“Every Day Is The Full Moon” begins as a typical list of teen angst and frustration, and leaps straight into perhaps the best line for a speculative fiction introduction I’ve ever read. Tell us a little about what inspired the story.
Wow, thank you! This one started life as two different stories with similar themes that weren’t quite working individually: One was basically just that introduction with a lot of family dynamics but no plot, and the other was about a woman who had to ritually exorcise her friend’s abusive husband after a Power of Love exorcism had failed. Generally, the Power of Love is not my favorite trope, not just because I think it’s a touch lazy, but because I dislike the idea that love—especially, but not limited to, romantic love—is only this beneficial, miraculous Force for Good. I think love is much more nuanced than that, and I wanted to play with that idea, to discuss when love is healthy, when it’s not, and what the Power of Love could and could not realistically accomplish.
Once I thought to put the two stories together, things finally fell into place for me, and “Every Day is the Full Moon” emerged.
You capture the not-so-nuanced panic of pubescence and school drama, and add to that a healthy dose of urban magic. Everyone is changing around the main character, in more ways than one, leaving her to find her own way and still help her friends. What was your own high school experience like? How much of Carlie St. George made it to the page?
Oh, a fair amount. High school wasn’t entirely torturous for me (it was certainly better than middle school, anyway) but saying it was some high point in my life or something I miss would also be a considerable stretch. There are differences between B and Teenage Me, of course, and not just the obvious ones like (spoilers!) I never came back from the dead. But there are similarities, too: body insecurity, fear of being left behind, fear of never becoming anything special, a sort of wanderlust inspired by the need to escape, etc. Actually, B’s probably more together than I ever was: I pretty much thought I was going to spontaneously combust all the time.
One of the things I appreciate most about this story is how you ground the characters’ actions and reactions in a solid, visceral reality. As a writer, how aware are you of the emotional weight and presence of your characters? Do you consciously choose to delve deep into their personalities, or do you let the words come and figure things out as you go?
As both a writer and a reader, I’m pretty character-oriented. If I don’t care about the characters, or if they haven’t emotionally and/or physically changed or developed in some interesting way by the end of the story, I often don’t see the point. How much I consciously choose their personalities, though, is a bit tougher for me. My instinct is to say that, with this story, I let the words initially guide me into a rough sketch of who the characters were, and then went back and consciously delved deeper in later drafts. But I tend to flip-flop a lot on writing mechanics questions. My process remains hideously inconsistent.
In your writing, you don’t shy away from what some would consider difficult or contentious subjects: suicide; self harm; weight; sexual assault; gender preference and identity. Whether in fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, you often face such subjects head on. Are there any subjects you would still like to tackle? A particular interest you have yet to set down in words?
Hm. I worry that this question, while complimentary and lovely, makes me sound quite a bit braver than I actually am. I’m not sure that I can think of any particular subjects I want to tackle at present (although I imagine I’ll come up with a much more poignant and clever answer for this tomorrow); I do, however, want to write more stories with the kind of heroines I often struggle to find in speculative fiction: overweight heroines, asexual and/or aromantic heroines, heroines over the age of fifty, etc. I want to be able to find myself represented in awesome stories, and I want to be able to find the people I care about, too.
Who do you turn to when you want to get your speculative fiction on? What authors delight you between the covers?
There are way too many answers to that question.
In order to not be here until the end of time, let me focus on some YA authors who I’ve discovered in the last year or two and who I’m eager to read more from. I thought Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song was creepy and perfect, and I’m now more excited than ever to check out The Lie Tree. I liked Rin Chupeco’s The Girl From the Well and loved its follow-up The Suffering even more. Her upcoming project, The Bone Witch, sounds totally fantastic. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness might as well have been written for me, and A Monster Calls and The Knife of Never Letting Go are definitely on my To-Do List. And finally, I fell crazy in love with Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, and I’ve been making serious grabby hands for the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, which—as of this writing—just came out. Off to the bookstore!
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