Issue 040 Author Interview: Angela Boswell and “Cleaning House”

Welcome to an LSQ current issue author interview! (LSQCIAI for short. Just kidding. That looks atrocious.) Each week, we release a chat we’ve had with an Issue 040 author. This week we’re happy to share an interview with Angela Boswell about her story “Cleaning House.”

LSQ: The story starts with an apology, but as the tale continues, we realize the narrator isn’t apologizing for the loss of her grandmother. What does this apology (and the narrator’s previous actions to warrant the apology) say about her character and who she is?
Angela: She’s entered into a world she doesn’t understand, both in terms of mythology and intimacy.  But she learns to understand at least part of it.
LSQ: Tell us more about the concept of soul tea — where did this idea come from? What kind of creature is Maris truly?
Angela: I wrote a couple of different versions of this story, inspired by a Tears for Fears b-side called “Sea Song,” where the singer is talking to some sort of mer-person drinking buddy about how they’re kindred spirits even though they’re totally different.  Later, I came across what I thought must have been the inspiration for the song, a folktale about a man and his drinking buddy, a merrow who subsists on the souls of shipwrecked sailors, which he catches in lobster cages.  When I wrote another version of the story, I had Maris do something similar, only Maris made tea from the souls.
Maris isn’t a merrow or a human, but is more like the person described in the song.  Someone utterly alien, but at the same time so familiar that you could swear you’ve always known each other.  The name Maris means “from the sea.”
LSQ: Through the story, we realize along with the narrator how the grandmother’s life was enriched by Maris, and then we learn specifically more about Maris–it seems like a natural process as told from the first person point of view. Was there ever any doubt in how you were going to narrate this piece?
Angela: It was always in first person, but the earlier version switched partway through to become a sort of second person POV talking to Maris.  This was too jarring, so I decided that it needed to be clear that the narrator was talking to another character from the beginning.
LSQ: What was the most challenging part of the story to write and why? What’s your favorite part?
Angela: The ending, because I didn’t really have one for a long time.  I knew that something came between Lottie and Maris, but I wasn’t sure what.  I think my favorite part is their meeting.