“The Book of Drowned Sisters” speaks to many different horrors: the loss of a sibling; being forgotten; fear of the supernatural; fear of the unknown, whether mundane or the possibilities of shadow. What can you tell us about the inspiration behind this story?
Haha, sorry for being the most literal person, but grief is often very lonely, and I really leaned into that as hard as I could. I think most people have had the experience of mourning something that was “too small” to mourn, or grieved for something “too hard” or “the wrong way,” and that can be really alienating. So, uh, I made some characters who were grieving people everyone else said didn’t even exist.
I appreciated the complexity of Diamond’s and Bana’s relationship. Diamond searches for her place at school and in the world. Bana walks the thin line between her desire to belong and the shadows of her own identity. The story would not have carried as well if they had been any less realistic. How difficult was it to balance their very human natures with the supernatural elements? Did you find either element more of a challenge to manage?
You are wildly generous to suggest that the supernatural element is balanced here.
You never come out and say exactly how the sisters disappeared, if they drowned or if they were taken. What do you think happened to them?
I am always, 100% of the time, going to be in favor of evil mermaids, as long as that is an option presented to me.
Many writers dream of their works on stage or screen. If “The Book of Drowned Sisters” were optioned for production, who would you like to see cast for Diamond and Bana?
Oh man, “name some up and coming young actors” is a game I’m not really pop culture-literate enough to play. I don’t think of my work as very cinematic or image-heavy, to be honest. I suppose the dialogue would transfer pretty easily, but hearing people say lines I’ve written out loud is deeply uncomfortable.
Horror has reinvented itself many times over the years, pushing the boundaries of what it means to be human and how we relate to one another and the world at large. Where would you like to see horror go from here? Are there any ideas or concepts you would like to explore in your own work?
Everywhere? Weirder, queerer, less white, more serious, way less serious—I’mma read and watch pretty much all of it. My favorite horror stories tend to be relatively quiet and small-scale, but that’s a personal preference rather than, I dunno, an opinion on the state of the genre or a “what is best” when it comes to spooks. I suppose my absolute favorite is when comedy writers and actors take a turn at “serious” horror, and vice versa. It’s the same genre, and we’re pretty much the same people. (No offense to horror-comedies, which are also great, but a different beast.)
Where do you go from here? What can we look forward to in 2021?
I’m idly playing with a novel about revisiting the all-boys Catholic school where you used to fight monsters in the ’90s, and realizing your history is much gayer and more complicated than you thought. Working title is Butthead, Revisited.
Spread the word!