Bone Mother optioned

I’m delighted to announce that my short story ‘Bone Mother’ has been optioned by the National Film Board of Canada’s Animation Studio with the view to make a short stop-motion animated film, which will be adapted and directed by Sylvie Trouvé and Dale Hayward, and produced for the NFB by Jelena Popovic.

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin for 'Vassilisa the Beautiful', 1899

I’m going to cut and paste what I wrote back in 2009 when ‘Bone Mother’ was podcast on Pseudopod.

I wrote the first draft at Clarion West in 2006, and it was a pivotal story in my progress during the six-week workshop. I’d written a mediocre story the week before, and I felt extreme pressure (from myself) to produce something that proved I possessed even a smidgen of talent. Initially, I’d intended to write it from a third-person perspective, but found it difficult to get the story underway.

I decamped from the house on a warm summer’s afternoon with a sheaf of my classmates’ stories to critique, along with my notepad. I settled down in a coffee shop, opened up my notebook, and suddenly I “heard” the narrator’s voice in my head. The story shifted into a first person perspective immediately, and I wrote it quite quickly thereafter.

I was wryly amused later when a couple of people suggested a change in point of view: it was impossible for me. The story only ever found its focus when Baba Yaga was allowed to tell it.

The story I wrote at Clarion West was a rough version of the finished product. I received good advice from my fellow students, but in particular I had a brilliant feedback session with Ian R. MacLeod, whose advice gave me confidence and provided a tremendous help with reshaping the narrative.

I’m also indebted to Sean Wallace and Paul Tremblay, the editors who took a chance on the story, and published it in the Fantasy sampler anthology in 2007.

Plus I should also thank Ellen Datlow who was particularly supportive of the story.

‘Bone Mother’ has been a distinctly lucky story for me, and remains one of my favourites. It also marked the proper beginning of my writing career.

Baba Yaga is a complex character in mythology, and I’ve always loved writing her. I was pleased to be able to write Baba Yaga again when I did a version of ‘Vasilisa the Beautiful’ – called ‘Vasilisa’s Fire’ – for Twisted Fairy Tales.

Putting aside her tendency to eat children (exaggerated I’m sure!), what’s not to love about a formidable crone who lives in a cottage atop giant chicken legs?

One thing is for sure: you should never, ever underestimate her…

Fingers bones crossed that Baba Yaga will exercise her will and the short animated film will go into production during the darker months of the year…