In this Author Spotlight, we asked author Priya Sharma to tell us a bit about the background of her story for Fantasy Magazine, “Lebkuchen.”
At the beginning of the story, Lebkuchen tells the crows the story of the ice maiden. Was the story inspired by a particular folktale or does it draw on several sources?
I wanted to include the Erlking because I thought he’d feature in the stories Lebkuchen’s mother would have told her. I’m not aware of an ice maiden tale linked to the Erlking but am happy to be corrected. Lebkuchen’s a fantasist who knows lots of folktales but I suspect she invents many more, as I did here. It seemed to sit well within the piece as it echoed some of the themes and was the sort of romantic tragedy that would appeal to her (and the crows).
Lebkuchen and her father are frozen by their grief. Was it difficult to write grieving characters? Could you tell us a little about the process?
Bereavement seems to be a recurring theme in my stories. We all experience loss, in one way or another, and grief alters us. Although I find it difficult, I like writing because it gives me a chance to explore the things I find hard to express or that frighten me. It’s cathartic.
Lebkuchen means life bread. It’s also the protagonist’s pet name and the only one used for her throughout the story. She’s defensive about who can use it. Did you always think of the protagonist as Lebkuchen or did you have another name for her as well?
That’s a good question as I never considered her real name until you asked. It didn’t occur to me that I needed to know it. I think it would have watered down her interior life, which was what I was interested in. Names are powerful.
Do you have a childhood pet name? If so, is it still used? Do you mind that it is?
My family was worried that other young children would struggle to pronounce my real name so I was known as Pippa by everyone for a long time. I didn’t actually like it very much as it made me feel like there was something wrong with my own name. I left Pippa behind as I got older. I’m not sure if that means something or nothing.
Do you make Lebkuchen yourself? If so, do you have a favorite recipe?
No, I have to confess I haven’t. I saw it in a lovely cookbook called Snowflakes and Schnapps by Jane Lawson. She’d written bread of life by the recipe and that was the spark. I knew immediately what Lebkuchen’s story was, which is unusual as I normally have to tinker for a while before I think a tale is finished
I have made potato flatbreads with salmon and anchovy butter from Jane Lawson’s book though, and thoroughly recommend them.
What is next for you?
I like to have a few things on the go. Currently I’m working on a story about a Japanese business magnate and a netsuke carver, another called “Fishskins” about marital love and sacrifice and also a Tudor style horror.