Interviewer: In “Tree and Flame”, Thya’s returned father seems to epitomize serenity: “But it’s like a song, a tale,” he says, “something that happened to someone else. Now I can only see the wonder in things, not the pain.” Do you think, then, that a certain level of immediacy and passion must be discarded to achieve peace?
Rob Francis: Yes, I do believe that – as someone who has lived with anxiety from an early age, I feel a distancing of emotion is important for achieving peace. I wouldn’t say absence of emotion, but certainly a removal of it to somewhere it is less affective. Thya’s father does represent the ‘minor’ emotion of serenity in the story (my cues were hope/serenity); he still cares, but from a distance. And of course, how he achieves that serenity is ultimately telling.
Interviewer: How did you preserve tension and conflict within your story when the primary emotions were hope and serenity?
Rob Francis: I usually write quite dark fiction, which was one reason why I requested these emotions – something new to try. To preserve tension, it was necessary to start the story with hope (Thya’s father is recovered, everything might turn out okay) but then introduce a threat that might counter this (both Thya’s siblings and the shadow of the more sinister A’grak). Further hope is offered in the form of Lammash, and Thya’s father balances the story with the background note of serenity. The story ends on a positive note but leaves lots of scope for further exploration. I was pretty happy with how the story turned out. I’ll try writing more positive fantasy again in future!
Interviewer: After finishing your story, what was the single most valuable take-away from the experience?
Rob Francis: Probably that I enjoy writing to a brief (however brief, ha!). It always creates stories that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
Interviewer: Given that this is a “score” anthology, what representative piece of music would you connect to “Tree and Flame”?
Rob Francis: That’s a tough question. I was listening to a lot of Conor Oberst (Ruminations) when I was writing the story, but the feel of the story is probably closer to a song that I love and which often creeps unbidden into my mind – King and Lionheart by Of Monsters and Men.
Buy the Score anthology, which includes Rob Francis’ story “Tree and Flame” focused on Hope and Serenity.