer. So even at their baseline worse--I mean, okay, so. For instance - you've already talked about this on the Twitter, so I don't mind talking about this--
Hero: Oh, Christ. [laughs]
Sophie: The, um, the episode with the CEO in--
Sophie: --for this season.
Hero: It was so bad!
Sophie: Hero wrote first pass at it, and then sent it to me because I do editing um, and not to toot my own horn, but I'm very, very--
Hero: Very, very good at it.
Sophie: Very good at editing. Um, Hero sent me their first pass at the CEO episode and said, "I don't think this is very good." And normally when Hero says this to me, it's because they're having a mini crisis of confidence. I read the thing, and I go, "It's very good. [bleep] you--" Oh, are we swearing on this one? Did we swear in the Q&A last time?
Hero: I think I bleeped it out if we did.
Sophie: Okay. Just imagine what I said there. But yeah, I said, "It's very, very good." Uh, and in the past, that's how it had gone down.
Sophie: Um, but you--
Hero: Or there's--I think the thing is that usually if I'm worried something is not good, I'm worried about something very specific. I'm like, "I think I've talked too much about historical underwear in this."
Sophie: Yeah, or there's too many horse mentions. And--
Hero: I'm never worried about too many horses.
Sophie: But you should because there are often too many horses. However, uh, with the CEO episode...
Hero: It was bad!
Sophie: Hero sent it to me, and I read it through, and I think I just sent them a message going, "Oh, babe. Yeah, this is actually quite bad?"
Hero: Yeah, you were like, "Oh, honey, this is not good." [laughs]
Sophie: Yeah. Um, but don't worry! Because then you have me here, so I went back through and--the thing is like, I didn't really change what you'd--
Sophie: There's the scene--
Hero: You rewrote it!
Sophie: [laughs] Well, yes.
Hero: You rewrote it entirely. You have a writing credit on that--
Sophie: Yeah, that is true.
Hero: On that episode.
Sophie: But the framework of the scene was still there, and that's--in all of writing Monstrous Agonies, that is the one time where you've had to actually say, "This bit's bad."
Hero: Yes. Because there are definitely letters that I've gone, "Ah, balls." It's just, it's not great. There are ones that are not my favourites that I've just... I thought they were going to be funny, and they weren't that funny. Or I thought they were going to be, you know. Or actually I didn't give myself enough room for a good, you know, root around in the subject and now it's a bit flat or something. But I don't really worry about it because, I mean I'm functionally writing two short stories a week. I don't... get very precious about it.
Sophie: Yeah, they're not all going to be corkers, are they?
Hero: They're not all going to be corkers. And some of them are, and some of them are going to really surprise me with other people's reaction. Like there are definitely some that I've put out--
Sophie: Yeah, there are some that you've sort of gone, "Eh, this was fine." And then people are like, [reverent voice] "This... moved me to my cooore."
Hero: The one-- [laughs] So like the one that I really wasn't expecting, which is going to sound really stupid, was the one where the person who's like, lost in the forest, and they've forgotten who they are, and they're just like, "Ah, I really like listening to the radio though, thanks." And everyone was like, "I'm sobbing," and I was like really?
Sophie: [laughs] [silly voice] "I thought I was just a bit silly!
Hero: [silly voice] “I thought I was just, ooh--"
Sophie: There's just no accounting, you know. People are gonna connect to things that they connect to, and that's the thing, you know, I think for um, someone who also writes like. Sometimes you just have to do it and write, and you know. I know that you and I both have similar feelings about the idea of writer's block.
Hero: Yeah, I don't find "writer's block" a helpful way to talk about things because I think writer's block is... You know, it's like saying, "Ooh, do you ever experience weather?"
Hero: "Oh, what should I wear in weather? What should I do about writer's block?" And it's like, well look, I mean sometimes I get blocked because I'm exhausted, and I need to just go and have a bath and go to bed.
Hero: And sometimes I get blocked because I've started the story in the wrong place or because I haven't done enough research or because I've not got enough, you know, stuff in my head. I need to go and read a really tricky literary novel instead of just, you know, pulpy fanfic nonsense.
Hero: And I need to get some like, roughage in my brain diet.
Hero: And that kind of thing. Um, and so I don't find "writer's block" helpful because there are all--like there's so many different reasons you can be struggling. And sometimes you are just like--your creativity’s just fallow for a bit.
