LSQ: Selkies, or tyulki as they’re called in this story, are one of my favorite folk creatures. What is it about them that you feel drawn to?
E.: I think I feel drawn to shapeshifters of all sorts because, as a late blooming queer woman, I recognize how disruptive the Change can be when you expect your life to look one way and then it veers rapidly and decisively in another direction. I am fascinated by both the experience of the shifter as well as the reactions of the people around them.
LSQ: I never thought I’d read a story about otter magic! Why did you decide to have otters as the powerful magical beings instead of the tyulki doing as they please?
E.: The easy answer would be that I have a lifelong fascination with otters, and while that is true and certainly part of my motivation, I think there’s also something subversive and delicious about such soft, velveteen creatures being the most powerful magical beings in the ocean. I also wanted to emphasize the importance of connection and community in the creation of sustainable magic, and I think the visual image of two sea otters holding hands is immensely powerful.
LSQ: I find it interesting that the Yupredok are fully aware that these magical creatures in the ocean actually exist. Do they all know this, or are only some of them aware? What does their culture look like?
E.: All of the Yupredok are aware of the tyulki, but I don’t think that they are all so certain that they exist in such a concrete way, much as we humans can fall along a spectrum of believing in ghosts or after-impressions of the dead. I modeled the Yupredok on Jewish Diaspora communities of the Pale of Settlement and more northern reaches, though even within their culture there is a broad spectrum of religious praxis and attendant mythology. More southern outposts of the Yupredok don’t have experience with tyulki, and while that doesn’t mean they don’t believe in their existence, it does impact how they might react to stories like that of Kastsha and Svashosha.
LSQ: Are there any other projects you’re currently working on? If so, could you tell us a bit about them?
E.: I am working on a novel set in the same world as “The Price of Pearls,” and I am always working on poems as they flit into my brain!