It’s kind of become a tradition that I interview the contributors to my anthologies and share those interviews on my blog. It’s also kind of become a tradition that it takes me a very long time to get them all posted. I plan to continue the first tradition but I’m hoping to avoid the second. Just to be different.
Today’s interview is with L.S. Johnson. I first learned of L.S.’s work when she submitted an amazing story, The Queen of Lakes, to Fae and I’ve been enamored with her work ever since. When she accepted my invitation to contribute to B is for Broken I was ecstatic, and even more so to have her stick around for C is for Chimera 🙂
What letter were you assigned?
Did you struggle with the letter you were given?
Actually, no! I had already started sketching out this story, title and all. That the title began with R and the story dealt with chimeras in a few different ways was pure serendipity.
What was your favourite idea for the ‘word’ to use in your title that you didn’t use?
No alternatives this time, it was full speed ahead on the idea I had. Though I will say that there is a version of this story that is twice as long, with a present-day framing narrative that I just couldn’t make work. Perhaps someday there will be an alt version?
What kind of chimera is your story about?
Well, it’s based on the story of Philomela and Procne, which like many Greek myths involves a physical transformation. But a chimera can also be an illusion of the mind, a mental fantasy, and part of the story is about how narratives frame events, especially when they’re based on a feminine ideal that has little to do with reality.
What, other than the letter you were assigned, helped inspire your story?
I had a lovely great-aunt who was a recluse; she lived in an apartment in Queens, hardly ever went out, and seemed to subsist on candy, Cheez Doodles, and the occasional roast dinner. I only met her a couple of times in my childhood, but I always thought of her apartment as a kind of nest—her own little world in a vast hive of similar spaces. I used to look at the flat windows of her building and wonder how many others were like her, looking out but never seen.
Lion, goat or snake–which are you more like?
Snake, for better or worse.
If you were going to be magically transformed into a chimera composed of three different creatures, what would you want them to be?
Bird-cat. Don’t need a third. Just bird-cat.
What if it wasn’t limited to creatures? What three things would you want to be composed of?
Cotton lawn, a Leuchtturm journal, and the smell of my youngest cat’s fur.
Unrealizable dreams have been called chimeras. Taking the ‘unrealizable’ part out of the equation, what is one of your fondest dreams/goals?
To finally feel settled somewhere. I live very far from my family, and my spouse is from another country entirely; yet my hometown has become far too expensive for us to ever consider moving back. Try as I might, California has never quite felt like “home”, so I keep hoping that one day we might find a place that does.
Can you share a short excerpt from your story?
Her mother had often told her bedtime stories that weren’t in books, stories from the old world, stories her mother’s mother had told, and her mother before that, and so on . . . Stories of women who were changed into things, river rocks and fleet deer, nightingales and sparrows and tall, twisting trees: always they were betrayed by someone and then swiftly changed, to save them from a worse fate. And then she was no more of this world, her mother would always finish, and then she would pretend to show Elsa something from the woman in question—a leaf, a feather. But such endings had never felt like escapes to Elsa. They felt like condemnations, and her dreams would be filled with monstrous images of animals with women’s faces, their silent mouths screaming endlessly.
Only now did Elsa understand her child-self had been right, that those stories weren’t fantasies. They were warnings.
L.S. Johnson lives in Northern California. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Long Hidden, Fae, Lackington’s, Strange Tales V, and other venues. Currently she’s working on a fantasy trilogy set in 18th century Europe. Find her online at http://traversingz.com/.
Find C is for Chimera online: