LSQ: The level of detail in post apocalyptic stories is always impressive, and this story is no different. What kind of research did you have to do?
CL: Thank you! I think I may have been unconsciously influenced by a really horrifying 1984 BBC film called Threads, which was about a nuclear winter in northern England and it imagined that language would essentially disintegrate over the next generation. I used to live in Scotland, and I always imagined the solitude of the Highlands as becoming a refuge against climate change, rising sea levels, natural disasters, or man-made disasters targeting larger cities. So I tried to invent my own dialect, imagining the last surviving diaspora from Scotland and northern England, set a hundred years from now. The story may have also grown from some pandemic-pessimism when I was living near Heathrow airport. I had read that air traffic decreased by 70%, which was great for the neighborhood but also made an eerie quiet. Watching a plane take off actually became a rare occurrence, and I wondered about a time in the future when the last airplane will depart the UK. I thought it would be a rather significant event. I thought about the people watching, and why they would be left behind. I am not a native Brit, and sometimes the idea of being stranded on a tiny island terrifies me.
LSQ: Hannah does her best to survive in such an unforgiving environment, but it often feels hopeless. What is it about her that kept her going in face of everything crumbling around her?
CL: My favorite books growing up always seemed to revolve around kids having to survive in some kind of wilderness, like Hatchet or Z for Zachariah. I admired their resilience and perseverance. I think all the kids in “Fishbone” have created rich, inner lives for themselves in order to survive. Hannah still cherishes her relationship with her mother to an obsessive degree. Jeremy works on his pointless boat. Simon imagines himself as a savior. But what I think makes Hannah different is that she realizes that she cannot live in her fantasy forever, and things must change if she and Jeremy are going to survive. She’s fiercely protective, and in a way she assumes a kind of maternal role over Jeremy and her environment.
LSQ: Simon’s cult intrigued me, especially Hannah’s observation of how young and scared many of them looked, and their inattention when Simon wasn’t speaking. How do you see them getting along without Simon?
CL: After most of the adults of the community are gone, the children essentially have to fend for themselves, and Simon has filled the power vacuum. But I don’t see his followers as a mindless congregation. They’re just frightened children looking for guidance, although probably in the wrong place. And I think that they will fare much better without Simon. It probably won’t be a utopian democracy, but I want to believe that there is always hope for humans to learn from their mistakes and do better.
LSQ: Are there any other projects you’re working on? If so, could you tell us a bit about them?
CL: I really enjoy writing speculative/sci-fi/weird fiction. I’ve written several short stories in that vein, and it would be wonderful if I had the opportunity to publish them. I’m also trying to edit and polish a bit of an ambitious novel that I’ve been working on for a while. It’s set in three separate centuries of European history – post-bubonic plague, the Napoleonic era, and an imagined future of the 2100s. Its gothic historical fiction with a heavy dose of magical realism and science fiction. But finding time to write while working a full-time job is tough!