Author Interview – Neethu Krishnan

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Story Art Sneak Peek

Amazing Artwork By Daniela Rivera

"The Yakshi of Asthikaavu"

Anthology: Uncanny & Unearthly Tales
Release Date: Oct 27th, 2023
Preorders: Paperback
About the Author: Neethu Krishnan is a writer based in Mumbai, India. She holds an MA in English and an M.Sc. in Microbiology and writes between genres at the moment. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Spectacle, Bacopa Literary Review, Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging (Volume Silver), Spoonie Journal, Seaside Gothic, Lucent Dreaming, and elsewhere. She is a 2022 Best of the Net poetry nominee and recipient of the Creative Nonfiction Award in Bacopa Literary Review's 2022 contest.
Q & A
How does it feel to have this story published for the first time?
It feels wonderful! This was one of my favourites and also the most longlisted piece at previously submitted venues, so it's an absolute delight to have it find a perfect, lovely home.
What inspired the idea for your story?
In the South Indian state of Kerala, where I hail from, the Yakshi is one of the most popular supernatural entities in our local folklores. Most media representations of the Kerala Yakshi I've encountered work off an iconic blueprint: The lusty, bloodthirsty, tree-dwelling vampire-witch in a flowing white saree hunts unassuming night-travelling men on deserted paths by ensnaring them with her irresistible beauty or bewitching singing.
As much as I was fascinated by the bloody fanged Yakshi, I wanted to give my own little spin to the classic trope, while still retaining a bunch of associated classic motifs like the Yakshipaala (The Devil's Tree), the kaavu (sacred grove), the pratishtha (consecration stone), and more.
We know that writing can be a tumultuous journey with a lot of obstacles, what is your kryptonite as a writer?
The inability to work beyond an imperfect first paragraph in a new project. The rest of the piece flows only if I get the opening paragraph satisfactorily perfect.
Tell us about your favorite author. What about their book(s) call to you and how do they inspire your own writing?
That's a tough question! The list of my favourites is in a constant state of flux. Yesterday, it was Susan Sontag with her incisive, original and powerful voice, while today it is Clarice Lispector, whose mystical-edged, emotionally potent and transcendental prose resonates with me. I aspire to Clarice's level of musicality, universality and life in the language in my own writing.
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?
Writing begets writing. Though pouring stream-of-consciousness chunks of elliptical prose might initially feel like a waste of time, know that it unclogs your drains of creativity, gets the static, predictable and didactic tropes out of your system, and more often than not, helps a crisper, more intentional writerly voice emerge.
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?
As I already mentioned, I wanted to rework the classic Yakshi trope a little. As with most folklores where the collective psyche of a time period is reflected in the way the evil vs divine is portrayed in the stories, the Yakshi fable too has its share of societal fears, prejudices and conditioned ideals embedded into the narrative. It paints the beauty, freedom and desire of an independent woman navigating the night alone as a dangerous aberration of nature, a demonic entity to be channelled and nailed to a tree for the safety of supposedly innocent men. I've tried writing the Yakshi a different story—one where she has more depth to her than being a one-dimensional spirit with a baseless hunger for men.
What do you love most about your story’s genre?
I love the expansive scope of exploration in both dark fantasy and horror. Ontological questioning is so much more fun to perform in both these genres, and the results are also quite potent.
What are some other genres you’d like to break into and why?
I love magical realism and though I've written a few stories in the same, I'd love to write more. Because it is reality adjacent, the possibilities are deliciously endless in this genre, and I also love the cryptic power of the prose that emerges when you criss-cross the magical with the mundane at the most unexpected of times and places.
If you had to pick another story of yours to share with your readers, what would it be?
There's this story, "Benign Green", a bizarre story that vaguely fits into the cosmic horror/eco-horror genre that I'm quite fond of. Here's the synopsis:
Adravya wakes up, disoriented and lost, in a bedroom that may or may not be his. His claustrophobic present, self-erasing past and discombobulating future seem to be united, influenced and dictated by a strange object: an almost-sentient succulent cactus with a roster of unbelievable and uncanny capabilities.
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