Issue 034 Author Interview: Carly Racklin and “Our Lady of the Wasteland”

Dearest readers! Let us continue our interviews with our fabulous collection of authors who have short stories featured in our current Issue 034! Up next: Carly Racklin with her story “Our Lady of the Wasteland.” Read it here. Then continue on to her interview below.

LSQ: It’s refreshing to see a bit of uplift in a dystopian story–we don’t see that very often. What made you put an angel in the wasteland?

Carly: Thank you! I agree, and that’s the main reason why I wanted to write this story. Much of the dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction I’ve come across has left me feeling more hopeless than when I began, and I don’t think any story should leave a reader feeling totally powerless like that. And I’m saying this as a person who loves sad stories, and who writes a lot of them. To me, there’s a difference between a sad story and a story that leaves readers in despair. Despair is counterproductive. I wanted to put an angel in the wasteland because it’s important to me that readers see how even in an ugly, cruel world, goodness can still flourish.

LSQ: The grit, dust, the red scarf: the world you built, using few words, is very visual. Did you build this world slowly in your head piece by piece or did it come as a fully formed mental image?

Carly: I knew from very early on what I wanted the world of this story to look like. It needed to feel harsh but alive. Most of the visual details were in my head from the start, but it took a little while to get them all down in the right places. I was really inspired by the film Mad Max: Fury Road when conceptualizing this story. It’s a great example of a post-apocalyptic story that deals with so much beauty and ugliness all at once. It’s full of color and vibrancy, without sacrificing any of the brutality that would also come with the end of the world.

LSQ: Let’s talk a bit more about hope. How important do you think it is to have hope in stories, particularly sci-fi/dystopians? Do you think there needs to be more of it?

Carly: I think it’s absolutely vital to have hope in a story that deals with such a harrowing subject like the end of the world. Every story needs some hope, even if it’s just a tiny seed that we never get to see grow. The planting of the seed is enough, in my opinion. Like I said, I love sad stories, but even the saddest stories I write still have glimmers of hope hidden in them somewhere, even if they’re never realized. I believe that to give into cynicism is the easy solution to a horrible situation, but it’s braver to cling to hope despite the world’s cruelty. I want to see more stories that present hope and compassion as things that can save the world.

LSQ: What was the hardest part about this story to write?

Carly: For a while I had a difficult time getting an actual plot into this story. From the beginning I knew that I wanted the story to read as a kind of urban legend, a tale being told around a campfire. But in its early drafts, I clung too tightly to the idea of the angel as just a vague, larger-than-life figure. I had to get the reader in the dust storm with the narrator to really give the story the intimacy and impact it needed. It took a couple rewrites and heavy edits, but I think it did get there in the end, and managed to keep the voice I envisioned.

LSQ: The two characters, Uzi and the Lady, have very distinct voices. What was it like to build the story around the dialogue of these two characters?

Carly: Uzi’s voice is the backbone of the story, and I had a really clear idea from the beginning of what that voice sounded like. There needed to be a curt feel to her narration, the somewhat inelegant rhythm of someone for which spoken communication has not really been a high priority. I personally pay a lot of attention to the sound of words when I write, so Uzi’s specific voice was very much a treat to craft, because of the specific lilt to her speech. In contrast, developing the angel’s voice threw me for a bit of a loop. I worried that she’d end up sounding corny, but I think the two voices balance each other out nicely in the final product. Seeing and hearing the angel through Uzi’s very human eyes softens the contrast just enough, I think.

LSQ: Are you working on another project at the moment? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?

Carly: I’m currently editing another short story, this time in the high fantasy genre. It deals with a wandering knight who’s been recently stripped of his honor and ostracized from society. He stumbles into a faerie’s domain, where he’s confronted about the cowardice driving him away from his home and family. The story grapples with forgiveness, and the pain of becoming someone you swore to never be. It also takes place in the same universe as a novella I’m working on as well, so I’m really enjoying tying the two stories together in little ways.