Right, so, here at LSQ we love our authors and get really jazzed when we get to pick their writerly brains, not unlike zombies. But non-violent zombies. Really just zombies who love reading. On that note, we’re excited to share our chat with Issue 033 author Heather Morris where we talked about her story “There’s No Need to Fear the Darkness.”
LSQ: The title sets, in a way, a hopeful tone and made me think of the story in a more benevolent light than I may have given another title. Did you intend for this?
Heather: Not particularly. I have a really hard time landing on titles, and this one was especially difficult for me. To me it actually felt kind of sinister—so I’m interested to see a different reaction to it!
LSQ: Some authors struggle with how much background, how much origin story, to put in their pieces whereas with this piece, you just dove right in. Was that a conscious decision, or did you make cuts in earlier drafts? In other words, did you have the background of this piece (how things got this way) in your head, or were you able to just jump right in?
Heather: The background, particularly in this story, was a pretty organic process. I kind of let Brenda start “talking” to me and she told me what she wanted to say. I’m a builder rather than a pruner; I tend to add things to each subsequent draft rather than cutting. So I didn’t really plan out much. I just started with Brenda reading an evidence file, but as she was doing that she told me where she had been and where she was going to go.
LSQ: This question sort of depends on your answer to #2, in a way: why only three people with this gift?
Heather: Because I was writing a relationship between three people and I wanted them set apart in some way while still connected to each other. I didn’t want Brenda to be completely alone in her talents, but more people having the ability would mean an entire new subset of humanity and that would be a story on a different scale than I wanted to tell.
LSQ: Your story explores various ways such a gift could be used. It’s interesting your characters choose not to charge for their gift. Why is this and what does it say about these people?
Heather: Well, they’re the good guys (even when they’re thirsty for fame, like Cade). I can easily imagine people monetizing such a power, only giving access to the super-wealthy, holding it as a sort of threat over others to gain power, etc. But when it comes to these three, I think they were all a bit lost and at loose ends and this suddenly gave them purpose. They’re still coming to terms with it, figuring out how best to use it, but they’re always going to be the good guys.
LSQ: Where did this idea come from?
Heather: This one was written sometime during the turbulence of 2016, and I honestly don’t have a clue where it came from. Usually I at least remember what spurred the first line or scene, but I think I just sort of serendipitously happened upon this one.
LSQ: Where did the idea of calling bodies “Blanks” come from?
Heather: Being dead bodies they’ve become more “object” than person, but Brenda’s abilities put them back into something of a liminal state. They’re not who they used to be, but they have the potential to become something else. So I thought “Blank” worked rather well to convey that.
LSQ: What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and did any of these exemplify themselves in the writing of this story?
Heather: It’s so hard for me to judge my own skills and process, especially when I know I have a lot of growing to do. I suppose one of my weaknesses is a tendency towards vagueness—whether its that I want readers to come to their own conclusions or just don’t know how to deal with a particular issue, I will often leave things unsaid (for instance, in this piece I wanted to convey that Brenda is non-gender-conforming in some way, but I leave it to the reader to decide exactly what that means). Another weakness I’m trying to work through is my tendency to start things and then abandon them—I have dozens and dozens of opening pages on my hard drive but if the plot peters out or I lose interest I go to the next shiniest thing. So I’m trying to get better about just *finishing*.
As for strengths this is of course completely subjective but I think I’m really good with characters. I’ve written lots of different voices and lots of different types of people, but I always try to give them some aspect that will help readers empathize with them. I’m not very good with people in real life, but I think I’ve got a knack for fictional ones.