The opening of “With Tales in Their Teeth, From the Mountain They Came” is pretty much the definition of a hook opening. How did you come up with it? What was the genesis of this story?
This is going to sound terribly cheesy, but . . . it came to me in a dream. Or rather it came in that odd, interstitial space between waking and sleeping. Once I had that opening, all the other bits that had been floating around trying to be a story came together. But I should back up a bit. The true genesis of the story was an “overheard” Twitter conversation between John Klima, Lynne Thomas, and Charles Tan. They were talking about dentist appointments, I believe, but I hijacked the conversation because the image of librarians with tales etched on their teeth wouldn’t leave me alone. Part of the story also came from wanting to pay tribute to Ray Bradbury, his passion for story, the idea of being drunk on words, and of course the theme of book burning. The Twitter-inspired imagery and the Bradbury-inspired imagery came together around the dream fragment and voila!
It seems that Alba’s grief led her to the Library, but she almost rebels against its ways initially. Can you tell us more about this?
I see Alba as someone constantly fighting her own happiness. She has trouble opening up, and trouble letting go. Even though she wants the Library to heal her, she is afraid of being vulnerable. It’s easier for her to fight the Library’s ways initially, rather than giving up control. Ultimately, she and the Library end up changing each other, and it requires them both to give ground.
What books do you think were in the Library?
All of them. Every book ever written and dreamed. And they’re all the perfect version the author had in their head, the wild and gorgeous thing they fell in love with and so desperately hoped the book would grow up to be, transported directly to the page.
There seems to be a connection between what should be saved, i.e. the books in the Library, and what should be let go, in the case of Alba’s first lover. Can you tell us more about that?
Again, I think it comes back to Alba’s fear of being vulnerable, and her fear of letting go. In order to heal, she has to become part of something larger—the books and the Library, the vast store of human knowledge and dreaming. It’s not so much that Alba’s lover isn’t worth holding onto, but he’s part of her old life, and symbolizes her fear of letting go in multiple senses of the words. Giving yourself up to something larger isn’t without risks. Her lover gave himself up for the cause of the war, and lost his life. If you never risk anything, you may never lose, but you’re unlikely to gain either.