As we wrap up another successful issue of Luna Station Quarterly and prepare to publish a new one, we took the opportunity to chat with Issue 039 author Nadia Attia about her story “Flower, Feather, Hare, and Snow.” Check out her behind-the-scenes insight below.
LSQ: The danger and beauty of mountains is deftly portrayed in your story. What is it about this geological feature that keeps Liath there? How does the mountain’s spell on Liath differ from how others (both fortunate and unfortunate) are drawn to it? Or perhaps the lure of mountains is the same for everyone?
Nadia: I actually imagined Liath not as a literal person but as a local myth, as the very spirit of the mountain itself, who appears in human form at certain liminal times of day or weather. Over thousands of years she’s grown old and changed with the geology (her hair was ‘mud brown’ once) and that’s why she comes across as detached from humankind and a little aloof. If anything, she’s actually worried that the ‘spell’ of the mountain is waning, and that it – and she – will be changed by time and return to dust, just like the unfortunate adventurers on her slopes.
LSQ: Your story seems timeless — it could take place on a summit today or in centuries past. In what time frame did you imagine your story, or did you at all? Does it even matter?
Nadia: I wanted Flower Feather Hare and Snow to come across as timeless, so this is a huge complement! I wanted it to feel believable as a folk tale that might have been told through many generations, a tale that still holds weight today, perhaps as a warning to those foolhardy wanderers who ignore Mother Nature. I almost imagined the story being told around open fires in Scotland, perhaps in the very bothies I mention in the text.
LSQ: A respect of nature’s forces seems to be a source of Liath’s knowledge of the mountain. In what ways does she approach the mountain differently than other hikers and what does this say about her character?
Nadia: Liath is a part of nature herself so that’s why she’s amused to see all the tools and trinkets that humans use to navigate the mountain, whereas she’d only ever rely on natural signs, even other animals (such as the mountain hare – often associated with witchcraft and transformation), to determine what’s coming or how to react. I guess I’m commenting on our reliance on modern technology to such an extent that we might become blind to what’s around us, what the world’s telling us. I’m not suggesting that hikers and climbers don’t respect nature: in Liath I created a character who has grown to resent our impact through sheer proliferation, since she literally has to clean up our mess.
LSQ: And what about you, Nadia? Are you a lover of mountains? Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
Nadia: I love mountains, from a distance! I’d never climb one if it needed ropes or picks. With this story I’m asking why humans feel this deep need to conquer, to make their mark on everything and shape and change what has been perfectly beautiful for millennia. I’ve never understood that drive to reach impossible summits, to be the first, the quickest, the best – nature will always win in the end. I was inspired to write this short story after reading Nan Shepherd’s wonderful book The Living Mountain, and thinking about how perfectly she captured the spirit of the Cairngorms; I’ve never been, but I felt like I was there with her.
LSQ: Are you working on any other writing projects at the moment? If so, can you tell us about them?
Nadia: I’m working on my third novel (I’m as yet unpublished), which is currently called Verge. It’s a rural road trip across an alternative Britain where county borders are hard, people are harder, and there’s a return to ‘the old ways’. It’s a good excuse for me to research folklore, superstitions and country life and weave these elements into a coming-of-age story with plenty of dark humor and folk horror. I’ve managed to secure a place on a nine-month writing scheme (can’t announce which one yet), so I’ll be busy writing this book well into 2020.