In our new author series, we’ll be offering a clairvoyant peek behind the veil of who and what makes up TRANSCENDENT. Here’s a glimpse at Madison Estes and her story “House of Mirrors.”
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
My struggles with low self-esteem inspired this story. I wrote “House of Mirrors” during a dark time in my life. I had moved in with my grandmother to escape problems at home. I had dropped out of college, stopped exercising, was sleeping and eating irregularly, and didn’t even want to get out of bed most days. I was filled with self-loathing.
This story came to me in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. I was hit with a desire to write about a girl entering a mirror funhouse. The main character of this story relies on validation from others to determine her self-worth. Deep down, she doesn’t really like herself. There was a lot of myself inside the character of Britney at the time I wrote this.
Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?
Britney is addicted to social networking. She seeks validation through social media, and relies on the number of reactions she gets from her followers to determine her self-worth at any given moment. Although Britney has an extreme case of social media dependence, I think most people can relate to the feeling of wanting attention though mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I think she is relatable in that way. She is afraid of aging and losing her figure because her self-esteem is reliant on her beauty. She feels that most people only like her for her looks; the thought of losing her beauty makes her feel like she would lose everything.
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influences your work.
The mirror funhouse is a huge part of the story. It forces the main character to realize how dependent her self-esteem is on her appearance, and it provides a means for that character to face her greatest fear, which is losing her looks and, thus, losing herself as well. The setting creates a creepy atmosphere, as the labyrinth of mirrors confuses Britney and provokes a sense of disorientation and claustrophobia in the story. The setting also makes it impossible for Britney to run away from her fear because it is literally everywhere she looks.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
We are flooded with pictures of our friends and associates having babies, getting in shape, getting married, etc., and I think we cannot help comparing ourselves to what we see online. We forget that social media is a distorted reflection of reality. We are seeing the highlights and achievements of our followers and friends. People don’t often publish their flaws, their setbacks, or feelings of failure and sadness. Our sense of self-worth is bound to suffer when we compare our unfiltered, true selves to the perfect selves others try to display online. We should try not to rely on social media to feel worthy, and if we feel our main sense of self-worth comes from our looks, we should find other things to like about ourselves because beauty fades. Our bodies change throughout the life-span, and if your entire identity is wrapped up in your appearance, it’s going to lead to disappointment.
Which phrase are you most proud of in this story?
“Your whole life is filtered, just like your photos.” That is truly the heart of the story. She doesn’t show or know her true self because she only sees her appearance as being worthy of attention.
If your story was front-page news, what would the headline be?
Millennial “Can’t Even” as She Suffers from Lack of Adoration on Social Media
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Stephen King’s book On Writing is the best money I’ve spent as a writer. Not only did it help my writing style, but it helped me appreciate the wonder of writing from a young age. I reread it at least every other year just to hear King’s thoughts on the process of writing and the enthusiasm and awe he still has for the craft even after decades of writing. This book reminds me why I love writing and why telling stories is important, which helps when I’m feeling writer burnout.
If you had to put your name on someone else’s book/story, which would it be and why?
I’d really like to claim The Collector by John Fowles as mine because it’s my favorite book. It’s so disturbing and tragic. It uses unreliable narrators, which is a literary technique I’m fond of. I feel like this book influences a lot of the themes and characters in my own work.
When did you decide to take writing seriously?
I began to take writing seriously in seventh grade when one of my teachers encouraged me to start submitting to writing contests. When I started college I stopped writing for a few years. I became serious again after I got a short story accepted in an apocalyptic-themed anthology last year. I realized that one way to become more productive and focused was to find anthologies to submit to so that I would be forced to meet deadlines. It’s worked well so far.
If you could choose a single superpower, what would it be and why?
I would love to be able to see into the future. I have anxiety and chronic depression that both sort of come and go, and when things get bad, I’d like to be able to look into the future and see that everything will be okay. I think telepathy would be awesome too. It would make so many things easier, like small talk, job interviews, and even dating.
Madison Estes has had work featured in Inkling, One Sentence Poems, Enter the Aftermath by TANSTAAFL press and A Wink and a Smile by Smoking Pen Press. Her personal essay is forthcoming in the anthology The Daily Abuse. In her spare time she reads Marvel fanfiction, goes to rock concerts, makes octopus sculptures and takes way too many pictures of her Chihuahuas. She lives in Texas with her family and three dogs.
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