It’s Friday, and you know what that means! Fae-tastic Fridays continue. This week I’m stoked to share contributor Amanda Block’s interview and an excerpt from her story, Antlers.
Amanda Block’s Interview
What was the inspiration for your Fae story?
For some time, I had been mulling over three separate ideas: an original tale influenced by English folklore (I had ‘featuring stag?’ written in my notes), a story about someone being imprisoned in a garden, and an environmental fairy tale. When I realised they would fit together very neatly, the rest of Antlers quickly followed.
Was this your first foray into writing fairy stories? If no, why do you write fairy stories? What is it about them that appeals to you?
I would actually say that most of my writing is influenced by fairy tales. There are many, many reasons I like using them, at least as a starting point, but perhaps the principle one is this: I believe fairy tales are stories stripped down their purest and most basic form. Generally, there is no room for psychology or backstory, lengthy descriptions or character development – only plot. Philip Pullman, who recently reworked some of the world’s most famous stories in Grimm Tales for Young and Old, has said that a fairy tale is ‘made out of events’.*
As such, I find them a very useful writing tool. There are so many directions in which to take them: Snow White, for example, could be told from the mirror’s perspective, could be set in space, could evolve into an entirely different yarn about poison… But even if the fairy tale is turned upside down, or forgotten entirely in the development of the new fiction, I think at least beginning with a story structure that has been passed down hundreds of years, and that has survived countless retellings, can only serve to enhance and strengthen an original piece of writing.
Outside of your own writing, who is your favourite fairy character? What is it about them that makes them special?
I have always been fascinated by the eponymous hero of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. First of all, and most obviously, he’s completely impossible: ‘the boy who wouldn’t grow up.’ But even aside from that, he’s a complex riddle of a character, who veers from heroic and carefree (‘I’m youth, I’m joy, I’m a little bird broken out of the egg!’) to tragic and morbid (‘to die would be an awfully big adventure’). I’m always surprised that Barrie’s play is only just over a century old – there is such a mythical quality to the idea of a boy blessed (and doomed?) with eternal youth.
Excerpt from Antlers by Amanda Block (445 Words):
The garden is a crypt. Vines grasp at the walls, pulling themselves upwards, right towards the throats of the tallest trees, which bow forward to meet one another, branches clasping branches.
Inside, there is no breeze, and the air is thick with the musk of pollen and damp, dark earth. The birds that remain stand still in the shrubs, their songs low and mournful.
At the centre, lies the Lady. Under the netting of shadows, her skin seems to shine and shift, like moonlight upon water. The only colour is at her breast, opening up like a red flower thrust forward through time, blossoming around the arrow that has pierced her heart.
She was pulled from the dying Queen, strong and squalling, and they quickly shushed and rocked and coddled her. Her mother, quiet at last, gazed only once upon her girl, before her eyes rolled back in her head.
There was no time to be respectful, to even check, before they cut into the Queen’s belly and dug around for the other child. It was a small, sinewy creature slipping like entrails through their fingers; the wrong colour, too quiet. They stood back while the midwife snipped at the cord and then, at the sound of the rasping, rattling breaths, surged forward once more. The healthy girl child was snatched from the wet nurse and replaced by her brother. Her screams filled the chamber, but no one heard her.
The twins were both pale, raven-haired, he and she versions of the same doll, though everyone could tell them apart. The girl was her mother’s daughter, tumbling outside at dawn and only returning at dusk, covered in grass stains and chattering about the lark’s nest above the gatehouse or the frogspawn in the moat. The boy was weaker, more wary, preferring to play his own games with his own rules. Sometimes he watched his sister through the arrowslits in the castle walls. He knew of the moments that had passed between the beginning of her life and his, when she had tried to steal his birthright by pushing herself first from their mother’s womb. It angered him, as it angered him to see the servants slip her cake, or their father gift her with the private garden within the castle grounds, which had once belonged to their mother.
As the old King faded, his daughter bloomed, and his son wavered somewhere in between. The Prince hated that the people loved her, the rosy almost-queen, and by the time his father died, and the crown sat heavy upon his brow, there was nothing in the kingdom he loathed more than his own sister.
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