I must confess that my story began not with the each-uisge, but with the lake, and Rose’s walk past it. When I was in junior high, a group of high school boys used to hang out in the playground across from my apartment building. They would catcall, and wolf whistle, and sometimes follow me for a block or two. For several months I had to prepare for that every day. Even just going to the corner store was fraught. It became normal for me to carry a little butterfly knife—indeed, it suddenly seemed a perfectly normal thing to go into a shop with the intent of buying a butterfly knife. I think about that time a lot; I write about it a lot, in one form or another. All the different ways women run the gauntlet. edit.
(How to pronounce "Each-Uisge," in case you were wondering.)
I often turn to fairy stories or mythology when I write. It’s a bit like taking a recipe and making it your own: it gives you a structure you can build upon. One of my favorite parts of the writing process is constructing a story, and working with these old tales creates a different approach than with a fully invented narrative—you are at once working with particular conventions and, at the same time, you have all sorts of fascinating interstices to explore. It’s a process that often carries me very far from my original intent, with the best possible results.
Can you tell us a bit about the specific type of fairy creature in your story?
The each-uisge is a Scottish fairy, a rather uncommon one; what little I know of it comes from the Briggs encyclopedia. It is a water horse, but can also take the form of a handsome man, and should you touch or mount him within sight of water his skin becomes adhesive and he will instantly plunge to the depths with his hapless victim glued to him. I will admit I took some liberties with Rose’s admirer, but I like to think that, in this instance, he finds his human form far more practical than that of a horse.
Check out Johnson's story "Queen of Lakes" in FAE, available now.