Issue 047 Author Interview: Isabel Lee and “Your Brother’s Touchstone”

Ready for another Issue 047 author interview, dear readers? Good, because we’ve barely scratched the surface! Today we’re talking with Isabel Lee about her poignant story “Your Brother’s Touchstone“.

LSQ: Second person perspective can sometimes be a touchy subject, but I personally love stories told this way. Why did you choose to use this point of view?

Isabel: I’ve heard a lot of contention about this too, in writing workshops I’ve been in and such. People say it’s distracting or gimmicky, and I think a valid complaint is that it can abstract the narrator into too much of a reflection of the reader and you can end up losing a lot of voice. On the other hand, I think second person is a really unique and immersive way to get into a character’s head if you do it right. It was important to me that we’re really in sync with Hana as she puts the puzzle pieces together, and truly feel her hope, pain, and wonder as she realizes that the story she’s in is much bigger than she thought. I think her young, straightforward voice matches well with how second person naturally flows. Also, there’s something psychological about reading You over and over, almost as if it’s a command–it creates this effect that’s arresting and mesmerizing. I’ve really enjoyed reading pieces in second person that were written with intention and thought, and I tried my best to do that here!

LSQ: When Hana figures out exactly what Phillip can do, and why he’s doing it, I swear I got chills! What is your secret to setting up an effective emotional twist?

Isabel: Wow, I’m glad! Writing twists in general is something I feel like I figure out anew every time I write a story. This might sound a little cheesy, but I think what makes the moment work here so much is that it’s really about love. Love is such a critical force in this story. Hana’s love for her brother drives so many of her actions and thoughts, and her climactic realization, as much as it is about time travel and her own mortality, is also about fully realizing Phillip’s love for her too. Underscoring pivotal scenes with emotion is good writing advice in general, of course. But there’s something about love–familial, platonic, romantic, whichever–that draws on something core in all of us. It’s been my favorite emotion to engage with while reading, watching, or writing.

LSQ: I tend to pass over time travel-related stories because there are just too many rules and loopholes for me to keep straight. In your opinion, what elements or rules make up an effective time travel story?

Isabel: I know what you mean–I find many time travel stories to be complex and contradictory if you think too hard about them. There’s an old graphic that floats around the internet about the three types of time travel: Fixed, where the time traveler can’t change the past; Dynamic, where the time traveler can but it rewrites their future; and Multiverse, where the time traveler creates new timelines when altering the past. I’m really biased towards stories which use the first type of time travel. I think there’s something really poetic about the notion that everything that has ever and will ever come to be has already been decided, and we’re all just caught in this wave that we need to ride out. Obviously, you get a lot of fun stuff with the other two types too, but I think I’ll always have a soft spot for this specific kind of time travel, and I find myself engaging in its implications in my writing a lot.

LSQ: Are there any other projects you’re currently working on? If so, could you tell us a bit about them?

Isabel: Yeah, absolutely! I have a few story drafts that I’m looking forward to revising: one is about a princess trapped in the epilogue of her story, the other is about a young woman working at a big tech company. I’m also really interested in interactive fiction, and I’m looking forward to writing/coding/making art for small, story-driven games in the near future as well. I find that those types of projects are really great to collaborate with friends, and I love seeing the innovative things people make that can in turn bring inspire my traditional writing endeavors.