Tell us a little about how “Be Not Unequally Yoked” came to be.
“Be Not Unequally Yoked” was born from a healthy dose of fear, a heap of nostalgia, and from my ever-present sense of wonder. I feared writing a character from a culture that was not my own — despite some of the similarities between Amish faith and rural Christianity. I was afraid to write a character in conflict with their own gender and sexuality, when I’m so certain of my own. Yet through the process, I found a lot of myself in Joash and really connected with him in a way I found quite illuminating. Steeping the story in my hometown allowed me to slip more comfortably into unfamiliar shoes. And as for the wonder–it motivates so many of my sci-fi/fantasy stories. I love pushing my mind, wondering what could happen and what the boundaries of my imagination are. I haven’t found those limits yet — I hope they’re as vast and limitless as space.
Did growing up around animals influence your work at all? Do you have any favorite short stories or novels about farms and their associated work that seem particularly accurate/compelling?
Growing up on a farm in rural Michigan, surrounded by goats and cows and horses (oh my!), certainly had a profound effect on this story in particular — and on a lot of my stories in some ways. I have a particular love of horses and I hope that familiarity gives my stories some sense of authenticity.
As far as stories or novels about farms, I read the works of James Herriot when I was a kid and, while those stories take place in England, I found their depictions of the grime and the blood and the beauty of working with animals particularly accurate. You see a lot of death in that world, but you really get to see some wonderful moments of life as well. On that note — in the story, Katie tells Joash about the time she helped a cow give birth by tying twine to the calf’s legs and pulling with the contractions. That’s actually a true story — when I was around ten years old, one of our cows was having trouble delivering, so my dad enlisted the aid of our Amish neighbor to help deliver the calf just like it happened in the story.
You have SEVEN SIBLINGS. Do any of you have magical powers?
Unfortunately, none of us shapeshift into draft horses — but I’d like to think we have our fair share of magical powers: natural-born storytellers, artists, and I swear my little sister is a dog-whisperer.
Have you read anything great recently?
I recently devoured Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor — it has to be one of my all-time favorite books. In the short story world, I’m particularly excited any time I find a new story by Natalia Theodoridou or Vajra Chandrasekera. Natalia’s “The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul” is a particular favorite of mine.
It’s almost a new year! Are you going to make any resolutions?
I can’t believe the new year is almost upon us! If I make any resolutions this year, I’m certain they’ll be writing related. In 2014, I actually achieved a few of my goals — including having a story published with Shimmer! — so next on my list is to write better and better stories and hopefully work on a novella.