Issue 044 Author Interview: Jennifer Lyn Parsons and “Silks”

Today’s Issue 044 author interview is special, dear readers, because we’re featuring the ringmaster herself, Jennifer Lyn Parsons! Go read her fabulous story “Silks“, then come back and find out what about our circus theme inspires her so much.

LSQ: “Silks” is partially a story about having confidence in one’s own abilities. What about Thalia’s character motivated her transformation?

Jennifer: Thalia is a self-starter and excellent at teaching herself things. She doesn’t realize this, though, and allows what she thinks a formal education provides (that she’s lacking) to hold her back. As she sees the circus she’s working for about to close down, she understands that it would be better to move on to something new if she wants to continue practicing her art. In looking for a new place to perform, she has to take an honest look at her skills and she slowly finds confidence in herself and her hard-won abilities.

LSQ: There are just a few tantalizing hints that this circus is set in another time and place, primarily the anti-gravs Thalia uses with her silks and ships the circus travels in. How do these touches affect Thalia’s world in the circus? Would it have been different for her if set in the past?

Jennifer: I think, in a lot of ways, if the setting were different Thalia would have figured out how good she is sooner. The anti-gravs in this world provide a subtle crutch to the performances, making them more of a spectacle that can hide a lack of talent. Their cost also puts a distinct barrier of privilege in place, because the schools where performers learn to use them price out most people. Thalia manages to get a foot in the door because Anton, the ringmaster, sees her talent and is also running the circus on a tight budget. It’s a lucky break, but if the world were different, Thalia would have been a shining star from the start.

LSQ: Thalia gets what she wants in the end, but not as she expects it. What was Madame Velena’s role in helping her recognize this? Regine’s role?

Jennifer: Working backwards through the story, Madame Velena comes along at a convenient time and is a fulcrum for Thalia’s shifting view of herself and her craft. The near-disaster Thalia has with her audition for another circus shows her who she is without the anti-gravs. That event continues her shift in perspective that begins when she meets Regine, who falls for her in part because she can see Thalia’s true talent. Regine is a catalyst that sparks Thalia’s reassessment of herself and starts her replacing the negative messages she’s been telling herself for some time.

LSQ: Thalia inspires us all by having to show her true self, unafraid to perform without the anti-gravs. What about this story inspires you? What about your inspiration as an author?

Jennifer: A lot of Thalia’s story is my story as well. Though the setting is completely different (I’m no circus performer) I pulled many facets of this piece out of my own experiences. Having gone through a similar situation, in this story I am sharing the most important piece of wisdom I gained through that experience: be honest with yourself about your hard-earned abilities.

LSQ: As founder and editor-in-chief of LSQ, what about the circus drew you to write a story for the issue?

Jennifer: The circus is very special in our family, so of course I needed to contribute something. In non-COVID times, we go to the circus a couple times a year. While Cirque du Soleil is amazing and Ringling Bros. (RIP) was a gorgeous spectacle, I admit I have a soft spot for the smaller circuses. There’s magic to be found there, a rare and special thing in our cynical world. The creativity and daring and beauty are transportive. I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in the front row for many performances and it’s a miracle that something so transportive can exist in our modern, disrupted world.

And yes, the aerialists are my favorite. I enjoy them so much that I worked a little puzzle related to them into the story 😀