From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Author Spotlight: Christie Skipper Ritchotte

Christie Skipper Ritchotte’s fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine and Strange Horizons. She belongs to Codex and Liberty Hall writer’s groups, and lives in the Salt Lake Valley with her husband and son, and 23 tarantulas that were not her idea. You can find her on her blog: www.ayeayeskipper.blogspot.com or email her at christieskipperritchotte@gmail.com. We talked to her about her latest story for Fantasy, “Medusa Complex“.

In “Medusa Complex,” you detail the transfiguration of a human being into a supernatural creature. Is a naga the sort of supernatural creature you’d like to be?

Sometimes I think so. At times being human feels so lonely and estranged; the concept of some kind of intimate collective is intriguing to me.

Why the choice of second person for “Medusa Complex”?

I came up with the story on a day when I’d been thinking about how readers tend not to trust second person, and I guess my subconscious was itching to try a second person story that was not offputting.

Are there particular mythos or folklore that you particularly like to explore?

This is my first shot at diving into mythos. The Medusa story fascinates and saddens me. Ovid’s Medusa was a beautiful temple maiden who was raped by Posieden/Neptune in Athena’s/Minerva’s temple. A jealous, outraged Athena punished the girl, transforming her into the hideous monster that is still so recognizable today. Some scholars agree that the beheading of Medusa represented the castration of women’s power. I wanted Medusa to have her day.

What sort of story should be we never expect from you?

I’m never quite sure what kind of story will pop out next, so it’s a hard question to answer, but I hope to never write anything safe.

In an earlier Fantasy Magazine story, “Penguin and Wren,” you tell the story of a boy who wants to be a magician. Have you ever performed magic tricks?

Only the one where you appear to pull out a quarter from inside a person’s ear. A neighbor showed me the trick when I was ten, and let me in on the whole Magician’s Code thing. I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone how to do the trick, but I caved immediately. Don’t ever show me how a trick is done; I’ll show everyone.

What sort of fiction do you look for when finding something to read when traveling?

Lately I’ve been choosing short story collections and anthologies. Also, anything by David Sedaris, but he’s dangerous. You laugh so much that people think you’re balmy.

What’s your writing process like – how does a story start for you?

Some striking image will usually come to mind, kind of a zap moment. In this case, I pictured a woman in a hotel bathroom, staring into the mirror with snakes undulating through her hair. From there, a first sentence forms fairly quickly, and hopefully an ending image or sentence, and I just start writing and see where it takes me. After the first draft comes a good deal of editing; I think of the initial draft as the bones, and then expand, adding on and refining layers with each pass.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’ve got some stories in the editing phase, one, a gritty, literary ghost story, and the other, a gruesome, irreverent, psychological zombie yarn. I’m in the brainstorming phase of developing a post-apocalyptic, noir detective novel.

What do you feel a fantasy story needs in order to be “fantasy”?

The tiniest half-step up or down from reality; any small (or huge) illumination into the Other Place, wherever that might be.

This is the second story you’ve had published in Fantasy – what advice might you have for someone trying to break into the magazine?

Feel free to try something experimental and different. It’s wonderful to know there is a place where a writer can try new things and feel welcomed for it.

What sorts of stories are hard for you to write?

Anything resembling my real life. Although I’ve got truckloads of real-world fodder, I just can’t do it. I adore reading other peoples’ memoirs, but there will be no memoir from me.

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