Welcome to another Issue 050 author interview! If you had the chance to see what your life would look like had you made different choices… would you? We ask Elizabeth Guilt this and more about her story “Other Lives.”
LSQ: What a brilliant idea! Who hasn’t ever wondered what would have happened if they’d made anther choice or followed another path? What made you hone in on the idea for this story?
Elizabeth: Thank you! The story grew originally from the idea of an amazing, magical fair, and the sorts of things you might find there.
Hearing about an “other life” felt like something which would be popular, and would be in keeping with the tradition of traveling circus shows. Despite the narrator’s question – why would you want to hear about that? – I think many people would been keen to hear one of their other lives. Pinning down quite *why* people would find these other lives interesting is much harder, which is why I found it a compelling idea for a sideshow.
LSQ: I loved getting the intriguing little glimpses into other lives for Emily and Robert, and then I got seriously concerned for the main character! What an ending. Did you always see this story concluding like this, or did you plan out a more specific fate for the main character at one point?
Elizabeth: I am not one of life’s careful planners, so for a long time I had no idea how the story was going to end! I always knew that the main character wouldn’t get to see an other life, but originally I expected that to be their own choice.
The “Other Life woman” does this every day, reviewing people’s other lives and selecting one she believes they will enjoy hearing. It’s magic, but it is mundane to her. I started wondering about what might frighten her. A great-aunt of mine used to read tea-leaves to tell fortunes, got scared by how accurate she felt her readings were, and stopped. Presumably the seer of other lives is comfortable with her own abilities, and presumably she sometimes sees unpleasant or dangerous lives – but what could she see that she’d never encountered before?
From there, I could see the ending. I don’t usually feel like I’m choosing how to close a story, more that I’m writing in assorted directions until I manage to find out what the ending has been all the time.
LSQ: If you could see one of your own “other lives,” what do you hope it would show you?
Elizabeth: I’ve always been very aware of paths not taken in life, or choices made. I think what I’d most like to see is a self who’s taken a route that I hadn’t even thought of, and has a life I didn’t know I’d missed. I hope she’s enjoying it!