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Interview: Corey Flintoff on “The Queen of the Peri Takes Her Time”

Tell us a bit about “The Queen of the Peri Takes Her Time.”

The queen is drawn from various Middle-Eastern traditions, mostly Persian. The Peri are roughly equivalent to European fairies, although they lean to the darker side. The queen occasionally takes human lovers, because she’s excited by the humans’ ephemeral beauty and their desperate life force. Interactions between humans and immortals never go well.

The hero is the most recent of the queen’s lovers, and he’s terrified of her revenge, because he’s broken his promise to her. He enlists the help of an old revolutionary, a djinni and a skeptical young woman named Huda, but he discovers that the key to his survival really lies in his own greatest weakness.

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

I’ve always been fascinated by stories about hands, like The Red Hand of Ulster, The Hand of Fatima, etc. The hand is such a symbol of our power as humans. I had a scene in my mind about an old soldier with a missing hand, but I didn’t know how he’d lost it. I had to tell myself the prologue to the story, and that prompted the rest.

Corey FlintoffWas “The Queen of the Peri Takes Her Time” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

The story is based on my experiences as a reporter in the Middle East. One of the models for the character of Faiz Mungummery Khan was a Kurdish health official I met in Erbil. He had a photo on his wall that showed him among a group of young Peshmerga rebels who were fighting Saddam Hussein. He shook his head sadly. “They’re all dead now.” Other models for Faiz were remarkable men I met in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The djinni, Shamhurish al-Tayyar, is modeled on a guy I used to play pool with in Baghdad (that’s you, Ahmed 2). Huda is drawn from several very brave and resourceful interpreters and fixers I worked with during various wars and civil convulsions.

Has your training in journalism shaped how you approach fiction writing, and why turn to writing fiction at all?

I was a radio reporter for many years, and that makes you sensitive to the cadences of people’s voices, even when they’re speaking other languages. Since radio has no visual component, you have to provide that for your listeners with crisp physical descriptions, so that’s something I think about a lot. Why write fiction? It’s a healing thing for me, a way to provide resolutions for things I’ve seen in the real world that seem too awful to ever be resolved.

What are you working on now?

As in “The Queen of the Peri,” I like stories where old traditions and fears intrude on modern life. I’m working on stories about a wood nymph in a college town, a demon who’s portrayed in one of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings, and trickster animals who assume human form.

I also write literary short stories, including a flash fiction that appears on American Short Fiction’s website this month, and a piece in the next edition of Glimmer Train.

“The Queen of the Peri Takes Her Time” appears in the July/August 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1807.htm

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Amazon US (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

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