We’re very excited to share with you all a recent chat we had with Issue 040 author Sarah McGill about her story “Bone to Bleeding Bone“!
LSQ: This story takes the wicked stepsister trope and turns it on its head. What was your inspiration behind this?
Sarah: This is a story about two sisters forced into the roles of wickedness and kindness. The step-sister story is such a natural way into that because the characters are already cast in those roles. It’s also a story about two sisters who are deeply uncomfortable with the parts they have to play and yet never get to learn that they could be something other than just wicked or kind. They attempt to find solace in the opposite of what they are, but in the end both roles are too narrow and constricting to make them happy. Turning the archetypes on their heads was a way to call attention to those roles and indicate their fabricated nature right at the beginning.
LSQ: The imagery in this story, from ruby-studded smiles to monstrous pearl children, are all very striking. Where do you get the ideas for these images?
Sarah: The story was originally based on “Diamonds and Toads”, a fairy tale where a good sister is gifted the ability to spit diamonds and jewels while the bad sister is punished with spitting toads and snakes. As lovely as spitting diamonds and jewels is meant to be, there’s an inherently visceral quality to anything that comes out of our mouths. I wanted to explore how the characters’ identities grow from and into these jewels. The sisters use the pearls to put on façades of both monstrousness and beauty in an attempt to garner affection and love, especially from each other. Yet the step-sister grows into her own monstrous façade and births monsters of her own.
LSQ: What was your favorite part about writing this story and why?
Sarah: My stories often begin with a specific image and for this one the first image was the tree growing out of the step-sister’s chest. I’m very taken by hearts-that-are-not-hearts and spinning reality past its natural conclusion, so I loved the idea of Nourie replacing her step-sister’s heart with an apple, which then grows into a tree. Exploring that imagery, the idea of rootedness and interconnectedness, and – let’s be honest – the gore of it was a great deal of fun.