I knew I was in for a ride with the first line of Arenous. Tell us how this story came about.
I had a spot of skin that was flaking, and the premise popped into my head. I finished the first version in two days, which is about as quickly and smoothly as anything I’ve ever written, and the final version hasn’t changed much from the first.
This is the kind of very personal, internal point-of-view story that I always gravitate toward—I really enjoy sitting myself inside a single character’s head, turning time forward, and writing down every crystal-clear thing I find.
When Sarah loses her initial patch of skin, her first thought is of her childhood sandbox. That and the title provided a hint as to the course the story may take. Was that your intent?
Yes, though not from the very beginning. I always think of writing as a two-stage process. In the first stage, I set up a puzzle for myself, which is a challenge in and of itself, to be solved. In the second stage, I either figure out the solution or stash the story in the WIP folder forever.
For this story, the premise was the first part, and the resolution is the second—what happens at the end that would make sense and serve as closure? It was when I came up with dissolution in the ocean that I then went back and added the foreshadowing, such as the sandbox.
As Sarah’s condition progresses, she registers concern, fear, then, finally, relief. Can you tell us about this progression of emotions?
One of the main themes of this story is how our feelings about ourselves are intrinsically tied to that self and are not something we can separate. While Sarah undergoes this inexplicable transformation, her feelings about it seem to parallel the transformation somewhat. But how much of her numb acceptance at the end is because she’s mostly sand, and how much of is her actually coming to terms with it, whatever that even means? I don’t think there’s an obvious answer to that.
The scene where Sarah reshapes herself, based on images of her favorite celebrities, is a powerful one. What message did you want to convey?
Of course, anyone can (and should) take away from the scene whatever they saw in it. But when I was writing it, I was thinking of the memories that hang in the back of our minds for our whole lives, especially very emotionally-colored scenes from our formative years. Sarah’s lost a lot of what her original self would think of as her, but that thirst to become someone else stayed in her core, even as she’s mostly sand by this point. In my head, it’s not as simple as merely conforming to beauty standards, which is why the subsequent sequence where she digs into herself is important as well. She’s trying to get some answers about who she was and who she is now in a very physical way.
What are you working on now, and what can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Writing is such an odd beast of a venture—some days I stare at my computer screen and marvel that I was ever able to write at all. There’s no other thing I do where my feelings and skill level fluctuate quite like this.
I always have many stories stuck in the WIP folder, hoping to make it out to the world someday. For something concrete, I have a poetry chapbook, Sudden Sharp Sunstrokes, coming out soon with Zelda Knight and Aurelia Leo, on the fears and transformations of a woman’s body and identity during a fantastical childbirth—very on-theme for me!
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