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Interview: Harry Campion on “The Heartsmith’s Daughters”

- Tell us a bit about “The Heartsmith’s Daughters.”

It’s a fantasy with the style and cadence of a fairy-tale. A story of family and the magic that sustains a family against the mundane, lower-case evil (as opposed to Evil) that threatens to destroy it every day. A great smith—no, no, a Great Smith, realizing his time is at an end, uses all his skill to create three children to “carry on his work” in all aspects of life. When tragedy eventually comes to them, his daughters must rise to face this challenge. They do so with wit, strength, courage, and of course, heart.

- What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

This one was magical in its own right; a Christmas gift from the Muse, if you will. We have a family tradition that we get up, open presents among our immediate household, ‘play in the boxes’ a bit, then drive across town to my mom’s place for Christmas-with-Cousins. We were just over the river and into the woods, my kids remarkably squabble-free, carols on the car radio, early-winter sunshine filling the car, when I got the gift. I was just humming along one minute, not really thinking about anything and WHAM: there was the whole story, just there in my head. I begged my wife to take down some notes for me while I drove. I bullet-pointed the whole story to her, start to finish in about five minutes of our trip.

There were revisions of course—a rather important one prompted by my writing-partner Margaret—but remarkably little changed in the way of that first blast. I wish like hell that such things happened to me all the time, but I can’t claim that. This one was special.

- What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

As a father, I am forever at war within myself, wanting to protect my children—insulate them from harm, and wanting them to deal with the challenges of the world with the tools my wife and I have imparted to them. I guess you could say my ‘research’ was the archetypal wish-fulfillment of a father wanting to provide for his family; knowing that they must ultimately do it themselves.

- Most authors say their stories are personal; if that’s true for you, then in what way is “The Heartsmith’s Daughters” personal to you?

I know I was just talking about my children, but I guess you could say that, in some ways the story is a love letter to my sisters. I am the oldest of four and the eldest and only boy. My sisters are all incredibly powerful women, all strong in their individualism and extremely various in those strengths.

- What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

I have fears that someone might read the story and see the smith usurping the power of ‘childbirth’ from women—please note that despite his great skill, he must include his wife in his endeavor. As far as takeaway goes, if anyone can read this story and not see that women are far more powerful than our society acknowledges, then I have really screwed it up.

- What are you working on now?

Margaret and I are finishing up a novella we’ve been batting around this summer and we’re into second-stage plotting of our fourth novel together. Both projects are part of our ongoing Detroit Next series. Stop by yangandcampion.comif you get a chance, or ‘like’ our shared pseudonym M.H. Mead on Facebook.

“The Heartsmith’s Daughters” appears in the July/August 2013 issue of F&SF.

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