LSQ: The presence of Celtic history and culture is strong throughout the story. Do you have an Irish background? What made you pick this backdrop for your story? Have you written other pieces that involve Celtic folklore?
K.N.: I am utterly fascinated with the history, culture, and lore of Ireland. Funnily enough, it has nothing to do with being raised in that culture; while I have some Irish roots on my dad’s side, I was primarily raised in my mom’s culture, which is Eastern European. The pull I felt to Ireland developed as I grew up, and I can’t really explain it. Hell, maybe I had a past life there — that would make as much sense to me as anything! I’ve written a lot based in both Ireland and Irish America (a fascinating entity in and of itself), including my in-progress second novella, which I’ll elaborate on later.
LSQ: Your description of American Sign Language in the dialogue feels natural and authentic. Do you have experience with ASL yourself? Where there any challenges in including this form of language in your writing?
K.N.: I’m actually studying to be an ASL interpreter! I deliberately wrote the Signed phrases in “A Song For Hardy Connelly” as exact transcriptions of ASL word order, because I wanted it to feel as authentic as possible. I wanted to get people interested in this wonderful language through my story. Sometimes, it was a challenge to communicate what I wanted in that way — as it is when I’m actually Signing; I’m still far from fluent but I considered it a learning experience.
LSQ: Tell us more about the relationship between Hardy and her parents and then between Hardy and Moira. What creates that bond between Moira and Hardy? Is it because they both feel like outcasts? Did Moira choose her standing in the family or was it put upon her?
K.N.: Hardy and Moïra’s relationship was somewhat inspired by my own with my aunt Kelly (whom this story is dedicated to). She had a stroke in 2009 that left her paralyzed on her left side, and has been a cane and wheelchair user ever since. During her recovery, she briefly lived with my family, and we got very close. I’d still say that she’s the member of my family that I’m closest to. Within the context of the story, though, the relationships between members of the Connelly family revolve around their responses to the curse. I think Moïra’s outcast status is a combination of chosen and assigned: she was frustrated with the passive way the rest of the family handled it, and so she acted out, raging against this thing she didn’t want to define her. That rage alienated her from her brother, and eventually his wife. Hardy feels immediately drawn to Moïra because she feels the same frustration. (I think she also resents her parents for treating her disabilities as burdens or punishments, so at the time she meets Moïra she is desperately searching for someone else to lean on — someone who will actually support her.)
LSQ: Do you know what’s in Hardy’s future? Does she get to hear her song?
K.N.: I think the ending implies that she’s already hearing her song — “the flute music of the Other Place,” as Moïra puts it — and she’s chasing after it. What she’ll find on the other side, I have no idea. I leave that to your imagination.
LSQ: Are you working on any other writing projects at the moment? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
K.N.: I’m pretty much constantly working on new short stories. As I write this, my current WIP is what I describe as a “superhuman de-origin story” (about a character losing his superpowers, rather than gaining them), based around the Whitey Bulger years in Boston and the beginnings of WITSEC. It’s fascinating, although the process is moving at a snail’s pace. I’m also, as I said, working on my second novella, tentatively titled Incendiary Devices. It’s set in Belfast at the height of the Troubles; its main character makes a bargain with the mythical figure An Mórrígan, using the war goddess’s magic to aid in IRA campaigns…only to find herself growing disillusioned with the movement, and her newfound abilities spiraling out of control. It’s much grander in scale than my first novella, so it’s a challenge, but an exciting one!