Welcome back to the second (and final) week of this year's Mormon Lit Blitz. Today, we posted Lee Allred's "Beneath the Visiting Moon." You owe it to yourself to read the story before the Q&A...check it out first, then come back for this behind-the-scenes look:
At first, we read this story as a psychological study of the difficulties and trauma of returning home from war. It wasn't until just after we finished reading that we realized it's also a werewolf story. Which totally blew our minds: we loved the way the werewolf element deepened, in many ways, the exploration of trauma. What made you think of putting the two elements together?
Actually, I've been writing "movie monster" stories as Mormon Lit Blitz contest entries for some time now, looking at monster movie tropes through a Mormon lens. I've done already done vampires ("Where Nothing Lives But Crosses") and Frankenstein (the non-finalist "Organized Matter" -- which I'm working up as a longer piece), This year I did my werewolf piece.
As an Iraqi War vet myself, I guess it was natural to see lycanthropy through the lens of PTSD and how the Church assists returning wounded warriors through local ward Home Teachers.
It's a bit unusual to take a fantastical element and make it so subtle--and yet so present at the same time. What advice would you give to someone who wants to pull off an effect like that?
Bit of mental ju-jitsu, really. Saturated with Hollywood and 24-hour news, the reader will come into the story with certain preconceptions about PTSD. You construct a story where the details all feed into those preconceptions. "Moon" can in fact be read as a straight PTSD story. Nothing per se violates that premise.
But the reader also has preconceptions about werewolves, and each of the details you put in are actually dual-purpose. They feed into those werewolf preconceptions, too.
As the story progresses, the details are more and more weighted towards the werewolf side -- raw meat, animal bite, moon, wolves howling -- until there is an obvious "aha!" moment with the big reveal.
Only you don't write the big "aha!" reveal. You end the story short of that. (The micro fiction format of Mo Lit Blitz aids in this regard; it’d be far more difficult in a longer piece. )
What you are left with is a mainstream PTSD story constructed in such a way that the reader's werewolf preconceptions are just starting to overcome their PTSD preconceptions right as the story ends.
Tricky and I wasn't sure I'd timed things right. Nice to read from your comments I had.
What would you like to see more of in Mormon Literature?
More Lee Allred stories. Somebody needs to prod that author into writing more of 'em! :)
Seriously, we're in the Golden Age of Mormon fiction. I feel sort of silly asking for more when our cup is so overflowing.
Where can we read more of your work?
I've had quite a few genre stories published in recent Fiction River anthologies. I have stories in the Mormon fiction anthologies States of Deseret, Mormons & Monsters, and Dispensation. My Assembled Allred collection is also still in print I think, and there should soon be a second Rookhouse Books collection appearing, hopefully before the end of the year. And you can always check 2016’s Lit Blitz and 2014’s Lit Blitz Meeting of the Myths monster mash-up for my finalist pieces there.
Also, keep an eye on my @lee_allred Twitter feed. I have a number of short fiction pieces coming out (sold seven this year so far) and some upcoming comic book stuff. I'll announce them on Twitter whenever my publishers give the go-ahead.