Diane Gottlieb writes open-hearted stories about people in pain who choose to grow.

Interview With Constance Malloy

I’ve been admiring the work of Constance Malloy for some time now. LOVE her interviews (she interviewed moi about Awakenings not too long ago!) and writer spotlights on her website The Burning Hearth, and I was deeply moved by her memoir Tornado Dreams. Today, you are in for a treat, as we speak about a new–and very powerful–project. AND do a cover reveal for her soon-t-be-released hybrid novelette Born of Water (ELJ Editions)!


Diane:  I am so excited to speak with you, Constance! You have such a wonderful website The Burning Hearth, where you focus on interviewing writers of speculative fiction. You also have an incredible first book, your memoir Tornado Dreams about breaking the dysfunctional cycles of your family of origin. But today we’re going to focus on a new project that I first learned about when you submitted “Fourth and Ash” to Emerge Literary Journal. So happy and honored that you sent it our way!

Can you tell us about the project and the story behind it?

(If you all want to avoid spoilers—read Constance’s compelling piece of short nonfiction “Fourth and Ash” right here, or listen to her read the piece by clicking below.)



“Sometimes Events or People Are Unexpectedly Revisited Upon Us”


Constance:  So much is changing for me in my life right now—as a person, as a writer. Things happen that we have no idea why, and sometimes events or people are unexpectedly revisited upon us. This is one of those. When I was fourteen, my sister, who is much older than I am, had a best friend with a ten-year-old daughter. One night, I babysat the girl, who stayed overnight. She lived six blocks from my house and walked this route by herself all the time. Both the elementary school and her grandmother’s house were on this route. So, the question of her walking home alone the next day was not an issue. It was a beautiful summer morning with cloudless skies. I wanted to be outside, and so I walked with her to the corner of Fourth and Ash. I lived on Ash Street, and she lived four or five blocks up Fourth.

I remember watching her cross the street. There were construction workers working at the corner and the thought went through my head that she’d be okay because all these people were about. But around a small bend, just by her house, a man pulled around the corner, stuck a gun in her face, and got her into his car. He drove her to the outskirts of town, molested her, beat her up a bit, and told her he was going to kill her, put her in a garbage bag, and bury her in the field they were in.

At ten years old, she had the presence of mind to negotiate for her life, and she won.

Her mother moved them out of town four years later, but I never saw her or spoke with her again after I left her at that corner.


“I Always Showed Up at the End of the Dreams as a Sign of Comfort”


This has stayed with me my whole life, knowing that I was the last one to be with her before this happened. That I’m the one who left her at the corner. I always had an escape plan in my head. If somebody tried to get me in their car, I would run, zigzagging away, screaming. But would I have been brave enough to do that had I been with her? To just grab her and do that? What if I would’ve walked her all the way to her house, and I turned around and he stuck the gun in my face? Would I have been able to execute my plan or, like she has told me about herself, felt my feet turn to cement and been unable to act?

Knowing these terrible things happened to her and never seeing her again after the corner has weighed on me. I’ve always wondered about how her life turned out.

As I wrote about in “Fourth and Ash,” she started having nightmares as an adult, and I always showed up at the end of the dreams, she told me, as a sign of comfort. I was her protector in the dreams. She hadn’t seen me since she was 10 and I was 14. I am now 57 and she is 53. We have not seen or talked to each other in 43 years.

I knew her as Krissy Lawrence. One day late in the summer of 2023, a Kris Roberts showed up on my blog and liked one of the posts I had written about my brother Reece. Then she followed me on Twitter. I didn’t think much of it, until I got an email starting with the words, “You might not remember who I am.” As soon as I read those words, I was like, oh my god. I knew immediately who she was.


“Do I Stay Upstairs with Them and Die … or Do I Go to the Basement and Save Myself and Be Alone?”


We have since connected and are like absolute soul sisters. I don’t even know yet how to explain the connection that I feel with this person. She’s this beautiful, lovely woman. We’ve talked and we’ve decided to write a book together.

