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Interview: J.R. Dawson on “Marley and Marley”

Tell us a bit about “Marley and Marley.”

Marley is a girl who is orphaned at a young age. She also happens to be her only living relative. Old Marley returns to the past to take guardianship of Little Marley, and they’ve got some issues, to put it lightly.


J.R. DawsonWhat was the inspiration for the story, or what prompted you to write it?

I’m turning thirty this year. I had a weird decade of twenties. Sometimes I’d stop and look around and think, “What would my kid-self think of our adulthood? Would she be happy with the decisions I’ve made? Am I on track with my goals? Are there enough Disney movies and chocolate things and puppies in my house to make her proud?” These imagined conversations between the two of us started getting overwhelming, especially when I realized in some ways, I’d let her down, and in other ways, there’s no way an eleven-year-old could have fathomed adulthood in 2017.


Was “Marley and Marley” personal to you in any way? How?

It’s probably the most personal story I’ve ever written. Usually I make a bunch of fart jokes and give cool girls swords, but this story was quiet and close. It was about my marriage and my dog and my home and my childhood and my hometown and how a size 14 is a normal women’s pants size. Because it is.


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

Be kind to yourself. Reach out to loved ones, even when it’s scary. Especially now in these times, we need each other’s strength. People heal people.


What are you working on now?

I just finished a YA manuscript, a space opera with cool queer teens and David Bowie music. And I’m always writing new short stories. You can check out what I’m doing and receive updates by following me on Twitter (@j_r_dawson) and watching my website (


“Marley and Marley” appears in the November/December 2017 issue of F&SF.

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