LSQ: How did you decide on the different, nontraditional forms Death took on throughout the story?
Mariah: Whenever death is personified, it always seems to be a ghostly male figure with a black hood. I was bored with this. I’m always interested in seeing women representations of traditionally male roles, and Death seemed like an intriguing female character to start with.
LSQ: Living to 105 out of sheer willpower is quite a task. What inspired you to create a character like Matilda?
Mariah: I’ve heard some extraordinary stories about people whose mindsets kept them going even when deterioration or death seemed physically inevitable. I think the mind is capable of so many things. Also, my narrator needed to witness someone clinging to life with every fiber of her being in order to appreciate just how beautiful and fragile life is.
LSQ: There are countless takes on what happens after we die. How did you come up with the concept of dutiful grim reapers who gently take souls to a motherly Death?
Mariah: I had some family members on the verge of death – after writing this story, they did end up passing – and I wanted to envision more than just a light for them. A sweet embrace and gentle arms to carry them onward felt right.
LSQ: What was the hardest part about writing this story?
Mariah: I was advised to reduce the number of characters (specifically to combine the characters of Matilda and Layla) so that readers would not get so confused or overwhelmed with the number of names and souls in such a short story. But the more I started to revise, the more I realized it didn’t feel right. I was not trying to explore the relationship between my narrator, a “runner” for Death, and a lone human. I simply wanted to explore what death might be like if people embraced it rather than feared it, and for this exploration, I needed a handful of different scenarios. It was hard to show how the accumulation of these souls, not just one stubborn woman, touched and changed my narrator.
LSQ: Are you working on anything else at the moment? If so, can you tell us a bit about your other projects?
Mariah: I am indeed working on another project right now, a cohesive collection of fairy tale retellings set in a world where technology, myth, and magic intertwine.