How did this story come about?
The best thing about my day job (I am a PhD student of medieval Turkish literature) is how my work constantly refills my creative well. While researching a paper back in 2017, I stumbled across an article that catalogued common narremes in medieval Persian fairy tales. Some of the tropes were familiar to me, such as evil stepmothers, Cinderella stories, and romances beginning with love at first sight. Others surprised me. Three in particular caught my imagination: a girl wandering into an abandoned castle in the desert, a crow with rubies for eyes, and a prince trapped in enchanted sleep, his body pierced with thousands of needles.
Can you talk about why you started the story where you did?
Now, after having attended the Clarion West workshop, I spend a lot more time thinking about my beginnings and endings than I used to (for better or for worse!). When I sat down two years ago to string together these three images—the girl, the crow, and the needle prince—I relied on instinct. I hadn’t written a short story since high school, so when the line “a crow presides over its wares” popped into my mind, I snatched it from the air, pinned it to paper before it could flit away, and took it from there.
I had also recently read Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen, and was—and remain—incredibly inspired by her work. A magical bazaar hums at the heart of that novel, where it serves as both a portal to a magical world and a destination in itself. I was enchanted by how Chokshi painted her bazaar as a place that was at once enticing, capricious, and dangerous; it gleams like a ruby, but its edges are razor sharp. No one in Young Adult fantasy does atmosphere like her.
I could use a patience stone. Is this something you dreamed up?
Not at all. Unlike the more uncommon tropes that inspired “The Weight of a Thousand Needles,” the patience stone appears more frequently in fairy tales and popular literature originating from across the Persianate world. I first learned about them before I began my PhD, when I came across the novella The Patience Stone by the French-Afghan writer Atiq Rahimi. It had recently been adapted for film and boasted a striking new cover, and because I always judge books by their covers, I picked it up in a bookstore and began to page through it.
I don’t remember how long I crouched on the floor of the bookstore reading, but I was transfixed. I couldn’t move until I finished it. I felt like I had cheated the store by reading an entire book without buying it, so I guiltily bought another novel before leaving. I’ve since completely forgotten that second book, but the image of the patience stone stayed with me.
What else would you like readers to know about “The Weight of a Thousand Needles”?
One of the items that appears in the bazaar scene is an Easter egg that I have nestled into dusty corners of various other projects set in this same universe. Keep an eye out for it, but valued patron, please do not touch: object is cursed.
Any upcoming projects/news to share?
My story “No Other Life,” which features an Andalusian vampire in sixteenth-century Istanbul, is forthcoming from Nightmare Magazine. Aside from that, I have a lot of irons in the fire, but nothing to report just yet!
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