Welcome to Fantasy Magazine! “An Arrangement of Moss and Dirt” is a delightfully chilling story of good intentions gone wrong. Can you tell us how this story came about?
This is one of those stories that was directly inspired by an experience. I struggle with autoimmune disease, so I get periods when I am hit hard and end up bed bound. Usually, it only lasts a day, and thankfully, my experience is nothing like the protagonist’s.
But in my case, during summer, I had one of those days. From my bed I could see my daughter playing in the yard. Very much like the protagonist in “Moss and Dirt,” I watched her play—worried with normal mom concerns and feeling a bit down that I couldn’t spend the day with her too.
My daughter is such a thoughtful kiddo, she would come and check in on me. I would of course reassure her that I’d be back on my feet in no time and that things were alright.
Then I got to thinking about how sad it would be for a mother with a terminal illness that would never get better—and if presented with an opportunity, what lengths a child would go to make their parent alright.
Our protagonist’s view of the world is limited to what she sees outside her window because of an unnamed illness or disability. Was the decision not to name her condition a conscious one?
I didn’t want to make any particular illness the focus of the story. I also felt keeping it unnamed allowed for a kind of universal communication regarding the experience of being an ill parent, or being a child worried for their ill parent.
The story does an outstanding job of conveying what illness does to both the person suffering and those who love them. How, in a sense, neither can escape the illness. Can you talk a little about that?
Thanks so much. I think my personal experience with chronic illness speaks to this. When I have down days, it affects the whole family. My husband, daughter, and son all worry, despite how much I don’t want them to. There have even been a few times (thankfully rare) that my husband has had to help me get out of bed.
They all know me as a pretty independent and active person, so I think it’s an image that jars them a bit. My withdrawal into the bedroom creates a hole, a constant reminder that mom is sick.
The moment when Nari reveals the bargain she made with the faerie is followed by the final scene where the protagonist is alone. I drew some stark conclusions about what’s happened, but can you tell us about what’s transpired?
Oh yes, dark things between those two scenes. So, the daughter admits to agreeing to a bargain that would prevent her mother’s death, additionally that her mother would “never cry in pain or speak in anguish.” Unfortunately, deals with supernatural beings often work out with unintended consequences.
The protagonist doesn’t die, but doesn’t get any better, either. Further, she becomes unable to express any physical or emotional pain.
She is essentially stuck in that bed forever, outliving those who love her and therefore anyone who could care for her.
Eventually, the bed, the house, it all begins to rot away and all she can do is watch.
What are you working on now, and what can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
At this time, I am working on a novel inspired by Korean history, folklore, and of course, feminism. It might end up a novella, I don’t know, but the story will tell me when it’s done.
I have short stories coming out in the next Kandisha Press anthology and a Cemetery Gates pagan holiday anthology. Of course, a few things are out in submission land, too. Lately, I’ve been particularly interested in the story of Korea’s Queen Min, as well as Korean shamans, so I’ve been drawing a lot of inspiration from there and I think some of the forthcoming publications and works in progress will reflect that quite a bit.
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