The current issue of Luna Station Quarterly is Issue 032, available online and in print. Within are nine stories ranging from speculative fiction to fantasy. Among them, you’ll find an eerily beautiful piece by Agrippina Domanski, titled “Everybody and His Mother.” We were lucky enough to chat with Agrippina about her work. Check out her interview below, but read her story, first.
LSQ: Where did the idea for this story come from? Do you have an interest in the occult?
Agrippina: It’s usually difficult for me to answer those types of questions honestly, as my ideas tend to come from all over the place — my dreams, newspaper articles, lecture notes, and so on. For this one, however, there was definitely a source. I was reading psychforums online (until recently it used to be an open blog where people could discuss serious psychological issues and what might be termed “deviant behavior”). Around 2015 the website got blocked by the government, so now you can only read archived posts. There was one topic thread about the experiences of people who think they have come into contact with the supernatural after a relative’s death. The story about an old lady coming back looking for her hair was one of the cases cited by one of the contributors online. However, it was a very brief comment, literally one sentence, and as it had captivated my attention I eventually put my own spin on it. The second plot line of the story, about one niece being obviously more favored than another, is a situation I have observed with my best friend, and her relatives on her mother’s side.
I do indeed have a huge interest in occult, which has only been growing over the years. In fact, I had originally chosen a theology degree in hope that this interest would thrive in such an academic environment. I can’t say this has been the case necessarily, but my degree has provided me with resources and places to go to access the information I need, especially on the occult and apocryphal (non-canonical) literature around the Bible — for which I’m immensely grateful.
LSQ: The relationships between all the characters (both alive and dead) are tragic, in a way, but very realistic and identifiable. What was it like to write these types of characters?
Agrippina: I started writing at a very young age and I have always been certain this would be my main occupation in life, so one of my main concerns and worries was that since I was so young I did not have enough life experience and would not be able to create realistic characters or situations. The irony is that at some point (probably three years ago, when I was seventeen) I stopped trying to “copy” reality and just started working wholly from my imagination, while at the same time making use of the dialects and contextual peculiarities surrounding me. In a way I think this is the way to go when you create people and situations from scratch. I very rarely have prototypes for my characters, but then I think every writer brings in bits and pieces of his reality without noticing.
This story is in fact my second attempt at the subject of old age and what may be called its dark side. I have always been interested in the unspoken social rules which prevent negative things being said about old people, and have witnessed cases among the people I know where that inability to articulate exasperation or other negative feelings ultimately results in more resentment. Also I believe every family has “favorites” and that it’s inevitable, no matter how people try to hide it. I recently read some scientific article which explained why being a favorite younger child has evolutionary advantages — it seemed to be arguing along the same lines if I understood it correctly.
The central conflict in this story for me is that the mother chooses to be guided by her obligations, while the boys, especially Jack, would see that as a betrayal of the self and an act of weakness. What particularly fascinated me in the source material was the irony of the two generations in the same family ending up on different sides of the barricade in the “favorites” dispute. I feel Jemima would never be able to understand Jack and his motives because she had only been on the side of the “unloved child.”
LSQ: The ending almost feels cathartic. Is this meant to be a positive or negative realization for Jemima?
Agrippina: I would agree with the definition “cathartic”; in my reading of witchcraft in this particular story it’s [being a witch] almost a genetic condition passed on exclusively to women, rather like hemophilia (of course this has been addressed in Stephen King’s Carrie and elsewhere). Therefore the realization that she’s a witch is a very negative experience for Jemima, because that means she would grow to be a lot like Diane. But at the same time it is an inevitable thing, something to accept like any genetic condition to some extent. I think there is a possibility that she will learn to use witchcraft for her enjoyment and benefit, and that would soften the blow when her sons eventually leave her. Also by recognizing her “gift” she would allow herself to finally concentrate more on herself (which you can hardly ever do as a single mother) and to get over the betrayal of her children in a less painful way.
LSQ: What is the most important thing you’d like readers to get from this story?
Agrippina: At first I was certain I couldn’t answer that at all. This answer still feels arbitrary in a way. But I suppose it’s the sense that relationships and love never follow rational laws. You can’t make anyone love you, you can’t make yourself love anyone you don’t feel like loving — and it’s best to accept that as early on as you can. But then I think that only applies in the context of this particular story.
LSQ: What was the most challenging part of writing this story?
Agrippina: I work a lot on improving my writing — taking courses and working roughly four hours per day as a must. But I still feel I’m very bad at doing action scenes — I’m even considering taking a master class in those or something. So the scene when Diane materializes and goes to get her hair was easily the most challenging thing I’ve ever written.
LSQ: What are you reading currently? Does what you read influence whatever you are writing at the time? Who are some authors that inspire you?
Agrippina: I just finished reading Moby Dick and now am trying to work my way through university teaching material. Whatever I’m reading always has an enormous impact on what I’m writing. The same goes for film — so much so that when I write drafts of some stories to finish later, I add a mini-bibliography of every book or film that has shaped that idea in my head. I re-watch and re-read them all later to get back into the mood. It’s a tough job to list the authors who inspire me off the top of my head, but T.S. Eliot would definitely be at the top of the list — especially “The Waste Land” — also Laurence Durrell, John Fowles, D.H. Lawrence, and perhaps Dos Passos.
LSQ: Do you have any other projects you’re working on at the moment and can you tell us a bit about them?
Agrippina: I have about six stories I’m doing all at the same time right now, but sometimes they take three months or longer to complete. I have one story I’m working on actively, which is about musicians and a cult experience of sorts during a rock concert. But I add little bits and pieces to the other five almost every day — I open the plans and look at them, and slowly let them build up some core strength, as they say in my yoga classes. I have finished some longer things this summer, but I wouldn’t go as far as calling them novels — however, at some point when I’m facing a bit less pressure from university I’ll be sending them out for publication.