You walk a fine line with “Frost Bloom,” a near perfect blend of addiction, abuse, consent, and the ways we blind ourselves to the unpleasant truth. What was the hardest thing about writing this story?
The ending! The beginning came very naturally at the time, possibly because I wrote it while I was half-asleep. It sat for weeks before I returned to it. I alternate between projects, but I wanted to return to that passage. I had to work to figure out where it would go next and how to land it. I knew the central relationship between the characters was not going to go well and that Tara’s anxieties and chemical dependencies were going to make things worse.
Tell us something about the inspiration behind the ice maiden creeping through the window. What prompted you to explore this particular theme?
I think a lot about the power dynamics of the immortal/human relationships in monster-centric stories. These fictional relationships often have happy endings these days, but not always. A failed romance both guts and fascinates me. For the ice maiden, I wanted to write a figure who was a little too alien to be fully understood by a random human and naïve enough to assume that all humans are fools.
Horror is an intimate genre. Here we see that intimacy in the little details, how gold was the anathema instead of silver, Denny’s gurgling breath, the tears in Tara’s eyes when she says “You have to stay now,” the seemingly throwaway description of “pulling my pants back up.” Were such details part of the bones of the story or were they tucked into place like bits of skin?
Absolutely part of the bones. I read for details that makes fiction pop, and I want to put that into my writing. This story felt like assembling a collection of things that interested me: I wanted to explore the idea of dark and twilight fairies/faeries avoiding sunlight and extremes, embodied by the richness and apparent luminous quality of gold. For contrast, I wanted to add bits of sudden and intimate violence. I also wanted to better understand the complicated self-loathing Tara has about what both the ice maiden does to her and what she eventually does to the ice maiden. For Denny, it was important to me that he be a human connection for Tara and a pawn in a situation he doesn’t and ultimately will never understand. Honestly, I named him Denny after the restaurant chain because I associate it with comfort food and the drunk, midnight crowd you stumble into when there’s nowhere else to go at night! Even though he’s a bit player here, like the other details in the world, he’s still important.
In your eyes, who is the monster here? Who is grooming whom?
I want to hear the interpretations people have on this one. Mine, simply, is that this is an abusive situation even if the shape of that relationship and power shifts over time. They both do monstrous things and, sadly, I think they’re both capable of acting better. I wanted to complicate the idea of a “perfect victim” which, in real life, is what a lot of our culture seems to demand when someone has been abused. If you survive a terrible situation, a lot of people don’t seem to think you’re worthy of sympathy unless you’re always on your best behavior. That’s both unrealistic and cruel. The truth is that people are complex, especially if they’re working through their own pain. You can have something terrible happen to you, like Tara being initially preyed upon, and then turn around and still be responsible for doing something awful to someone else.
As for who’s grooming who, I think of “grooming” as something that specifically happens between a child and an adult in a parental role. I wrote the ice maiden as an ancient being who’s frozen at a particular level of maturity. Regardless, there’s a clear power imbalance that she and Tara spectacularly fail to negotiate. If this were a story with a happy ending, I think they might have figured their relationship out early on and managed to avoid hurting each other as much as they do.
I was as intrigued by the story and the dysfunctional undercurrents as I was to learn of your interest in romance fiction. What sparked that particular love?
Before and throughout the pandemic, I’ve gravitated to enormous extremes in fiction: the happily-ever-after comfort of romance novels and the everything-is-awful world of horror fiction. I’m an anxious person and will sometimes go to the last page of a book I’m reading just to make sure the characters are okay. And I know they’re fictional, but I get so invested! With romance and horror, though, I rarely do this. Romance stories usually end at an optimistic point with a couple sorting out their problems. The ending of horror is more varied—possibly because horror is more of an amorphous element than a concrete genre—but there is the expectation that things are going to go very poorly for everyone involved, even if one or two characters manage to survive. With both archetypal stories, there’s the comfort of knowing what to expect and being able to enjoy the journey. If a happy ending is guaranteed for a Regency romance, for example, the hero can get kidnapped by highwaymen, be forced into a terrible engagement, and get locked in a cellar—almost anything bad can happen before the happy ending. With horror, you already know things are going to get as bad as they can, and for me, playing in that fictional space can feel eerily secure.
Your short stories are all over the internet. What can eager fans look forward to in the coming months?
“Eager fans”! This question delights me. I always appreciate that kind of support. I’d love to find out what I’ll be publishing next, too. I’m hopeful I can make another sale this year. I have a personal rule to always have a handful of submissions out for poetry, short fiction, and my novel manuscript, and I think that bullheaded persistence has been an asset in getting published. Otherwise, I’m always posting art and fiction excerpts on my Twitter (bit.ly/3iv1mRJ), Instagram (bit.ly/3zjShlD), and definitely Patreon (bit.ly/3rkm1fa). In the last, most of the posts become public/free within a couple days. And of course, I announce sales and convention appearances on my website (bit.ly/3rkLjda).
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