Jordan Taylor’s short fiction has recently appeared in Underland Arcana and The Deadlands, and was nominated for a 2021 World Fantasy Award. Though she’s lived in cities across the US, she’s finally settled in North Carolina in a little cottage full of books. “Bramblewilde” is her second appearance in Uncanny, a powerful story of familial relationships, witchcraft, and rebellion.
Uncanny Magazine: “Bramblewilde” has a lovely fairy tale feel in its themes, structure, and also the style of the prose. What draws you to this type of story, as a writer and/or as a reader? Do you have a favorite fairy tale?
Jordan Taylor: The best fairy tales manage to be both simple and direct and lyrical and multi-layered all at once. Extraordinary things happen in the most ordinary ways—of course the daughters are witches, of course the fairy lives in that cottage, of course the mule was really a bumblebee, of course…I really admire writers like Angela Carter, Kelly Link, and Susanna Clarke who have mastered that tone, because I think it can be very hard to get right. As a writer, I always want to explain things, but fairy tales never do. They sweep you up and take you along for the ride, and ask you to accept that everything you are told is, of course, true.
I especially love fairy tales with magical tasks to complete. They always sound impossible, but with a little creativity, resourcefulness, and the help of those you were once kind to, they never are. Who doesn’t want to read that things that look insurmountable are not really as intimidating as they seem? I had never written a story with fairy tale tasks in it before, and was excited to do so with “Bramblewilde.”
My favorite task-based fairy tale is probably “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” I mean, that title! I love that the girl in the story is the rescuer, love the ice palace and the majestic white bear, and especially love how you can see bits and pieces of older stories, like the Cupid and Psyche myth, worked into the tale.
Uncanny Magazine: What was the easiest part of writing this story? What was the most challenging part?
Jordan Taylor: The easiest part was, as usual for me, the characters. Morgana, Minerva, and Millicent existed already in my head, and the idea of Bramblewilde and their cottage came to me after reading the word “Bramblewild” in a list of suggestions for fairy names.
Connecting to the emotion of the story was more challenging. This story is much more personal than most I write, and delving into my own struggles—to balance my comfort with my desire for a relationship with my own mother; to create a found family of supportive in-laws, extended family, and friends; and to build a safe, happy home for myself—was both painful and liberating.
Uncanny Magazine: There are some great character names in this story, and often the names hold a meaning or resonance—Bramblewilde, Morgana, Minerva, Mrs. Wollstonecraft. How did you come up with the names for this story?
Jordan Taylor: The names in this story are cobbled together from internet research, myths and stories, and things that just made me happy. I added the “e” to Bramblewild from that online list of fairy names to evoke Oscar Wilde and just because I thought it looked better. Mrs. Wollstonecraft is named after Mary Shelley’s feminist mother—a woman my Mrs. Wollstonecraft would have found utterly shocking. Bramblewilde’s anagrams—Lambe, Bridewell, and Miller—all were meant to evoke qualities the mothers were looking for in their daughter’s husbands. Lambe I was especially pleased with, as the name ended up working for one of the tasks and was a little funny as a name for a rake.
Morgana, Minerva, and Millicent, however—the coven of three with their alliterative, witchy names—had already existed in my head for quite some time. I just didn’t know what story they belonged in.
Uncanny Magazine: If you were a character in “Bramblewilde,” who would you want to be and why?
Jordan Taylor: I identify most with Millicent, who feels like like the odd member out of her family and needs a little help to push her towards the future she wants. However, if I could choose to be any character in the story, I would choose to be Bramblewilde: a wise and playful elder who’s making moves in their own life and able to create a place of safety, happiness, and acceptance for those who might still be figuring things out.
Uncanny Magazine: I love the contrast between the mothers (intent on finding husbands for their daughters) and the daughters (who are witches and uninterested in being set up with husbands). Are family roles and relationships something you often write about? What other themes are you drawn to?
Jordan Taylor: I don’t often write about family roles and relationships, but I do write a lot about relationships between women—whether mother/daughter, sisters, friends, or lovers—and dissatisfaction with traditional female roles. I think female confinement vs. rebellion and female communities show up over and over again in my writing. I’m fascinated by the ways women can both perpetuate patriarchal ideas and restrictions and form supportive relationships that enable one another to break away from these cycles.
Uncanny Magazine: What are you working on next?
Jordan Taylor: I just finished what I’m hoping is my last round of major edits on a novel I’ve been working on since the start of the pandemic. My plan is to start shopping it to agents this year. In the meantime, I’ve got a long list of postponed short story ideas to get to!
Uncanny Magazine: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!
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