Cerile and the journeyer are stuck in an endless cycle, but at the end Cerile remains determined to keep trying. Do you think she will ever convince him to stay?
Nope. If he ever becomes complacent enough to stay, he’s not the man he is, one addicted to proving himself. She is omnipotent and can only serve this aspect of him by sending him away, to fight his way back. It’s an insoluble problem, and they’ll likely keep on going until he falls on the road.
I really liked the name Cerile. Did it come from anywhere?
You have touched on a sore spot. A few years ago, the story was published online, without my consent or any offered compensation, in the blog of a reader who professed to love it but introduced one change, naming the witch “Titania.” I found this change tin-eared and ridiculous, the act of an uninvited editor who didn’t stop to think that writers may have specific good reasons for naming their characters as they do. I hasten to report that the trespass was settled amicably, as the blogger turned out to be one of those guys who acts out of well-meaning naïveté and not any intentional contempt for the rights of authors — even if (I must also report) a couple of the readers on his page made the usual snotty comments to the effect that my concern for our own intellectual property proved that I “only cared about money” and “not about [my] readers” and the rest of that tiresome codswallop you hear from folks who have no problem insisting that writers work for free. Either way, I am happy to put another shovelful of dirt on the long-buried “Titania” version, because I really did craft the name “Cerile” very carefully, and with a very specific resonance in mind. Her name is, in fact, a comment on the action. Not to put too fine a point on it: It’s pronounced “Surreal.” Now, isn’t that better than yet another vaguely magical lady named “Titania”?
How do you go about planning and writing a short story like this?
This was one of those very rare and very blessed cases of a story coming out in one writing session of less than two hours, though I gave it a second pass one day later; the deadline for the anthology in question was imminent, and I began composition knowing what I wanted the story to be like.
What are you working on lately?
I’m hammering away on a young adult novel, but have been particularly fecund with short fiction of late, and have four science fiction tales of various lengths coming in Analog, as well as a couple of horror stories also in the publication pipeline.
And finally, a very important question: I know you have a number of adorable cats. What part do they play in your creative process?
I should say they get between me and the screen, because they do. But when one or another of them occupies the cat bed to the right of my keyboard, the service rendered is not considering it strange or frightening when I act out dialogue . . . and carefully reminding me when it’s time for lunch.
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