LSQ: This story feels more than lovely, it feels genuinely affectionate and tender, and I just adored it. What inspired you to write this?
Mara: Thank you, that means a lot! In the last few years my family has experienced loss, and I’ve been touched and inspired by the various ways I’ve witnessed my family members grieve, how they connect their loved ones to objects and feelings. Sometimes in fantasy when a character dies their story just ends with them, and what happens after they’re gone gets overlooked. I thought I’d focus on a character living on a little longer after they’re gone in a way that everyone who reads the story can understand, bringing the magic of real life into the fantasy.
LSQ: I really appreciate how you indicate the shortness of a goblin’s life by comparison to a human’s; so often in fantasy literature we see things done the other way around, where everyone else lives longer. It particularly added a bit of melancholy when suddenly we’re reading about a human’s funeral. Did you know how far you wanted to go with Whisper’s life when you began writing this story?
Mara: I can see the appeal of working with long life spans for an epic fantasy, but when it comes to a short story, I’m glad I stuck to a sort of mayfly mentality—for my own sake! I’m glad the sudden jump to the funeral was noticed. I wanted the reader to feel like Whisper’s time was moving fast, but also feel the significance that she’d lived long enough to attend a human friend’s funeral. I knew from the beginning that I couldn’t write Whisper’s death if her view on grief was the point of the tale, so I had to find a point at which to end her story that supplied a bit of catharsis. And how better than to give her the one thing she wanted, a diploma?
LSQ: This feels like a fascinating beginning to a series of academy stories. Would you ever consider writing more in this world?
Mara: How did you know? I have a ton of little fantasies in the world of “Lemon” that I’m looking forward to presenting. I love work by writers like Terry Pratchett, where different stories in the same world are unexpectedly connected, and the world itself is filled with satirical institutions, fantasy versions of schools, restaurants, and libraries. At the same time, I am querying for my debut novel, a fantasy/science-fiction set in a lawless desert with an old western theme turned on its head.