What inspired this piece?
The setting was inspired by a boarding school I went to as a teenager. It was out in the woods near the coast of Lake Michigan and it was very rugged and buried in snow the entire time I was there, which was only two months. I’m drawn to powerful nature settings and how characters interact with and are affected by the natural world, so it seemed like a good place for drama to happen. I did meet a girl once who had the strangest New Orleans accent and a name (Sheesha) that stuck with me, so my main character has a flesh and blood prototype.
Ultimately, I think there are a lot of Sheeshas in the world – young and not so young anymore – who are feeling lost, reckless and self-destructive, and I wanted to bring a glimmer of that to life. I hope the choice she has to make could stand for a lot of difficult choices people face, where we’re searching for a compass we can rely on.
Who or what body of work has been influential upon your craft?
If I had to pick an influential writer whose books I’ve read more than anyone else, it would be Joyce Carol Oates. Have I loved everything I’ve read of hers? No. But Blonde and Foxfire stand out to me, and I still sometimes think about her short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” as if I want to write another paper on it. It was that good. She is incredibly prolific and experiments with a lot of different voices, and I just love her ability to get inside the skin of her characters, understand them better than they would ever understand themselves, and then distill what is going on to the reader in a crystal clear, poetic, deeply moving way.