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Interview: Bennett North on “Smooth Stones and Empty Bones”

– Tell us a bit about “Smooth Stones and Empty Bones.”

“Smooth Stones” is the story of a teenage girl, Helena, who has fallen in love with another girl and is facing a dilemma. Her girlfriend’s younger brother has been missing in the woods for several days and it’s becoming less and less likely that he’ll be found alive. Helena’s mother is a witch and Helena knows that, should it come down to it, she can raise the little boy from the dead, but that power comes at a cost that she’s not sure she’s willing to pay.

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

This was one of those stories that came to me fully formed. I actually wanted to write a horror story, although it edged more toward fantasy as I wrote it. Combining necromancy with mundane real life appealed to me. The image of the skeleton in the chicken coop came to me first, with the idea of it being something normal and a little inconvenient rather than horrifying. When you can “fix” death, how do you use that power? You can’t use it every time someone dies, so what are your personal limits? And then how do you justify those limits to yourself?

– This is your first published story.  How long have you been writing, and what did it take for you to get to this point?

I’ve been writing for most of my life, although only seriously in the last ten years. Honestly the hardest part of writing, for me, has been figuring out when to stop editing and just accept that the story is finished. “Smooth Stones” is one of the first stories I’ve had the courage to send out, and I’m really delighted that C.C. Finlay saw something in it.


“Smooth Stones and Empty Bones” appears in the January/February 2016 issue of F&SF.

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