From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Author Spotlight: Jay Lake and Shannon Page

First, could you tell us what inspired “From the Countries of Her Dreams”?

It’s a riff from Jay’s novel series Green, though in fact this story is based on an earlier short story entitled “The Daughters of Desire” which describes an attempted deicide on their goddess. The
death of Laris’s sister comes in Jay’s novel Endurance, when Laris’s sister is killed in a second, successful attempted deicide.

Laris values action over intent. She sees the women’s needs more clearly at the soup kitchen than in prayer. She acknowledges the difference between “knowing and doing.” She finds comfort in fact that the coins are wrapped in lace, even though no one answers her call. What do you find is a good balance between the contemplative life and the active life?

Jay: I don’t know that I was thinking that deeply when we wrote this. The best answer for me personally is that life is a holistic balance. One’s path is where one finds it. I am amused to note that even as a raving atheist, I wanted to reframe this question as one of salvation through good works as contrasted with salvation through faith.

Shannon: I agree, about balance. And it’s a constant struggle. When planning a large writing project, for example, I have to think, plan, outline—I don’t just start blind—but at a certain point, ready or not, I have to just sit down and do it. That can be scary, but it works.

Laris’s “visits from her dead sister were from the countries of her own dreams, not the realms of spirit,” but she plans to sacrifice a small offering to Mother Iron to be sure. Do you think there is a boundary between dreams and the spirit? Or are they entirely separate?

Jay: Another balance question. I perceive a constructive and dynamic tension between the domains of logos and mythos, that drives the human yearnings for story. (In this context, religion can be seen a powerful, self-endorsing form of story.) Dreams are an expression of the spirit, our internal narrative of mythos surfacing when our conscious filters are at their least active. Likewise, the spirit is the personification of dream.

Shannon: I think dreams are messages from our undermind to our more conscious selves—but very random and undisciplined notes, at best. (The act of writing is not much different from that, by the way, when you’ve tapped into something deep and the words are just flowing. They certainly do seem to come from somewhere else.) The connection between our own personal dreams and the collective human narrative—what can be thought of as the spirit world—well, I wouldn’t pretend to know for sure, but it feels to me that it is all part of the same continuum.

Laris and Mother Iron parallel each other. Both survived the death of their sisters. Both continue their sisters’ work. Were the similarities deliberate? Could you tell us about your writing process for “From the Countries of Her Dreams”?

Honestly, that similarity wasn’t obvious to us until you pointed it out. But both of us tend to be organic writers, especially at short length. Thematic resonances only become apparent after the story is finished. Sometimes long after.

As for the writing process of “From the Countries of Her Dreams”, Jay wrote the initial draft, Shannon rewrote and revised, then we passed it back and forth until we were satisfied with the piece.

Are you collaborating on another work right now? What’s next for each of you?

We are current working on a collaborative novel with very loose associations to this story, Our Lady of the Islands. Both of us are also working on separate novel projects.

Jennifer Konieczny hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An alumna of Villanova University, she now pursues her doctorate in medieval studies at the University of Toronto. She enjoys working with fourteenth-century latin legal texts, slushing for Fantasy Magazine, and scanning bookshelves for new authors to read.