Join us as we peek behind the scenes of our new anthology, ON TIME. Learn more about Jalyn Renae Fiske in her featured interview.
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
“Sweetbreads at Midnight” was inspired by the Greek myth of Lamia. I wanted to do a re-telling of a lesser known character, and this one spoke to me. There are a few versions of it, and one of the most disturbing versions has Hera punishing Lamia (of course, for falling prey to Zeus’s sexual desires) by cursing her to consume her own children. In later stories, Lamia is a cannibalistic seductress who feeds on the flesh of young men. The myth itself doesn’t relate to Time, but the manner in which I have written it, the reader experiences what Lamia experiences: that she is lost within her curse and can’t keep track of reality.
Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
The story begins with the protagonist falling in love. Isn’t that how horror stories begin? We also don’t know her name until the very end, since she herself doesn’t know who she is and what she has done but for a fleeting moment at the conclusion. Ultimately, Lamia is seduced and tricked into love, tricked into staying in love against her will. I sympathize with her. One day, she wakes up, and her life is being controlled by someone else. How did she let that happen? Day by day, crumb by crumb.
What is the most interesting thing about the world you’ve created?
I’d say the most interesting aspect is how the story is written. My hope is that the reader feels lost in time, slightly confused, aching to understand what is going on. Not so much as to become frustrated and stop reading, but to step into the mind of someone trapped and brainwashed and manipulated. Someone abused, questioning what they think and feel, and who ultimately trusts in their abuser to tell them what to think and feel. A glimpse into gaslighting, if you will.
What genre or mix of genres does your story fit into?
It’s a Greek re-telling, so myth and fantasy, but there’s definitely a horror element, too.
How have your personal experiences influenced this story?
I’m fascinated by manipulation, both from outside forces and from within. A person can absolutely convince themselves they are unworthy, ugly, hated, when they are not, because that’s what they tell themselves on repeat for years. It’s the same with people convinced of conspiracy theories and fake news—they want to believe it, so they feed on it constantly, until it becomes Truth. We’re all victims of our mindsets to some degree or another, and it’s difficult to claw our way out.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
Never stop striving for Truth. Don’t simply accept your state of mind, your way of life, no matter how comfortable the trap might feel.
What was your favorite part of the story to write and why?
I really enjoyed writing the parallel narrative and Lamia going to the kitchen to get something to eat. It’s such an innocent act, but by the end, that’s what makes the story so horrific.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When did you write your first story, how old were you, and what was it about?
I think my first story was in second grade, and I wrote about scuba divers going to the bottom of the ocean and finding a key to unlock a treasure. I remember being extremely proud of myself. I even illustrated it!
What is your writing survival checklist? (Aka, what helps your write the best: music, snacks, coffee, complete silence, a stress ball, a cat, or an outline, etc.)
Currently, I’m surviving on Gregorian Chants and loose-leaf tea.
What has influenced you most as a writer?
Attending writing workshops has been the single most influential aspect for me. I’ve met professionals in the field, befriended fellow up-and-coming writers, and found incredible amounts of support and inspiration.
What font do you prefer to write in?
Times New Roman. Always.
Do you have any writing blogs/vlogs/podcasts, etc. that you would recommend?
I don’t read or listen to writing-focused blogs or podcasts, but now that you mention it, maybe I should!
What is your favorite and least favorite word, and why?
Favorite word: magnanimous. It sounds amazing, and it’s meaning is something I strive for.
Least favorite word: dazzle. It just sounds…like someone is trying to sell me something fake or worthless.
Jalyn Renae Fiske is a high school English teacher and creative writing instructor in Midland, Texas. She serves as Fiction Editor for James Gunn’s Ad Astra magazine and earned her MFA in creative writing from Goddard College in 2017. She has a thing for dragons, musicals, Batman, cemeteries, and international horror films. Her work has appeared in such publications as The Overcast, Typehouse, The Future Fire, and in the Transcendent anthology from Transmundane Press.