Issue 032 author interview: Cathrin Hagey and “Baug’s Hollow”

Issue 032 has so many wonderful stories–have you checked it out yet? One of the great things about Luna Station Quarterly (if you will allow us a moment to toot our own horn) is that we get to showcase not only women authors but also a wide variety of stories, from strict science fiction to high fantasy to haunting speculative fiction and everything in between. Case in point: trolls. Cathrin Hagey’s story “Baug’s Hollow” is a fantasy piece about characters who so frequently are the pariahs–but not necessarily in this case. Lucky for us (here we go tooting again) we had a chance to talk with Cathrin about her story. Here’s what she had to say.

LSQ: My favorite quote in this story is from Aghi, when she says: “The human notion that trolls are beasts is a case of the cod calling the eel fishy.” This story portrays trolls in a much more benevolent light that they are usually cast. Are you sympathetic to trolls? Do you think they get a bad rap in fantasy/folklore?

Cathrin: Hmmm. Good question. I hadn’t really thought about it until you asked. From the reading that I’ve done, trolls are either dangerous and crafty or dangerously stupid. The first time I saw a depiction of benevolent trolls, I was watching Disney’s Frozen with my youngest daughter hours after she was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. It was a stressful time and the song “Let it Go,” as sappy as this might be, seemed written for us. Perhaps the friendly trolls made a bigger impact than I realized, given the circumstances, carrying over to the creation of “Baug’s Hollow.”

LSQ: Do you mostly write fantasy or do you explore other genres as well? What draws you in to the fantasy genre?

Cathrin: I’ve always loved fantasy but never considered writing it until I discovered the Journal of Mythic Arts, co-edited by Terri Windling and Midori Snyder, about seven years ago. Discovering JOMA was like finding a long lost relative, igniting a spark inside me that eventually led to writing my own fantasy short stories. I also write creative nonfiction and I’m slowly developing what I hope will be a science fiction novel some day.

LSQ: The “kindly” trolls in your story turn the “evil troll” fantasy trope on its head in a refreshing way. What do you think is seen too frequently in modern fantasy and are there aspects/concepts/characters you don’t think are seen enough in this genre? How can modern fantasy authors push the envelope and yet still remain true to the genre?

Cathrin: I hope we see greater diversity in human types and become more honest with ourselves about our basest instincts. Fantasy and other subgenres of speculative fiction have a way of opening those sticky doors in our minds and hearts more easily than other types of fiction.

LSQ: Do your unique character names have special meanings (e.g. Baug, Grigg, Aghi)?

Cathrin: I have to admit that the only character name in “Baug’s Hollow” with intentional meaning is Henrike, a Scandinavian form of Henry, meaning “home ruler.” I thought the nickname Hen would bring out her softness, while Henrike would be her strength. The others were names that seemed to pop into my mind and got confirmed by my heart before the inner editor (inhibitor) cast them off again.

LSQ: Fish wine, Baug missing at sea — is there a special connection between trolls and the ocean? (I will forever think of trolls when I use fish oil in cooking now…)

Cathrin: It’s funny that I included the sea in this story, since I live in the heart of the northern plains of Canada and couldn’t be farther from an ocean. What I do have where I live is harsh winters that can go on for six or seven months (July is the only month where I haven’t seen snow). As far as I know, there is no connection between trolls and the sea. Trolls are said to dwell in mountains, forests, and even at the bottom of lakes. Perhaps Baug’s kingdom of trolls followed their own path. They can be contrarian.

LSQ: Do you have advice for new writers trying to break into the fantasy genre?

Cathrin: I started writing late in life and have a long way to go before I can say I’m no longer a new writer. It might never happen. My only advice is time-worn: read frequently, write as often as possible, find a like-minded critique group (online or otherwise) and be willing to accept criticism, submit often, take classes (online or otherwise). But please don’t quit if
you love to write, because you have something unique to say (even if you don’t quite know what it is), and don’t wait for anybody else’s permission to believe in yourself.

LSQ: What are you reading currently? Does what you read influence whatever you are writing at the time? Who are some authors that inspire you?

Cathrin: I just finished More About Boy, Roald Dahl’s second memoir, with Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections in progress. I don’t really think about whether a current read is influencing my writing, but then again, I didn’t realize Frozen influenced my writing until you asked!

The authors who’ve inspired me over the years, in no significant order, are: Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Virginia Woolf, Doris Lessing, Neil Gaiman, Mary Shelley, Ursula K. Le Guin, Vladimir Nabokov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Terri Windling, Katherine Langrish, Lucy Maud Montgomery, André Norton, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury.

LSQ: Do you have other projects you’re working on at the moment–or have finished since the original publication of this story in 2015–and can you tell us a bit about them?

Cathrin: I’m currently writing a memoir under the guidance of Canadian author Alissa York, through the creative writing program at Humber College, Toronto. I have three first drafts I’m procrastinating over (two fantasy, one science fiction) and one science fiction novel with the gestation rate of a baby elephant, times ten. In addition, I’m very excited that my LSQ column “What’s in a Fairy Tale?” will be published on a monthly basis in 2018.