The ‘Use Only As Directed’ Interviews: Leife Shallcross

27 07 2014

You know that story where someone finds a bottle, except sometimes it’s a lamp, and it contains a djinn, and the djinn grants a wish, or sometimes three? It’s an old, old story, been told a thousand times or more, and you’d swear it was getting well-nigh impossible to find something new in the tale … which brings me to today’s author interview from Use Only As Directed, the antho Edwina Harvey and I recently edited for Peggy Bright Books. Leife Shallcross‘s story, ‘The Blue Djinn’s Wish’, is one of those innumerable bottle-djinn-wish-granting stories, and I am still utterly gobsmacked at how fresh and fleet of foot it is in its playful recasting of a comfortably well-worn trope.

But enough from me. Here’s what Leife has to say:


What should readers know about you before they sit down to read ‘The Blue Djinn’s Wish’?

Before they read it? Ummm… I love fairy tales. Not the boring ones. The ones with clever characters who have to use their wits, whether they’re princesses or peasants; with quirky and fascinating magical creatures; with conundrums and twists and unexpected truths. I like how numbers are important in fairy tales. How, often, a plot has to loop around itself a certain number of times before it can go on. I love the tales with that rhythm to the story. And I love a satisfying ending (which doesn’t have to be happy.) I like the tales that don’t spell it out for you, that leave room for your own imagination to add colour. I also love stories that might not actually be fairy tales themselves, but borrow from them.

And now I’ve put all that out there, I can only hope that people reading this story think I’ve achieved some of that.

What provoked you (or, if you’d rather, encouraged you) to tell the story you did? What was the germ of the idea that led to it?

I actually started this story for a different anthology, but ended up sending another one off instead. So this got shelved for a little while. Clearly it was fated to end up in Simon’s hands, because the other anthology was another one of his (Next, CSFG Publishing). My initial idea was to have a situation where the person who found the genie (and, thus got the three wishes), was so indecisive that the poor genie would pretty much have to go to hell and back to help them decide on a wish. The end of that story was initially going to be the point where it began all over again for the wish-maker’s second wish. It sort of morphed a bit since then, though, and ended up working nicely for UOAD.

If you were told you were only allowed to keep one sentence from the published story, what sentence would that be, and why?

Just one? Argh! This one: ‘It held the faintest echo of summer thunder.’

Because – I hope – this is one of those sentences where things click into place for the reader. Also, it’s descriptive (in an understated, evocative way that – I hope, again – implies a whole lot more than it says), and I’m a sucker for a nice bit of description.

This felt like a very playful story. Was it as much fun to write as it was to read?

Yep. I loved writing it. It’s one of my favourites, and I’m so pleased it finally found a home in UOAD.

What are you currently working on, and what would you like to tell readers of this blog about your current endeavour?

I’m currently working on a new novel project, which will be the first of a short series. I’m trialling a bit of a new approach, compared to the novels I’ve worked on before, which is to say that I’ve actually plotted quite a bit of it out. I’m an inveterate pantser, but I’m having a go a mystery, and there will be a number of other sub-plots that wind throughout the other four books. It’s far too much to keep in my head at once, so I felt the need to do some prep work before launching into it. Also, I thought it might speed things up, because if I’m going to attempt a 5 book series, I’m going to have to write a whole lot faster than I have for the last couple of projects. Now I just have to stop getting distracted by short story ideas.


As someone who’s seen the fruits of several of Leife’s short story ideas, presented at CSFG critiquing group sessions, I sincerely hope she doesn’t completely stop getting distracted by short story ideas … although I do certainly wish her success on the novel-completion front.

If you’re interested in learning more about Leife’s writing — and as hinted above, it’s the second of her pieces that I’ve co-edited, alongside ‘A Little Warning’ in last year’s Next anthology — you might wish to check out her website at

If you’re now feeling motivated to read ‘The Blue Djinn’s Wish’ and the other stories in Use Only As Directed, the links are here: (PBB (publisher, pbk, epub, pdf, mobi); Amazon (mobi))

Tomorrow’s interview: Alex Isle, ‘The Kind Neighbours of Hell’.




2 responses

27 07 2014
Interview – The Blue Djinn’s Wish | Leife Shallcross

[…] me getting interviewed over at Simon Petrie’s website, about The Blue Djinn’s Wish from his latest anthology (with Edwina Harvey) Use Only As […]

29 07 2014

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