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Interview: Carrie Vaughn on “To the Beautiful Shining Twilight”

Tell us a bit about “To the Beautiful Shining Twilight.”

This is about Abby, a musician who runs a coffee shop, and what happens when an adventure she had thirty years before shows up out of the blue. She has a choice to make, whether to try to recapture what she had when she was twenty, or live with what she’s built now, in the mundane world.


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

A couple of ideas converged for this one, but the whole thing kicked off when I went to a funky coffee shop in Denver that felt like it came straight out of the late 1980’s — used paperbacks and LP’s for sale, a rack of comic books, along with all the mismatched tables and chairs and coffee bar menu written on a chalkboard. The whole thing felt nostalgic, and I started wondering what might have happened to characters from some of those bohemian urban fantasy stories of the late 80’s and early 90’s, you know the ones with the elves and folk musicians and magic in the real world. I decided I wanted a “thirty years later” story.


Was “To the Beautiful Shining Twilight” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

It ended up being a lot more personal than I was expecting when I started it. I’m in the middle of my 40’s and my idealistic teens and twenties are starting to feel very far away, but at the same time it’s clear now that we all make our own magic in our own ways and we can’t really expect someone else to come along and make it happen for us. The story ended up being about reconciling some of the fantasies we have when we’re young versus the realities of hitting middle age.


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

I think different readers are going to take different things from this. Some may not take anything at all, if they’re not familiar with the tropes involved, and that’s okay. My hope is some people will relate pretty directly to Abby and the other characters, and that it might give them a different perspective on this kind of story.


Why do you write?

Because I’ve been doing it so long I can’t imagine not writing. Because it’s the best way I know to synthesize something useful and productive out of the wild tangle that populates my brain most of the time.


Who do you consider to be your influences?

The list keeps growing and changing, but Ray Bradbury and Robin McKinley are the two writers who made me want to be a writer. I wanted to learn how they did what they did, working such powerful magic with just words on the page.


The Wild Dead by Carrie VaughnWhat are you working on now?

I’ve got a couple of fantasy novels I’m revising, and the usual assortment of short stories in the pipeline. I’m always working on something new and it’s hard to predict what’s going to make it out in the wild first. But there will be something.


“To the Beautiful Shining Twilight” appears in the January/February 2019 issue of F&SF.

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