Issue 052 Author Interview: Chana Kohl and “The Warrior Tree”

Welcome, dear readers, to our Issue 052 author interviews! This issue is all about trees, and we can’t wait to see how each of our authors brought this theme to life. We’re starting off with Chana Kohl and her enthralling story “The Warrior Tree“.

LSQ: By the time I reached the sci-fi ending, I forgot I was reading a speculative fiction magazine because I was so engrossed in this story! Why did you decide to save the sci-fi for the end?

Chana: Thank you! In the original draft, the sci-fi portion was the opening scene and Faiza was the backstory. After some feedback, I realized my message needed to focus, and the spotlight had to be completely on her, so I switched things around. Also, I wanted the reader to be as unaware as Faiza was in the moment how her raw determination would manifest in the future.

LSQ: I will admit, trees aren’t the first things I think of in association with Morocco. Why did you choose to set your tree-themed story there?

Chana: Yes, I can definitely see that. Especially if you live in a place where trees and water are so abundant you might never consider what would happen if they were no longer there. If you live at the edge of the Sahara, they feel more precious. Desertification is a far more vast and visible problem in the stretch of Middle East where I live and Africa all-around. I’m just flabbergasted how argan trees are able to thrive, literally, as the last line of defense between these habitable and inhabitable areas.

LSQ: What drew you to this issue’s theme?

Chana: I’d been working on the idea since spring, drawing a parallel between one of these *warrior* trees and a young woman stuck in an impossible situation due to her culture, her economic status, her difference from the norm. I thought about all the traditional ways we define a champion, and neither of them fit the mold. What they did have in common was the ability to endure whatever conditions they found themselves and somehow draw strength from that. Some battles won’t be won in a single generation, but if you can plant the seeds, time will do the rest.

When I read the submission call, it was a happy coincidence that my title and theme seemed to match.

LSQ: Who and what inspires your writing?

Chana: As far as reading, there are so many classic authors I loved growing up, A. C. Clarke would be at the top of that list. Later I discovered Le Guin. I read so many amazing, new and established authors from all over the spectrum…but I have to say I’m in awe of Ted Chiang at the moment.

As far as story ideas…I try to write a 20-minute sprint each day from a story prompt. This usually results in a hodgepodge of foolishness, but sometimes there are one or two sentences I can use down the line. The majority of my story ideas come from interesting science articles I keep in a database or images in my media feeds from historical, archeological and architectural websites.