Departure Mirror: Tell us a little about your Departure Mirror story.
P.A. Cornell: “Tabula Rasa” started as a small spark of an idea rather than a fully fleshed one. The concept just popped into my head one day: What if every five years, people’s memories re-set? I jotted that down but didn’t touch it again for a while because I hadn’t yet figured out what the story would be. It didn’t become a story until last year when I participated in a flash fiction contest held by my online writers group, Codex. Somehow my initial concept paired with the prompt “Where did the time go?” inspired me to just start writing, and the piece was completed in just a few hours. Because of how easily it came to me, I wasn’t sure it would do well in the contest, but it was very well-received so I changed very little in editing. It was one of those pieces that spills onto the page fully formed. I also like that it turned out to be more than just a “cool concept” piece and actually ended up addressing a serious subject.
DM: How did you become a writer?
PAC: I’ve been asked many times how I got into writing and I never really get tired of telling the story. I grew up in a home filled with books. Both my parents are readers and would naturally read to me. As new immigrants to Canada we didn’t have a lot of money when I was little so the library was a place we went to often. I fell in love with books. What I didn’t know was where books came from, so at the age of five or six I asked my mom, and she told me that books came from the imaginations of people called “writers.” It was like a lightning strike. I knew then and there that this was what I was meant to do. I took some detours, including working as a copy editor for a number of years, but I never gave up on writing and started regularly submitting my short fiction for publication in 2015. I’ve since made enough professional sales to qualify for SFWA membership and am among the lucky ones to be able to do this full-time.
DM: What else are you passionate about? Tell us about it.
PAC: There are a number of things I’m passionate about that bring joy to my life, but the one that comes to mind right now is the outdoors. Canada is a beautiful country, and I live in “The City of Waterfalls” so there are so many opportunities for me to spend time outdoors, enjoying nature. I particularly like hiking and was really glad that this was something we could still enjoy this past year during the pandemic. On one occasion, my husband and I decided to take our kids on a more challenging hike, but we still selected a beginner trail ahead of time. What we didn’t realize when we started our hike was that we accidentally took the wrong trail and wound up on one for expert hikers. It was challenging all right, and we all learned we need to get in better shape, but the kids unanimously agreed it was the best hike we’d ever been on. Sometimes taking the wrong path is just fate.
DM: Do you have anything you’d like to promote?
PAC: I recently sold my cyberpunk story “One Last Payday” to The Binge-Watching Cure anthology, so that should be coming out this year. This is the third time this story will be published and it’s still one of my personal favorites. The version coming out is a bit trimmed down from the original since it started out as a novelette. The longer version is available on my Curious Fictions page — easily accessed from my website pacornell.com — so people could read both and see which version they prefer.
It’s always a thrill to talk to our contributors! “Tabula Rasa” can be found in the Winter 2021 issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly. The issue is free to download and to read. If you love the story as much as we do, please tell your friends!