Interview: Haddayr Copley-Woods on “Belly”
– The title of your story is “Belly” — whose belly is it?
Well, that’s the question, now, isn’t it? Obviously it’s the witch’s belly that imprisons the main character for her formative years. But the belly is also where you draw your strength. Your conviction. Your compassion, and your gut sense of right and wrong. So it might be someone else’s belly, too. I’ll leave that up to readers to decide.
– One of the things that I love about this story is that it feels like a fairy tale, but at the same time it feels brand new — like a fairy tale I’ve never read before. It’s a very grim story… and also very Grimm. What inspired the story?
Funny you should mention Grimm! One of the many good parenting decisions my mother made was to raise us on the original Grimm’s Brothers Fairy Tales, not the cleaned-up, Disneyfied versions. I will always be grateful for that. I still vividly remember the horrifying illustrations that came with the vicious, bloodthirsty, vengeful stories: they were made to look like old wood cutouts, but in vivid detail. Eyes rolling. Mouths agape in horror. They confirmed for me what I knew as a child to be true: monsters exist. People are wonderfully horrible. The stories never seemed old to me. They all seemed like they could have happened 100 years ago or yesterday.
That said, this was specifically inspired by a flashback I experienced when watching “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.”
– I want to ask about the flashback, but I think maybe it’s better to let people read the story, watch the movie, and wonder about it for themselves.
– Thematically, this is a story about abuse and overcoming abuse. Did that make it difficult to write?
Yes. It tore me apart. I had to keep putting it down and coming back to it. I think all told it took me more than a year, even without working on any other fiction. It is also extremely disgusting and I had to plan writing it carefully so it wasn’t close to any meals. But since nearly every fairy tale from Europe I grew up on is also about child abuse, it felt right.
– I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, so without giving anything away, let me just say that it’s the ending that makes me love the story. Did you always know it would end that way, or did you have other endings in mind too?
Besides the fact that I write rather instinctively and don’t really map out how a story will go ahead of time, the story had to end that way. There was no other way I could countenance writing such a terrible thing, without that ending.
– What are some of the things you do besides write fiction?
I earn my keep as a freelance copywriter, and I write essays and commentaries, most recently for Minnesota Public Radio. I ride my bike, I parent, I folk dance, I blog. I try to be a good friend.
– Where can readers go to find more of your writing?
Visit haddayr.com. I’ve got nearly everything I’ve written linked from there. Most of it’s free to view online.
– “Belly” by Haddayr Copley-Woods appears in the July/August issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It’s available in both print and electronic formats.
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