How did “Purity Test” start for you?
It started from an invitation into an anthology that never got off the ground. I had never thought of writing about unicorns before, so I had to really work on this. I didn’t want to write the same old thing as everyone else. That’s always my goal in an anthology, to have the somewhat different story that somehow fits the guidelines.
Unicorns have been tamed now for a long time; removed from their roots as symbols of wild purity and made rather . . . cute. What made you think to reboot this, and are there other mythological creatures/characters/etc. you’d like to see rebooted?
If you look at the “originals” (and I put that in quotes because the original myths are usually lost in time), mythological creatures are rarely cute and cuddly. Even when they’re pretty, there’s some kind of bite to them. So I thought about doing a unicorn that both went with the myth and against it. That’s harder than it sounds. Unlike many other mythological creatures, cute unicorns have really invaded our psyche.
As for other creatures that need rebooting—that’s the cool thing about fantasy. We can always reimagine all of the myths. We can update them or revert to what we believe is the original myth. The key is to keep the story current, somehow, whatever that means.
You draw on the perception of the feminine mystique. Can you tell us more about this?
When I think about unicorns, I think about girls and horses. (Girls love horses.) Then I moved to the whole idea that a unicorn can identify a pure or virginal woman. Which led me to the idea that cultures throughout history and currently seem to be obsessed with sexually innocent women, often at the expense of those women. Whenever I think about things like that, I get a little angry. Generally, that anger shows up more in my Kris Nelscott mystery stories or the mystery short stories I write for the Dell Magazines. Rarely does it appear in my fantasy. But it did here—or you wouldn’t have asked the question.
Can you tell us more about how you saw the relationship (or lack thereof) between Micheline and her father?
Naw. I think this one stands on its own. I hope the reader catches exactly what that relationship is, without me spelling it out too much.