Please welcome Rebecca Campbell to The Qwillery. “The Other Shore” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.
This is the fourth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!
I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Rebecca: Economy. I’m not an economical writer, so short fiction is a necessary discipline for me. I like the sprawl of a novel, but for the last two years I’ve focused on short fiction because I need that discipline.
And I’m absolutely a pantser! If I know too much about where a story is going I lose interest in writing it.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite authors and literary influences?
Rebecca: My favourite authors: Haruki Murakami, George Eliot, Angela Carter, Ursula K LeGuin, Kazuo Ishiguro. I hope they’re influences, but mostly I think I’m just a happy fan of their work.
I also don’t think I’ll ever get out from under the shadow of my early favourites: SF and Fantasy novels by Susan Cooper, John Wyndham, E Nesbit, Alison Utley. I feel a lot of their influence in my speculative fiction.
TQ: Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Rebecca: I had to think about this one. I wish someone would ask me about how my academic research informs my creative work, because I’m interested in the question. But I don’t quite know what the answer is, except that my research has left me thinking about how we manage information, how we digest it and make sense of when we’re overwhelmed by the massive archive available. Sometimes I feel like I write fiction because it’s easier to make sense of ideas through stories than through the kind of analysis I’ve been trained to do.
TQ: Describe “The Other Shore”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.
Rebecca: “The Other Shore” is about someone who has lived on British Columbia’s south coast for a very very VERY long time, and has seen a lot of people come and go.
TQ: Tell us something about “The Other Shore” that will not give away the story.
Rebecca: I wrote the story because I wanted to capture this feeling I’ve found in literature about encounters with other sorts of beings. Daphne DuMaurier’s “Not after Midnight” and the poem “The God Abandons Anthony” by CP Cavafy (and the anecdote about Mark Anthony that inspired it) are really excellent examples. I love stories about the qualitative difference between human and superhuman consciousness, the sense that both texts describe entities that have a different way of knowing the world, which may overwhelm a regular human consciousness if we are unlucky enough to meet it at the wrong time.
TQ: What was your inspiration for “The Other Shore”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?
Rebecca: My inspiration is almost always my exile’s love for the Pacific coast. I grew up in a fairly rural area on an island, and my dream topography is still there: the stretch of road between my house and my grandparents’ home, the parks and beaches, the trees, the mountains.
As for whether I’ve met a Genius loci… maybe? I wouldn’t want to presume to say…
TQ: Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “The Other Shore”.
“…the kids are now emerging from the afternoon, caped in beach towels, their parents laden with coolers, laden also with radiation and its malignant gleam. On my way to Charlie’s table with ketchup bottles and malt vinegar I stop to watch the kids climb toward the ice cream shop and wish I could tell them to fill their mouths with seawater and then order a double cone, so salt might render the ice cream sweeter than anything that has ever existed.”
TQ: In which genre or genres does “The Other Shore” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?
Rebecca: “The Other Shore” is definitely fantasy.
I like genre classifications a lot. I think they set up readers’ expectations, and they also invoke a whole literary history in their conventions and concerns. That said, they’re also pretty fluid, and there’s a lot of crossover—I’m sure a lot of us would like to write with Alice Munroe’s insight and economy, Ursula le Guin’s scope, and Angela Carter’s sense of the ridiculous, right?
TQ: What's next?
Rebecca: I’m excited to say I’m headed to Clarion West this summer. And I have some stories coming out in Lackington’s and Beneath Ceaseless Skies that touch a little on the same landscape. Maybe I’m haunted?
And I kind of can’t wait to sit down with Genius Loci and read it!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Rebecca: Thank you for having me! And thank you for supporting what will be, I know, a really original and beautiful anthology!
Rebecca Campbell is a Canadian writer and academic. NeWest Press published her first novel, The Paradise Engine, in 2013. Occasionally she posts things over at whereishere.ca.