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The following is an interview with Alexandra Brandt, author of the short story “The Flat Above the Wynd,” which appears in Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy (available now on Amazon in digital and paperback).
1) What inspired you to write your Neon Druid story, “The Flat Above the Wynd”?
My whole family has been pretty obsessed with all things Celtic since I can remember. My obsession turned into its own special brand of nerdery when I went on an archaeological tour of Scotland in 2015…wait, there is nothing archaeological in this story.
What DID inspire me was the time we spent in Edinburgh, exploring Old Town and discovering all the little alleyways (wynds and closes) and side courts along the Royal Mile. (We were absolutely the idiot tourists trying to climb the stairs of a private residence.) That’s where “The Flat Above the Wynd” came from.
2) What’s something that always seems to pop up in the stories you write?
Looking at the stories I’ve written so far, I tend to write female characters, and almost always with another female secondary character. I guess I am just interested in how women relate to each other–within the trappings of fantasy and sci-fi and superheroes, of course. (Hmm, I also wrote a non-gendered mer with a dolphin friend…not sure where that would get categorized.)
3) Which book/story has had the biggest influence on your writing?
WHY WOULD YOU MAKE ME CHOOSE ONE YOU MONSTER
I mean, one fairly recent influence has been Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway. I would love to write like that. She’s also shown me that you can write straight-up genre fiction like Urban Fantasy, and still write award-winning “literary” fiction–and you can even do it at the same time. Finding that sweet spot between a really good escape into genre fiction and beautiful, savage, powerful language and themes? That’s my new dream.
4) Cross over into the Otherworld and tell us about a deceased writer you would most like to chat with and learn from.
Oh gosh, Ursula K. LeGuin. I really regret that I never got to meet her while she was alive. Of course, even (especially) in the Otherworld I would be too intimidated to talk to her, or at best I’d probably end up asking her about what it was like to write SF back in the 60’s and 70’s, or her thoughts on anarchy (and why), and then just talk about Catwings. And I would forget to ask about craft at all.
I would love to figure out how she packed so much weight and meaning into those sparse, pithy sentences, though.
5) Excluding your Neon Druid story, what piece of writing are you most proud of, and why?
The first short story I ever professionally published is still probably one of my best. I took several huge risks with “We, the Ocean,” and they paid off. I had never written in first person plural before, but I wanted (for some crazy reason) to write a mer society that operated as one psychically-connected collective. I mean, the only genders they use are “us” and “them”! And I broke some key grammatical rules along with that. And I wrote darker than I’d ever written before. But the series editor of Fiction River loved it, even called it ““inventive, heartbreaking, and wholly original.” Hell yes, I’ll take that.
6) What do you do when you’re NOT writing?
As the most unique of writers, I have two cats—silver and black—and they are monsters, and I love them. In other equally shocking news, it rained in England.
I do graphic design for my day job, and my favorite thing is sci-fi and fantasy book cover design. (It’s important to insert as much nerd as possible into every part of one’s life.) I love tabletop gaming, from D&D to cooperative board games to really fiddly worker placement games. My spouse and I have gone from having a Game Cupboard to a whole Game Pantry. Which is a thing I guess we’ve now invented.
7) What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
I am tackling another story set in Sky’s universe, but about 1400-ish years in the past. I’ve already written one novelette, “The Giving Year,” which came out in Jamie Ferguson’s Midwinter Fae anthology, but I have more stories lined up to pick up where that one left off. There are fairies and humans crossing between realms in this series too, but this time in early Medieval Pictland, with cairns (see, here’s where my archaeology obsession comes in!). It will publish in a future “Wild Hunt”-themed Procession of Faeries anthology (later this year, date TBA).
Alexandra Brandt’s debut fantasy short story, “We, the Ocean,” was featured on the Tangent Online 2017 Recommended Reading List. She has sold stories to the Fiction River Anthology Magazine and other short fiction publications. Her portal fantasy short-story series, Wyndside Stories, is based on her love of Edinburgh and has contributed fiction to several anthologies and her own collection of fairy short stories, Magic for a Rainy Day. She writes nonfiction copy and does graphic design work, including freelance book cover design. You can find her online (and get a free short story) at alexandrajbrandt.com.