Issue 048 Author Interview: Heather Del Piano and “A Murder of Crows”

How are you feeling, bird-lovers? Can’t get enough of Issue 048? Here’s another treat for you: an author interview! Read on for Heather Del Piano’s answers to our questions about her story “A Murder of Crows.”

LSQ: At the start of the story, Edith’s desperation for a child is tangible. When she is asked to chop the head off of a crow and save its blood, things turn dark quickly. If she knew how the story would end, do you think Edith would have gone through with this first sacrifice?

Heather: Edith’s desperation for a child is so strong that I do believe she would have gone through with the first sacrifice no matter what. Even if she had been warned how it would end, she’d still be blinded by that desire. Also, many people like to feel that they have some control over their fate. It reminds me of the movie Practical Magic when Sally’s love interest at the end talked about curses only having power if we believe in them. Since Edith does try to shield Luna even without knowing that tragedy, she most likely would have tried to control and protect her even more to prevent that final tragedy.

LSQ: As Luna is growing up, she is sheltered with her mother: “Feeling like a caged bird, both in her home and in her own body, made it hard for Luna to breathe”.  We discover that in all ways except one, she is a normal child who wishes for friends. When writing Luna, how did you decide what qualities of normal and other she would possess?

Heather: It doesn’t have to take much for a person to feel different from others. I wanted Luna to feel very relatable just with that one touch of magic. Many kids feel like an outsider with their peers. Although we don’t have crows escape from us when we have strong emotions, we all experience overwhelming feelings at times. If we bottle up our feelings for too long, they are bound to come out in some destructive ways.

LSQ: In so many ways, this story is a beautifully told tragedy. How do you feel about fairy-tale and folk-tale inspired tragic endings? Do you prefer them over “happily ever afters”?

Heather: When I shared my story with friends and family, I always prefaced it by saying, “It’s a fairy-tale, but a dark one.” In popular culture, there is such an association between fairy-tales and happily-ever-after. I grew up on happy fairy-tales and have always been a big Disney fan. I definitely love a happy ending, though I do not feel that all fairy-tales should end that way. Some stories simply don’t end happily. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more intrigued by the darker ones. In a graduate class I took, Fantasy in Children’s Literature, we discussed how fantasy can be a safer way for people to explore fears and issues. I often find when I’m writing these short stories that I delve into some darker themes that are on my mind.

LSQ: Tell us about your other writing. Do you prefer dark fairy tales and fantasy, or do you have other influences? What inspiration did you draw on when creating this tale?

Heather: When I read Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood, the short tragic tales referenced in the book inspired me to try to pen some of my own. Up to that point, I had written a few picture book drafts and a few scenes from a potential novel. Once I switched to fairy-tales, my writing really started to flow. As most writers, I’m an avid reader and take inspiration from a variety of sources. I pull from folklore, but also try to work out any pressing issues on my mind. The first seed of an idea for “A Murder of Crows” was the title. I love that a group of crows is called a murder and I developed the story from that title.  Although I do not have that desperation for a child, I think part of my inspiration for the story was all the societal pressure for women my age to have children. Lately, I’ve been working on a historical fiction novel based on a fact I learned during a virtual tour of Scotland. However, I do plan on continuing to work on these shorter fantasy pieces as well.