Welcome to Fantasy Magazine! We’re so happy to bring your story “How to Make a Man Love You” to our readers. Can you tell us what inspired this story and how it came about?
Thank you so much! I’ve been reading Fantasy Magazine for years and I’m so excited to see my work here among all these incredible stories.
I’m part of a writing group with two friends from college, and sometime last year we chose the prompt “Illusion.” I started thinking about my time at Yale, and how we all presented these glowing, successful versions of ourselves when we first got to campus, not deliberate illusions, but subconscious ones. With that mental image in my head, I sat down and wrote the first few paragraphs of “How to Make a Man Love You,” and the rest of the story grew from there.
I thought it was an interesting choice to have this from the perspective of the man who’s being affected by the love potions, rather than the woman who’s instigating the whole thing. Did you have it set up as this perspective from the beginning, and what led you to tell the story like this?
I had the story set up like this from the beginning, because I wanted the illusion to be present for both Zayyan and the reader. I wanted to write a story about what happens, not when an illusion is first created, but when it’s peeled back and we see the truth for the first time. To do that, I knew I needed to make it Zayyan’s story, not Cecilia’s.
A big theme I picked up from this story is that there is, in fact, no such thing as love at first sight—in the absence of mind-affecting potions, of course—and that relationships need constant maintenance to be successful. Was that what you were driving for while you were writing it, or did you have other themes at the front of your mind?
I think that was definitely a part of it, but the main theme on my mind was this idea of illusion versus truth.
When you first fall in love with someone, you’re falling in love with your mental picture of who they are, which is rarely a perfectly accurate picture. And as you get to know them more and more, you have to start accepting who they really are instead of superimposing your own illusions onto them.
At the same time, though, you need to keep some illusions to stay happy in a long-term relationship. Or perhaps not illusions, but at least hope, or optimism. You have to see the person you love as the best possible version of themselves, in order to keep the magic alive.
I’ve always thought that was such an interesting contradiction, that need to see your partner for who they truly are, and yet also see them as someone extraordinary.
This story, to me, is filled with issues of consent—it’s arguable that Zayyan’s only real choice came at the very end—and traversing some very thick weeds; if the situation had been reversed, if Zayyan had been regularly dosing Cecilia with love potions, the story would have read very differently. How did you navigate the issues here during writing?
That’s a great question. I think feeding someone a love potion without their consent, regardless of the genders at play, would be an inexcusable act. There’s no excuse for what Cecilia did to Zayyan. I didn’t intend for the ending to exonerate her for that.
My intention was to focus, instead, on Zayyan’s choices once he realized what was going on. Given this impossible situation, what would he do? I don’t think there’s necessarily a right answer. He could have left her, he could have stayed with her but stopped taking the potions, or he could have made the choice he did, and any of the three, I think, would have been a difficult but justifiable decision.
Is there anything you’re working on now that you’d like to talk about? What can our readers look forward to seeing from you in the future?
I have stories forthcoming in Analog Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, and Nightmare Magazine. I’m also revising a YA fantasy novel about a watercolor painter who wants to become a magician.
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