We’re here today with a special interview with Issue 034 author Virginia M. Mohlere about her featured story “The Thing in the Walls Wants Your Small Change.” Come and join us as we talk dragons and curiosity.
LSQ: A tiny dragon and coins! What a fun story. Is this a modern take on the old theme that dragons sit on a pile of gold? Where did the idea for this story come from?
Virginia: This story came straight from a cartoon drawn by one of my favorite tumblr artists, iguanamouth:
(Please note: I did get their permission to send this story out for publication.)
Isn’t that the cutest thing ever? I was completely delighted by the sheer glee of that little dragon in the cartoon. Iguanamouth’s dragons have enough personality for 16 dimensions. And having lived in several creaky, old, urban apartments, I know what it’s like to hear Mysterious Noises and to have equally mysterious, impossibly cool neighbors. Though you can bet that if I’d ever lived in an apartment with a mini-dragon, I would still be living there today, like any sensible person would.
LSQ: What was the most enjoyable part about this story to write?
Virginia: Definitely the parts where Caro was trying to make friends with the dragon. I thought of it much like trying to make friends with a feral cat, except with small change instead of cat treats.
LSQ: To have a dragon be an active protector — what made you choose to write this creature in such a way?
Virginia: Having the story seed being something so utterly delightful meant that my dragon could never be villainous. But the scene where the dragon came out to protect Caro caught me by surprise – I had planned that scene differently, but then the dragon turned into a mad kitten, and I laughed my way through writing that part. It was pretty difficult to revise, because I wanted to slow down to get in sufficient detail to get across how hilarious my mental picture of this scene is. I’m not sure I was wholly successful, but fingers crossed.
LSQ: One could easily see a character different than Caro (a character who is not curious, not open-minded) either be scared off from the house or take a more malevolent approach to the scratching at the walls. Is there something behind the notion that her open outlook and acceptance resulted in her protection? Is there a larger theme here?
Virginia: I think curiosity is a trait that most of my characters carry, in part because I myself don’t know how to be incurious. I’d SAY that maybe that suggests that I should write an incurious character to stretch my writing muscles, but UGH, how boring. (Might have to do it anyway.) But thanks to Nana’s spirit pennies and jars of herbs, Caro carries a little bit of the woo-woo around with her. It falls within the scope of her “normal.” She’s also stubborn: she got out, and into a place she loves; she finally has a place that’s *hers*, a daily life that’s actively good, so she chooses to greet the scritches and the strangeness with as much of an open mind as she can.
Your point that her acceptance is what makes space for her protection is spot on. That’s part of friendship, right? You make room for a new friend, and when you make that room sufficiently large and safe, they can fill it with the them-ness that gives back to you.
LSQ: What’s your favorite dragon in literature and why?
Virginia: Thinking about my answer to this question made me want to write more and weirder dragons. As a little kid, I loved Smaug’s riddles and arrogance, and I always wanted to know what had caused him to lose that scale. I loved Eustace Scrubb as a dragon, and how it made him learn to be better. When I was older, the lady dragonriders of Pern meant a lot to me, and I desperately wanted a fire lizard of my own. Barbara Hambly’s Morkeleb the Black was so appealing that when spoiler spoiler at the end of Dragonsbane (can you spoil a book that old?), I threw the book across the room and refused to read any more Hambly for years, which was really only punishing myself.
LSQ: Are you currently working on other writing projects? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
Virginia: I’m currently working on a short (I hope) story about a witch with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility who’s deeply ticked off with her ex-boyfriend, and a novella about a young swordswoman who needs to dial back her revenge fantasies. I recently finished a novel, which of course means that I’m mostly lying under the coffee table shouting that it’s horrible instead of what I’m supposed to be doing, which is querying it.