First off, I loved this story! Folk horror with fae elements is one of the most entertaining genres to write for me because it lends itself so well to the author having fun in crafting a unique piece of lore to play around with. In that spirit, I have to ask: Is the gold coin a real piece of folklore, or did you create it for this story? Where did the idea to use it come from?
I’m so glad you loved the story! Thank you very much. Now, as for your question: although gold is often associated with leprechauns and other creatures of folktales and myths, I’m afraid this particular gold coin is my creation (unless there is a very similar story I never had the opportunity of reading). The very idea of the gold coin was born out of my own experience. As a child, there was a window in my grandmother’s house that would produce the illusion of a coin on the carpet. Every time I went to visit my grandmother, I would bend and try to catch the coin with my chubby fingers. No matter how many times my parents and grandparents laughed and explained to me the coin wasn’t real, child-me would still try to catch the damn thing. One day, revisiting these memories—after a family dinner—it occurred to me: what if, one day, I tried to grab the coin and finally made it? What if it could become a real coin for just one moment? So I started with this idea—and the fae soon found their way to the story.
I feel like everyone had a neighborhood Mrs. Meecham growing up, the mysterious old house with an even more mysterious inhabitant. Did you have one, and if so, did any of them make it into Mrs. Meecham?
My own grandmothers were, in a way, Mrs. Meecham. Especially my maternal grandmother, who, after my grandfather’s passing, lived alone for decades. When visiting her, we’d be served plates and more plates of cakes and sweets and cold mate tea, which transformed her quite into a fairy tale grandmother. Of course, my grandmother was no evil witch, luring children with sweets. She was lovely and gentle to the end. But I think you can’t escape that: giving characters part of yourself and of those you knew and loved. In a way, Mrs. Meecham is the archetypical good Granny of so many stories. But I also wanted there to be a twist: it’s never made clear if she really was abusing Sophie—and if so, to what extent. I like staying in that grey area, which does not always require an answer—was she? Wasn’t she? So the reader can always think of Mrs. Meecham in any way they might prefer.
It’s difficult not to feel sorry for Sophie, who at the end of the day is just a girl taken from her mother and stripped of any agency she felt she had over the situation. What is it about a sympathetic villain that is so compelling to you, and why did you go that direction with Sophie?
Like I said before, I think I write more freely when I’m thinking about that grey area, between good and bad. Sophie did something monstrous, but she’s also very young—and while most children learn what cruelty is early in life, from simply observing adults, some children use cruelty as a weapon against the hurt that’s been caused to them (or the hurt they perceive to have been caused). I wanted her to be a sphinx; to be read differently all the time, during her life. This is why Mille had to be the protagonist, looking at Sophie with the eyes of a kid, and then the eyes of a pre-teen, and so on.
I’ve always been fascinated by this: the way we, as children, form intense friendships with people that might one day become the very thing we fear the most, people only later we’ll realize we never knew at all, no matter how much thought we did. I love that last part in the movie Stand by Me, in which the grown Gordie (now played by Richard Dreyfuss) bemoans in his latest manuscript that no one has friends the way they had when they were twelve. This is so true it feels almost painful to acknowledge it. As adults, we tend to circle around people who share our common interests, hobbies, and political views. When we are young, the friendships we strike are intense and unfiltered because we ourselves don’t know who we are yet. Our loyalty is more freely given. Love pours from us almost to the point of obsession. I’ve always been fascinated by how loyal young girls can be to each other—and how quickly that very same loyalty can sour. And this is the story I wanted to tell, more than a story about faeries: how those feelings we have when children can break so quickly, turning into dust. How best friends can harm each other. How you can be blind to this until it’s too late. You retain an affection for what that friend was to you—for what you imagined them to be—but you can’t close your eyes anymore to their faults, not when you’re an adult. I wanted Sophie to be that for Millie, that necessary and hard step she needed to take to at last enter adulthood.
What do you think Millie’s choice at the end was? What do you think yours would be?
As a child? I’d most likely accept the coin. It was what I was doing in my own grandmother’s house—trying to grab that little coin every time, even after people were tired of telling me it didn’t exist. I was a girl in love with magic, unaware of the consequences. Yes, I would have taken that coin. As an adult? I have my doubts. And I think the same goes for Millie. If she could have grabbed the coin as a kid, she’d have—and she’d have accepted to be queen. As an adult, having seen all the horror it caused, I’m not sure I can say she would take her chances. But, again: that’s up to the reader.
What do you have coming down the pipe for us to look forward to?
Right now, I’m revising a novel that I hope will be ready by the end of 2022. Fingers crossed! And, in the next few months, I’ll have some stories out by other venues (though, as excited as I am, I can’t speak about them right now).
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