(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Amy was written by Amy Preder.)
The rain didn’t let up, but now the lightning had gotten worse. One strike, and the power in the Muse Shop went out. Kelly stopped, looked around—holding her breath—and willed the power back on. After a moment of nothing happening, she exhaled a sigh. “Really? I have someone coming for an interview!” But the power still remained off.
Sighing again, Kelly snapped her fingers. All candles around the building lit. “There. At least it’s something.,” she mused to herself but looked at the pouring rain and wondered if she should try to contact her interviewee and reschedule. She hated having her out in this storm.
However, before Kelly could reach for her phone to message her, the door chimed, and she snapped her gaze up to see a drenched Amy Preder walk in. Kelly felt bad immediately and hastened to her. “Amy, I’m so sorry about the rain! Are you okay?”
“It’s okay, thank you. I love a good storm.” Amy smiled, hoping it seemed genuine and friendly. She did not want to admit that she had been playing in the rain for a while before coming into the shop. There was nothing like a good storm. For some reason, though, people always scolded her when she was out in the rain, especially with thunder and lightning.
Kelly smiled, relieved. “Storms are absolutely beautiful. When there’s a lot of lightning, I like to turn on some epic music and just watch the lightning.” She then motioned for Amy to follow her to the back of the shop, which opened into another entire section of the shop filled with antiques as well, but here was a hearth with a lit fire. “Feel free to browse the shelves if you’d like.” Kelly gestured to the shelves but went to the fire to make sure it was well-tended. Once satisfied with its heat, she turned back to Amy and smiled. “So, tell me about yourself. What is it that you do? And how does it fit in with your writing?” As she asked these questions, Kelly picked a box off the floor, set it on the table, and began taking the old objects out one at a time.
Amy followed, glad she had chosen her clothes well. Nice pants, comfortable shoes, shirt, and a jacket. All were lightweight, comfortable, and already beginning to dry in the cozy air of the shop. Amy let her eyes wander about the shop. It felt like so many other small and obscure antique shops she had visited before, but there was something different. The place was heavier, more alive. Amy didn’t quite know why it felt this way yet, but she sensed something more hidden in the flickering shadows cast by the firelight and candles. She thought she smelled the familiar scents of old leather and paper, maybe a bit of the dust of time, and something more exotic that she couldn’t quite place.
Amy tried to focus her attention back to Kelly. It would be so easy to get lost here. She went and joined Kelly by the fire. “Well, that’s a bit of a complicated question. I’ve been working in security as a behavior expert for the last several years, but it’s time for me to move on to something new. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, so it seems a good time to give my writing a serious go.”
Kelly nodded as she heard this. She removed a bracelet from the box then a jar of dark of black floating dust, “Don’t want to open this,” she stated as she said it aside and reached for another item. “So, you are just now becoming serious about writing?” She raised her brows as she glanced across to Amy. “That’s pretty cool.” She pulled out a snake-shaped walking stick out of the box–a box which seemed too small to contain the stick in the first place. “So, what’s really inspiring you to make this decision to get more serious about writing?”
It took Amy a moment too long to process the questions. There was something about that black floating dust. Something mysterious,with the sense of danger and adventure about it. She had always been a bit drawn to such things, although she didn’t quite know why. It had taken her a long time to learn that fire was hot.
“I would say I’m first getting serious about publishing, or perhaps about making a career of writing. Until recently, writing was always something I did for myself.” Amy’s voice trailed off and trembled slightly as she finished the sentence. There was so much more to say there, but they were things that she thought were too disturbing for most people.
She recovered as quickly as she could. “Oddly, I have the opportunity to focus on my writing because I became sick. I have PTSD and anxiety issues. They became…bad. Because of what happened, I lost my job, which I loved. But, hopefully, I am gaining an opportunity to do something else I love. An opportunity that not many people have.”
Kelly smiled at Amy’s hope. “And that opportunity is to publish something?” She raised her brows then took out a few ancient scrolls from the box, setting them on the table beside the cane.
“I hope so.” Amy’s eyes followed the scrolls. They looked almost too delicate to touch, but she longed to know what was written on them. There was nothing like the feel of ancient parchment or vellum. “If I’m really lucky, maybe the opportunity to publish a lot of things, especially my Chicago stories. There are so many stories and characters in that setting.” Amy chuckled slightly and smiled to herself at the thought of those noisy, nosy characters.
Kelly saw the curiosity in Amy’s eyes about the scrolls, and she motioned to them. “I got these from the palace library of Cuskelom. Discusses the terrible history between the thymords and kelliphs. Members of those two races have been pestering me about writing their stories, so…research.” She held up the scrolls with a smirk before reaching into the box and finding an old compass.
As she continued pulling out items and placing them carefully on the table between Amy and herself, Kelly went on with the questions. “So, this story of yours…” She glimpsed up at Amy with a warm smile, “Tell me of it. What’s it about?”
Amy smiled back, perhaps a little too eagerly. There were stories here! That was the feeling she couldn’t quite place. In shops of the mundane world, she often had to spend hours wandering or combing the shelves to rescue just one unfortunate lost story. This place, though, the stories were loved and cared for. They were not lost. They were home.
“So, that’s what I felt,” Amy mused to herself before recognizing that, yet again, she had questions to answer.
“The setting began as a joke, actually. I had no idea what to write for NaNo a few years ago, so I was taking suggestions. People suggested a noir, steampunk, criminal procedural. Somehow, the idea kind of worked. I took 1920’s Chicago, wove in my own ideas about the natural progression of steampunk technology and a serial killer loosely based on Jack the Ripper. As I started researching, I also met my airship captain, a Chicago school psychoanalyst, some a Temperance Society radical terrorist cell, A black war hero police captain…They just kept coming, all demanding to have their stories told. I keep telling them I can only tell one story at a time, though.
