You’re in for a treat, dear readers! Today’s Issue 046 author interview brings us Maeghan Klinker’s thoughts and inspirations behind “Mother Haskell,” and it comes with a sweet recipe, to boot!
LSQ: This is such a beautiful little fairy tale, and even better, it left me wanting pie! I have to ask—do you have a favorite apple pie recipe? Would you consider sharing it with hungry readers?
Maeghan: I can’t say that I have a favorite apple pie recipe, but I do have an apple crumble that I love to make and it was the inspiration for Mother Haskell’s baking scene! It’s a bit of a hodgepodge recipe, and like all the best recipes it’s missing some measurements–that’s the magic of it I suppose, you have to feel it in your bones.
4 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbs. butter, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 large apples, peeled, cored, sliced
1/2 cup apple juice (the secret ingredient is spiced apple cider!)
For the crumble top:
flour, oats, brown sugar, butter, chopped pecans (if the urge strikes me, I’ll sprinkle in some dried cranberries as well)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Cook sweet potatoes until done but still firm and cut into 1/2 inch slices
- Oil (butter) a deep casserole dish
- Arrange 1/2 sweet potatoes on bottom
- Drizzle with 1/2 of butter and maple syrup
- Top with 1/2 of apple slices
- Sprinkle with cinnamon and cloves
- Repeat layers
- Then pour the apple juice over the top
- Cover and bake for 45 min, then remove from oven and top with crumble ingredients
- Bake with crumble top for another 10-20 min or until golden brown
LSQ: You’re clearly very deft at integrating a lot of worldbuilding over a short space. I’m left intrigued by the thought of which really is better for corpse roads, silver or iron horseshoes. Did you consider expanding this short story, maybe to include a Death point of view, or is it exactly how you always envisioned it now?
Maeghan: “Mother Haskell” actually started out as a chapter in a short collection of interwoven tales that I wrote as part of a gift exchange my writing group did around the holidays. Each person in the group came up with three prompts for a story that they wanted to hear and then their secret writer wrote those stories for them. The prompt for “Mother Haskell” was to write a story featuring your favorite dessert, and so “Mother Haskell” was born! In the original version, the three short stories were loosely connected by a narrative frame of someone telling stories to a child on a dark winter’s night, so in that respect this version of “Mother Haskell” is slightly different, but without the other tales around it, it doesn’t really need the same narrative frame.
I don’t think that I would expand this short story, but it is interwoven into a larger fictional universe in my head. I’m dreaming up two longer stories that are not directly connected to “Mother Haskell”, but one features Death as a main character and the other is centered on a descendant of Mother Haskell’s set in a town where everyone can see ghosts. The stories aren’t directly related, but the legend of Mother Haskell will probably end up making a cameo in one of those as part of the world building of that story.
LSQ: What were your inspirations for this story? Any particular legends or myths?
Maeghan: I’ve always been very interested in fairy tales and folklore, so when I was writing this story I was really trying to channel the feeling and weight that those stories carry. They can be magical and whimsical, but they can also be very dark. They’re warnings and lessons, they share fears and they tell you how the world works. I didn’t consciously think of any one fairy tale or piece of folklore when I was writing this story, but looking back on it now, it does remind me a little of the the story about Godfather Death (or in some versions Godmother Death) in the way it humanizes Death as a character. I also like to write about trees, especially magical trees, so obviously I had to work those in. A lot of fairy tales tend to have magical tree elements, so I think that helped contribute to the folkloric feel of the story. A fairy tale I find fascinating with a semi-magical tree is The Almond Tree (also called The Juniper Tree, or The Rose Tree if the protagonist is a girl), and now that I’m thinking about it, there is some pie baking in that, although it is a very different sort of pie baking from Mother Haskell’s pies (yeah, you guessed it, it’s cannibalism). So while I wasn’t consciously channeling any fairy tales or folklore, I think they can’t help but slip in. They’re the kind of stories that plant themselves beneath your skin and keep flowering in unexpected ways in the stories that I write.