Casey might very well be the last surviving human on Earth, but the story is as much about her relationship with her mother as with her situation. Which of these elements occurred to you first? How did they come together?
I started with the idea of a woman giving birth to her own mother and imagined a situation in which this might occur. So I guess the mother-daughter relationship was first. Also, I wanted to write a straight-up science fiction story which included some of the more traditional tropes of our field.
Did the story give you any surprises as you were working on it?
Several. If a story doesn’t surprise the writer at some point, chances are the story isn’t working. At least, that’s how I view things. On a macro level, the surprise was that even though I’d set out to right kind of a gimmick story, just to see if I could do it, “The Last Garden” quickly became a much better piece of work than that modest ambition would have suggested. Another surprise was the image at the end of the story, where Casey is pulling the Surrogate around on a cart, the way her mother used to pull Casey around on the wagon. This image possessed a weird quality that really appealed to me and was totally unplanned.
What is your favorite place (or situation) to write in? Did you write this story there?
Routine favors creativity, so I like to work in my home office, which is where I wrote this story.
I know you teach writing sometimes. Do you have any advice for the aspiring authors among our Lightspeed readers?
Sure. This is what I tell every aspiring writer: It should be more important to you to be good than to be published. If you stick with it long enough and don’t grow discouraged or bitter, you will become a better writer. And a writer who is true to herself is more likely to enjoy regular publication, anyway. In other words, focus on what you’re doing on the page and find your happiness there.
Spread the word!