Author of “The Fragments of Others” (Other)
How long have you been writing? Do you write genres other than speculative fiction?
I’ve written since my early teens in some form or another – early on, poetry and vignettes, then short stories as I got older. I began seriously writing and submitting in 2009.
At this stage, I only write speculative fiction (although I’m certainly not averse to writing other genres if the right stories come along). For me, the beauty of storytelling is imagining the other, the things that reality tells us are impossible, but we all know in our secret hearts are not only possible but absolutely must exist somewhere in this strange universe.
What are some of your literary influences?
Fairy tales – always! Jeanette Winterson, W.H. Auden, Neil Gaiman, A.S. Byatt. . . I’m drawn to the dark and marvellous, and to beautiful language that sculpts images from words.
What’s on your to-be-read list right now?
The TBR pile keeps growing bigger and bigger! On the top of the pile is Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt and The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks.
Are there themes that you find recurring in your work?
Music features quite heavily in many of my stories, reflecting my love of music – like mathematics, it is the universal language and it speaks to the heart and soul.
I’ve also noticed that many of my characters are looking for a way to overcome some sort of inherited baggage, problems not necessarily of their own making. Old family enmities, life under oppressive governments, history that reaches out and snatches at the present. That baggage often leads to an exploration of reclaiming power in one’s own life, whether by fair means or foul. And I’m always curious about the connectivity between characters and how those, sometimes delicate, threads between them can tangle and lead to unexpected outcomes.
With the melange of stories about threatened girls and witches, what made you seize on the Pied Piper earlier in the story?
I have always loved the story of the Pied Piper, even as a child – the thought of this stranger coming to town and taking revenge, in the most brutal way possible for being, for being wronged was always so intriguing to me. Despite his horrendous actions, I always found myself on the Piper’s side.
In “The Fragments of Others”, the Plague-Child is trying to make sense of her own past by using stories that she remembers only pieces of, by recreating them to fit her own experience. By the using the Piper, she’s trying to make sense of the terrible disease that visited her small town and took away many of the people that she knew. But, of course, it’s muddled, because she doesn’t really want to remember that trauma; she has latched onto a story that carries the weight of trauma, although doesn’t reflect the reality of her situation.
You can read Suzanne J. Willis’ story in Metaphorosis Magazine, “A Nightingale’s Map of the City,” for free online.
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