Award winning author Claire L. Fishback writes horror novels and short stories from beautiful Colorado, where she resides with her husband and pit bull mix. She is the author of “The Blood of Seven” and “Lump: A Collection of Short Stories.” In her “spare” time she enjoys adding to her bone collection and poking dead things with sticks. You can find more about her and her books at clairelfishback.com.
The following is an interview with Claire L. Fishback.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
What inspired you to write this book?
Oddly enough, back in 2007, I was chatting with my friend Angela Alsaleem and somehow got around to talking about the song, “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.” I said, “Who is She?” And that inspired the first version of this book, which was called, “The She.” It has been through approximately five complete rewrites before becoming what it is today. Looking back at all of those rewrites, I feel they were necessary both as a way to practice the craft and to dig deep to find the real story. Somewhere along the way (I think for the second version, which was entitled “Demiurge”) I discovered the Nag Hammadi library and the demiurge, Yaldabaoth. From there, the story got onto the right path.
Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it?
I selected the first two chapters of the book for the excerpt. They give the reader an introduction to both of the point of view characters and who they are before shit (can I say that?) gets weird. We see Ann as a detective struggling to maintain her strength and vigor for the job, trying to prove she’s capable as a female in a male dominated occupation, running from her inner demons. We also meet Teresa, a grieving mother who is so desperate for the happiness of years past. I wish I could have included the entire second chapter, as it ends on quite a cliffhanger.
Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?
I read a lot of the translations of the Nag Hammadi library. The Nag Hammadi library, if you don’t know, was discovered in 1945 in, you guessed it, Nag Hammadi, Egypt. It was a collection of documents that are sometimes confused with the Dead Sea Scrolls and are often called the secret texts of the Bible. Having not been raised with any religion so to speak (heathen!), I find all aspects of theology fascinating. The story that inspired my use of the Nag Hammadi library was called, “On the Origin of the World.” It inspired so much of the story. That part, since completing the draft of Demiurge, remained basically the same through the remaining rewrites.
What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?
The first surprise came when I finished the initial first draft and sent it to my #1 fan—my twin sister, Melissa (who I call Wissa). I thought she would love it, but she really didn’t. It was heartbreaking! But it also gave me the kick in the pants I needed to make it even better. The last challenge was knowing it was complete and ready (enough) to put out into the world. I know I’m not the only writer out there who will nitpick and edit something to death and still feel like the work is sub-par. Other challenges I had were around the research and how much to include. Demiurge, for example, had a 50+ page section about Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s relationship that didn’t make it into the final. It was incredibly heretical (I am a heathen, after all). A Catholic friend of mine had major issues with it, haha.
Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet?
I write during my lunch break at my day job. I find what we call “drop-in spaces” to write in. It’s like a mini office with blank walls. I always say, “writers don’t deserve windows.” I believe it. If I can’t find a blank wall to stare at, I stare out the window and don’t get anything done. The blank wall acts sort of like a canvas, or even a movie screen. There’s nothing there to distract me from thinking about what the next words should be. When I get stuck, before my old dog, Belle, passed away, we would go for a walk to work out the issues. I would tell her the problem at the beginning, and by the end of the walk, we would have it worked out. My new dog, Kira, is too crazy on leash yet to be able to have a peaceful walk like that, but she’ll get there. I listen to Kelly Howell’s Clear Wave Creativity track. It’s the ocean lapping at the shore with alpha waves to excite the creative centers of the brain. When I’m unmotivated, all I have to do is put that track on, and I can immediately get into that creative headspace. Habits are important!
What’s your next project?
I suffered a head injury in January, which made it so I couldn’t look at screens. Since I type everything, I wasn’t able to write. I started writing some short stories in a notebook. I’m going to put out another short story collection this year based around the saying that there are no new ideas. Three or four of the stories will have the same basic premise but will be so different (so far, one is a thriller and one is more of a story about coping with grief). It’s my way to show that how you manipulate the premise is what makes the story, even if the idea “has been done before.” This came about because I told Wissa about a story idea I had, and she said, “There’s a movie with that premise.” Challenge accepted.