A Writing Conversation with Jen Chandler
in which we talk about wonder
Jen is the winner of IWSG 2016 Anthology contest and as winner, her story gave the anthology the title - Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life. I, for one, am very excited to read her story about Leah’s meeting with the Angel of Death. I virtually sat down with her this week to talk a little bit about her writing.
R: Tell us a bit about your writing, what do you usually write about? Where does your inspiration come from?
J: My writing tends to lean toward the experimental in that I let my mind wander and my fingers follow. I enjoy using words in ways that are unexpected, taking proper names or nous for instance and turning them into verbs. I love words and I love how they can trickle out of you and paint voluminous pictures that are unexpected and a bit metaphysical. I grew up on fairy tales and myths and, when I was 28, I stumbled upon a book by Greer Gilman called “Moonwise”. Ms Gilman opened up an entirely new way of looking at words and I’ve allowed her influence to permeate everything I write.
I usually write about everyday people who find themselves in extraordinary situations. Once upon a time I considered myself a fantasy author and, even now, I lean more towards the labels Dark Fantasy and Horror. However, I’ve been practicing more and more in the realm of Magical Realism and Fantastic Literary Fiction. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but the more research I do into Literary Fiction the more I’m discovering it isn’t all the “foul snobbery” I thought it to be when I was in college :)
My content is always steeped in mythology and folklore. I love turning old myths on their heads, taking a character traditionally perceived as “evil” and playing devil’s advocate. It’s fun to see things through the eyes of a “monster” and imagine the heroes being the demons. I also love the idea of magic found in everyday life, not just in the imagined worlds of Tolkien or Herbert or Jordan. I LOVE high fantasy, I love to get lost in the rambling rabbit trails of the epic world building but I also need to believe that maybe, just maybe, I too can walk on water or speak to dragons.
R: What led to your decision to submit to the contest?
J: It’s been years since I submitted anything to anyone and I’ve never submitted to an anthology. When the topic was announced I knew I had to give it a try. A fallen hero, a lost soul: oh how fun! I almost didn’t submit my story. It was a crazy two months leading up to the deadline and I finished it at my mother’s kitchen table with two days for final edits. And then when I sent it in, something went wrong with the formatting and it arrived blank. Needless to say, I got my submission in with hours to spare. Talk about coming in under the wire!
R: What are you most excited about being included in this anthology?
J: I am humbled to be included at all! I’m excited to finally have a story I can share with an audience larger than my long suffering husband and cats. I’m looking forward to the experience and the lessons learned along the way, especially in regards to marketing. I’m so new to this online everything game. It’s taking some adaptation but, as Madeleine L’Engle once wrote in A Wind in the Door: “an organism must adapt or die.” I’m sure that was originally Darwin or someone but it’s L’Engle’s book from where I first gathered the concept. I’d rather learn to adapt. I hate it. I’m not good at it but it beats the alternative :)
R: What’s the one thing you want people to take away from your story?
J: I want people to pause and consider the magic that is around them everyday. I want people to look at an abandoned building and think, “What if there was a fallen angel inside?” I want people to wake up on foggy mornings and stand at the window, peering into the mist with the hope that maybe, just maybe, they’ll see a giant pass by. We must rekindle a sense of wonder in society. Modern life doesn’t hold to that. Sure we’re all amazed by technology but what about the essence of story? Back in the days when myths were cautionary tales, when fairy stories were warnings whispered in the dark, there were no distractions from blue lights or television sets. No one was constantly updating Twitter or reading irate political posts on Facebook. They sat on the front porch or in the main room of the house, a lit fire casting shadows on the walls. Someone would start humming, a song would be sung, and then, one of the elders, would begin to tell them of what someone they knew saw in the forest and why they should take care lest they, too, get carried away by trolls. The long and the short of it is, for all my stories, I want to rekindle a sense of wonder.
Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life comes out May 2017.
Check out the site.