Today we had the absolute pleasure of chatting with our very own editor-in-chief Jennifer Lyn Parsons about her story “Joinery.” It’s in Issue 036, along with twelve other spectacular crone-themed stories. Go read it, then come back here for some writerly insights.
LSQ: There are four (if you count the Bright One) ages represented in this story. Was it difficult to weave those different layers into one piece? Where did the idea of this story start?
JP: Working with the various characters was surprisingly straightforward for me. In some ways, having these women all be of different ages eased the writing process because I had a clear demarcation for who was who because I could tap into their physicality and various levels of life experience. However, while their ages may have set these women apart, it was not all that defined them. They were each the culmination of their acquired wisdom and experiences. I had to take a little time to get to know them as individuals and that helped me to be sure that they each felt like their own fully-developed person. Though honestly, at the end of the day, I just hope I’m as spry Grannie Hella when I’m as old as she appears to be.
As for where the story came from, I had written Grannie into my first novel and those who’ve read it have been asking me for more of her ever since. When I knew I was writing a story for this special Crone issue, the first time my own work has been in LSQ in all these years, I knew I needed to write about Grannie Hella. Once I figured out what she might be doing on this far-flung planet, the rest came together rather quickly. Though I admit I was surprised with where the story took me. I love it when writing takes a turn you weren’t expecting. Can you tell I’m not much for making outlines?
LSQ: Can you speak to the metaphor of the title as it applies to the story as a whole?
JP: Titles are often the hardest part, well, after the writing itself that is. I had struggled with this one for a bit, trying to find a few words that would encompass the theme of the story. It finally came together when I understood what exactly I had written and how these women interconnected with each other.
For anyone who doesn’t know, “joinery” is a woodworking term for joining together pieces of wood to form more complex items. What Regine does in making the dovetail joins of the box she creates for Grannie Hella is a prime example of a woodworker’s joinery. That box was pivotal to the whole story and I knew it needed to be a part of the title.
When I thought about what was happening between the characters, I realized joinery was also a great way of describing the new relationships that were formed throughout the story and I knew it was the perfect title for the piece. The characters fit themselves together like perfect dovetail joins.
LSQ: Do you have any experience with or interest in woodworking yourself? What made you pick that profession for Regine?
JP: I do have an interest! It’s something I’m working on developing and hope to have space in my next home to put a small shop together. My daily work as a programmer allows me to build things every day, but they’re all ephemeral. You can’t hold them in your hands, you have to hold them in your head, which is exhausting, to be honest. Working with wood, or any other physical material, has a very soothing, flow-inducing quality to it. At the end of a project you are left with a definitive, tangible object as proof of your time, energy, and command of your craft. That is supremely satisfying as well as being great self-care and a counterbalance to the digital work I do.
Regine received this profession for a few reasons. One of which is the old writer’s adage: write what you know. That’s not always meant to be taken literally, but here I was able to take a current passion and use it to provide a depth to this character. We were just getting to know each other, and having her be a woodworker gave us some common ground. It also provided a wonderful reason for Grannie to require her services. When I first started writing this story, I knew Grannie would show up and ask Regine for help, but had no idea what kind of help she needed or how the story would develop as a result. When I realized that Grannie had brought some special cargo with her and would require that box, well, the rest of the pieces started to fall into place.
LSQ: What was the most challenging aspect about this story to write and why? What was the easiest?
JP: Once I could see the shape of the story and all its parts, the actual writing became the focus. It was like having all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but not having the picture to guide you. I knew early on that Regine would take an apprentice, but I had to work out why she had been reluctant to do so, and what about Grannie and the Bright One’s visit would change her mind. Honestly, I think moving Regine through this subtle but important development was the most difficult part of the process. It was challenging to make sure it didn’t feel forced or abrupt, but a natural evolution of her story even while Regine herself was surprised by her own realization that mentoring Elisha was part of her personal destiny.
As for the easiest, that’s simple: Grannie Hella. She’s one of those characters who comes along to fortunate writers that is such a powerful voice that she writes herself onto the page. She just tells you what she would say and do and it’s a joy and privilege to write her every single time.
LSQ: Lastly, are you working on any other writing projects and if so, can you tell us a bit about them?
JP: My new novel, Take On Me, is forthcoming and I’m very excited about it. I surprised myself by writing a novel that has no dragons, spaceships, or any other speculative elements whatsoever. Instead it’s about music, love, grief, and found families. It’s been described as Rent meets High Fidelity if it was directed by Jim Jarmusch, which pretty accurately describes some of my biggest influences for the book, if I’m honest.
With that completed after a very long three years of work, I’m between writing projects and trying to figure out what to tackle next. “Joinery” was my first completely new work in all that time and it was interesting to see how much Take On Me changed how I write and the stories I want to tell. In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve finally found my voice so I’m seeking the spark of something that will allow me to keep developing that.