It’s really weird to have this moment in life, this life-altering point in time, that I’ve moved away from, and to be, 43 years later, right back at it. Kris and I have come full circle.

Diane:  What strikes me is that she had dreams about you. I know dreams are powerful for you after reading Tornado Dreams.

What do you make of dreams?

Constance:  Dreams are real. They are teachers. They are instigators. In her case, this is a woman who has been denied her story by her family, not because they’re mean awful people, but because they’re highly dysfunctional. And somewhere in her psyche, she became open to telling her story, wanting to own her story, and that led her to me in her dreams.

In my case, I had so many tornado dreams where I beg my family to go to the basement. I beg and beg and beg, and they never go. In the dreams, I was constantly left asking myself, “Do I stay upstairs with them and die, because I know that’s the outcome, or do I go to the basement and save myself and be alone?” And every time I chose the basement.

I Worked Very Diligently to Have Respect for My Family Members While Telling My Story”


I was so practiced at feeling all those emotions that when “going to the basement” became the real-world metaphorical way of saving myself, I knew it was the right thing to do. I had built up the strength through those dreams to save myself. Something in Kris’s nightmares told her, “This is the person who will help you.” I’ve been embedded in the back of her mind all this time as that person.

Diane:  Wow.

Constance:  I shared “Fourth and Ash” with my writing group and one member thought it was great that I had made up a ghost story to wrap around the abduction. I was like, that ain’t made up. I’ve been haunted by that couple my whole life.

The fact that they showed up in my dream after reconnecting with Kris freaked me out, quite honestly. And I have to say, I love my siblings dearly, but I feel far more like I am related to Kris than I do my family. And that was right there the first time we talked on the phone. It’s really weird.

Diane:  You were also denied your story by your family.

Constance: I was. I worked very diligently to have respect for my family members while telling my story, because in my family, all our voices were silenced. Behind everything I wrote, I kept in mind that my family members have their own stories, and I didn’t want to disrespect them by telling mine, which quite frankly involves, at times, being disrespected by them. That’s what abuse is, right?

I feel gifted to know Kris. To have this moment with her and to be someone who can help her tell her story honestly and compassionately, most importantly towards her abusers. That’s what I had to do, and I believe I can help her do the same.


“There Is Nothing Wrong with Saying, ‘This Person Did This Hurtful Thing to Me, and It Led to This Negative Consequence in My Life'”


Diane:  We’ve talked before about believing that there are no accidents and no coincidences, and that people find each other for the right reasons at the right time, even though they don’t know it when it happens. It’s like your prior experiences have prepared you to be her mentor.

It’s so powerful to have somebody take your hand and walk you through it and stay-with you every step of the way.

Constance:  Absolutely! To have validation that owning your story is okay is so huge.

There is nothing wrong at all with saying, “This person did this hurtful thing to me, and it led to this negative consequence in my life.” And if the person doesn’t like it, maybe they should have reflected on their actions along the way and changed what they were doing.

And as a parent now, I think about this all the time. I get one chance to be one thing or another thing for my daughter every day of her life. I come from a different time. It’s easier and more acceptable to go to therapy now, than it was when my parents were younger. But my parents have long since proven they would not go to therapy in any time.

My mom is one of those people who believes if she just does the opposite of what her parents did, she’ll be a better parent.

Well, you’re going to get the same result because you’re simply doing the exact opposite of what you experienced. You’re just doing the same thing, differently. You didn’t make any change, right?

Diane:  Exactly.

Constance:  If this is why I was with Kris that day on that corner, I will help her find herself and the story and how it lives in her and help her incorporate it into her life in a new and different way.


“To Help Heal Another Human Soul … If We Were Doing More of That for Each Other in This World”


Diane:  And what do you think this journey is doing for you?

Constance:  Boy, that is quite the question there, Diane.

Before I was a writer, I spent 25 years of my life as a dance teacher. I have touched many kids, and I run into them and their parents still at the grocery store. I’m going to the wedding of one of my students this summer. My point, by my nature, I am a teacher and a guide.

