I absolutely adored this story, and found myself howling for revenge along with her at the end. How similar is this piece to the rest of your work? Do you have particular themes that you revisit?
Thank you so much! Well, looking over my work (and I had to, because I didn’t know the answer) it seems like I often have trauma and coping as a theme. I suppose in this case the “coping” is a bit less about seeking help and a bit more about tearing a city to the ground. But I try not to judge the way people heal. You do you, girl. Raise hell.
This is a fascinating revisit of Persephone, Inana, and countless others’ descent into the underworld. What about that myth resonated with you?
The telling of Persephone that I’ve always enjoyed had to do with her portrayal as the dreaded Queen of the Underworld. I thought about that in my initial draft of this story, of a Persephone who sought the underworld as a means to escape some other fate, or to claim something greater for herself. When there are fewer options for women, it’s interesting to see people get creative.
But, as I was working on this story, there was a highly publicized case dealing with sexual assault on a college campus. The way it played out . . . “infuriating” doesn’t begin to describe it. As a result, my exploration of a girl who went to claim her throne among the dead transformed into the story of a girl who was sent to the underworld without her consent, and returned with the wrath of a thousand lost girls in her bones.
Maybe someday I’ll write the other one, though.
The “lost girl” narrative gets reframed to center on the people around her, how it affects her parents, her town, the boy, and the news coverage. How do stories like this engage with that kind of behavior in the real world?
I mentioned the case that drove me to write this story in this way, so I was observing that in real time. How everybody was so concerned to not ruin this boy’s life, ignoring the fact that he had committed a crime that ruined this girl’s life. How there was so much evidence he did this horrible thing that he was convicted, and yet he served no real sentence. It drove home that there is no way to be good enough, to be safe enough, because the system isn’t made to protect the vulnerable. It’s not made to center on the victim, on keeping her safe.
I think fiction is a great way to turn a lens on the flaws of society and bring these horrors into focus. Reading stories from various perspectives helps breed empathy. And for cases like this, it can be difficult to understand what’s happening while it’s happening. But fiction can help people see the forest for the trees. Instead of living it, people can observe it, and perhaps better understand how obscene this reframing is.
I’ve read that you have a methodical approach to writing your stories. How closely did the final draft resemble what you had originally envisioned? Does it ever deviate in unexpected ways?
Tragically, there’s one stage of my writing process that isn’t methodical, and that’s writing the rough draft. Everything after that is color-coded, outlined, analyzed, given checklists, sticky tabs, harnessing every tool your office supply store has to offer. But the more I write, the more I realize that for me to get from a blank page to a zero draft (not quite good enough to be called a first draft, but the general idea of the story is there), I simply have to write at the thing until a story falls out.
But honestly, after coming to terms with the realization that I’ll likely never be an outliner, I’ve learned to have fun with it, and to enjoy being surprised by what lands on the page. It’s like there’s a portion of my brain that’s figured out the story, and I just have to coax it out. Sure, the part of me that likes organization, the part that yearns for checklists and progress bars, is going to be disappointed with this approach. But I calm that with a daily word count, so it balances out in the end.
What are you working on at the moment? What can we look forward to next from you?
Right now I’m editing a novel, YA psychological horror. It’s about four teens in a small coastal town in California, dealing with various traumas in their own lives; then a fog settles on the town, their psychological demons physically manifest in various ways, and they have to figure out how to survive. There’s no publication date for it, though. Fingers crossed!
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