With the magical spring and the struggle to keep the spring’s secret, “The Gravedigger of Konstan Spring” reminded me greatly of Tuck Everlasting. Did you read that book as a kid?
Nope. But there definitely is an homage of sorts in this story, drawn from the feel-good Westerns I saw as a kid, where it seemed as if there had to be something dark under the surface of all this getting along, and in which someone is always treated horribly, often for laughs (and, according to everyone else, justly). In Konstan Spring, the thing that keeps the peace is knowing you have the best person for each job, no matter what that really means.
You do a wonderful job capturing the endless speculation of small town life. Do you have any experience in small towns?
As an army brat, I have more experience passing through them than living in them, but I’ve spent enough time in some of them to recognize the familiar patterns of annoyance and tolerance in whatever places are small enough where those patterns are still potent. The same patterns play out in larger cities, except that the more people in the city, the longer you can avoid them. (There’s some kind of breaking point there, too, though, since every time you walk somewhere in New York you will run into three people you know, and we’re right back to the small-town cycles.)
The setting of this story is fascinating—I wasn’t quite sure if it was a magical town in a real-world setting or a slightly alternate version of the world. Also, there was a delicious Norse-Wild West hybrid flavor. Could you tell us a little about the worldbuilding in this piece?
Norse-Wild West it is indeed; in addition to the small-town decay going on in the Spring, I wanted to highlight how a town can often lock out the world around it, if its concerns are all of itself. The world around them is a significantly different North America, in which the early Scandinavian settlers maintained peace with the First Nations, and settled accordingly, in smaller numbers and farther apart. This insulates Konstan Spring even more, both geographically and thematically, to have a new world out there that they care nothing for.
There are so many different kinds of stories about immortality, from vampires to gods, from the cursed to people, like those in Konstan Spring, who have drunk from the fountain of youth. What’s your favorite kind of immortality?
None of them. I think immortality is a supremely creepy thing to actually have to deal with, and as someone who freaks out every time someone changes my email interface, I am guessing I am not particularly suited to endless years of adapting to circumstance.
We all know you love movies. If someone made this piece into a film, who would you want to direct it? Any actors you’d envision in any of the roles?
The Coen brothers really know how to make a landscape and characters work together, and have this beautiful language of isolation they always bring to their work, and I would love to see what they could do with this story (or, let’s face it, with any other story).
Is there anything else you’d like to share about this piece or about any upcoming works?
In addition to the novel I’m working on, I have some short stories slated to come out next year, like “A Game of Mars” in Under the Moons of Mars, “The Segment” in After, and “The Dancing Master” in Willful Impropriety. And this alternative North America was a lot of fun to think about, and I would actually love to explore it a little more, someday—hopefully with more open-minded people than the folk of Konstan Spring.
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