“Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.
Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!
Meet Annie Reed
Dean Wesley Smith says Annie is considered to be one of the best short story writers coming into fiction in the last decade. Annie divides her time between writing short fiction (her first love) and novels in whatever genre strikes her fancy. She’s one of the founding members of the innovative Uncollected Anthology, a series of themed urban and contemporary fantasy collections. Her stories have appeared on recommended reading lists and in Year’s Best collections. Her most popular fantasy stories, including her Diz and Dee detective stories, are set in a fictional version of Seattle called Moretown Bay. Her novels include the private eye Abby Maxon mysteries set in Northern Nevada, A Death in Cumberland featuring rural Nevada Sheriff Jill Jordan, and the suspense novel Shadow Life, written under the pen name Kris Sparks.
“Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad”
A visit to one of her favorite childhood places gives Cecily one last chance to find the magic she lost growing up in “Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad.” Not only for herself, but for her aunt, a free spirit who taught Cecily the value of imagination.
One side and the back of Aunt Gin’s yard were closed off with a tall redwood fence, but the other side had only a little split-rail fence. On the other side of the split-rail fence was a field that seemed to go on forever.
“That’s why I love this place,” Aunt Gin had told her one time when they were sitting beneath the maple tree. “All that open space, as far as I care to see. There’s magic in open spaces, you know. That’s where imagination lives.”
At ten, Cecily didn’t know about magic, but she knew about the rabbits that lived in the fields. She saw them now and then, cute little brown bunnies with fluffy white tails. She told her aunt once that she wished she could hold one because it looked so soft and cuddly
“You can’t hold magic, Cici. If you try, it runs away. That’s why adults can’t see magic anymore. They want to own it. Control it. They’ve forgotten how to slow down and just let the magic happen.”
—from “Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad” by Annie Reed
“Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad” evokes a wonderful sense of magic hidden in plain sight. What inspired you to write this lovely story?
You’re going to laugh, but the inspiration came from a toad that dug a hole for itself beneath one of the bushes in our front yard. Cottontail bunnies frequently visit our yard to munch on the grass, but this was the first toad we’d seen. I came up with the title for the story from that encounter, and it just grew from there.
What difference do you see between today’s fairy tale retellings, and the types of fairy tales that were told a hundred of years ago?
That’s a tough question. The well-known fairy tales—Hansel & Gretel, the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Little Red-Cap (Little Red Riding Hood), Snow White—that was some pretty scary stuff, especially if you were a kid (or a beautiful young woman). I don’t know about anyone else who retells fairy tales, but I like to put the wonder back in the tale without necessarily scaring the crap out of kids along the way.
What do you enjoy about incorporating fairy tale elements in your own writing?
Tapping into the common elements of a story like a fairy tale that a lot of people grew up with is a shorthand way of shaping expectations, but then I like to twist those elements around. Turn the scary into the wondrous, or look at a character or situation from a different perspective. That’s fun for me.
The original fairy tales were often cautionary tales, told to teach lessons. Do you find some of these lessons still apply in today’s world?
Sure. Especially how not to take things at face value, but use your own judgment.
A while back you participated in a challenge and wrote a short story each week for an entire year. One of those stories turned into your novel Iris & Ivy. What’s the novel about, and what was the short story that inspired you to expand it?
The novel’s about a woman who has to track down her twin’s killer so that her twin’s ghost can find peace. In order to do that, she has to become the twin she’d lost touch with—basically become more than just the party girl she’d always assumed her twin was—and serve herself up as bait for a killer who’s more than happy to go after the same woman again so he can get it right this time.
While I liked the main character in the short story, I didn’t have a lot of time to flesh out either her life or her twin’s life. I also wasn’t really happy with the killer or his motivation in the short story. The novel let me play around with more points of view, to dig deeper into the murdered twin’s life, and to come up with a killer I really liked (I know, that sounds weird [unless you’re a crime writer *g*]). And while I thought I already knew the basic story going in since I’d written the short story version, the novel surprised me a lot during the writing and I’m really happy I expanded the story into a novel.
Iris & Ivy is set in Moretown Bay, the same fictional version of Seattle you use in your Diz and Dee fantasy detective series. Do the two story lines overlap? If not, do you plan to write overlapping stories in this world?
They don’t at this point. The Diz and Dee mysteries tend to be lighter in tone than some of the other Moretown Bay books, like Iris & Ivy, my novella Unbroken Familiar, or my short story collection Tales From the Shadows. Diz showed up in another Moretown Bay short story—“Roxie”—that’s in Fiction River: Sparks, but I hadn’t planned on that happening. In Moretown Bay, the neighborhoods tend to overlap more than the characters do. But you never know. I never know what’s going to happen when I start writing one of these stories.
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?
I have a sweet romance novel I’m finishing up—the first of many, I hope—and sweet romances are always fun to write. On the flip side, I’m working on a noir mystery series tentatively called Saints & Sinners (all of the crimes have something to do with religion) that’s letting me expand on a character I created in my short story “The Flower of the Tabernacle” published in Fiction River: Recycled Pulp. Expanding the world of a character I really like is also a lot of fun for me, and besides—I always like figuring out whodunnit, since I rarely know when I start writing a mystery.
A frequent contributor to the Fiction River anthologies and Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Annie Reed’s recent work includes the urban fantasy mystery novels Unbroken Familiar and Iris & Ivy, and the near-future science fiction short novel In Dreams. Annie’s also one of the founding members of the innovative Uncollected Anthology, a series of themed urban fantasy stories published three times a year written by some of the best writers working today.
Annie’s full-length novels include the Abby Maxon private investigator novels Pretty Little Horses and Paper Bullets, the Jill Jordan mystery A Death in Cumberland, and the suspense novel Shadow Life, written under the name Kris Sparks, as well as numerous other projects she can’t wait to get to.