This made Kelly laugh. “I can totally relate to that! And they’re never happy with being told that.” Still chuckling, she shook her head and finally looked at all the items before her. She had more organization to do, but for now, she’d focus on this conversation.
“Want to have a seat?” She motioned to the table near the fireplace but not too close to it. “I’d offer you some cookies and milk but haven’t had the time to make some fresh ones.” As they went to the table, Kelly mulled over her next question and finally voiced it when they sat down. “So, before we get too far into your story, you mentioned NaNo. How often have you done it, and have you won?”
Amy considered a moment. Her clothes had dried well enough that she though sitting would be comfortable. “Thank you, I will have a seat. As for NaNo, I only attempted it a few times, three, I think. The first time was a terrible year for me. I lost two full weeks of writing time. I declared ‘victory anyway’ at around 30 thousand words, which was fully supported by my local NaNo group.The second time was my first Chicago story, and I won handily. The third time, I outright lost. There was a demand for lots and lots of overtime at work, so I was doing little other than sleeping and working.”
Sitting across from Amy on a rocking chair, Kelly shook her head. “I’m really sorry to hear that, but I’m very proud of you for trying again and again. I hope you try again, and I’d love to spur you on to a winning victory!” She smiled warmly but then thought back to what they had been discussing before, but she was aware their time was growing short. Still, she wanted to know, “Can you tell me about a few of your characters from your story? What they are like? What they’re facing? And such?”
“Thank you, I look forward to doing NanN again. I’ve really come to love it., regardless of the outcome.” Amy was uncomfortably aware of the passage of time. She was not worried for herself, but her hostess was generous, and she did not want to intrude by going on too long.
“As for my characters, I suppose I should start with the first book. My detective, John, is one of the few honest cops in Chicago. He’s unfortunate to land the serial killer case, but he’s also the type who will do anything to stop the killer. It might cost him his job in the end, but he’s not really well suited to be a cop in that city anyway. The killer…he scares me. He hasn’t told me his real name, yet. He’s engaging, charming, arrogant, utterly vile in thought and deed. A true predator. Jess is my airship captain. She was a scout and spy during the war, and still has the recruitment poster that convinced her to sign up hanging in her cabin. She just could never quite adapt to civilian life when she came back, so she carved out her own road in life. Elise is your classic femme fatale. She is trained in freudian psychoanalysis, and fully believes that all human interaction is driven by sex and psychosexual development. They’re the major players in that first book.”
“They all sound quite fascinating! I’m very curious how it all comes together in your story. Are you writing this right now, or will you be writing it in November for NaNoWriMo?” Kelly rocked in her rocking chair back and forth at a relaxing pace. She was intrigued by the sound of Amy’s story and couldn’t wait for it to be written and published.
Amy smiled. She loved these characters, and was always happy when someone else was interested in them. She still had a bit of trouble believing anyone else could really be interested in her writing. She shook her head, trying to clear those negative thoughts. “This was my NaNo project from the year I won. I’ve been letting it sit for a while, but I’ve just picked it up and started my first level or editing and reworking. If everything works out, I hope to get it in shape to try publishing within the year. I am still new at this aspect, so I’m not really sure how long everything will actually take, though. My NaNo project for this year is picked out, though. I plan to tell my police captain’s story. He’s been dealing with girls being abducted from his community. The Irish mob might be involved, and is at least causing a lot of problems for him. Legally, his hands are tied, but he’s a respected community leader and a war hero. He’s not about to just let this continue, and he has the connections to take action outside of official channels”
“Sounds like he has trouble on his hands, but he seems to be the kind of person who can handle himself quite well.” Kelly nodded with a smile. “I hope you well with writing his story this November, and do keep me posted. You can always stop by for cookies, hot cocoa, and inspiration.” Her smile broadened but then fell into a frown as she finally sighed–aware of the time. “Unfortunately, our time has come to an end, and I have to get back to work. Things…happen around here if I don’t keep any eye on them. But you’re welcome to look around. Just be careful with what you open, and do NOT open that jar with black dust.” She shot a look across the room to the jar on the table. “It’s the essence of an Anicocina, and those are very dreadful creatures.”
With that, she rose to her feet but smiled at Amy. “If you ever need any guidance with editing, revision, and publication and such, just let me know. I’d be happy to help. And if I don’t know the answer, I’ll see if I can find someone who knows.”
Amy stood up and offered a hand to shake. “Thank you very much for having me, and for the words of support. I will definitely keep you in mind when I need help. I’m sure it will come up.” Amy’s eyes were already wandering away to the shelves and secrets hidden in the shadows.
The smile stayed on Kelly’s face as she saw her guest already intrigued by the shadows. “Go ahead. Wander. You’ll be fine. Nothing will hurt you…except for maybe a plot bunny, which I have absolutely no control over. I’ll be back in the front if you need me.” With one final smile and a bow of her head, Kelly excused herself and returned to the front of the shop to see if any customers or characters demanded her attention.
“It’s been a pleasure,” There was already a dreamy tone in Amy’s voice as she said those final words, and wandered further into the shop.
Note: Amy’s story is currently untitled, and she isn’t sure when it will be released, but you may follow her on social media for more updates!
Fun Note: When this interview took place, the power at my home was still home. I just thought having the power go off in the Muse Shop would be a fun change of scenario for the interviews. However after the interview, in REAL life, the power went off at my home and did not return until the following morning. Apparently somehow a snake was responsible for it. Let’s just say, I learned my lesson…