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Smoke & Mirrors with Amanda Crum

Interview by Jiksun Cheung (Read the Story) June 21, 2021

Amanda Crum

Amanda Crum

“Storm Dialogue” is a vivid and poignant story that deals with a lot of heavy imagery and themes—walk us through your process: Where did the story begin? How did you arrive at the ending? How much, if any, did you draw from your own experiences?

There are a lot of my experiences woven into the story. The character of Annie is based on a childhood friend who has struggled quite a bit in recent years, and I was thinking about the starting point of both our paths as kids and how those paths ran parallel, then veered wildly as we got older. The circumstances of our abuse were different, but we both had to survive something, and I wanted to explore how our beginnings shape us, how much our choices affect things, and how much of life is just blind luck. Writing the ending was emotional because there are so many of us who’ve had to use imagination as a means of escape rather than a conduit for creativity or something positive.

So much of the story happens in memory that one almost forgets that the title refers to a dialogue in the present—one line from Annie, one from the protagonist, and perhaps one final one from the storm itself. Tell us more about this.

I liked the idea of embodying thought in some way, turning it into a ghostly suggestion that’s haunting these young women. The things we’ve survived never really leave us, no matter how hard we might try to move past them, so the ending was also a nod to that—how exhausting it is to constantly have to navigate abuse in all its forms.

Your stories often contain elements of horror, fairy tales, and dark fantasy—“Storm Dialogue” itself features ghosts, incantations, premonitions, and specters, among others, as metaphors—what draws you to these genres, and what has been your experience in deploying elements within them as tools for storytelling?

I’ve been drawn to horror and darkness since I was really young, and part of what I was exploring in the story is how much trauma affects our inclinations. Do I love those things because there’s a shadow in me that was created by abuse? Looking back on my childhood with adult eyes, I think I was attracted to the idea of witches and fairy tales because of the power associated with them. It’s rare to feel powerful when you’re a kid who is at the mercy of adults.

A thread that runs through the story is the idea of escape—through imagination in their earlier lives, and through drug-use in the present—what have you escaped from in the past?

Sexual abuse as a child and physical/emotional abuse as an adult, and unfortunately those have been common experiences for many girls and women in my life. So many of us have a story. A bad memory. What haunts me, though, are the things and people I just narrowly escaped and didn’t know about until afterward. A child predator who worked with my father and paid me a lot of attention, for instance. Those thoughts will take over if you aren’t careful, which is why the process of writing helps so much. I can get it out onto the page and leave it there.

Humor us: In your mind, one year later, where are Annie and the protagonist?

As much as I love horror, I do love a happy ending. I’d like to think these two women have found strength in each other and their shared experiences, enough to move forward without so much fear. Something we don’t realize in our youth is that life is so much better than those experiences.

About the Author

Amanda Crum is a writer and artist whose work has appeared in Barren Magazine, The Hellebore, Eastern Iowa Review, and more. She currently lives in Kentucky with her husband and two children.

About the Interviewer

Jiksun Cheung is a speculative fiction writer from Hong Kong who writes about parenthood and confronting the unknown. His stories have been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, wigleaf, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. He is Editor-in-Chief at The Bureau Dispatch and Submissions Editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. Find him on Twitter @JiksunCheung and at jiksun.com.

This interview appeared in Issue Seventy-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Two
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SmokeLong Fitness--The Community Workshop

Next Date to Join: January 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.