Issue 035 Author Interview: Victoria Sandbrook and “Phalium arium ssp anam”

Whoa, friends, do we have a week of Issue 035 author interviews for you! The current issue of Luna Station Quarterly has 16 (if you can believe it — we hardly can) speculative fiction short stories by women authors and we’re so excited to share not only the issue with you (it came out September 5) but also share the excellent and enlightening conversations we’ve had with the authors. To start the week, we chatted with author Victoria Sandbrook about her short story “Phalium arium ssp anam.”

LSQ: Is Phalium the genus of some large sea snails the same Phalium in the title of your story? Can you tell us more about this title and its link to your story?
Victoria: When I started writing the story, I did some very light snail research and picked a sea snail genus with a size and shape I thought translated well to the kind of snail-cryptid I’d been seeing in my head. The rest is an attempt to play with a potential species name, suggesting flight and some sort of bonded mating habit. It’s what should be on the display and not just “sea snails.”
LSQ: There’s far more to the character of Nora than what meets the eye. Can you tell us a bit about her background, her powers, her ambitions?
Victoria: Oh I have ideas for Nora that have not hit the page. While I hesitate to say too much, for fear it will hem me in if I come back to her later, I will say that she’s the kind of person who has found a chink in the veil and is determined to tear it away entirely. She obviously doesn’t fit into the expectations of her Irish-American family or community, and she’s already prioritizing knowledge over many things. For all that rebellion, I think she’s relieved not to be entirely alone, either.
LSQ: What made you choose sea creatures like the jellyfish and snails as the animals on display? Can you tell more about these cryptids?
Victoria: This answer goes right along with the next question; I’ll be getting ahead of myself a touch. This story came out of a friendly contest among Viable Paradise alumni in which we were tasked to write flash stories around the prompt “snail rodeo.” So I started with that picture in my head–the corral, the snails–and zoomed out. The jellyfish are a nice homage to the ctenophores Viable Paradise students go hunting for on Martha’s Vineyard. I knew I wanted them to be a little unexpected, to be marvelous things actually held back by the sideshow, and making them flying creatures and not water-dwellers just made sense.
LSQ: Where did the idea for this story come from? What was the most enjoyable part about writing it? 
Victoria: So after the struggle of the rather open prompt (see the question above) and the fight to figure out what story would work, I think I most enjoyed the moment I realized who I wanted John to really be. Nora and I were both quite pleased, to be honest. And since that moment, I think the only thing that has surpassed that fun turn has been sharing it, seeing it float off into the world beyond my reach. It’s been a good ride!
LSQ: Are you working on other writing projects right now? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
Victoria: I’m very happy to see my story “El Cantar de la Reina Bruja” hit the real world as Sword & Sonnet, a battle poet anthology, as released in ebook and paperback (still forthcoming). “El Cantar” and another, yet unsold story are two of several “attic wife” stories that are rolling around in my head, and I’m looking forward to putting pen to paper for a third one later this week as my daughter heads back to school.
[Editor’s note: as told in late August]