Contributor Spotlight: Lynne M. MacLean

In Wild Hunt, the host and camera operator for a cryptid-focused TV show are in northern Saskatchewan to film their latest “Bigfoot” episode. As the host contemplates his crewmate’s increasingly hostile behaviour, he learns there is something flying overhead at night — something spectral and vengeful, out to punish the guilty. The night goose is out for prey.

Tell us a little bit about what inspired “Wild Hunt”. 

I love watching cryptozoology videos and television shows, and the more poorly produced, the better. I find them hilarious. But of course, for a fiction writer, there is always the “what if it was real?” question. As well, I have always found the ancient European tale of the Wild Hunt to be quite compelling, complete with the baying of hounds. But in Canada, we have the evocative, eerie thunder of migrating geese, perfect for our own Wild Hunt.

What do you hope readers get from reading “Wild Hunt”? 

The main character has a moral dilemma about how far to go in stopping another person’s truly horrible behaviour, especially since one of the options plays selfishly into his own agenda. This story doesn’t provide the answer, but I hope it gives readers pause to think.  I hope it also provokes a sense of wonder, while providing some chills and a chuckle or two.

How has your time in the Prairies influenced your writing?  

Of my 13 published works, six of them take place in the prairies, or northern prairie provinces. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, and lived the first 32 years of my life in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta (excluding two years in Yellowknife). As such, the prairies and their northern regions were formative for me as a person, and so, are integral to my writing. There’s the hardiness and humour of the people, and their strong scepticism, that I hope I work with in my fiction. As well, the sometimes-stark beauty of the open landscape, and the freedom of the wide skies can’t help but inspire a sense of the power of nature. And if the geography doesn’t do that, then the wind and weather certainly will. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of an appreciation of eternity with the awareness that things can change in a dangerous way in the blink of an eye. I think I carry all that with me when I write. Oh, and the mosquitoes have trained me to put up with the sting of rejections. (I asked my husband, also from the prairies, the above question. He said it made my writing windy.)

What do you feel anthologies and short stories accomplish that novellas and novels don’t? 

Anthologies and magazines can introduce readers to a variety of authors in a shorter period than if they were to read a book by each one. You can fit a short story into your life more easily sometimes, especially when busy, or if you’re on call and don’t want to interrupt a full novel at unexpected times. Curating short stories into anthologies allows the reader to experience all this with themes that already excite them.

For the writer, short stories provide an opportunity to experiment with new forms, themes, and genres, without the time investment of a full novel. They force you to get to the point with less filler. You get more opportunities for skill-honing feedback with story rejections than with novels. Finally, taking part in an anthology can open you to the writing of other authors that you might not otherwise read, and sometimes you even get to meet each other.

What other work would you like the readers to know about?

My most recent works include my poem “Threads of Saffron”(Augur Magazine, 2021, 4.1)  – a poem about magic, caring, and soup; “Grass Whisperer”(Speculative North, 2020, #1) – a mystical poem about our connection to dawn and dusk, and “Wards” (Room Magazine, 2019, 4.2.1) – a story of family addiction and dragons.

But if readers are interested in other Western Canadian tales of mine, the most prairie-ish one is “Storm Wife” (On Spec Magazine, 2015, #101, 27(2)) which takes place in pre-floodway Winnipeg, and combines my experiences as a grandchild of Highland Scots immigrants with the Highland legend of the Storm Wife and the massive Manitoba spring floods. Then, “Ursa Major” (Stupefying Stories, 2016, 101.5) is a dark humour novelette from Northern Saskatchewan, involving menopausal werebears and a murder. At last, comes “Cold Wars”(On Spec Magazine, 2019, #111, 30(1)) – a Northern Alberta horror story about polar politics and humanity’s interference with nature. It incorporates a little Samuel Taylor Coleridge here and there as a palate cleanser. A fish story for anglers.

My website has links for the reading or purchase of all the above, plus several other published pieces.

What are you working on now? What can readers look forward to next? 

I have two novels I’m hoping to find homes for, one currently under consideration with a publisher, and the other of which I’m just finishing up the second draft before sending to beta readers.  As for short stories and poems, I have a couple out for submission and I’m sure I’ll write more, so stay tuned.

Lynne M. MacLean (she/her) was born and raised in Winnipeg, MB, where she began her career as a mental health practitioner. She studied and worked in Edmonton, Yellowknife, and Saskatoon before ending up in Ottawa, ON, where she is a community/mental health research consultant. She has had several publications of short fiction and poetry, including in Augur Magazine, Room Magazine, On Spec Magazine, Podcastle, Speculative North, and Stupefying Stories, among others. She can be found on Twitter @lynnemaclean2 and on her website.

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.

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