Excalibur Author Interview: Gerri Leen – “It’s a Balancing Act”

Excalibur Books presents an interview with Gerri Leen, author of the tale “Foxfire”, which can be found in the Japan-themed anthology “The Phantom Games”.

What inspired the story, “Foxfire”?

I knew I wanted to write a story set in Japan that included kitsune (I love foxes). I spent a ton of time reading up on Bushido and Samurai and their swords and then the story got taken over by the kitsune and there was very little samurai, which probably is not a huge surprise given the nature of kitsune.

Mythology seems to be an important influence on your work. Which world pantheons are you particularly drawn to?

As a kid I was heavily into Greek myths, so I’m very comfortable in that pantheon and probably write the most in it.  I love exploring other pantheons and have written stories in the Norse, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Maya, Christian, and Egyptian pantheons.  It’s a balancing act playing with mythology and not appropriating the culture.  I’ve retired some stories that I felt did not stay on the respectful side of the line (they did when I wrote them; we’re just so much better informed now about being sensitive to that).

Could you tell us about some of the anthologies you’ve had work published in?

I’ve been in a wide variety of anthologies from ones focusing on particular deities to more general things like sword and sorcery, pirates, human origins, apocalypse/dystopia, murder/crime, Star Trek, and even one on tomatoes and one on ham sandwiches (there really is an anthology for everything).  Sometimes I write a story specifically for a project and other times I have something already written or a reprint that fits.  I love being part of a project, and I generally find themes easier to focus on then more general calls.  The downside is if your story on a very narrow theme doesn’t sell—like how many ham-sandwich poems does the world need? (Fortunately it sold.)

Are your stories going to be released in a collection one day?

I’ve had one collection released that is out of print now.  Eventually I’ll think about doing another.  I’ve also been focusing heavily on poetry lately and I’d be interested in doing a collection someday.

What are you working on at the moment? Do you have any future projects you’d like to talk about? 

I’m working on two longer projects. One is a middle-grade mosaic novel (connected short stories) about sapient racehorses that manage their own careers.  The other is an urban fantasy novel about psychic repossessors.  The first drafts are done for both.  I’ve found it hard to focus on the next steps for either because of the pandemic and because I suffer from a chronic illness that makes it hard to keep sustained focus.  But I hope to return to them soon.

Which writers inspire you?

Lately I’ve really enjoying books by Martha Wells, Justina Ireland, N.K. Jemisin, and Stewart O’Nan.  My list of inspirations changes as I read—as I discover new writers. I admire any writer who can manage a wicked twist, who can blend pathos and humor, who can make me focus when the rest of the world (and devices) are trying to divert my attention.  I admire writers who can make me think about uncomfortable things and let me enjoy it as I do.  Or who can create worlds that didn’t exist before I read their book/stories—worlds I want to revisit.

What book would you like to see turned into a movie, and who should play the leading roles? 

I just finished The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee and would love to see that as a film.  I know it’s not how Hollywood does things (big names are a draw) but I’d love to see a set of unknowns so this particular story could shine free of the baggage of fame.  I also would enjoy seeing some of my other recent favs as flicks:  The Warehouse by Rob Hart, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, and The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales.  The latter two I’m not sure who I’d cast in the roles, but for The Warehouse, I’d love to see Cynthia Erivo and Robert Taylor in the main roles.

When you aren’t writing, what can you typically be found doing?

Sadly being sick is the answer.  Chronic illness isn’t fun.  It does however force you to prioritize.  If something doesn’t get done, it’s because I don’t really care that much.  So not a complete negative.

Tell us a strange, random fact. 

I hate mashed potatoes.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

On my website, gerrileen.com, I have all the information on where I’ve been published, including links to stories that can be read or listened to for free.  I also have links to my romance alter ego Kim Strattford, including free stories for those into romance.  I’m on Twitter @GerriLeen but it’s not a medium I enjoy.  I have recently discovered Instagram and love it –I’m @leengerri.

And you can find that website for Gerri Leen here …

And you can find the full anthology of “The Phantom Games”, with 17 pulse-pounding short stories, here!

About J P Catton

Speculative storytelling and skewed fiction: the blog and website of author John Paul Catton.
This entry was posted in Alternative History, Fantasy, Japan. Bookmark the permalink.

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