Hero: And you're just--
Sophie: You've just got to go watch some good films and read some other books--
Hero: Yeah. And go to an art gallery or a walk in the park.
Hero: Hang out with a dog.
Sophie: Just, compost for your brain.
Hero: Exactly. You want to take it all in and give it time to actually mulch down. Yeah. And be at peace with that, that your creativity's going to wax and wane.
Sophie: Yeah. And I think also be at peace with the fact that, especially if you're producing something at this output... sometimes your writing isn't going to be very good.
Sophie: For your own personal standards, whatever very good is for you. Sometimes it's not going to be that, and you just have to sort of take that in and let it go, and just think "Right, next one will be better!"
Sophie: "Next time I'll do something different, and I'll keep going," and that's it really. It's just the keep going of it all.
Hero: Yeah, and identifying which bits you actually really, really, really need to work on. So there are some say, submissions that come in, that clearly, really--like, really deserve and need some heavy work and some time to take over them. And some of them come in, and it's like, "I've done the 'kraken doesn't like metal boats bit' that you joked about," and I'm like, that's [bleep]-ing excellent, and it's... you know, solid, and I don't have to--I don't have to worry that the answer to that isn't going to be like weighty enough?
Hero: You know?
Sophie: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Hero: And like with the CEO episode, it really needed to be good? Like it couldn't... I can put out, um. You know, if I'd had an idea for a letter, and I've written it and I've written the answer, and it's all right, it's fine. If somebody else has written a letter, I want the answer to be, you know, respectful of the effort--
Hero: --that they've already put in. And if I'm introducing the major antagonist in this really dramatic way, yeah. Can't really phone it in. [laughs]
Sophie: Everyone deserves to hear that in an excellent fashion.
Hero: Yes. And that's when I get you in.
Sophie: And that's--yeah, so really--
Hero: How to deal with writer's block: get someone else to write it.
Sophie: Get a Sophie.
Hero: Get a Sophie.
Sophie: Yeah. That was actually a very helpful answer that you naturally came up with there because you actually hit upon a point that several people who sent in questions asked about, when letters come in as submissions, how much editing do you have to do on them, can you sometimes just read them as is, or do you, you know, go to town on changing them. How much change goes into the letter submission process?
Hero: Um, it... [thoughtful sigh] kind of obviously really depends on the submission? Because we accept just prompts as well, so sometimes I just get one line and have to go from there. And some people write a whole letter. The most common thing that I find is a perfectly solid letter that I edit just a bit for either clarity or time or to - just sort of back to the linguistic question - to get the language in line with the world--
Sophie: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Hero: --that is already there. But sometimes people send in letters that are absolutely fabulous and would take twenty minutes to read just the letter. And so, oh I'm sorry, I'm going to absolutely cut--
Sophie: Hack this-- [crosstalk]
Hero: I'm just going to have to hack it up. I try as much as possible to keep as much of the original language of a letter as possible.
Hero: So, um, I will do my absolute level best to actually use the actual words that have actually been chosen, because I think one of the--one of the reasons I really like doing the submissions isn't just that people's ideas are different than my ideas, but also just the way that they put them, they use words that I would never use. And I think that adds a nice bit of character to things.
Hero: But yeah, they don't... usually people... it's just a bit of tweaking. A bit of tidying up. A bit of sort of making things a bit more streamlined or like if they've got, you know, the rule of three kind of joke thing.
Hero: They've got two jokes so I put in another because it just works better.
Sophie: It works better. It flows, yes. Absolutely.
Hero: Um, and that kind of thing. But usually not a huge amount. You know, certainly never had to do--if I've ever had to do substantial editing, it has actually just been cutting out.
Hero: And just paring it down, and kind of crystallising, you know. One of the really, really lovely things is when somebody comes back to me after they've heard their submission, and somebody actually did, was like "I really, really loved that you just--you managed to cut it down but keep exactly the core--"
Sophie: The core part of it, yeah.
Sophie: And I think what's been really nice for you this season--because obviously Season One, you had a reserve of letters you'd written to bulk it out, because obviously there's two a week and that, you know, at the start, you were a new podcast--
Sophie: --so people didn't know they could submit stuff. Or you had people submitting and submitting who were friends and things like this, but you had a bulk. And um, obviously this season just gone you actually had to close submissions--
Hero: And I didn't realise--I didn't realise until I looked back how early we closed them.
