Body horror is often thought of as a more physical expression of the horror genre, yet “Until It Has Your Reflection” twists it into a knot of identity and how we interact with the modern world. What can you tell us of the inspiration behind the tale?
Fittingly, it was a nightmare that gave me the original inspiration. It was so terrifying that I woke myself up from it. Relieved to find it was only a dream, I fell back asleep—and the nightmare continued! The next morning, having survived in one piece, I wrote myself notes about it. I started working out the story from there, removing an entire subplot that could probably be its own story someday, and adding in additional things that creep me out.
As I thought about what I was trying to say in this story, to make it more than just a transcription of a bad dream, it occurred to me it was really about the tension between belonging and unwelcomeness, the idea that someone who doesn’t even know you can project a feeling that you don’t deserve to be in the place you call home. How much of your identity are you willing to erase in order to escape that negativity? I’m the daughter of an immigrant, so that was definitely on my mind as I wrote this story.
One other thing I want to note is, in the original draft I wanted to include excerpts from Toi Derricotte’s “the mirror poems,” but I found it too complicated to work out the rights. I highly recommend readers go check out her amazing work! And huge thanks to my pal Maggie Slater for getting me on the right path to sort out the legality question.
Humans relate to the world in a distinctly visual manner, including how we relate to one another. The final paragraph, in particular the final line of the story, brings our visual world into sharp relief within the frame of social media. Do you make use of the various social media platforms and, if so, how do they frame your social interactions?
I tend to avoid social media when I can. I have a blog on my website, and that’s it. I realize this can limit my writing career because I miss out on certain opportunities that are only posted through those platforms, or ways to connect with more readers. I actually have graduate and undergraduate degrees in business, so I understand the role of marketing and what I’m choosing to forego. But I do it willingly. I’m a rather slow writer to begin with, so I figure I’m better off, my family is better off, and my readers are better off, if I prioritize my writing time for my writing, rather than trying to maintain a social media presence on top of that.
It’s not just about time management, though. I’m a very private person, and a strong introvert. This approach suits me. Of course, even blogging takes a lot of thought and energy. I have a lot I’m very grateful for, and sometimes it’s hard to share without feeling braggadocious. I wanted to acknowledge that inherent guilt and selfishness in this story’s ending.
Prosopagnosia is the condition where individuals are unable to recognize faces, some unable to recognize even their own. Which would you prefer, to stand before the mirror, snap the crayon, and lose your head, or to lose all sense of facial recognition?
Oof. Well, I don’t have great facial recognition to begin with; if we ever meet in person, then meet again a while later, I might need a reminder. On top of that, I wear glasses for distance when I drive, but I could probably benefit from wearing them more often. Instead, I walk around not quite recognizing people I know from a distance. I suppose losing all sense of facial recognition would be the logical extreme. Plus, I find the idea of going through life unable to see one’s head terrifying.
How did you first dip your toes into writing? What inspired you to form letters into words into sentences into stories?
I was a kid who took any small notepad and treated it as a bound book waiting to be filled, or had my parents staple scratch paper together, even paper napkins on which I’d scribbled little stories. In high school I attended my first writer’s conference, and upon discovering an entire industry and community of writers, many of whom devoted themselves to the speculative genres I loved, I knew it had to be more than just a hobby in my life. I added an English undergraduate degree to my business one and ended up focusing on poetry, because the fiction class I took discouraged the speculative genres. After graduation, I embarked on teaching myself how to write short stories. Those are what I love to read and create, along with poems. My husband encouraged me to join a writer’s group, attend more conferences, and really chase after my longtime dream.
What’s ahead for Katherine Quevedo? What can readers look forward to in 2023?
I have a science fiction poem due out in Asimov’s, and at the end of the year my debut chapbook, The Inca Weaver’s Tales, will be part of Sword & Kettle Press’s New Cosmologies series, which reimagines world mythologies through a feminist lens. I will also have a horror story from Last Girls Club reprinted in Night to Dawn, about the terrors of postpartum depression and a half-deflated balloon.
Spread the word!