Issue 046 Author Interview: E A Fowler and “Swallows”

Need a little dose of magic on this fine Tuesday? Go read “Swallows (or How the Men Lost Their Magic)” in Issue 046, then come back here and find out where author E A Fowler found her inspiration!

LSQ: Oh, I loved this so much. It was so powerful for such a short story. It’s hard to choose my favorite line, but I think I’m going with the one that gave me a smile moment: “Then invest in a mop.” I find it so interesting that you chose to use the POV of the girl’s father, not the girl or her husband. What inspired that choice?

E: Thank you so much! I was pretty happy with the ‘mop’ line. I brought in these domestic details (see also ‘no more magic in him than a coffee table’) partly for the humor and partly to ground a fantastical story in a familiar setting. For all of its magic and allegory, I wanted the girl’s world to be believable. My favorite line is the last one, though I shudder a little at the implicit violence of it.

The story came to me in the voice of the father. I tried to keep the girl’s inner life unknowable, even to the reader, while she discovers her power in secret. I wanted her to be (literally) shrouded in mystery! The father is a complex character. He has good intentions, and some of his notions would be considered dangerously liberal in his society. Yet he doesn’t know how little he knows, especially about his daughter!

LSQ: This almost reads like poetry to me. The visuals are so well-described that it all played out fantastically in my head, in a very literal way. Another person might read this very firmly through the lens of metaphor. When you first came up with the idea, how did you picture it in your own mind?

E: Like you, I tend to picture this story literally. With the descriptions, I aimed to create a world that read like an allegory but felt like a place where people actually lived. A world with structures and customs that the inhabitants would consider normal. You’re not the only person to describe “Swallows” as poetical, which is great to hear because I love poetry but wouldn’t know where to begin writing it!

There are evident metaphorical elements to the story, particularly in the parallels between magic, literacy, and sexuality. Withholding magic from women is a method of social exclusion, justified by the men’s belief in their own intellectual and moral superiority. At the same time, they are terrified that the mere sight of a woman will steal their magic away. That’s a sledgehammer of a metaphor there!

LSQ: Have you ever considered expanding this world, or even just expanding the story of this marvelous girl and her family? This work is perfect as-is, but I’m so curious to know more about the culture and other women and magic in general!

E: I hadn’t planned to expand it, but never say never! At the moment, I’m working on two novels for young adults, one of which contains a magical system similar to the world of “Swallows”, so it’s clearly under my skin. If I did revisit this world, I would probably want to weave in other narrative voices—the absent mother, the disappointing brothers and the babbling dunderhead of a husband. I wasn’t kind to them, and I’m sure they have very different perspectives on how this all played out. Perhaps, finally, I could find my way into the girl’s head too. You’ve got me thinking now…