The fiction editors, Rappahannock Review: One aspect of the piece that particularly appealed to us was the imagery that you used, and we see that you have a history in visual arts. How do you think literature and the visual arts overlap?
Gina Williams: I am a very visual person and writing most often forms in my mind in a series of images before it ever lands on the page as words. Alternately, when I create images, I often want to the perfect find words or quotes to describe them. As for how they overlap, I believe that artistic works, whether visual, literary, or musical, are structures built of symbols. For me, the images appear as the story unfolds in my mind. And when the resulting words paint a strong visual picture, the symbolism seems to naturally reveal itself.
RR: The titular chant “Sim Sala Bim” was an interesting element in this piece. Would you expand on the sub-theme of enchantment in this piece? How central was it to your inspiration during the writing process?
GW: The entire song this “chant” refers to is basically nothing more than a pretty devious cookie recipe with regular old ingredients. A woman baking this recipe while listening to this dark yet “enchanting” music brought to mind the issues of female power and loss of power, gender roles, and how we break free or adapt to these pressures. Also, it was just fun to imagine a magic chant in the kitchen having some real power over a difficult situation. I wanted to create some tension around but not demonize a character who isn’t quite willing to make the tough call. At various points, she’d much rather be a magic genie or a “mostly good” witch.
RR: You do a wonderful job of showing the deterioration of the relationship between the main character and Trevor without painting either of them as a villain, or particularly at fault. We felt that this parallels what can happen in real life. How do you recommend that emerging writers capture the reality of a situation, without putting their interpretation into the story?
GW: Thank you! From a literary perspective, I know it’s important to empathize with both characters. Humans are complex and our literary counterparts are as well. For me, it helps to literally build a character from the ground up. I’ll often find a photograph that fits my idea of a person & create character sketches. Once I’ve gotten to “know” them — they are a pretty good balance of qualities, positive and negative. The characters begin from ideas within the writer, but once they are sketched out and built up from there, they take on a life of their own. I think that helps avoid overly personal interpretation.
RR: Is there a reason you left the main character nameless?
GW: I purposefully left the main character nameless, because this story is heavily influenced by her search for herself and the disconnect she seems to have with her own life.
RR: The main character seems so fiercely independent in her pursuit for the freedom to explore her more wild desires, but she also clearly cares for and loves Trevor. How were you able to balance these two seemingly conflicting desires in one character?
GW: I’m really happy that her caring nature comes across. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly how I was able to create the right balance there, but I did want to be careful not to “demonize” either one of them. Human nature is such that people change, grow, and become more in tune with their desires and needs over time. I wanted to show a woman in the midst of transformation and coming of age again — a process that can happen multiple times in one’s life — a woman finding herself wanting more in quite an innocent way. Making a villain of either character would have made that impossible.
Gina Williams’s work in Issue 2.3: