Welcome to Fantasy Magazine! We’re so happy to be able to bring your story “The Tails That Make You” to our readers. Can you tell us what inspired this story and how it came to be?
“The Tails That Make You” was inspired by a number of real-life events. The murder of Sarah Everard in the UK by a police officer during a Covid-19 lockdown. The #MeToo movement and the outpouring of women sharing experiences of sexual harassment and abuse. The Atlanta massage parlour shootings and recent anti-Asian hate crimes. Juxtaposed against this was my love of mythology and folklore in fiction. No matter where I looked, women are consistently cast as temptresses, seductresses, and femme fatales. This story was my attempt to process why these events in particular cut right to the bone. To understand why I was so afraid to speak out as others had. And it was also an attempt to heal.
I really enjoyed the anachronistic structure of the story. Could you elaborate on the intention behind using such a structure? Does your work frequently employ this way of storytelling? Is there any tip for writers to be able to achieve this, craft-wise?
This story started as a straightforward chronology of one woman’s life, but something in it didn’t satisfy. I wanted to tell more stories, of more women—or rather, everywoman. You can read it several different ways, and that is deliberate: one woman; generations of one family; different unrelated women. Do we start at the beginning or the end? The tales/tails that women share, or more often hide. I don’t remember at what point the second-person voice slipped in, but it felt right to me, even though I’ve never written second person before! Unfortunately, I don’t have any smart advice about unusual structures. Sometimes you just have to listen to what the story wants to do and keep tweaking until it gets there.
The story reflects on the relationship between family members like daughters, mothers, aunties, uncles, and cousins. What aspect or tension around familial relationships do you think this story wanted to bring about?
I wanted to look at the harmful messages that women pass to each other, especially within families’ internalised misogyny that teaches daughters to be ashamed, be quiet, not be like those other women. These are messages that exist despite parents wanting what’s best for their children. I wanted to examine this without pointing the finger at a “bad guy” because family relationships are much more nuanced than that.
If there is one feeling you want the audience to take away from this story, what would you wish for it to be?
Hope. This story is often bleak in places, but I believe that change is possible. The cycle can be broken if the message is changed.
What was the most challenging part of writing this story? What was the easiest?
The act of writing this story was a challenge and a catharsis, but I’m not sure any of it was easy! It was a challenge to put the words, the experiences on paper and continue writing through the jagged uncomfortable edges, but it felt necessary. The easiest thing about it was getting to the end. Reading it back and editing was when I could focus on style and structure rather than the content.
What are you working on now, and are there any other projects we can look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Just for a complete contrast, I have a fun slice-of-life story, “The Ng Yut Queen,” due to be published in Julia Rios’ Worlds of Possibility. There’s also a big project in the works that I’m not allowed to talk about yet! Keep your eyes on my website and social media and all will be revealed soon.
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