Issue 041 Author Interview: Lindsey Duncan and “Sweet Little Lies”

It’s time again, dear readers, for another Issue 041 author interview! Today we’re joined by Lindsey Duncan as we chat about her story “Sweet Little Lies.”

LSQ: Illusions baked into cake. Genius! Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Lindsey: I don’t remember precisely how the idea came about, but I wanted to write a story about an illusionist who lost his talent and had to recruit an unwilling apprentice.  I picked a baker almost at random.  I had a general shape for the plot, but I wasn’t sure of all the pieces and details.  I knew that I wanted Ilanor’s specific talents to help Tanniv when he was imprisoned, but until I got up to that point in writing the story, I really wasn’t sure how.  As so often seems to happen for me, a detail that I had put in earlier with no specific emphasis gave me the solution:  the flute and the technique of folding up an illusion.  If one wanted to send an illusion in secret, what better way than to bake it into a cake?

The original draft of this story is an older one.   I wrote it before I started culinary school–before I had any plans to do so.  When I came back to edit it for submissions, I was a classically trained pastry chef.  That informed a lot of small changes…and a sneaking suspicion that maybe life really does imitate art.

LSQ: This story reads like an epic fantasy novel. Do you have any plans on writing more with these characters?

Lindsey: Oh, no, not that comment!  As much as I’ve written and sold short fiction, I’m a novelist at heart, and it always peeks through, sometimes at the most inconvenient times.  It is probably one of the rejections I receive most often on stories:  that it reads like part of a novel.  To some extent, that’s by design.  No tale, whether it be the briefest piece of flash fiction or a rambling ten book saga, simply comes into being in the first sentence and ends with the last.  Life goes on, before and after.  I love the “Yes, but…” ending to a story: the main problem is solved (or not), but it creates all new ones.  I like to leave readers picturing where the characters might go next.

Which is also a roundabout way of saying that I don’t have any plans to write more about Ilanor and Tanniv, but the door is never fully closed.  If an idea drifts into my mind, you just might see them again.

LSQ: Are there any writers who have influenced your work?

I grew up on a steady diet of fantasy novels, starting with books like Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles–which planted the seed for a later fascination with all things Welsh–and Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet.  For me, adventures rarely occurred in the real world, and I inhaled fantastic realms.  Early on, I developed a distinct intolerance for works where the women were just decorative.

Later, I found inspiration in the immersive detail of Elizabeth Moon.  Her Remnant Population may be my favorite “first contact” novel.  I learned a lot about characters and their interplay in the works of Lois McMaster Bujold and Jane Lindskold.  For me, the Children of Dodec books by Dave Duncan–no relation–were a perfect illustration of Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s saying, “Plot is a literary convention.  Story is a force of nature.”  That reading experience solidified the concept as a goal for me.