As Steampunk Granny Marie Gilbert winds down our Reading Glasses Author Interview series, we have Christine L. Hardy. In Christine’s story “The Beach House,” Amber is trying to come to terms with the death of her best friend and her husband, but odd things keep happening in their beach town. As the threat of international warfare heightens like an offshore summer storm, she discovers that their disappearance was not as permanent as it appeared.
Marie Gilbert: So excited to interview you, Christine. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what drew you to writing.
Christine Hardy: There has never been a time that I wasn’t making up stories. My first “book” was a crayon-illustrated fable about flowers who were attacked by evil weeds. Some friendly earthworms saved them by eating the soil around the weeds so they fell over. I was very proud of it, and spent a lot of time printing the words out neatly and drawing the little pictures. I’m sure my mom still has it.
MG: What genres do you like writing in and why?
CH: Fantasy is my natural home. I’ve always loved the magical, mysterious and unpredictable quality of fairy tales and myths. I had an hour-long bus ride to school as a child and would read the whole way there and back. Mysteries were a favorite also. Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers… I devoured them all. It was actually quite tough to write something in the sci-fi realm for “The Beach House.”
MG: You have quite a few short stories on their way to print form. Tell us about some of your other works.
CH: “The Dragon in the Kettle” will be included in A BARD DAY’S KNIGHT, coming from Double Dragon in early 2015. It was the first full-length story I’d written in a decade and very dear to my heart. A female blacksmith, who has earned a reputation for her exquisite ironwork, has been secretly using a dragon’s egg to keep her forge unusually hot. One morning, she finds that the egg has hatched into an insatiably hungry, iron-munching baby dragon. She puts it in a kettle and tries to smuggle it out of town before anyone finds out, but the dragon doesn’t stay in the kettle for long.
“Bessie Returns” appears in Different Dragons II, published by Wolfsinger Press. In that story, a dragon roller coaster battles the Loch Ness Monster to protect the human employees and guests at a lakeside amusement park. I was highly caffeinated when I pitched that concept and wasn’t sure how I would pull it off, but somehow I did and it’s a lot of fun to read.
MG: What was the inspiration for “The Beach House”?
CH: The idea for “The Beach House” came from a prompt on the Wolfsinger Press website, in which an object delivered in a box transports the recipient to another world. My idea at the time was a shipment of bare root roses that would grow up over an arbor and create a gateway. When the South Jersey Writers’ Group had a story contest with a theme of “Another Jersey Shore” I put the two together. The result was The “Beach House,” which won the first ever SJWG story contest. I can’t tell you how surprised I was when it won. There is such a sense of validation when your work is appreciated. “They like me. They really like me!”
MG: Did you know someone in real life that you based the character of Pooja?
CH: I did have a childhood friend named Pooja, though she was a few years younger than I. Her family lived across the street from us. As soon as you walked into their house, you smelled the spices and heard the soft, lilting tones of their voices. It was like entering another world. The real Pooja is a lawyer now and we’ve lost touch, but she did have an infectious giggle and was always both very pretty and very sassy.
CH: I’m not working on anything particular at the moment, but I’ve got two fantasy novels and a teenaged elf story brewing, all set in the same world, plus a children’s story about a pair of mice. The story I wrote for the SJWG’s first publication, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, was called “The Gargoyle Cat,” and I’ve had requests for more Gargoyle Cat stories, so I’m toying with some ideas for that, too.
About the interviewer:
Marie Gilbert is a ghost-hunting, zombie-fighting, steampunk comic book superhero in disguise as a grandma from South Philadelphia. She blogs about television and film for Biff Bam Pop and Go Jane News, and served as co-editor of Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. Her book Roof Oasis, first in a series of apocalyptic tales with a twist, is now available. You can read more about her adventures at her not-so-top-secret online HQ, Gilbert Curiosities.