Rejoice, dear readers, it’s our first author interview of 2019! Issue 036 has been out for about a month now, and it still has thirteen amazing crone-themed stories for your eyeballs. Why not try Leonie Skye’s “Francie,” and then follow up here for her answers to our burning questions.
LSQ: The concept of the American Dame and grown women buying and pampering their mini-me dolls made me think a bit of the American Girl franchise. Was any inspiration gathered from this source?
Leonie: Yes, definitely in terms of the all-encompassing nature of the services and themes and stories provided in that retail setting. I’ve probably only been in one of those stores once. I have a-four-year old daughter who was recently given an American Girl doll. She immediately stripped it and gave all the clothes and accessories to her stuffed pig who can more or less fit in them. The doll has been lying bereft and almost naked for weeks in a corner where my daughter left her. I’ve always been sort of curious about human-doll interactions, so I’m waiting to see if my daughter rediscovers the doll. I tried to imagine what such a retail situation would look like for older women. It wouldn’t be necessarily what older women want, but what the market wants them to want.
LSQ: The extremely life-like description and personality of Francie made me feel a bit concerned that she’d turn evil. . . perhaps I’ve been burned by the likes of the Child’s Play movies. A practically living and benevolent doll—where did this idea come from?
Leonie: I had been reflecting a lot on the experiences of women at mid-life because that’s where I am right now. There aren’t a ton of pop cultural guides for women in mid- life in the form of movies or TV that feel authentic to me. It’s a time of change, obviously. One day I had this overwhelming urge to sort of… it’s hard to explain, but I guess take control of myself as a child would take control of a doll, experimenting with it, dressing it, taking it out on adventures, giving it different identities each day.
LSQ: On the topic of life-like dolls, exactly how life-like is Francie? Dose she eat? How organic is she? Or are these details better left to the reader’s imagination?
Leonie: I’d like to leave that to the reader’s imagination. But it’s interesting, I’ve had other reviewers want to know exactly how she functions. Is it magic? Is she a robot, some kind of A.I.? Practical functioning didn’t occur to me while I was writing it.
Leonie: Dolls have lots of different roles in different societies. They can be doubles, constructed to attract bad luck and thereby keep it away from the owner. They can have religious uses. And they can be involved in children’s development. I don’t know that Francie isn’t a plaything. Adults like to think they aren’t playing, but you could probably argue for a theory about human life and development that says that all we’re doing is playing up until the day we die.
LSQ: Do you think there would be a market for the American Dame in our current universe?
Leonie: I fear that there might be.
LSQ: What was the most challenging aspect about writing this story and why?
Leonie: Actually, I wrote this really fast. It’s probably the fastest a story has ever flowed out of me. I don’t know why. But I suppose whenever a story involves the death of a loved one, or two deaths in this case, it can be stressful.
LSQ: Are you working on any other projects at the moment? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
Leonie: I’m in a novel-writing workshop right now trying to wrestle a novel into publishable shape. It’s an epic secondary world fantasy about a fraudulent deity, a young woman sold by her family to blindly enable a takeover of her own culture. It’s about how she figures this out, all the terrible things that have been done in her name, and what she does about it.