With The Scarlet Circus (paperback, Kindle), fantasy writer Jane Yolen is releasing the third in a series of short story collections that started with 2017’s The Emerald Circus, and continued in 2020 with The Midnight Circus. In the following email interview, Yolen discusses what kind of stories she included in Scarlet, and why it may be the end of this series.
For starters, is there an underlying theme that connects the stories in The Scarlet Circus?
To understand where The Scarlet Circus comes from, you need to know the earlier Circus collections from Tachyon — The Emerald Circus and The Midnight Circus — each had their own themes. By the time I got around to this collection, the idea to do a book of romance stories was a no-brainer…except…except I didn’t think that I had published enough of those kinds of stories to fill out a collection. And yet here I was, a woman who had two successful marriages (with a long widowed-hood pause between), and so most people should have assumed that I had a load of love stories in my past.
Well, yes, love poems galore. Several love novels (mostly based on folk and fairy tales). Lyrics for love songs for a variety of bands as well. But I was certain I had only one or two love short stories at most.
When you realized a theme was emerging, what made you run with it as opposed to turning against it?
Why the certainty? Two reasons. First, I am eighty-four and have been publishing short stories since the early 1970s. Second, I have published 418 books along the way, with 37 others accepted by publishers large and small; books for children, teens, and adults that range from nonfiction to fiction to easy readers, science fiction, fantasy, poetry collections, short-story collections, and anthologies. I write a poem each day and send it to about a thousand subscribers. So, if you do the math and factor in my age, it becomes laughingly clear that I have forgotten a good third or more of what I have published over the years.
My daughter Heidi is my PA (I call her my “Other Memory”), and she helped me locate a lot of the stories in this volume. She lives next door and says that she has “the easiest commute in the world.” And that includes New England winters.
Aside from having to fit the theme, what other parameters did the stories in The Scarlet Circus have to fit?
The three parameters for choosing the stories were: They had to be about love, romance, marriage; suitable for both teens and adults; and written by me. That’s all.
What was not considered? Any story that had been in a previous Circus series collection.
So are there any stories in The Scarlet Circus that were either inspired by or influenced by a writer who you’d say is not a fundamental influence on your style as a whole, but did influence this one story?
My literary influences were as they have almost always been folk and fairy tales.
Also, such writers as Peter Beagle, Charles de Lint, Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia McKillip, Terri Windling, Isak Dinesen…if I could be considered in their midst, I might try to write for eighty-four more years.
How about non-literary influences; were any of the stories in The Scarlet Circus influenced by any movies or TV shows?
I don’t think so. Mostly what I watch on TV is the news.
Finally, is there anything else you think people should know about The Scarlet Circus?
I think this may be the last of the collections, at least for a while. Not that I have run out of short stories, but I am out of ideas for collections.