Science Fiction & Fantasy

Null States

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Damien Angelica Walters

This story is packed with symbolism. What’s your favorite bit of symbolism in the piece? Was there any particular symbolism that emerged during the writing process that surprised you?

I have two favorite bits. The first is the cyanide burn the main character feels after she’s fed marzipan, a small inkling that something is wrong but one that quickly gets buried in the sugar rush.

The second came from my beta reader. In the original version, I used slices of ratatouille for heartache, but my reader suggested using carpaccio, which was such a perfect choice I kicked myself for not thinking of it first. (Thank you, Scott!)

The only things that surprised me were all the other story references that occur throughout. It makes a strange sort of sense because it’s fiction about a fiction, but I initially thought the story was nothing more than a strange retelling of Hansel and Gretel, minus the familial relation and the witch, of course. I added one or two of those references after the first draft was complete, but most joined the party on their own.

What do you think her breadcrumbs were?

I think they were pieces of herself, her strength and independence. It’s far too easy for someone to lose that along the way, no matter how resolute they are. There are always wolves hiding in the woods.

Once she crawls back to her story, what would you like her first real meal in a long time to be?

I think she deserves spinach salad with blue cheese and bacon, filet mignon, roasted Brussels sprouts, a chunk of good crusty bread, and a glass of Merlot, or maybe the whole bottle. I suspect she won’t be eating dessert for a long, long time.

How did this story come about? And what was your process for writing this story?

I was thinking about the nature of liars, how they often get away with it by spoon-feeding people stories a little at a time, and the lengths they’ll go to to preserve that fiction as truth. Some of the best liars use sweet words as a lure; they tell people what they want to hear and believe, and they do it in such a way that their sincerity is never doubted. (At least not until it begins to fall apart, as all lies eventually do.)

That led to thinking about Hansel and Gretel and the witch’s candy house—the ultimate lure. The two concepts ended up in a tango and I let them dance, allowing other stories to cut in from time to time.

Has writing this story changed your relationship with sweet food?

I have a huge sweet tooth and I don’t think anything could change that, but even so, I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything sugary while I was working on the story.

Writing unconventional stories can be challenging to edit on occasion. What was the editing process like for this story?

I started to make it more conventional in structure by adding proper dialogue tags and removing the parenthetical statements, but it altered the flow and the voice to the story’s detriment. So I put it back the way it was originally written, accepting that while it might make the story a hard sell, I was being true to the story and the way I wanted to tell it.

Do you have any other projects you’d like to tell us about?

Sing Me Your Scars, a short fiction collection, will be released in early 2015 from Apex Publications; Paper Tigers, a novel, will be released later that same year from Dark House Press; and more short fiction is forthcoming in a variety of anthologies and magazines.

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Liz Argall

Liz Argall (photo credit Right Stage Photography)

Liz Argall’s short stories can be found in places like Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death. She creates the webcomic Things Without Arms and Without Legs and writes love songs to inanimate objects. Her previous incarnations include circus manager, refuge worker, artists’ model, research officer for the Order of Australia Awards, farm girl, and extensive work in the not–for–profit sector.