Interviewer: In “The Trader,” the emotions ‘hope’ and ‘interest’ seem to be in conflict. Marko has hope for the renewal of the city due to his own work in trading, which involves maintaining an objective perception of the war; he tells Anja, “… I don’t know what any of them are fighting for, and I don’t want to know, because only then I can remain impartial and do my work well. All I know is I can stop them, and we will breathe clean air in this city again.”

Yet in the end, Marko discards his impartiality to save Anja, catering to his interest in the girl. How did you balance these two opposing emotions throughout your story? Does hope for a better future truly involve the removal of human interest?

Damien Krsteski: Hope for a better future and human interest go hand in hand. The story posits a false dichotomy, because it’s this removal of human interest that has led to the devastation of Marko’s city in the first place. But it takes real contact with the world to remind him of that, after which he knows that a better future could never come with human interests neglected; if everybody follows his example of taking care of the one next to them instead of chasing abstract ideologies, his world will be quickly rebuilt and restored.

Interviewer: Which other emotion would you attribute to your story, if it wasn’t your own theme?

Damien Krsteski: Empathy. Compassion. The Trader believes he can save the world if he looks at its inhabitants through an impersonal mathematical lens, but his empathy for one young person takes over and helps him understand that he needs to reclaim his humanity before he can save anything at all.

Interviewer: After finishing your story, what was the single most valuable take-away from the experience?

Damien Krsteski: I liked the idea of putting two emotions on a see-saw, and using that as a starting point. I would love to repeat the experience: pick two emotional cues out of a hat, and craft a story around them.

Interviewer: Given that this is a “score” anthology, what representative piece of music would you connect to “The Trader”?

Damien Krsteski: Considering the grayness and post-apocalyptic feel of the story, the album “Vertikal” by Cult of Luna would fit perfectly.

Damien Krsteski posts writing updates on Twitter @monochromewish@monochromewish. More information about his stories and a full bibliography can be found on his blog.

Buy the Score anthology, which includes Damien Krsteski’s story “The Trader” focused on Hope and Interest.

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