Issue 047 Author Interview: Kit Harding and “Gentle Ways to Kill a Dragon”

We’re still excited about Issue 047 and we hope you are, too! Today we’re pleased to share our interview with Kit Harding about her story “Gentle Ways to Kill a Dragon.”

LSQ: This story was so enjoyable, and the revelation of the lengths Ella went to to kill the dragon using her own body was so startling! How did you come up with the idea of the consequences that combining willow root tea and dragonsbane would have?

Kit: That one is actually a completely utilitarian writing choice! Very rationally sitting there going “Gregor needs to know what Ella did for the plot to progress, she’s not going to tell him, how can I push the issue?” and my doctors were starting to talk about putting me on some meds that carry a firm “don’t mix with alcohol” warning, so “drug interactions bad” was fresh in my mind.

LSQ: Ella went through something so intense, and so terribly relatable. Was it difficult to write about what she’d been through?

Kit: Of course it’s difficult. I’m a very character-driven writer; it’s part of why so many of my stories are in the first person, or at the very least thoroughly confined to one person’s head. But that means I’m spending a lot of time in Ella’s head, thinking about what’s driving her, and she’s not in a good place. I’ve found that writing, at least for me, requires me to channel all of the emotions of the character much as stage acting does. And that means maintaining a certain malleability of my own emotional state… which also means I put myself through a lot of emotional roils, particularly since I need to hold Gregor’s mental state as well. Which means I’m simultaneously very deep in the head of someone in the throes of a serious PTSD episode and someone who’s just found out his best friend had something horrible happen to her and he can’t do anything about it and he can’t show any of his reaction to it because he needs to be supportive of her.

LSQ: Part of me wishes we found out what happened to the dragon (and the dragon hunter, that jerk) and part of me likes that the story ends on a more personal, human-centric note. How did you decide where to stop this story?

Kit: You’re assuming anything did happen to the dragon hunter. Remember that this village is composed of the kind of people who have no compunctions about hoping the dragon kills someone else’s livestock rather than give up one of their own to definitively get rid of it. Ella establishes in the story that no one is going to believe her (or, y’know, care), and telling Gregor doesn’t change that nobody else particularly cares. Which is sadly all too often reflective of reality.

But as far as where I decided to stop goes… well. The genesis of this story was the sheer number of times I have seen in media someone confessing their traumatic event to a true friend and then they’re fine! They talked about it so now they’re past it! And that is not remotely how PTSD works. I wanted to write one where someone talks about their trauma, decides to live, and then it’s clear that there’s a long road ahead to really heal. Ella’s not going to be fine if they kill the dragon and she’s unlikely to see any true justice for what happened to her, and she knows that. The climax of the story is her decision to try to live anyway, despite that. After that comes long years of gradual change, and continuing to another reasonable stopping place would require an entire novel.