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When We Come Back: An Interview with Author D. H. Schleicher

D. H. Schleicher examines how everyday people's lives are affected by catastrophic events like the global pandemic, recession, and even a post-climate crisis in When We Come Back. The powerful collection follows a number of individuals as they struggle to move on after experiencing transformative and traumatic events. Impactful and profound, When We Come Back is a highly recommended addition to your must-read list.

To learn more about the story behind the story, read A Good Book To End The Day’s interview with the author below.

Tell us about When We Come Back and the inspiration behind the collection.

When We Come Back is a follow-up, in a thematic sense, to my previous collection, And Then We Vanish. It deals with some of the same themes of mystery, loss and a desire for connection. Whereas the prior collection looked at characters longing to disappear or left behind by those who did, the new collection looks at what happens when characters stay or come back after having left. I also wanted to find a path to include stories that broke the mold for me, where I began dabbling in speculative fiction, namely science fiction. By dividing the collection into two sections, “Our Recent History” and “Visions of the Future,” I was able to bridge the gap between my usual literary fiction and some of my more fanciful stories. The themes connect them all.

Do you have a favorite story from the book?

That’s a tough one to decide. It’s probably a toss-up between the first and last stories in the collection. The first story, “Lost Cat, Very Skittish,” was inspired by a lost cat poster I saw while walking around my neighborhood at the height of the first big wave of the pandemic. It was one of those stories that just came to me in a flash, all of these people in this small town (not unlike my own) flooded into my mind, and I wrote the story very quickly. I love it when inspiration strikes like that. The last story, “When the Door Opens,” is one I’d been working on for years. It was initially inspired by a dream, and it was my first foray into science fiction.

Were there any challenges in bringing this book to life?

With When We Come Back I tackled a genre (science fiction) I had not successfully tackled before. I was very keen to maintain my style while also staying within some of the guardrails and norms of the genre. I wanted to expand my imagination, but still keep things grounded in some sense of realism. The biggest challenge was learning how far to go with it, and determining which stories worked and which didn’t. Not every experiment in science fiction made the cut.

What do you hope readers take away from When We Come Back?

I hope people connect to the characters and their struggles. I think we can all relate to wanting to connect (or disconnect) and find our place in the world. The anxieties of the characters in these stories are not new, but I hope people enjoy the novel ways in which some of the characters deal with these universal fears and struggles.

Do you have any other projects in the works at this time?

I have two long-gestating works in progress. One is a sprawling, multiple point-of-view, multi-generational novel spanning the 1990’s to today detailing how the residents of a small town react to various local tragedies and world events. The other is a dystopian futuristic novella. I’m not sure that either will ever see the light of day, but they certainly give me plenty to think about and work on. The one-off short story pops up now and then as well.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read. A lot. Fiction and non-fiction. Find authors and styles and genres you want to emulate. Then break every rule and blaze your own path. Also, be open to other mediums (film, music, art) influencing you. Some of my greatest inspiration has come from other art forms. And of course, be a constant observer. Mundane occurrences and interactions can sometimes contain a piece of magic. You never know what could lead to your next great story idea.

How can readers keep in touch with you?

My long-running book and movie blog, The Schleicher Spin keeps on chugging. The best place to follow me is there or on Twitter, until an alternative platform rises from the ashes.

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