Hero: It was like December.
Sophie: It was really, really, really early in the run. It was like--
Hero: I was like, chaps hang on. [laughs]
Hero: There's only so many episodes a season. But yeah, because the response was just incredible. And like, just--and the quality of the response as well.
Hero: And the fact that there was so many that I opened and just went, "Ohhh God, that's going to be fun."
Sophie: [laughs] Yeah. Like, it was really, really fun sort of being--it is fun being your friend anyway.
Hero: Oh, thanks.
Sophie: But it's fun being your friend especially when you open a new Monstrous Agonies submission because you sort of sent it like, [comically evil voice] "Oh ho ho ho!"
Hero: [comically evil voice] "Ohhhh!"
Sophie: [continues voice] "Just you wait until you hear what's going on here! People are so clever!"
Hero: They're so clever.
Sophie: That also kind of also ties into um, Matthew.
Hero: That's my Matthew!
Sophie: That's your Matthew!
Hero: Matthew is my boyfriend. He's um, the most beautiful man in the world.
Sophie: He is very beautiful, it's true. And he asks this beautiful question, uh, which is "Which letter or advert do you wish you'd thought of?"
Hero: [gasps] Oh, oh Matthew. God. The... AI, the really really recent one.
Sophie: Yeah, the um, incre--possibly my favourite of this entire season?
Hero: It was so good. It was so good. And I, and I plonked it in at the end because I obviously got it ages ago.
Hero: Um, and when I was putting them in--they're almost all in the order that they were sent in, except that some people sent in multiple so you want to have a little bit of a space--
Sophie: --between people's, yeah, you don't want someone--the same letter submitter--
Sophie: --every week on week.
Hero: Yeah, exactly. Um, so when I was rearranging them, I was like ohh, that's going to be so nice to end on. That's probably going to be the last letter of the season actually, 'cause it... it is so gorgeous. And that was one, again, that was like--it was a bit long, so I had to take some things out. But it was, it was just so good! And I'm trying to think of like, ideas that I wish I'd had. Or like, like funky takes on things.
Sophie: “Funky takes.”
Hero: Yeah! What's wrong with that?
Sophie: Funky takes.
Hero: Funky takes. People say funky.
Sophie: Yeah. They do. They said it right now.
Hero: I mean the adverts. Almost all the adverts I wish I'd thought of.
Sophie: Yeah, I think that's the thing. Because adverts are pretty much only being submission-based for so long, you get so many great ones.
Hero: [laughs] So many. [continues to laugh] There's so many good ones. They're so good, and those are ones that really like. Sometimes people come in with just the name of the company? Some people just have the idea of the--the product.
Hero: Um, and then I get to have loads of fun--actually talk about research, I get to have loads of fun looking up creatures that they could feasibly be named after that I can just quickly name-drop--
Sophie: Yeah, or to cater towards to like sort of--yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Hero: Yeah. Or they've written the whole thing and it's just hilarious.
Sophie: Yeah, so I came up with--I always start with "yeah, so."
Hero: You do. I edit them out--
Sophie: I'll start with “Ee”.
Hero: Ee, by 'eck.
Sophie: Ee, and I came up-- Ee, one of the ones that I'm very proud of coming up with was um, Necropolicious.
Hero: Yeah. That was Season One, though.
Sophie: That was Season One. But it's still very--so see, like--
Hero: You peaked in Season One.
Sophie: I peaked in Season One. I've never been good again.
Hero: Nope. [laughs]
Sophie: [laughs] Uh you kind of... you kind of hit a few extra points here in that answer.
Sophie: Um, 'cause the--sort of the way I was gonna close out this little segment was by--because Leanne, Ella, and Attystark--
Sophie: All ask, "What's been your favourite story or scene of the season? Is there anything you're particularly proud of?" And I just wanted to make sure to include Attystark's wonderful compliment, um, and they say that the voice acting this season has been absolutely incredible.
Hero: Oh, thanks Attystark.
Sophie: Yeah, isn't that lovely?
Hero: [quietly] Nice.
Sophie: But yeah. Is there any scene or story you're particularly proud of? What was your favourite letter to perform?
Hero: Oh! 'Cause those are different. There's favourite letters because of the ideas that you get to chew on.
Hero: And then there's favourite letters because of the scenery you get to chew on.
Sophie: [laughs] Either way, you're chewing on something.