But with Kris, it’s this really big, deep life-changing, gene-reorienting thing that I believe we can do for each other. This woman is 100% open. She wants that. And I’m sure there are plenty of people out in the world who could give it to her, but I’m here, and I’m the one who was on that corner, and I’m the one who said goodbye and watched her walk up that hill. We were put in each other’s lives for a very important, brief moment that is still rippling through our personal spaces.

If I can help her know it’s okay to tell her story, then I can say the job’s done.

Diane:  It’s like these moments and tasks are aligned with who we are. There’s probably no deeper connection than doing what you’re doing.

Constance:  To help heal another human soul. Oh my God. If we were doing more of that for each other in this world.

Diane:  So how are you working on this book, and do you have an idea of how it’s going to be structured?

Constance:  At the moment, she’s just writing. The last time we spoke, she was up to the scary part of her abduction. She’s a good storyteller in her own right. She’s not a writer, but she knows how to lay the events down on the page. So, it’s going to make working with her pretty easy.


“I Feel Like the Universe Is Begging Us All to Wake Up”


I’m going to wait and see what she does. We really both think that it’s going to have as much to do with the mysticism of it all, of the two of us being at the corner and then reconnecting.

While her abduction is a huge part of her story, which I want to help her tell, our story is about the universe putting us in that moment in time.

Diane:  So this was meant to be?

Constance:  I think so.

Diane:  It’s so strange, I don’t know if it’s the time in our lives or the time in the universe, but I have recently connected with a few people whose stories share so many similarities to mine.

You have to be open to it, but I think there’s something in the air.

Constance:  I do, too. I feel like the universe is begging us all to wake up, and I’m not talking about in the “woke movement” way, but wake up. Become conscious. Become aware of what we are doing and why we are doing it.

I’ve been able to get back into this place where I’m really connected this way. My grandfather was a quarter Cherokee, and sitting with him was a powerful experience. I always describe my grandfather’s eyes as these ancient rivers. When I looked into them, there was no end. I always wanted to dive into his eyes and see where his waters took me.

He was never on a reservation. He never knew the Native American people in his family, but he was connected to something deep inside him … I don’t know how to say it without it sounding corny, but I have always felt connected to wherever I came from, and that is where I believe I’ll go back. I always felt that mysterious place would be revealed if I could travel the rivers behind my grandfather’s eyes.


“Once You Get Used to Unraveling Your Fears, It Becomes Easier”

I remember this one night in my bed after some horrific event, lying in bed and I’m saying to that place, “I don’t get this. We all came here knowing the same thing. We all know better.” And then as I got older, I realized that this is why we’re here. This is a school and not everybody remembers being connected. This journey is about rediscovering and/or growing that connection. This is why I never felt alone in my childhood home. I lived inside a tortured home with tortured people and, quite often, feared for my safety, but I never felt alone.

Diane:  We’ve talked before about you and your husband breaking family cycles. I believe that you’re not only healing future generations, you’re healing your ancestors.

It’s a gift, all around. To yourself, to your daughter, to people who came before. It’s very powerful.

Constance:  I think so. And once I knew I wasn’t going to be obliterated by obliterating my dysfunction (which I was certain would lead to certain death) or by addressing my anger, my abandonment, my etc., I was then able to embrace my therapy. It’s quite a paradox: not facing dysfunctional issues is what actually consumes us.

Diane:  It’s fear, right?

Fear is such a beast. I think Marianne Williamson said that the opposite of love is fear. And I really think that’s true. I think most of our bad decisions come down to fear.

Constance:  Yeah. And then when consciousness comes in and you can start discovering what you’re afraid of, why you’re afraid of it, and how you act out of it, then you can start to lay it down. Once you get used to unraveling your fears, it becomes easier.


“I Actually Have Another Book, Called Born of Water, Coming Out in June from ELJ Editions”

You become tolerant of looking at yourself and realizing that maybe you’re going to have to change, learn new ways of being and behaving, and you understand that what you put out affects people. You start to ask yourself how you want to affect others and how you want to change.

