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Interview: G.V. Anderson on “I Am Not I”

G.V. AndersonTell us a bit about “I Am Not I.”

Summarizing my own stories is always a painful challenge, but I’ll do my best! “I Am Not I” is a grotesque fantasy story about a young Sap woman conning an odious Varian shopkeeper out of a lot of money. Despite being set in the far future, it has a 19th century aesthetic, and explores the issues of class and identity. There’s plenty of body horror, and bees. Lots of bees.

 

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

My stories are always influenced by whatever I’ve just read. Five years ago this summer, I’d just finished “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters, and was itching to write a story about a conwoman with an ambiguous identity. So I cobbled together a few thousand words, which were very different from the ones your readers will be seeing, and my writing group at the time encouraged me to keep at it.

The inspiration for the honey man, I remember very clearly. The photographs online of lotus pods grafted onto various body parts – most people have seen those, I expect. They gave me nightmares, but I knew it would make an amazing visual for a character.

 

Was “I Am Not I” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

My grandmother passed away from lung cancer in April 2016, and “I Am Not I” was the story I worked on in the months afterwards. It gave me something to focus on – it was a respite. For that reason, it will always evoke a difficult period in my life.

 

Can you discuss the twists and turns that various previous drafts of this story took, and how you eventually brought the story to its final form?

As I mentioned above, I started writing “I Am Not I” five years ago – it took four years in total to complete. Early drafts ranged from 6,000 to 13,000 words and the original setting was good old Victorian London. Madame was French and her emporium sold spells in jars, not body parts.

I enjoyed writing it, but the story never clicked. The spells-in-jars idea seemed better suited to another project I had in mind. So I decided to let my imagination run wild, and things finally came together. My stories almost always have some element of body horror, and this really came through in “I Am Not I.” It was fun thinking up all the horrible things in Madame’s emporium.

Even with these elements in place, I had a lot of work to do. I’d never attempted a novelette before so my pacing was all off; the narrator’s backstory came infuriatingly late (I was trying too hard for that mid-point twist that “Fingersmith” does so well); Heechi had a huge subplot, bless him; and the auction never happened.

A lot of writers helped me during this time, but I must give a particular shout-out to Paul A. Hamilton. His early enthusiasm for the story pushed me to revise and revise again, way past the point when I would have given up and called it good. It would not be the same story if not for his tireless patience, so thank you, Paul!

 

What are you working on now?

I actually finished a short story today, about a post-apocalyptic cannibalistic society. I also have both a novel and a novella in progress, but I’m a slow writer, so I can’t say when they’ll see the light of day!

 

G.V. Anderson has been nominated for the 2017 World Fantasy Award in the Short Fiction category for her short story, “Das Steingeschöpf.”  To help cover the cost of her air fare from London to Texas, she has set up a GoFundMe at the following link, through which you can donate if you so choose: https://www.gofundme.com/flights-to-wfa

 

“I Am Not I” appears in the July/August 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1707.htm

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