Welcome to another Issue 047 author interview! This time we’re talking mysticism, rewriting, and “The Keeper” with Susan E. Rogers.
LSQ: I always think stories from the perspectives of young children are so interesting because they have a much simpler view of the world. This is apparent in “The Keeper” because Bridget doesn’t question her role or the stories Ownie passes down to her; it’s just the way it is. Were there any struggles in writing from the point of view of a four-year-old?
Susan: The bond between Bridget and Ownie is based on my own relationship with my great-grandfather. He was seventy-one when I was born. I have such a vivid recollection of my toddler and young child self crawling onto his lap to listen to his songs and stories of the “old country” in Ireland and all the gossip he knew about family members for generations back. When I wrote the story, I was able to place myself back in that time with him because I have cherished those memories for all my life. He was the epitome of the Irish bard and I was blessed to have him in my life until I was eighteen.
LSQ: The scene where Bridget helps Ownie’s soul ascend was quite visually stunning! How did your visualization of it come about?
Susan: The original version of the story ended with Ownie’s death, but I just never felt it was quite finished. I had a friend proofread and critique it. She loved the story, but told me she thought she had read it before or one very like it. That’s when I knew I had to write a new ending which had to be unique to this story of legacy and the passing of obligation from one generation to another. I wanted a ritual, but it needed to be simple, so that a four-year-old could understand it and carry it off, yet reflect the complexity and longevity of the legacy. The entire family is involved in the funeral scene to show the intrinsic, often rote, traditions of tribe as they are passed from one generation to the next, particularly in the religious rites of death and burial, in this case Irish Catholic. The result was a blending of Irish mythology where ancestors inhabit the Otherworld and the Catholic teaching of Heaven. In both cultures, the ultimate passage is one of ascension.
LSQ: What was your favorite thing about writing this story? What was the most difficult?
Susan: “The Keeper” has always been one of my favorite pieces because of the connection to my great-grandfather, and because it speaks to my spiritual connection with my Irish heritage.
The story actually has a long history. It was my very first attempt at writing fiction and I wrote the original draft over thirty years ago when I was in my early thirties. I had written some poetry in high school and did a lot of concise, factual report writing for work. I really wanted to write fiction but I was deathly afraid of dialogue. I just had no experience with it. I used this story as my practice piece and wrote it over and over, adding more dialogue each time. I was happy with the result, though it was very basic, and then put it away in a file as other life issues commanded my attention. Many years later, after I retired and seriously began to pursue my writing, I pulled “The Keeper” out of the old file folder, dusted it off, and polished it up. That’s when I added the funeral scene which I felt brought it to closure.
LSQ: Do you often write about ancient lineages and the supernatural? What are your favorite topics to write about?
Susan: Yes, most of my writing contains elements of at least one or both. Again, I have to give credit to my great-grandfather for my interest in my ancestry and in mysticism. I’ve always been fascinated by history and mythology. Because of his stories, I started researching my family history forty years ago and his tales provided the beginning branches of the family tree. It’s still a work in progress and I’m very proud of my heritage.
I’m also a practicing psychic and spiritual intuitive. My great-grandfather’s stories included the old Irish myths and legends that he heard as a boy. So, when I understood that I had “the gift” even as a child, I was never frightened or upset by visions or visits from spirits. They have always been a part of my life experience, and it’s only natural for me to include them in my writing.
As a result, I love to write speculative fiction in the forms of magical realism, low fantasy, slipstream and soft horror. I want my stories to make the reader ponder the “what if” of possibility. So, of course, I was thrilled that Luna Station wanted to publish “The Keeper.”