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So, in the fugue of Christmas and New Year, you probably forgot all about The Elementals. So, being the helpful chap that I am. I thought it time to remind you…

Cover of The Elementals in the element of air (surrounded by clouds)

So, remember The Elementals is still available on ebook and paperback! You can get it from this Amazon Link!

RusseditToday we are interviewing Russell A Smith, author of the final story in the collection – the Social Contract. We’ve spoken to Russ before, way back when and he did of course get interviewed by F.D Lee at the same time I was for Super Relaxed Fantasy Club. As the only other UK author involved in this anthology, I could in theory have done this interview in person had the world been less virus ridden…

The anthology theme is ‘Elementals’, what does this mean to you and how did you interpret it in your story?

Growing up much in the known western tradition I often think first of earth, air, fire and water. I am pleased spirit is an addition to our options here and I spend far, far too long thinking through metaphysics and how understandings of each of these elements affects the practitioner in the first place. Which led me to how some of them work together, how some really shouldn’t, etc. I really didn’t have time to get into it all on my story here, but thinking about that gave me a whole world to play with, complete with current standings, alternate world histories and suchlike. In the universe I’ve got running, there are a number of options for the magically talented beyond elemental, but we have a specific focus here. My lead protagonist has a talent for manipulation of air and water in particular.

Where is your story set? Is it a real world location or one you made up? What drove you to set your story there?

My story is set in East London, and I’ve joked a few times that I know some friends who could see some of the first part of it from their house! I can’t remember exactly what order things came in, but there’s a particular event taking place that happens in that area which I wanted to include in the plot. I should make sense when you meet a couple of the characters. I may have slightly fudged a calendar date or two, but I’m fairly certain it’s not that important.

Are there any personal experiences in your story? Things you have done, people you have met etc.?Island Gardens - Wikipedia

I’ve been to every location featured in the tale bar one, which I’ll leave you to guess! The characters themselves are entirely fictional, though one of the characters is very loosely inspired by someone I know. Again, I shall leave you to speculate as to which. I also featured another character mostly after exchanging a very short prompt with another friend of mine, whose name I even riff off slightly.

[Editors note, the embedded video below is a clue as to one of the locations used…]

What drives the main characters of your story?

Honestly, I can tell you that the lead was just wanting to have a nice entertaining weekend, and that plan hits a barrier almost straight away. However, the title of my tale, The Social Contract, probably gives away a big theme of characters having numerous obligations within various communities. And they may not always have a universal understanding on this. This starts with some quite real-world issues which I don’t delve into heavily here because that’s not what I’m going for, but it still affects the supernatural in some ways, which will quickly become clear.

How would any of the characters in your story respond to the current world of 2020?

I’m fairly sure it’s not explicitly mentioned, but I set the tale in 2019 quite deliberately. Although there’s certainly peril, I very much wanted to ensure there was joy and light-heartedness on the page, which thankfully my lead lives for. She’ll certainly not be enjoying 2020 one bit, but would absolutely be sporting a Black Lives Matter badge and even though better equipped to handle matters of air transmission than most, will sport an array of geeky masks at all times.

What was your writing ‘method’ for this anthology? How did you progress from initial idea to the final, published story?

Embracing the chaos of my surrounding environment would be the short answer! I turned up quite late to the party so had to come up with something fast, was thinking about the starting location and reasons for the initial conflict first, knew I’d be keeping my end of the prompt I mentioned earlier up, then worked out how I was going to put it all together . I had to quite hastily get some more eyes on my initial draft, then go again!

Describe the premise of your story.

A young witch has plans for a nice chilled weekend break hanging out with her cousin. Would it surprise you to know this does not go according to plan? She starts her perilous night in East London with the police getting in her way by arresting her cousin, but that’s soon interrupted there’s the unknown demonic thing terrorising the local park nearby. So her cuz doesn’t even get to be the first rescue attempt she has to make. After that, she might be able to begin to work out what all of that is really about. Oh yeah, there’s also a really special dog.