New Author Spotlight: Shay Darrach
What drew you to writing stories that were moving across genres? Is this a new direction for your writing?
It’s entirely Crossed Genres’ fault. At least it is in the sense that finding the magazine, back in the early issues of the first run, gave me a reason to challenge myself to deliberately do genre mashups. Before that, I’d tended to think of my stories as being in their own genre boxes, even when I was clearly not writing them that way (‘vampires’ in a cyberpunk setting, for example).
But really genre crossing comes almost instinctively. I try to tell the story as it needs to be told, and only worry about the genre in marketing terms of where it might find a home. Unsurprisingly, Crossed Genres has become a favourite market, because the monthly and anthology themes make me write outside my comfort zones.
“Baggage Check” is full of poetry and voice, a kind of repetition that, for me, invoked a sense of movement and travel. Did you purposefully choose that voice for this story, or did it build inherently out of the subject matter?
The seed of this story idea came from a song lyric**, so I guess in that sense, it’s inherent. I struggled a lot with finding a story for this theme; everything I thought of seemed clichéd and overdone. The lyrics made me realize that leaving – or rather, watching a woman leave – was a common story in songs, but it was always from the outside. That gave me the idea to spin it around and make it about her. And so “she’s not leaving, she’s moving on” became, like the chorus of the songs that inspired it, a refrain to remind her and the reader (and me) that it’s not about the past or the watcher left behind, but about the journey from her viewpoint.
(**For the curious, the song was “Hang” by Matchbox 20.)
The use of objects in this story is so vital and real. Do you think that objects define us? Can we change our identities just by changing our objects?
The concept of touchstones has always resonated with me. The idea that a physical object can call to mind a time and place, a mindset, a memory – it’s very powerful, perhaps because I’ve moved around so much. When you change countries, or cities, or even just houses, there’s a fear of losing things, of losing people. A fear of getting left behind even if you’re the one leaving. Having a touchstone can make it easier to face a change that feels overwhelming.
I don’t think objects define us, but rather that we sometimes define ourselves by the objects we value. The flip side of a touchstone is that we can trap ourselves by hanging on to the physical things that symbolize parts of ourselves that maybe we’ve outgrown. It can become baggage, weighing us down. Changing the objects, the outward symbols, can be a powerful part of remaking yourself.
There’s a quote, attributed to Socrates, that’s stuck with me: “How many things I have no need of.” It makes me reconsider how and why I hang on to objects. In a way, that’s what the character in “Baggage Check” is doing also – re-evaluating needs.
The theme of this issue is “What defines She.” Have you found an answer to that question that you’re satisfied with or are you still exploring it?
I don’t think there is a single answer. Like the narrator in the story, I’m still unpacking my definitions and expectations of what “she” means to society, to others, and to me. Like any question about gender identity or gender expression, it’s incredibly complex and ultimately personal.
Are there any definitions or versions of yourself that you’ve kept for long periods of time, or do you tend to change your identity over time?
I’d say I’m a work in progress. The me you would have met even last year is not the same me that is answering these questions. Which is not to say I’m a completely different person, but that I’ve gradually changed, and grown, and learned.
Where is your favorite writing place? Can you draw us a visual picture of the kind of space you create for yourself when you write?
It’s more of a mental space than a physical one, which makes it hard to describe. I’m not a coffeeshop writer – I need a place where I feel safe from interruptions (or at least from unfamiliar interruptions). Most often that’s at home, with my laptop on the couch, or at lunch time at the office, when everyone else is gone for an hour. I need to be sure that no one is going to walk up behind me while I’m writing. (So if we ever switch to an open-concept office, I’m doomed.)
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think is important or that readers might want to know?
Since “Baggage Check” may read as intensely personal, I think it’s worth saying: the “she” in the story is not me. There are elements of her journey that are familiar, that echo bits of my personal experience, but her journey is not my journey.