Welcome to Fantasy Magazine! We’re so happy to be able to bring your story, “The Weight of It All,” to our readers. I am so intrigued by the point of view of this story and am so curious to ask you what inspired you to take that decision. Could you also tell us how this story came to you?
The first draft of this story was written for a flash fiction contest. The prompt had to do with grief and grieving, which made me think of ghosts; what might a ghost grieve? I imagine that ghosts would very much miss the sensation of having a physical body—of possessing weight and mass. The idea stuck with me, because when my eating disorder was at its worst, I desperately wanted to escape my body, and I worked hard to make myself lighter and lighter—in effect, to become insubstantial. Weirdly, it helped me in my recovery to think about how angry a ghost would be that I was devaluing the one thing they would desire so deeply. But of course, a ghost’s desire for a body would be just as impossible and toxic as a person’s desire to escape one. Needless to say, this idea was far too large to cram into a 750-word flash piece! But that’s where the seed came from.
There is an interesting discussion around body and space that happens in the story. Could you elaborate on some of the ideas that you addressed and also those you weren’t able to, if there are any, and also tell us about about the relationship of these two themes in respect to your story?
It’s no secret that only certain types of bodies are allowed to take up space in our society. If our physical presence deviates at all from the societal “default,” we are made to feel conspicuous. And while there’s no way for the vast majority of us to align with the norm, that doesn’t stop us from trying: to be less loud, less clumsy, less obvious, to use fewer resources and attract less attention; in short, to shrink ourselves. It’s a violent impulse, and the visceral imagery in this story was intended to make clear the effects of that violence on both our bodies and our psyches.
If there is one feeling you want the audience to take away from this story, what would you wish for it to be?
I’m going to cheat and give three: 1) That we deserve to take up space, just as we are. 2) That it’s okay not to be okay. And 3) That none of us can do this alone.
I can sense that this is a very personal story as you deal with the very prevalent but sensitive topics of eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. What was the process of writing this story like for you? Was it cathartic or difficult in fundamental ways?
This is the second story I’ve written in an attempt to process and understand my eating disorder. The first one, “Getaway,” was written soon after my diagnosis, and it’s pretty grim. It was important to me that “The Weight of It All” end on more of a hopeful note. In that sense, writing this story was very cathartic. It enabled me to look back on the person I was not so long ago, and realize how far I’ve come. It also made me think about what gives me a sense of hope—what makes me see a brighter future for myself.
In the same vein, what is your advice to writers who might be trying to work with topics that they find difficult or challenging because of how personal they are?
I feel like not everyone should be asked to plumb the depths of their own pain. But if they want to—if it’s helpful to them—I think it’s okay for the experience, and the story, to be messy. A lot of people disliked “Getaway” because it didn’t end with any kind of hope, but that’s where I was at the time, and that was the only story I could tell. That being said, even though “The Weight of It All” is very much my story, I wanted to make sure it didn’t feel offensive or “off” to other ED sufferers and survivors. Several people with eating disorders did give me important feedback about an early draft of the story, and it made me rethink the story’s original ending. It’s a tough balance to achieve, but I feel it’s an important one.
What are you working on now, and are there any other projects we can look forward to seeing from you in the future?
I have a story coming out this fall in The Future Fire that I’m excited for people to read. I also have stories forthcoming in Wyngraf, Worlds of Possibility, and Kaleidotrope. And, I’m in the process of revising a novel: a portal fantasy in which three generations of women go on an adventure together. It’s a long way from finished, but the more people who nudge me about it, the more likely I am to finish it, so please do nudge!
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