“The Seven Samovars” combines alchemy and a local coffee shop. Did you come up with the idea for this story while sipping a hot beverage brewed by your local barista?
Actually, the phrase “the seven samovars” popped into my head while I was taking a walk. Then I had to figure out where there would be seven samovars in one place, and a witchy coffee shop seemed just right.
Part of the background of each patron is told with their specific drink order. What do you think you can learn from a person based on the type of food and drink they enjoy?
A lot, actually. The idea of referring to people by their drinks came from my sister, who worked as a barista for a while. She said it was a weird dynamic, since you saw these same people, morning after morning, and you did get to know them—but only by their regular orders, never their names. I liked the idea that a modern-day witch would use a drink order as the key to get to know the inner life of her patrons.
Besides, you know you judge that person in line next to you as you listen to them order. What led her to the conclusion that fifteen shots of caramel syrup was the right number in that venti soy latte she is about to consume? Is fourteen really not sweet enough? Do you even actually like coffee at that point?
Using Death as a mixer to modify the effects of the other components produced some interesting results. After a few weeks on the job do you think the apprentice would start experimenting with the contents of the samovars?
Wouldn’t you? Of course you would. If you’ve already said yes to the idea of being there in the first place, then you wouldn’t be able to help yourself. Okay, maybe you save Death for a few more weeks, but a little Dream or Life surely couldn’t hurt. Much.
Food and servingware pairings were also a key part to getting each order just right. Why did you choose to include these non-liquid parts of the ritual?
Everyone’s coffee ritual is very specific—the same time of day, in that specific cup, with a banana or an oatmeal scone. Everything just fell into place when I started telling the mini-stories within the larger story. And, as I wrote more and more of her, Erzebet’s personality seemed to call for a mix of casual disregard for some things (like Death being the same color as lemonade) and very precise instructions (like the method for brewing Dreams).
You decided to feature regular old coffee just as much as the other fantastical ingredients. Do you think that a good cup of joe would have as much of an impact on your day as a love potion or truth serum?
Well I’m not sure that regular coffee would be as inadvertently hilarious as a little Love in the office coffeemaker, but as a facilitator of great conversations, it’s the best. And the right conversation at the right time will change your life; that’s how I ended up married.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m currently working on some short stories and am halfway through the first draft of a novel. I hope you’ll see a lot more of me in the future.