It’s Fae-tastic Friday again! This week I’m pleased to offer an interview I conducted with the amazing L.S. Johnson. Her story, “The Queen of Lakes” was one of my favourite stories in Fae (and I’ll have a little excerpt of it for you below!).
L.S. Johnson’s Interview
What was the inspiration for your Fae story?
I must confess that my story began not with the each-uisge, but with the lake, and Rose’s walk past it. When I was in junior high, a group of high school boys used to hang out in the playground across from my apartment building. They would catcall, and wolf whistle, and sometimes follow me for a block or two. For several months I had to prepare for that every day. Even just going to the corner store was fraught. It became normal for me to carry a little butterfly knife—indeed, it suddenly seemed a perfectly normal thing to go into a shop with the intent of buying a butterfly knife. I think about that time a lot; I write about it a lot, in one form or another. All the different ways women run the gauntlet.
Was this your first foray into writing fairy stories?
I often turn to fairy stories or mythology when I write. It’s a bit like taking a recipe and making it your own: it gives you a structure you can build upon. One of my favorite parts of the writing process is constructing a story, and working with these old tales creates a different approach than with a fully invented narrative—you are at once working with particular conventions and, at the same time, you have all sorts of fascinating interstices to explore. It’s a process that often carries me very far from my original intent, with the best possible results.
Can you tell us a bit about the specific type of fairy creature in your story?
The each-uisge is a Scottish fairy, a rather uncommon one; what little I know of it comes from the Briggs encyclopedia. It is a water horse, but can also take the form of a handsome man, and should you touch or mount him within sight of water his skin becomes adhesive and he will instantly plunge to the depths with his hapless victim glued to him. I will admit I took some liberties with Rose’s admirer, but I like to think that, in this instance, he finds his human form far more practical than that of a horse.
Do you believe in fairies?
I believe in nothing, which is another way of saying I am open to anything.
Excerpt From The Queen of Lakes by L.S. Johnson (236 words):
The moment the path starts to dip, the world goes silent. The very wind ceases to blow; not a leaf stirs, not an animal can be seen, not even an insect. There is only the rasp of my breath, the blood thudding in my ears.
It is forty-two steps from the silence to the far end of the curve. Forty-two steps where the only sound in the world is myself.
Myself and the each-uisge, I mean.
“Where did you go?” I ask. For he is beside me, though I did not hear him approach. I never hear him.
“Here and there,” he gurgles. His voice is low and wet, as if his mouth were full of jelly. “Across great lakes and little rivers, so many lovely sights. Though not a one as lovely as you, Rose.”
He teases my braid, making it sticky and knotted, and I slap his hand away. Thanks to his fondling I’ve been scolded by Mrs. Duggan more than once now, for looking slovenly. He strokes the bare strip of my throat instead, smearing my skin as he hooks a gluey finger beneath my scarf, trying to tug it away from my neck.
His fingers are so very cold.
The first time he touched me I was so frightened I nearly stopped walking, but I did not stop, I have never stopped.
I do not know what will happen if I stop.