Leichter’s Terrace Story (Ecco, Aug.) depicts a world where physical spaces can be magically altered.

This novel began as a short story about a cramped apartment. Did you always plan to expand it?

No, actually. I wrote the story in maybe 2017 or ’18, and once it was published thought that was the end. During the pandemic, themes of claustrophobia and the need for imagination kept coming up for me.

The original story takes place over a few months, while the novel stretches into the past and the future, including chapters set on a space colony involving a grown-up Rosie, depicted in the original as a baby. What inspired such a drastic change?

The issue of space, of feeling claustrophobic and needing more space, is timeless. The character George is a historian of the Middle Ages, and I wanted to explore being in the middle of historic moments. Maybe we weren’t born soon enough to see the beginnings and won’t live long enough to see the endings, but we’re all stuck in these lowercase m middle ages.

At the book’s center is an extended fable about a king who hires a hermit to dispense knowledge. What do fables offer readers?

Fables are infinitely adaptable and open to interpretation. When you read something that has the familiar symbols and settings of a fable, it’s as though every story depends on another story that preceded it. The fable here is a refraction of what the characters are going through; it doesn’t help the characters to understand their situation. Instead, their lives help the reader understand
the fable.

I was inspired by works like The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns, a domestic fabulism where a character is dealing with impossible circumstances, and their loneliness and pain becomes an extension of their body and allows for something spectacular to happen.

Space, here on Earth and outside the atmosphere, is central to the novel. How did you conceptualize its structure?

The challenge I set for myself was “Can I write something that feels like it’s contracting and expanding without design elements or visual cheats?”

I considered the structure of a daydream, and how the mind wanders. I love a staircase that leads into a ceiling. Daydreams travel vertically, so the story had to expand into outer space and the future. It was difficult, because I wanted it to feel connected to the rest of the novel’s world. I tried to enter that space—where I’ve never been—through the language of human desire. Rosie’s yearnings are very down to earth, because no matter where humans end up, they are beholden to their longings.