Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with A.A. Balaskovits

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story June 20, 2016

Is this story part of your upcoming book Magic for Unlucky Girls? Can you tell me a little more about that book? 

It isn’t, sadly. This was written right after I finished the collection when I went through a rush of spouting off as many short tales as I could (I’ve since collected all of those into a short, separate chapbook of fairy tales). It would have fit perfectly in the collection, however, since it matches the theme: sad girls and women just trying to survive their strange worlds and being helped, though often hurt, by magic in equal amounts. I think I was always suspicious about magic while reading those stories as a kid. They only seemed to help a certain kind of person, and I always wondered what happened to women left out of that mold.

What is your favorite fairy tale? Why? 

It used to be “The Handless Maiden” until I stumbled across “How Some Children Played at Slaughtering” in a Grimm’s collection. It’s an odd little duck of a tale with no magic, per se, just some kids who like to watch pigs getting butchered and then get it in their heads to play pretend and kill a friend of theirs; sort of a cruel mimicry. The adults, all aghast at the children acting as adults do (as we all know, kids are never violent) offer the murder-child an apple or a coin. If he chooses the apple, he gets to live. If he chooses the coin, he is going to be sentenced to death. It’s so rich with symbolism and what we imagine childhood must be, as well as ignoring what it often is: hardly innocent, innately cruel, and full of play.

If you could have a fully functioning silver body part, which part would you choose? 

I love this question! It might actually be a possibility as we improve cyborg technology, though I’m not sure if silver would be the best option (too malleable). I’d like a silver eye, I think.

You’re working with Cartridge Lit right now as a social media editor. I’m an NES nerd, though shallowly, so I’m curious what your favorite game is. 

Earthbound! Though there is always love in my heart for Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, as well as Secret of Mana, the Witcher III…I actually could go on forever. I play an inordinate amount of video games.

What is the best thing you’ve read in the last few months? 

I just bought Giambattista Basile’s collection, A Tale of Tales after watching the movie with the same name. They’re a true delight! The foul language is exceptional. I’ve actually learned far more creative ways to curse. I love that it has a framing story for the tales, much like De Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom and One Thousand and One Nights with women sharing their stories for the empowered class. Not a huge fan of the blatant sexism and racism, but perhaps these tales can do with a little updating.

About the Author:

A. A. Balaskovits is the author of Magic for Unlucky Girls (SFWP, 2017) which won the Santa Fe Writers Project program awards grand prize in 2015. Her works appears or will appear in Indiana Review, The Madison Review, The Southeast Review, Booth, Wigleaf and many others. She is the social media editor for Cartridge Lit. 

About the Interviewer:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

About the Artist:

A Best Small Fictions 2015 Winner, Dave Petraglia's writing and art have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, bohemianizm, Cheap Pop, Crack the Spine, Five:2:One, Gambling the Aisle, Hayden's Ferry, matchbook, Medium, McSweeney's, Necessary Fiction, North American Review, Per Contra, Points in Case, Popular Science, Razed, SmokeLong Quarterly, Up the Staircase, and others.