Hero: [laughs] I'm chewing--that's me all over, innit?
Sophie: Love a bite.
Hero: I do. I love to bite. Um, yeah. Because I think in terms of performance, the single-mother dragon was really fun because she had proper dragon voice. I didn't do a Welsh accent, and I realised I probably could have, but I don't think I could maintain the voice and the accent.
Sophie: Yeah, it's either dragon or Welsh.
Hero: [laughs] Yeah.
Sophie: And you've got to pick one--
Hero: You've got to pick one.
Sophie: And if it's a single-mother dragon, you should probably just go for the dragon, yeah.
Hero: Yeah, exactly. Um, my... I don't think it was a very good Brummie accent, but the idea of a Brummie Mongolian death worm really made me laugh [laughs] so.
Sophie: Yeah. Of course it did. Yeah.
Hero: So that was fun. And I did two Scottish accents this season.
Sophie: You did! You really branched out. Because you threatened to do one in Season One.
Hero: Yeah. But my silly accent in Season One was the Texan.
Hero: RIP the Yeehaw Cut.
Hero: Um, yeah.
Sophie: Hashtag Release the Yeehaw Cut.
Hero: I don't have it! I would, you know I would. There's nothing I like more than being silly on the internet. Yeah, so last season, Season One had one Texan accent, and it was a werewolf. Season Two had two Scottish accents, and one of them was a wulver. So Season Three is gonna have three silly accents, and one of them's gonna be wolf-based, I guess.
Hero: But I'm not writing it. [laughs]
Sophie: Yeah. What about a fursuit that's come to life?
Hero: Is it--look, the submissions are now closed.
Hero: But keep an eye on our social media, and you can-- [laughs]
Hero: --to find out when they re-open for Season Three!
Sophie: Yeah, see, that was like I pushed a button on you, and because you--my favourite performance of yours from the season was, and I know it was, you know, very recent, but the AI was just incredible! Like the--
Hero: [AI voice] Kind regards. Kind regards. Kind regards--
Sophie: We can't do this again, please, please, please, please.
Hero: [continuing to chant Kind Regards in an AI voice in the background]
Sophie: Please, please, please, we have so much to get through.
Hero: [continues] Kind--kind--kind-- [regular voice] But yeah.
Sophie: But yeah! Just the way that you modulated your voice, and even like listening to it, I kept smiling because certain words came up repeated and you intonated them in the exact same way each time?
Hero: [giggles] There were two of those that were copy and pasted actually the same take.
Sophie: [laughs] Oh no, you're ruining the magic!
Hero: No! No, no no!
Sophie: This is like--
Hero: But only two. Relisten to that and know that only two--
Sophie: [overlapping] Only two.
Hero: --and all the rest... I mean, listen to that [bleep]-ing that--that kind regards outtake.
Sophie: I know. I know.
Hero: I just love to make noises with my faces.
Sophie: You do like making noises, especially pleasing noises, you're like "ooh!"
Hero: I do pleasing noises a lot.
Sophie: "Oh, I can do that again!" Yeah.
Hero: I'm a... very neurotypical person.
Sophie: You are. You're completely just like, mentally? You are so typical.
Hero: So average!
Hero: What a normal brain I've got!
Sophie: [laughs] So, um. Another one from Jan Caltrop.
Sophie: They ask, "How did you decide on a logo? Designs, colours, because it's very visually pleasing, but I never know how anyone comes up with that kind of thing." So how did you personally, Hero, design the logo for MA?
Hero: I did the sensible thing, and I asked the professional artist who lives in my house. My handsome boyfriend Matthew is an artist, and um... he offered to help, and I said yeah. And the reason I don't credit him, um--I would! But he hates doing logo work.
Hero: [laughs] He really hates it!
Sophie: So he doesn't want--You hear that everyone? He's really, really good at it--
Hero: Genuinely, he's I think MattMcTired on most things.
Sophie: Yeah, we'll--
Hero: Or DiabeticSpoon92. I'll link--
Sophie: In the show notes.
Hero: In the show notes. He's wonderful. He's really, really good. He's really good at loads and loads and loads of kinds of art, including logo design--
Sophie: But don't--
Sophie: Don't commission--
Hero: Hates it.
Sophie: Or try to hire him for logo design.
Hero: He won't do it.
Sophie: He's not interested unless you are the the person who he loves very, very much.
