Welcome to Fantasy Magazine! We’re so happy to bring your story “How to Join a Colony of Sea-Folk; or, Other Ways of Knowing” to our readers. Can you tell us what inspired this story and how it came about?
I wrote this story over a late-winter weekend spent in a tiny cabin on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was warm enough to rain the whole time but cold enough that there was still ice and snow along the shore. I really wanted to encapsulate part of that weekend—the juxtaposition of sand and snow, the awe of a lake that’s trying its best to be an ocean—Lake Michigan is a magical place for me.
Early in the story I realized I would be weaving between the past and the present, and that’s when I started to get curious about the structure. In retrospect, deciding to label each section as a step helped keep me organized in a way that I might not have been able to otherwise. I wrote by going back and forth between two documents, one with the steps listed in a chronological order so I could see what parts might be missing, and the other document with the story in the order it felt more natural to tell it—much the way you see it now.
The most stressful part of writing this story was when I’d discover a step that made sense chronologically, and then have to figure out where in the non-chronological telling it might make most sense for the reader.
The strongest emotions I pulled from this were desperation and yearning to see the world in a new way—I figure those are the “other ways of knowing” from the title, and natural companions of the sea. Were you trying to focus on these emotions in particular, or did I completely miss what you were going for?
I was hoping to leave the reader with hope and yearning, and perhaps a grief that hasn’t gone away, but has changed, and left the narrator changed.
Mami Wata’s presence in this story felt to me like the sea as seen from the shore, vast and cool and mysterious. What led you to make her such a strong presence in it?
This is an interesting question! I’ve had a Mami Wata story lurking in my bones for a minute. When I started writing I didn’t know this would be the one. though. The first working title was ‘something, something, sea-witch’ actually, and at first I was thinking it would be an Ursula-type figure that the main character beseeched. But as the tone of the story solidified, I realized it needed to be a benevolent figure, and Mami Wata fell into place naturally.
There’s a strong current here that no matter how much we long to escape the world we’re in or find a better one, we can’t wait for it to come to us; that, like water, we have to shape the world to us. Did you have this consciously in mind when you were writing, and is there anything else you were hoping to get across with the story?
Current. I see what you did there.
Ah, but seriously you flatter me! I love that this is what you pulled from the story. I’d be lying if I said that was consciously in my head as I was writing. I was very focused on balancing grief and hope in this story, and I think you need both, in a way, to begin to enact change on the world around you. A dissatisfaction with the way things are and a strong belief that there can be something different. So I think that connection makes sense.
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 am shin deep in drafting a novella right now, and there’s a first draft of a dark fantasy weird western that’s been giving me the side eye for a few months (I’m coming back to you, I promise). But really my heart is in short fiction. I have a feverish flash story coming out later this year at The Deadlands as well as a story featuring a different sort of grief and heartbreak forthcoming at Baffling Magazine.
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