Chesya Burke is a deceptively kindly writer. She draws you gently into the personal world of her stories, then hits you with harsh realities, vicious imagery and heart-breaking endings.
I met Chesya Burke this year at Readercon, having heard of her through Laird Barron’s rave review of her short story collection “Let’s Play White“. You can read an excerpt of the story she discusses by clicking on the link.
“The story idea for The Teaching and Redemption of Ms. Fannie Lou Mason has dual meaning for me. I grew up in a small town in Kentucky, called Hopkinsville. Doubtless, just as many of the classic stereotypes of typical small towns are true about Hopkinsville, as are wrong.
But it does have a rich history of ghost and supernatural happens. The well-known Edgar Cayce was from Hopkinsville and I grew up with my family telling stories about experiences with other worldly things, both dead and mystical.
I’ve always been intrigued by Edgar Cayce’s supposed ability. I’m also fascinated by the idea of twins. Binary beings, whose every thought and action are understood wholly by another person. But I thought: what if that very connection made it possible for them to reach out to others in the same way?
Although I don’t talk about it much, a few years ago, my 16 year old sister died from congestive heart failure while running track at her high school. (LINK: http://www.horsegroomingsupplies.com/horse-forums/r-i-p-shadvina-iona-leavell-loved-105312.html) Of course it was devastating and we started a campaign to put respirators in all schools in the state. She was a twin. She shared a connection with her twin (my sister) that is difficult for me to explain, even as a writer.
I decided instead to explore the idea in fiction. The Teaching and Redemption of Ms. Fannie Lou Mason was the result.
The story is about twin girls in the early 20th century who share the dual roles of supporting their community; just as Cayce did those many years ago. For me, whether Edgar Cayce could predict the future was irrelevant once I understood that he gave an entire community (and in many ways, the country) hope.
The same is true, I think, for my twins in the story. Sure, their community is in jeopardy, but in the end, they offered hope and release to a broken town and people.
I’d like to think the same can one day be said for my sisters, the twins.”