Author Interview – Koji A. Dae

More From This Author

Story Art Sneak Peek

Amazing Artwork By Daniela Rivera

"To Catch a Bannik"

Anthology: Uncanny & Unearthly Tales
Release Date: Oct 27th, 2023
Preorders: Paperback
About the Author: Koji A. Dae is a queer American living longterm in Bulgaria where she writes dark speculative fiction. Her works have been published in Clarkesworld, Apex Magazine, Zooscape, and many others. When not writing, she works at a non-profit focused on accessible education.
Q & A
How does it feel to have this story published for the first time?
It is always an amazing feeling to see my words on the page. The idea of other people reading my stories thrills me, and I hope to touch just one or two people with each story I write.
What inspired the idea for your story?
This story is based on Bulgarian mythology. The bannik is a spirit who lived in the bathhouse (usually a shared public space). He was known for gathering the village's secrets (probably because the bathouse was not just a social space, but also political). People would go to him to have their fortunes told. If people lied to the bannik or went into the bathhouse on a day dedicated to the spirit, he would pour boiling water over them or skin them alive.
I adapted the mythology to a more personal story and chose to concentrate on an individual woman instead of a whole village. But I hope to explore this mythology further in other stories.
We know that writing can be a tumultuous journey with a lot of obstacles, what is your kryptonite as a writer?
As a mother with a full-time job my biggest struggle is finding time to write. It usually takes me an hour or more to settle into a story, and then I like to write for long periods. Unfortunately, that's rarely possible, so I write a lot less than I would like to.
Tell us about your favorite author. What about their book(s) call to you and how do they inspire your own writing?
I am very into Akwaeke Emezi these days. I love their deep, lush writing style and their passionate, unapologetic approach to topics that many people dance around. I especially enjoyed Freshwater for the multiple points of view and the blending of Igbo spiritual beliefs with Christianity.
In a way, I feel like Emezi's work gives me permission to delve deep into truth, even if what I create may not fit neatly into a single genre.
Clearly, you’ve succeeded at writing a captivating story for GrendelPress, but we all start somewhere. What advice would you give yourself as a young writer?
Find a group of like-minded writers -- people you can trust to critique your work, commiserate your rejections, and cheer for your acceptances. A good community can take away so much pain and frustration commonly associated with writing.
We’d like to argue that every good story makes both the author and the readers feel something. What perspectives or beliefs have you challenged with your story?
This story challenges traditional perspectives on sex and marriage. It shows the woman as a person who desires not only emotional intimacy but also deep sexual intimacy. It also challenges the idea that we always need to hold ourselves together. Sometimes, the happily ever after is a bittersweet form of release.
What do you love most about your story’s genre?
I love fantasy's ability to give strong metaphor to emotion. When we embody our emotions as spirits and creatures, we suddenly have the ability to examine them more thoroughly. We can see the affects of our emotions more clearly, and that is a powerful piece of storytelling.
What are some other genres you’d like to break into and why?
I also write science fiction and horror. I would love to write more erotica, as I love exploring the possibilities within sexual encounters, but I find it intimidating because of social bias that often negates the power or erotica.
If you had to pick another story of yours to share with your readers, what would it be?
I recently had a near-future piece come out in the Monstrous Futures anthology. The Least I Can Do features a fat sex worker whose primary client buys her a slimming suit. Throughout the story, the woman's boundaries begin to blur and she loses her friends, work, and ultimately her sense of self.
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