I took a short break from Fae-tastic Fridays because I was traveling and also rather too swamped with *things* to even pretend I could be organised. However, stuff has become far less frenetic of late and (most importantly) I’m back home with no plans of that changing anytime soon, so Fae-tastic Fridays are back! Interestingly enough, today’s interviewee is Beth Cato. That’s interesting because I spent a significant amount of time with Beth at World Fantasy this year (which was the trip I’d taken).
Anyway… around about the time of Fae’s launch I interviewed Beth about her contribution. Here is that interview as well as an excerpt from her story, The Cartography of Shattered Trees:
Beth Cato’s Interview
What was the inspiration for your Fae story?
I wrote my story as part of a Codex Writers’ Halloween contest. I was provided two distinct prompts: a luopan, which is a Chinese magnetic compass used in Feng Shui, and lichtenberg figures, the scarring that results from a lightning strike. The luopan put me in mind of maps, and from there I thought–what if there was a map in fractal burns on someone? What would cause that?
Was this your first foray into writing fairy stories?
No, I’ve written and published a number of fairy poems and stories, including a steampunk-fae tale in “Stitched Wings” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and a story in the forthcoming B is for Broken anthology. Fairies are such an important part of the fantasy genre, and there are common elements in fairy-like mythologies across the world. It’s something universal and accessible.
Note from Rhonda: I knew the answer to this question before I asked it. In truth, Beth’s story, “Stitched Wings” was definitely one of the things which inspired me to want to create this anthology in the first place. One of several things, to be fair, but a significant one.
Can you tell us a bit about the specific type of fairy creature in your story?
In the case of my story, that would be a major spoiler! I’ll withhold the name.
Is that your favourite type of fae?
No. My very favorite fae would be selkies. Back in my teens, I even collected seal figurines and plushes for a time!
Do you believe in fairies?
In a wistful way. I write about obscured magic because I want there to be something more, something we can’t quite see or comprehend. Along those same lines, when I’m driving and encounter a number of green traffic lights in a row, I thank the traffic gods. It’s not too much to hope that, in a bountiful garden, that glint of light in the corner of my eye might have something more to it. I hope I’ll always be childlike in that way. If I lose that, I’ll have nothing left to write.
Excerpt from The Cartography of Shattered Trees by Beth Cato (283 words):
Her fingers glanced her skin. The scars felt like divots, the fern-like spread of her burns in soft ripples. According to doctors, the Lichtenberg figures should have faded months before. Now those fractal burns had metamorphosed into something more.
Repulsed and fascinated, she followed the red route south to her navel. Did the map go where… it happened? Shuddering, she clenched her fist.
“I need to get ready for work,” she said aloud.
Yet she still stared at herself, mesmerized. Despite the burns, despite the horribleness, there was something beautiful about the map.
She reached into the darkness of her closet and pulled out her old portfolio. Disturbed feathers of dust were set adrift in the air. She propped a large pad of paper against the bathroom counter and, with glances at the mirror, began to sketch. Her head pounded as it had so often since the lightning strike, and she furrowed her brow as she struggled for focus.
The line veered, gouging at the paper. She flung the pencil away with a wordless scream.
Vivian used to draw, paint, exist for the muse that overflowed from her fingertips. She used to live.
Her therapist had told her that if she wanted to create art again, she would find a way, even with the lingering nerve damage. Such trite, arrogant advice from a man with an illegible signature.
She didn’t just want art again, she wanted her old life back. She wanted her innocence, for her body to be a clean slate, free of burns, free of the lingering memories of Andrew’s heavy hand dragging her down.
Vivian ached to feel whole again, to fill the emptiness that constantly echoed beneath her breast.