In Rhonda Parrish’s Purple City, it’s said that if you stare up at the floodlights around the Alberta Legislature, you can turn the whole town purple. But is it a simple optical illusion, or is something stranger — and darker — at work?
Tell us a little bit about what inspired “Purple City”.
The Alberta Legislature building is surrounded by big orange floodlights. When I first moved up to Edmonton my husband told me about this thing called ‘Turning on purple city’ where people would stare at those lights for about an hour and then when they looked away all the orange receptors in their eyes would be overloaded so it would make everything look purple. As soon as I heard about that I knew I wanted to write about it somehow but make the shift of colour connected to a shift of another type — of perception? Of reality? I wasn’t really sure until I started writing.
What do you hope readers get from reading “Purple City”?
How has your time in the Prairies influenced your writing?
I think it’s kind of just always there. It’s so cliche to say ‘The [landscape/setting] is a character’ when you talk about books, movies or stories, but things become cliche for a reason. Growing up in rural Alberta the land really was a character in my story — an influence upon every single aspect of my life. So, given that, it was definitely one of the forces which helped shape and mold me which means its influence is there in my work whether I can see it or not.
Most often I think it shows itself in the things I choose to write about, or where I decide to set things, but there’s probably a quiet, more subtle influence under everything which is more difficult to pin-point. Like the gopher tunnels which lurked just beneath the surface on the land I grew up on, only betraying their existence with the gopher holes that marked their existence — there but nearly invisible.
What do you feel anthologies and short stories accomplish that novellas and novels don’t?
…I won’t lie, I was tempted to leave it at that, just to be funny. But I shall resist that urge.
I love anthologies, both as the editor of and a contributor to. They are sort of like a smorgasbord of fiction — you can buy one book and get to read the work of a dozen different authors who will each have a unique take on the anthology’s subject matter. If you like a story you can look up more work by that author, if you don’t like a story you can skip it and move on to the next and still feel like you got value for your book-buying dollar.
And one of the best things about short stories is right there in their name — they are short. Reading a novel means investing hours and hours of time and attention and sometimes you just don’t have the time or the attention span to do that. That’s where short stories come in. You can read one, start to finish, in one sitting.
What other work would you like the readers to know about?
I recently released a Norse mythology inspired urban fantasy called One in the Hand that I am super excited about. In it, the trouble begins when Autumn’s grandmother, who is in a supported living facility is found with a sword and Autumn has to figure out where it came from. Things only get worse when wings sprout from her back. Dun dun dun! It’s got a prairie connection, as well, because I’ve set it in Edmonton. None of the characters turn on purple city, alas, but maybe I can work that into the sequel.
What are you working on now? What can readers look forward to next?
I actually have a different answer for each of these questions, which is fun! LOL
I’m almost always working on something short (usually for my Patreon) but the next novel-length project I’ll be starting is the sequel to One in the Hand which I’ll be breaking ground on in November because it’s going to be this year’s NaNoWriMo novel. I expect it to be called In a Gilded Cage.
The next novel-length project I’ll be releasing, however, is called Blindspots and it is a post-apocalyptic-ish, dieselpunk-ish, dark-ish story that meshes magic and machines together in ways that were a lot of fun to write. All the main characters are anthropomorphic dogs (plus one owl!) who are eking out a life in what remains of the world after major climate changes and a massive war. When Ricky’s brother goes missing, he must use his nose, his wits and all his friends to find him and bring him back. I’ll be releasing this one exclusively on my Patreon early in 2022 (which is coming surprisingly quickly)!
Like a magpie, Rhonda Parrish is constantly distracted by shiny things. She’s the editor of many anthologies and author of plenty of books, stories and poems. She lives with her husband and two cats in Edmonton, Alberta, and she can often be found there playing Dungeons and Dragons, bingeing crime dramas, making blankets or cheering on the Oilers.
Alternate Plains: Stories of Prairie Speculative Fiction is available wherever books are sold like Amazon, Chapters Indigo, through our publisher Great Plains Publications, and local booksellers like ours, McNally Robinson Booksellers.