New Author Spotlight: Elizabeth Beechwood
What drew you to writing stories that move across genres? Is this a new direction for your writing?
Many of my stories cross genres – I usually think of my work as “fiction” instead of “fantasy” or “speculative” or “literary” or any other genre. But, since my stories tend to take an odd turn or employ an unusual point of view, readers often think of them as fantasy or weird.
The theme for this issue is Ensemble. Did you write it for the theme, or was it something that you’d already completed that seemed to fit?
I already had this story written. When I saw the word “Ensemble,” I thought of the mountains right away!
In writing “Stone Dove,” you created a community of women and mountains, but set them weathering under the rites of men. Yet “Stone Dove” is not a war story. There are no victors and no spoils, in the end. Why tell a story without any clear losers?
Wow – I didn’t see that in the story at all! I love how readers come away from a story with different ideas!
Since “Stone Dove” is from the Mountains’ point of view, I tried to imagine what war would look like to them. I don’t know that winners or losers would matter to them. The Mountains were more interested in the people who lived there – that the people would be happy and healthy. The Mountains didn’t discriminate against those who had been living in Holubica first, or the ones who decided to remain in the village after the war. I just don’t think Nature works that way.
The narrators of “Stone Dove” appear to be genderless, and the focal characters are all women. What led you away from telling a story with a ‘default male’ point of view? In what ways, if any, did that choice add difficulty to writing “Stone Dove?”
This story was a woman’s story from the very start. I also think of the Mountains as female, instead of genderless. But that’s me – I tend to see the natural world as ‘feminine.” I don’t mind if readers see them as genderless, however. Everyone brings a part of themselves to a story when they read it.
In the initial version of this story, it was the priest who found Maria dead in the cemetery. But, when I showed it to my mentor, James Patrick Kelly (at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Program), he suggested that the priest wasn’t the right person for this job. It was a “DUH!” moment for me – not only had I defaulted to male, but authority-figure male! As soon as I changed the ending and put Angelica in the position of finding Maria, the story fell together nicely. It’s something I need to be vigilant about – that the gender of all characters serves the story and isn’t just a default position.
Tell us something about your future writing projects. Are you developing more short stories? Do you have a novel in the works?
I have several short stories, in various stages of completeness, screaming for my attention. I’ve been putting them off while I finish my novel, which is in the I-can’t-stand-to-look-at-this-another-minute stage.
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?
In the morning, I write at the kitchen table, close to the tea kettle, and next to sliding glass doors. The kitchen faces east, so I have the sunlight shining in (when it’s not raining here in Portland!) and I can watch the birds coming and going to the feeders. Then, in the afternoon, I move upstairs to my writing room, which faces west and gets the late-afternoon sunshine. I have a comfy, second-hand sofa in that room, that I like to curl up in, surrounded by my books, all sorts of odds and ends on my shelves, plants, and my cat, Kali, who sleeps on the back of the sofa in the sun.
What’s the question that you wish someone would ask, but no one ever has?
What book do you wish you’d written?
What’s the answer to that question?
It’s a toss-up between Shelley’s Frankenstein and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think is important or that readers might want to know?
Yes! One theme that I find myself writing around quite often is the relationship between humans and Nature. I’ve met a lot people who want to “be at one with Nature” or want to have a personal relationship with Nature. For “Stone Dove,” I tried to imagine what it would look like if Nature wanted to have a personal relationship with the people who lived on her slopes. Luckily, it turned out well for the people. This time.