In this Author Spotlight, we asked Tina Connolly to tell us a bit about the background of her story for Fantasy Magazine, “As We Report to Gabriel.”
“As We Report to Gabriel” is one of the stories you wrote for 2006’s Clarion West. Could you tell us about the process of writing it for the workshop? How has it developed since then?
I’m probably not supposed to play favorites, but oh, I love “Gabriel.” I think of it as my puzzle story. I had the basic idea before the workshop, but wasn’t ready to attempt it. Week Three of Clarion West I felt like it was still too hard, but finally something I could go for. I had been getting some notes about not explaining enough in my stories (and after this I got a bunch more!), but the nature of the reveal meant that the only way to get the fun out of this story was to let it unfold. It went over pretty well, but everyone said they had to read it multiple times to understand it, which clearly wouldn’t fly in real life. So this was the story that took me longest to revise, after the workshop—nearly four years, I guess—multiple rounds of tearing it apart and putting it back in new ways. The goal was to keep the puzzle and the fun of it, and yet provide reasonable clarity…pretty challenging in this case! The story is completely recognizable from the workshop story, and yet there are tons of tiny changes to make it work better. Even the title is one of those changes—it was originally called Fairies in the Attic, which was meant to imply a sort of Bats in the Belfry in that world, but out of context sounded too saccharine.
Gabriel, like all fairies, can split himself. He splits into Fred, the Shimmers, the ten motes, and Kayley, each with their own voice. Could you talk about the process of developing each voice?
You know, voice is usually the thing that makes a story work for me in my head so I can write it, period. Tons of half-finished stories litter my folders because I don’t know their voice. So I would say that all the versions of Gabriel pretty much walked into this story complete on Day One—another reason I was dying to write the story when I finally attempted it at Clarion West! Motes was the most fun to write, but Fred was a very very close second.
How did Fred, the prosthetic limb, get his name?
I honestly don’t remember—but I do remember the moment I realized who Fred was. Most of my stories develop from messing around and finding out what evolves. Fred was just a somewhat knowitall grouchy piece of Gabriel when I started writing those sections, and Miss Smith had a prosthetic limb because it was interesting; because it was something Linnie was interested in, and Linnie happened to ask Miss Smith about it to distract her. I had a lot of sections in place before I suddenly realized who Fred was, and then I laughed out loud.
I really enjoyed Jonah and Linnie’s close relationship. Are you close with your own siblings? Did you play fairies when you were little?
Thank you! I have three younger siblings, and did a fair amount of babysitting, so yep, there was a lot of Let’s Pretend. But probably the inspiration came more from my favorite children’s books about families, such as Elizabeth Enright’s lovely books. I always liked stories about sibling relationships, from writers whose children seemed real and not twee.
Your forthcoming novel Ironskin is “a steampunk retelling of Jane Eyre with fairies.” Are the fairies in Ironskin similar to those in “As We Report to Gabriel”?
The fairies in Ironskin are much angrier and more dangerous. The fairies in “Gabriel” are mostly content to amuse themselves with “playing at forms” (though I’ve often thought there’s fairy resentment in this world that I’d like to explore.) Ironskin is set in the aftermath of a devastating Great War between men and fey. Before the war, there had been cautious trade, and an increasing reliance by the humans on fey technology that powered lights and motorcars—now stripped away. The fey haven’t been seen for five years, but their malice remains—for example, the heroine is scarred by a vicious fey curse, and wears a half-mask of iron to contain it.
What’s next for you?
We have a shiny brand-new baby, so basically 2011 is going to be nothing but baby and books. I have edits due shortly on Ironskin (due out in Spring 2012), and then I’ll be buckling down on the sequel. I don’t expect to have time to write much short fiction this year, but I do have another family-centered story forthcoming in Bull Spec, “Selling Home.”
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