In this story, “The Lachrymist,” the link between death, memory, and water suggests a Mnemosyne-like figure. Did you draw from other myths as well? What were some of the seeds for this story?
It’s so interesting to me that you see that link to Mnemosyne in the story, and I love that you do. I often draw on myth in my work, but this time, I didn’t—at least not consciously. My conscious inspiration was the word “lachrymist” itself. It crossed my path on Twitter as an entry on unusual words (I love words and I follow multiple dictionaries). I was so taken with the definition that I decided to see if I could write a story about a lachrymist. She was there from the beginning. The poet was a surprise.
This is your eleventh story in Lightspeed, correct? How has your writing process changed since you wrote “Sweet Sixteen”? What do you take more seriously, and where do you cut yourself more slack?
I wrote “Sweet Sixteen” to see if I could write science fiction. Editor John Joseph Adams said he would like to see something from me if I did, and so I gave it a try. In some ways, my process for short fiction is still very much connected to that—here is a thing I would like to do, let’s see if I can do it.
I’m not sure if I take anything more seriously at this point. One of my goals as a writer has always been to challenge myself, to take my work seriously, and to always try to push and improve. I hope to always to that. I do cut myself more slack on the idea that all I need to do is get words on the page, and then I can fix things in revisions. And I’m definitely better about taking care of my mental health.
What are you reading these days? What do you remember most about a given work once you’ve put it back on the shelf?
I just finished Kathleen Jennings’ gorgeous and haunting novella, Flyaway. It’s Australian gothic, full of fairy tales, and has incredibly lush prose. I’m currently on the third book of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, having finally given in to peer pressure to read the series, and I’m finding them incredibly enjoyable. And I am so looking forward to Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi.
Do you have a secret dream project? If you had to choose something purely for your own joy, what would it be? Any medium, any IP.
I did recently get to work on a dream project. I was the writer for eighteen issues of Books of Magic, for DC Comics, which was part of the Sandman Universe. I worked with a great creative team, and felt incredibly lucky to be able to get to write characters that I had loved for years.
What can we look forward to next from you?
I am deep in my next novel, A Sleight of Shadows, which is the sequel to An Unkindness of Magicians. And then I have a few ideas about what might come next after that.
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