Holly Jahangiri, the real one, has interviewed Holly Jahangiri, the character in my FREE story, “By the Book” (link below)! Read it and weep (from laughter).
I felt some trepidation about doing this interview, and the occasional creaking and banging from the underbelly of the space vessel St Gregory the Wonderworker – more commonly referred to by its young crew as the Uncle Gus – did nothing to calm my nerves. It is very disorienting to travel between alternative universes, and I could not shake the old Terran terror at the idea of causing some paradoxical calamity upon meeting myself in this one. Author Marian Allen assured me that the fiber of the universal matrix would not collapse and bring us some sort of cosmic-level mash-up, but having grown up with such urban legends and pulpy, hyperbolic sci-fi novels, I could not shake the feeling of impending doom and possible implosion.
“They are ready for you, Ven Jahangiri,” said the Gilhoolie woman, Tetra. She reached out to help me off the contraption known as a Floatachair, where I had curled up in a near fetal position without even realizing it.
“Yes, well, this ought to be fun,” I said, mustering a wan smile.
“Yes. It ought to be,” she agreed. Together, we made our way to the Transfer Dock. I balked at my first sight of the Transfer Module, wondering if this would be like the transporter in Star Trek or that horrid invention from The Fly. I didn’t want to end up with eight eyes, able only to eat and digest food I’d chewed and regurgitated first. “Come, stand over here,” said Tetra. “Everyone is a little nervous the first time. It will most likely be fine,” she added reassuringly. I turned to the nearest trash can and practiced the regurgitating part while the technicians pretended to fiddle with the nobs and pointedly did not notice my disgrace.
A few seconds later, I was standing in the parlor of a Llannonninn Living Library furnished, oddly enough, like an English boarding house, circa 1901. Anachronistic knick-knacks were scattered about on shelves, which were curiously devoid of books. A little woman whom I assumed to be the parlormaid held out her hand. Surely she did not expect a tip, having just wordlessly arrived and having done nothing to alleviate the disorientation I felt upon having just slid my particles through a wormhole. The least she could have done was to offer stiff drink.
“Your card?” she prompted.
“Oh! Yes, of course.” I fished about in my pockets and retrieved a slightly crumpled business card. Parlormaid Tambar Miznalia took it with a sniff and disappeared. A moment later, I came quickly down the staircase in front of myself. If I hadn’t felt disoriented a moment ago, I would be thoroughly gobsmacked by now.
“Me?” I gasped.
“No, me!” she exclaimed with an impish grin. “I have been so looking forward to meeting myself!” She motioned me over to a thickly stuffed armchair upholstered in a very flowery floral pattern.
I tugged a copper filigree recording locket from under my shirt and asked, “Do you mind? It’s much easier than taking notes the old fashioned way…”
“Oh, Self-from-a-Distant-Planet,” said Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri, “all this is just a setting, as you’d find in any good book! We do have computer technology here. And sometimes, I even wear slacks – I just enjoy dressing to fit my surroundings.”
Now I felt as if I’d stepped back into a Terran RenFaire, or a community theatre, and I had a sudden urge to examine the walls and search for blocking tape. From the chair next to myself, I smiled knowingly and almost blurted, “Stop that!”
Best to begin the interview, I thought, and pressed the button on my recording locket. “So, tell me, Holly, what is a ‘Living Library’?”
Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri nodded, expecting the question, and called to the kitchen, “Er, Three Men in a Boat, could you come here a second?”
My jaw dropped as a proper English gent wearing a ruffled pink cook’s apron emerged. “I say!” he exclaimed, upon seeing me there. “Do we have guests for lunch?”
“Only if Montmorency can refrain from adding freshly-killed water rat to the stew,” warned Holly. Her—the Llannonninn one, not me.
“Montmorency?” I asked.
“This, Terran Holly, is ‘Three Men and a Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog.’ He is what we call a Living Book. Practically reads himself,” she added. “Montmorency is the dog we don’t speak of. Right, then, a guest for lunch – thank you, Three Men in a Boat.” The man returned to the kitchen, where much banging of pots ensued.
“I see,” I said, seeing nothing at all.
“I think she needs cake,” said Assistant Librarian Holly. When Parlormaid Tambar Miznalia reappeared with cake and tea, wearing the ruffled pink apron and blushing madly, I finally did see – quite clearly.
“Thank you,” I said.
“So, Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri, I understand that you are originally from the Meadow of Flowers?”
“How on Terra did you guess?”
“I didn’t guess, exactly. I mean, I did read Marian Allen’s excellent accounts of life on Llannonn – “By the Book,” and Force of Habit – but if I’d had to guess, I’d say the spikeflower behind your ear, and the purple feather boa draped over the divan, would be clues.”
I—she—applauded with apparent delight. “You read, too!?”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or sniff haughtily at the implied insult.
“I’m sorry,” said Assistant Librarian Holly. “It’s just…so many writers don’t, these days.” A small crowd of people in various period costumes had gathered at the sound of her applause and now stood nodding solemnly at me. “I think they would like to read themselves to you,” said Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri. The people continued to nod until they reminded me of bobble-heads on the dashboard of a ‘57 Chevy.
“I see. We’re never going to get this interview done, are we?”
“Probably not. Best you just recommend to your readers that they check out Marian’s story – ‘By the Book’ – and then, if that’s piqued their curiosity at all, they ought to read her seminal work on Llannonninn culture, Force of Habit. I highly recommend it.”
“Wait, you said ‘Buy the book,’ but isn’t it free?”
“No, silly Self, ‘By the Book’ is free. Force of Habit is THREE – as in three Terran dollars.”
“Actually, it’s only $2.99,” I said, double-checking the holographic stacks on my sat phone.
“A bargain!” I exclaimed. “And now, it’s time for lunch…”
Holly Jahangiri is a technical communicator, social media analyticator, children’s book author with 4RV Publishing (Trockle, and A Puppy, Not a Guppy), blogger, happy wife and mom living in Houston, Texas. She would really appreciate it if you would read her post, Good Goals Gone Bad on TheNextGoal.com.
WRITING PROMPT: Interview your main character. Now have your main character interview you. What would you want that character to know about you? What would you like to fudge or hide?