“We Are Turning on a Spindle” seems to be a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. What about that tale inspired or interested you?
I guess the first thing that struck me is that it’s a story that begs to be retold or re-framed in a less misogynist light. Here is a woman loved only for her looks, who essentially needs to be sexually assaulted in order to be saved. It’s kind of horrible, really, and I thought that horror needed to be brought out somehow, to make it clear that this is not a sweet love story. So I dove into that horror and thought, what if this whole magical situation just went really, really wrong? What if no one ever came to wake her up, for thousands of years? In the original fairy tale, she is kept magically pristine until her waking—not like, say, a coma patient who would have to go through physical therapy after waking up. That was interesting to me because it led me to wonder, what would my sleeping beauty look like, in this universe, where she’s been asleep for so long?
This story is an intriguing blend of genres including science fiction, fantasy, and horror. What is the significance of choosing a space traveler as your protagonist?
I really love speculative fiction that blends genres and plays with our expectations, like fantasy stories that take place in the far-distant future. I knew immediately that I wanted to take the fantastical elements of the fairy tale and put them into a cosmic setting, and if I wanted this place to be imbued with the kind of ancient magic that has all but disappeared in the face of modern technology and science, then my sleeping beauty would have to be dormant and undisturbed on some distant and hard-to-find world.
Plus, Earth is so small, nowadays. There aren’t as many mysterious, forgotten, or uncharted pockets as there used to be. So I knew my protagonist would have to travel a lot farther to find something so old as to become mythical. And the literal lengths he’s willing to go to find this supposedly perfect specimen of beauty is a bit telling of that “grass is always greener” mindset, the willingness to give up what we have for some improbable perfection that may not exist.
Do you primarily write horror and dark fantasy? What draws you to dark subjects?
Oh yes—occasionally I veer into other territory, but I always find my way back. I can’t stay away from the dark for long. I’ve always found something beautiful, poetic in the macabre, so I tend to seek that out in my writing. I tend toward the mystical, toward those places that Frost would describe as “lovely, dark and deep.”
Who are some of your favorite horror authors?
I think my answer changes just about every time I pick up something new; I have real trouble choosing favorites. For the classics, I lean toward Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Poe, Lovecraft, etc. More recent writers I’ve been greatly enjoying include Stephen Graham Jones, Josh Malerman, Laird Barron, John Langan, Dan Simmons, Caitlín R. Kiernan, etc. I’ve also been reading some amazing short story collections lately with too many wonderful authors to name—Dreams from the Witch House comes to mind.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a novel about a decrepit manor on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp that is haunted by echoes of the past and the future, and a scatterbrained young adjunct professor who discovers through these hauntings that her sister’s unborn son will grow up to be a violent sociopath who transcends time.
I also have a completed novel that I’m trying to sell, if only to stop myself from continuing the endless cycle of “hey, maybe I should revise that one more time . . .”
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