Sophie: That kind of takes us out of the questions about Season Two section. Or like--the making of. The making of. Behind the scenes.
Hero: Behind the scenes at Monstrous HQ. The tag I use on Tumblr.
Sophie: Oh, well. Mm. There you go, guys. Search that tag if you want to find out more.
Hero: Search that tag if you want to see absolutely nothing because you're searching a tag on Tumblr.
Sophie: [laughs] Moving from the behind the scenes segment, we're now going to the scenes segment of the questions.
Sophie: Because pretty much all of these are about in-show canon.
Sophie: Characters, headcanons.
Sophie: Um, so, uh, we're going to find out a little bit more about what goes on--
Sophie: --inside that very little lovely head of yours.
Hero: It's not a very little head.
Sophie: I think it's quite small. [beat] Ashe Nebulous--
Sophie: What a name!
Hero: Ashe Fabulous more like. Whaaat.
Sophie: Ashe, she asks, "Do you know what the Presenter's genus is?"
Sophie: "We know they have at least what looks like skin, but not really much more--" And I'm going to interject here, Ashe, because we do know that they have a tongue.
Hero: Mmm. They burn their tongue.
Sophie: They burn their tongue. And we know that they--
Hero: Have a lap.
Sophie: Have a lap.
Sophie: Mmhmm. And we also know that they are a temperature, stably, in order for them to be burning up at one point, which Mab comments on.
Hero: Mmm, that's true.
Sophie: Um, but yes. Ashe really wants to know are we going to be--are we [laughs] 'Cause I'm on the creative team now.
Sophie: Got a writing credit and everything!
Sophie: Um, but will there be more details revealed slowly over the course of the series, or are you just going to out loud say it at one point?
Hero: Um. I'm not revealing details on purpose. It's just that I don't know how to make a joke about Mab sitting on their lap without saying the word “lap”.
Sophie: Yeah. [laughs]
Hero: You know. I don't know how to, without any visual cues whatsoever, indicate the--the Presenter is the equivalent of feverish without Mab saying, "Oh, you're burning up," you know? It's--it's not--so these are not like, sneaky little like, clues to the Presenter that I have in my head. They are just things that I have done because that is--is a helpful way of expressing the thing that I'm trying to express.
Hero: We've had--we've actually had so much fanart this season.
Sophie: And it's all been fantastic.
Hero: And it's all been incredible. And the sheer range of interpretations of the Presenter. Like there was one where--where they were just a big hand with a mouth in the middle of it. And there was like, there's like an owl-based one. Like a deer-based one. And like, just like a nebula in spats?
Hero: Which is amazing.
Hero: Or like the big chonk Presenter.
Sophie: [deep voice] Big chonk Presenter.
Hero: Um, and there's so many, and they're all absolutely incredible. And in no universe would I want to say or do anything that would stop that from happening.
Sophie: Yeah, exactly.
Sophie: And also for me personally, the way I think about the Presenter, is that whatever genus they are, it's not one we in our world know about.
Hero: Yeah, they're not like. A werewolf.
Sophie: Yeah, you're never going to be like surprise! It was... a wizard.
Hero: Yeah. [laughs]
Sophie: A wizard did it!
Hero: [laughs] Yeah.
Sophie: [laughs] Uh, about the Presenter's genus. We reserve the right to do "surprise a wizard did it" about other things.
Hero: One hundred percent. I am not throwing that out of the toolbox.
Sophie: No. Yeah, so. Matty O.K. Smith--
Hero: [gasps] Off of Neighbourly.
Sophie: Off of Neighbourly.
Hero: Excellent podcast, 10/10.
Sophie: What would you rate this podcast--yeah, 10/10.
Hero: Do recommend.
Sophie: Um. Who is blorbo from you show?
Hero: [laughs] Blorbo from me show? Learn to type, Matty O.K. Smith.
Sophie: So, for anybody who isn't on Tumblr, which seems absolutely ridiculous considering you're listening to a--
Hero: A gay--
Sophie: A gay podcast.
Hero: Fiction podcast.
Hero: About monsters.
Sophie: A blorbo is um, a character from a show who you just... you just love a lot, in simple terms.
Hero: They're just in your head.
Sophie: They're just in your head, and you think about them. For instance, you might be working at a toy shop one day--
Hero: [laughs embarrassedly] Oh Jesus!
