Q. Tell us a little bit about your background, and your evolution as a writer. If you’ve taken more than one workshop at the Storied Imaginarium, what is it that keeps bringing you back?
A. I started writing when I was four. My mom told my sister and me a story about Sleeping Beauty waking up before the hundred years were done and all the adventures she went on, and I dashed out of bed and started writing it down before I forgot it. And then I just never stopped. In hindsight, that single incident explains a lot of what interests me most: fantasy, fairy tale reworkings, and badass heroines sorting out the world. One of the things I’ve loved most about the workshops I’ve taken at the Storied Imaginarium is that I’ve never had to fight for a place for the stories I want to tell; instead, they’re encouraged and celebrated and improved, which is both a gift and a delight.
Q. Have you published any stories that have come out of the generative workshops at the Storied Imaginarium? If so, what inspired your pieces, and where can we read them?
A. In December 2020, Beneath Ceaseless Skies published my story “After Me, The Flood,” which came out of the Monstrous Women workshop. It was the first Storied Imaginarium workshop I took, and it’s the story I’m proudest of so far. I’d actually had the idea years ago, when toying with the prompt of “forgotten civilizations” – a glance through the Wikipedia page for the city of Ys and its main characters had my mind churning. But I couldn’t ever finish the story until I took the workshop, which kept me thinking and talking and writing for weeks on end about the power, potential, and pain of a female “monster.” (Also it was 2017 and I was seething with rage at everything. That helped too. Half the stories I wrote in that workshop had women ending the world, and I regret nothing.)
Q. What advice do you have for writers working with fairy tales and myth as well as combining them with current science and social issues?
A. Fairy tales and myths stick around not just because they keep meaning something to us, but because they mean something different to every different person. If you figure out what specific element of a specific story attracts you most, then you’ve got your way into your own version. A question the original story didn’t resolve for you, a character you enjoy spending time with, a revisionist interpretation of something other tellings take for granted – whatever it is that grabs your interest, that’s the key to the version you’ll have the most fun writing.
Q. How did you come to writing and who are some of your influences?
A. Beyond the Sleeping Beauty Lightning Bolt, I’ve always loved stories; moving from reading them to writing them felt like a pretty logical progression. And I owe a shoutout to the fanfiction forums on TheOneRing.com, where I learned to write cliffhangers and weaned myself off Mary Sues. As far as influences go, Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet shaped nearly all of my reading and writing tastes. The d’Aulaires’ book of Greek myths will permanently entrance anyone. Robin McKinley‘s books and Mary Stewart‘s Merlin trilogy are masterpieces of fairy tale adaptation, Megan Whalen Turner can singlehandedly demonstrate the power of a book written to be reread, Brooke Bolander‘s work reads like a barbaric yawp from the soul, and Guy Gavriel Kay is the king of alternate-history worldbuilding. And also Tolkien, whose complicated, powerful, triumphant heroines too often get overlooked.
Q. Can you give us an insight into your writing process? Any habits when you sit down to write?
A. The more I write, the more I believe in structure. (A revolutionary concept, I know.) I’ve never done well plotting out the entire story beat by beat, but I’m finding that knowing where the story will go doesn’t preclude the fun of being surprised by it. Characters are never perfectly obedient, anyway. It’s kind of a trust fall in my mind: I tell them where we’re going, they take their own paths there, and we all have a lot more fun when there’s less stress on everyone. (Except for deadlines. I write really well to deadlines. I blame NaNoWriMo.)
Q. What is next in store for your readers?
A. I’m still sending around stories I’ve written in the Storied Imaginarium workshops; I can’t wait to find homes for some of them. 2020 has been hell on my creative impulse, but I’m working on a book set in an alternate-universe Renaissance Italy, featuring an artist supporting her family, the lonely princess she falls in love with, and the god in hiding who talks in her head. Here’s hoping I get to share that with everyone soon!
Author Bio: Elizabeth Zuckerman’s fiction has appeared in NonBinary Review, Timeless Tales Magazine, TANSTAAFL’s anthology Witches, Warriors, and Wyverns, and Footnote, where she was long-listed for the Charter Oak Award. She finally put her theatre degree to use in reading the audiobook for Kassandra Flamouri’s The Chalice and the Crown. She lives with a gruff but gold-hearted paladin in Trenton, New Jersey, where she tries not to make two desserts at once and livetweets movies at @LizCanTweet.