Issue 038 author interview: Jennifer Lee Rossman and “Pocketful of Souls”

Welcome to another Tuesday where we interview authors from our current Quarterly. This week we had the pleasure of chatting with Jennifer Lee Rossman about her story “Pocketful of Souls.”

LSQ: A little girl as an antagonist is a rarely seen character. Where did the idea for Amy come from?

Jennifer: To be honest, I don’t know where the idea for Amy came from. I don’t want to spoil the story, but the idea for the plot twist came before the idea for Amy. My story is about hell and death and sins. But it’s also a sweet story, so I think a young child was really the only character who could give it the right feel. Plus, tiny demon children are awesome. Especially if they’re equal amounts cute and creepy.

LSQ: Even though Amy has the appearance of an innocent five-year-old, she obviously wasn’t as innocent in life as she looked. A backstory like that, I’m sure, is best left to a reader’s imagination. Can you talk a bit about the benefits of letting the reader fill in the blanks versus giving the whole story?

Jennifer: Amy is a sweet little girl. Amy is also a demon who lives in hell and collects souls for the devil. How she ended up that way is not important to the story, so I didn’t write about it. It wasn’t really a conscious decision on my part to leave the audience wondering about her backstory, but I do like a little mystery in my stories. (My personal theory? The Darkness was lonely and has a soft spot for children, but children don’t end up in hell very often so it “adopted” her from heaven. I think that’s why Amy has such a preoccupation with her, um, collection.)

LSQ: Even though this story deals with heavy topics like the fate of one’s immortal soul, it’s still full of humor. Do you think this work would have told a much different story without the humorous elements? Why does humor play such an important role?

Jennifer: I think the story could easily have been really really dark. It could have delved into religious philosophy and morality. But instead I chose to make jokes about the computers in hell running Windows Vista. Again, not really a conscious choice on my part; I just have an inability to take anything seriously. I also think humor and silliness make stories more accessible to people. More people will read a funny story about a smol demon child named Amy (as I repeatedly referred to it on Twitter before giving the story actual name) than will read a serious story about the logical fallacies in religious dogma.

LSQ: What was the most challenging part of this story to write and why?

Jennifer: The story actually flowed pretty well and didn’t give me much issue. I probably wrote the first draft in a day and a half. The most difficult part was the title. For the longest time, the file was just called “Amy.” To be completely honest, I’m not in love with the title “Pocketful of Souls,” but I think it’s cute and kind of ominous, like Amy herself.