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Interview: E. Lily Yu on “Braid of Days and Wake of Nights”

– What research did you do for “Braid of Days and Wake of Nights?”

Before I wrote a single word of the story, I spent a whole day with the tapestries and narwhal horns at the Cloisters, then another day walking the length and breadth of Central Park with the 1994 Colbert and Vollath map, which is a real beauty. While I was writing the story, Usman Malik advised me on drug regimens, and I turned repeatedly to Jay Lake’s blog for his depictions of cancer and chemo. I also read multiple papers and grammars of AAVE for a couple of pages of dialogue, because I didn’t trust my own ear to get it right, and Nisi Shawl very kindly looked my work over right before publication. My main difficulties were architectural, but thanks to the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Brownstone Guide, I now know far more than I ever needed to know about historical sandstone restoration, and a similar dive into windows meant that for a brief time I could jaw your ear off about six-over-sixes and Juliet balconies.


– When and how did this story come about?

The premise came in a flash one day, and the idea struck me with its rightness, like a big neon OF COURSE! I wrote the first draft at Clarion West in 2013, the week that Margo Lanagan was teaching, and I benefited enormously from her comments, as well as those of my classmates. Usman’s medical expertise was invaluable. Nine or ten drafts later, C.C. Finlay helped me hammer out a decent title.


– What was your relationship to Jay Lake?

I met him at the 2012 Worldcon, exchanged several emails with him, and saw him at a few conventions afterwards. It was not a long acquaintance, but I gained a great deal by his advice and encouragement. The man radiated warmth and openness, and he gave and gave. Everywhere he went, he carried with him a zone of welcome at least eight feet in diameter. I think that in many ways he embodied the very best that the SF&F community had to offer, and if we could extend to each other the same kindness he did, and see each other as clearly as he saw people, we would have ourselves a small heaven.

“Braid of Days and Wake of Nights” appears in the January/February 2016 issue of F&SF. 

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