Stories, Spirits, & Talismans

As some of you may know, I’ve recently finished writing (and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting) my debut novel, The Fire Eaters, and I am now onto the next novel project with Caldera (another feminist, near-future scifi).

I didn’t realize it until just the other day in working on Caldera, however, that a trend running through both novels—as well as a number of my short stories—is the presence of different talisman animals. The Fire Eaters, for example, is threaded with tons of references to and ghosts of monstrous javelinas.

The forest at night was a thing to be wary of, a thing best not to get distracted in. Packed full of snakes, skinny-jawed coyotes, and trees that twisted up like arms from a grave, the forest was not known for its hospitality. It even had its own special brand of particularly large, particularly nasty javelinas—teeth like knives and snouts big as Marine boot heels.

The Fire Eaters, Prologue, excerpted in Used Gravitrons

javelina
The Fire Eaters is a place notorious for its wilds, ghosts, and sharp-toothed javelinas.

Caldera, likewise, is haunted. While a variety of animals make cameo appearances here—being set in Yellowstone Park, it’d be hard to avoid them even if I wanted to—it’s the spider that stands out as the talisman for this novel. Makes sense, I suppose, what with my protagonist being an entomologist.

Having these animals threaded throughout my stories might’ve been unconsciously done, but, I’ve come to find, is also essential to the development of the stories’ worlds and characters both. And just as the javelinas in The Fire Eaters embody the wilder and more magical elements of the novel’s protagonist and setting, so the spiders speak to the deadly, the beautiful, and the otherworldly in Caldera.

stairway spider
“A noiseless patient spider…” —Walt Whitman

Do you find that the same goes for your own writing? Are there creatures, spirits, or talismans that haunt your works and lend them power? Are there any animals in particular that you find inspiring, even if they don’t always end up featuring in your work?

Art and photography by K.C. Mead-Brewer

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