Diane:  Is this book your main focus right now?

Constance:  I actually have another book, called Born of Water, coming out in June from ELJ Editions. It’s a hybrid novelette. It begins with speculative CNF, moves to straight up nonfiction, then to meta fiction, and closes with a speculative fiction. But it’s all linked, and it was a lot of fun to write. The speculative nonfiction is more of an allegory, and the speculative fiction takes the allegory and puts it in the real world.

And I love, love, love the character.

A couple years ago, I felt like I had lost my way with my writing. It was about the time that David Naiman started his Crafting with Ursula series, which I loved. I’m a huge Ursula fan, and I had this vision with Ursula in it one night after listening to David’s interview with Isaac Yuen.

I live in Milwaukee about six miles from Lake Michigan. In the vision, my husband, daughter, and I were driving my daughter’s friend home which was near the lake. We were listening to the radio when there came an emergency announcement of an apocalyptic end to the world in 30 minutes. Stunned, and highly stressed, my husband and I wondered what to do, especially when we showed up at the girl’s house and no one was home. We couldn’t find anyone, anywhere. So, we decided to take them to the lake and let them play.


Born of Water Is the Book I Wanted to Write


We went to a spot where the beach is quite wide, and there was nobody. The sky was a beautiful blue. The sand was its nice sandy color. And suddenly a black Labrador showed up with this red ball and the girls started playing with the dog. My husband and I sat at the edge of the beach wondering where everyone was and what this all meant. And then the sky started to roil in front of us and open into this portal. Ursula K. Le Guin was there holding the book she co-wrote with David. She turned to me and said, “Just go write the stories you want to write. Write ferociously until the world burns up.”

And she looked at me with this very pointed look that said, there’s nobody else around. Your husband’s not a writer. I’m talking to you. She turned back to her book, the clouds closed, and the vision was over.

I spent a lot of time questioning the way I was writing Born of Water. Telling myself people wouldn’t be interested in its themes or that I would be told you can’t write a book in this way.

But then one day this past January, I heard Ursula in the back of my mind say, “Just write the story you want to write.” It was like this huge permission to lay my voice down on the page. Born of Water is the book I wanted to write.


“This Is the Way I Lay Words Down on a Page, and That’s Just the Way I’m Going to Do It from Here on Out”


Diane:  That’s so great.

Constance:  The story is pure me. That’s what changed in me. I don’t care if people like what I’m writing or not. I don’t care whether they get it or not. I think that there’s something in it for them if they do get it. I want to hope so, anyway. But this is the way I lay words down on a page, and that’s just the way I’m going to do it from here on out.

Diane:  You go, girl!

Constance:  Thank you. Thank you.

Diane:  I think your message of authenticity and staying true to yourself is really inspiring for people involved in all types of projects. It’s also a great way to live life.

Constance:  Thank you.

Diane:  I’m so excited for you. Do you feel free?

Constance:  I do. I do.

Diane:  That’s wonderful.


As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please write a comment or send me an email.


See you soon!





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For one-on-one support in uncovering your voice on the page, please consider working with me! I’d love to join you on your journey!


  1. Sherry Danner on May 15, 2024 at 9:40 pm

    Diane and Constance, thank you! I absolutely LOVED this conversation and was riveted throughout. I got chills from “I’m talking to you.” I can’t wait to read your work, Constance, and your story of reconnection with Kris is so full of hope and magic and healing.

    • Diane Gottlieb on May 15, 2024 at 9:47 pm

      Thank you, Sherry! Speaking with Constance was a great joy! And her collaboration with Kris–truly “full of hope and magic and healing.”

    • Constance Malloy on May 16, 2024 at 5:54 pm

      Sherry, thank you so much! Being interviewed by Diane was an amazing experience for me. Thank you for being interested in my writing and my story with Kris. She is so brave and I’m in awe of how reconnecting with her has changed my life.

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