Sophie: And you might be smiling to yourself, and someone might come up to you and go--
Hero: A really sweet old lady might walk past you while you're restocking the Cluedos--
Hero: --and she'll say, "Oh, he must be someone special to have you smiling like that." And you'll say, "He is" because you are thinking about Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Sophie: [laughs harder] So yes--
Hero: For example.
Sophie: So, for instance. Obi-Wan Kenobi might be your blorbo.
Hero: He might.
Sophie: But Obi-Wan Kenobi, as far as we're aware, is not currently canon within the Monstrous Agonies universe.
Hero: I'm not ruling him out.
Sophie: Not ruling him out! But he's not been canonically mentioned.
Sophie: So of the canonically mentioned blorbos, potential blorbos--
Hero: From you show.
Sophie: From you show. Who is blorbo from you show?
Hero: Hmm. Blorbo from me show. I... Uh, this is... Ehh... So I am enormously fond of the Presenter, actually. Like quite unsurprisingly.
Hero: I just think that they are an entire idiot, and I love them very much.
Hero: Um. They're just so stupid. [laughs] Um, and they try so hard, and I'm into that. I... I really like... the... I mean, ugh. Joshua's boyfriend. Joshua's fiancé. Joshua's husband?
Sophie: Joshua's husband? Stay tuned for Season Three.
Hero: Yeah. I love--I love... I love him so much. I love the nemeses.
Hero: I like the fun nemesis more than the boring nemesis. Or like, the sensible nemesis.
Hero: But I love them and their dynamic. I think that that's really, really fun.
Hero: Really into the Mongolian death worm. I think that--that he's great. I love what Nessie has now become.
Sophie: [laughs] As this celebrity within the MA world, yeah.
Hero: Yeah, because that was purely fan engagement, really. That was--that was me saying that Nessie exists but she stays in her lane, so she never writes in. And then I think it was Leslie who wrote the Nessie letter, which was--was excellent. Quite a lot of them, if I think about them, I get really, really, really fond. And I think a lot about--I actually think a lot about, from Season One, the letter writer whose neighbour is like a river nymph who keeps flooding his--er, flooding their garden. See, I said his because in my head, he's this like--you're gonna make fun of me. This big, sort of quiet country boy? [laughs]
Sophie: [sarcastic] Oh, really? Is that the boy that's living in your head when you imagine this story?
Hero: Yeah, and he--[laughs] He's, you know, he's dealing with this slightly over-emotional, slightly ridiculous creature.
Hero: Um, and they grow very fond of each other.
Hero: Er, yeah. It may interest people to know that Matthew, my Matthew, is 6'4" and from Donegal. But--
Sophie: And you're very wee.
Hero: And I'm very wee.
Sophie: And have emotions sometimes.
Hero: [laughs] I have so many emotions. So.
Sophie: I think my personal blorbo from you show is the um, the agents who have fallen in love with each other even though they're rascals from the initial sort of vague Apocacorp introduction.
Hero: [gasps] Oh, yeah the sword! The one who's like, "I've got--I had a sword in the Apocalypse. That was great!"
Sophie: Yeah, because um. Because. It's very easy for those to be blorbo from me show. Because they're blorbo from two me show.
Sophie: Um, because it is just Aziraphale and Crowley from Good Omens.
Hero: It is.
Sophie: In an alternate universe setting.
Hero: A little cooler.
Sophie: A little cooler.
Hero: I think the Crowley equivalent in that letter--
Hero: Is actually cool.
Hero: In a way that Crowley Good Omens--
Sophie: Crowley Good Omens is not.
Hero: Is not cool.
Sophie: But um, I think about them quite a lot.
Hero: Of course you do.
Sophie: Especially because they are quite definitely related to kind of the plot line that is mainly going on.
Sophie: At the moment.
Hero: Yes. Yeah. Like, er. Yeah. Like that was the first Apocacorp suggestion.
Hero: Of this organisation that is not to be trusted.
Sophie: [simultaneously] Not to be trusted. [dramatic voice] And more on that in Season Three.
Hero: I wonder what's going to happen.
Sophie: I know, me too. [laughs] Should write it at some point.
Hero: I know, probably. [laughs]
Hero: Should probably come up with that quite quickly.
Sophie: Now, it wouldn't be a supernatural gay podcast without shipping culture.
Hero: Oh, God bless. Yes.